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Mission madness: am I going around in circles?

Hi again SF Bay area Hounds -- I think this will be my last post prior to my trip to your excellent zone on Thursday of this week so bear with me :-).

Thanks to all of your great help and suggestions, I have a super itinerary planned which will be heavy on the Mexican/Latin American as we are sorely missing good examples of these cuisines here in Vancouver.

I've just amalgamated all my tips for a Mission tour on Saturday (especially Melanie Wong's October antojitos and murals crawl). We've checked out the Mission a couple of times in the recent past so I have a bit of a sense of the layout, but I had to reverse the order as we'll be starting from Potrero Hill. Please let me know if I've managed to keep it fairly geographically sane, and if I've missed anything important to actually eat as for some (many) of these places we'll just be stopping for a quick ogle -- too much here to sample everything, sadly. If anyone has specific suggestions for "do not miss" items at Melanie's places, please let me know.

Muchas gracias!

St. Francis Fountain (2801 24th St. btwn Bryant and York)

El Buen Sabor for a carnitas taco (2833 24th btwn Bryant and York)

El Delfin (3066 24th St. btwn Treat and Folsom) for the volcán en molcajete

El Rancho Grande de Barraza 3064 24th Street westernmost one, between Treat and Folsom 415-285-9252 for a pupusa and a cactus taco

Philz Coffee (3101 24th St. at Folsom) for (duh) a coffee

Taqueria Guadalajara for a crisp, almost bacon-like carnitas "super" taco
3146 24th St at Shotwell., 415-642-4892

Mission Pie 2901 Mission St, San Francisco (btwn 24th and 25th)

La Taqueria 2889 Mission at 25th Street (415) 285-7117 for a taco dorado, no guac or cheese, I know, I know but we loved them last time.

Melanie's places:
Dianda’s, 2883 Mission St
Kings Bakery Café 2846 Mission
Mr. Pollo 2823 Mission St (btwn 24th and 25th)
then Osage Alley (murals)
Bartlett St (historic) to 22nd
turn right on 22nd El Salvador - Antojitos Salvadorenos Aminta, sit down, 2578 Mission St (at 22nd)
point out Peruvian grocer, El Perol, al pastor spit at Altena
continue on 22nd Italy - La Copa Loca, gelato, 3150 22nd St, San Francisco (at Capp)
Mural - 21st Street to Bethany mural @ Capp, walk to Mission and 21st
Guatemala - San Miguel mango, minutas and elotes cart, 21st St (Mission)
(west side of street) to 21st Street mural on bank
Nicaragua - Las Tinajas, 2338 Mission St, sit-down (19th and 20th)
Guatemala – Acaxutla, 2282 Mission Street (18th and 19th) walk over to Valencia
Mural – Vamos Gigantes, PG&E Building, 19th St (btwn Valencia and Mission)
Mural - Women's Building, 3543 18th St # 8
Four Barrel Coffee, doughnuts 375 Valencia St (14th and 15th)

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  1. If going to Philz Coffee you should walk over six blocks to pick up the doughnut before hand. These are the same doughnuts as Four Barrel Coffee offers except this is where they actually come from at you won't have to wait until 9:00 AM, except on Sundays.
    Dynamo Donuts and Coffee- 24th street at York- closed Mondays.

    Have fun!

    12 Replies
    1. re: Lori SF

      I agree, but it's good to know if you can't get to Dynamo in time, there is probably a surplus stash of some less popular flavor sitting at at Four Barrels well into the evening. When I was there last, they had a big stack of coconut left.

      Dynamo itself doesn't appear to replenish their batches as the day goes on. By afternoon there's bound to be a flavor sold out, and the glazing will be starting to crack on your donut. None of the cake donuts I've sampled varied wildly in taste (including the delicious pumpkin) but they're worth the hype for sure. I was less impressed with the toppings then the moistness of the donut itself.... and I've been let down by artisanal donuts in the past.

      Philz is another can't miss if the idea of novelty flavored coffees sounds good to you. No idea what voodoo they use, essential oils, or what, but the coffee does actually taste original, and it's a smooth drink. Haven't tried the Turkish but people speak highly of it.

      Four Barrel Coffe itself, I wouldn't go out of my way for. It's very good, but I've yet to have a destination worthy cup there.

      To add a suggestion that's not Mexican/Latin .... Lucca Raviola is nearby on Valencia, and worth stopping into for an old italian deli.

      1. re: sugartoof

        If you want Dynamo donuts and coffee, there really is no point to go to Philz (for the life of me, I can't understand the appeal) just get your brew at Dynamo. They use Stumptown beans and they are much more capable then Philz.

        1. re: chipman

          Philz coffee with the fresh mint is not to be missed. Also, it is funky and if Phil is hanging around he's a character. It might not be coffee geek teritory, but Phil does get into creatin g blends and roasts. There's color here that you won't get at most places. I do find a lot of his blends high on the acid though.

          I haven't tried Four Barrel yet, but IMO Ritual no longer deserves the accolades or crowds. SInce they expanded they aren't that. Phil has opened a few new shops too, but the 24th St location is still worth a stop

          1. re: rworange

            Flavored coffee is flavored coffee is flavored coffee. It's what your aunt sends you at Christmas, and you give to someone else. NOTHING should be added to coffee except water, and that includes milk, IMHO.

            Acid? That's also a characteristic of Blue Bottle, Ritual, and any of the other self-conscious "Third Wave" joints serving up under-roasted coffee.

            1. re: Xiao Yang

              No. It is not like that. I don't think you tried it. I'm not a fan of flavored coffee but this is Turkish-style coffee steeped with fresh mint leaves and fresh spices added to the cup. Really ... have you been to Philz ... not even close to Third Wave which is what gets it dissed often by that group.

              Phil just enjoys doing his thing blending and roasting beans.

              1. re: rworange

                Philz doesn't roast their own beans.

                1. re: rworange

                  Ditto to the nth degree. It is NOT flavored coffee that your aunt sends you for Christmas and I do not think the detractors have tried it. (My stepmom buys that revolting flavored coffee and it's rotgut and I have to drink it every time I'm at my dad's house--it's freaking hideous.) rworange made all the correct salient points. The first time I had a cup of their Turkish, I was utterly blown away (in a good way).

              2. re: rworange

                Your right, Phil is a character. I used to call on him when the location was Gateway Market. Good for him to find a business that will make him a good living. He is a good business man. But, I still think his coffee sucks. His blended beans have way to much robusta in them, and the skill level of the baristas is not close to the Big Three. (Ritual, BlueBottle, and now Four-Barrel). Although, I've been a little disappointed in the espresso I've had there it's worth it to go into Four-Barrel just to look at the sexy Mirage espresso machines.

                1. re: rworange

                  Some people like flavored coffee. Some people put milk in their tea. Some people put ketchup on their hot dogs. There is nothing wrong with those people and no reason for them do be defensive about their orientation.

                  1. re: Xiao Yang

                    Not defensive, just trying to be informative correct a mistatment " It's what your aunt sends you at Christmas, and you give to someone else". We ain't talking French vanilla. It gives the false impression that the beans are flavored.

                    Hmmm ... so no Vietnamese coffee for you ... or Irish coffee ... or cappucino ... or ...

                    1. re: Xiao Yang

                      Yeah see, I'm not a purist and I do like novelty flavors in general. I admit I'm a sucker for scented candles, and Torani syrups, and those french soaps that are supposed to smell like Orange Chocolate thrill me too.

                      That said...this has nothing to do with all that, which was the point I hoped to get across in my other post. It works, unlike French Vanilla Hazlenut Butterfinger flavored coffee. The way Ritual, and Blue Bottle will talk about coffee like it's wine, Philz is actually treating their coffee intentionally, not imagining dense cocoa flavors because they got a bean from Panama. It's still coffee, and it's going to make a coffee lover happy. They custom make each cup, and as I said before it's a very smooth drink close to the eggshell filtered coffee people rave about in New York's Chinatown (is there coffee in our Chinatown too?). The funkiness of the place is a trainwreck, with a creepy Euro Hostel, Green Tortoise vibe which makes it totally worth visiting as a tourist stop. We don't have many one of a kind out there SF hippie businesses anymore, and I have to say, this one really lived up to the hype.

                      As for the Ritual Bottle Barrel people. I've had amazing stuff from them, and pedestrian poorly made stuff too. They take it serious which makes it fun. Philz is something different, and the last time I got a Ritual cup, I kind of wished I had gone to Philz instead.

                      Stumptown at Dynamo itself is probably a good option as well. They have the equipment I find Stumptown can just end up caffeinated water unless it's brewed right, the roast is so light.

                      You can also try Equator Coffee at Sugarlump cafe right up the block
                      AND, there is a Latin coffee place with a roaster in the window on 16th now, near Pancho Villa, and another cafe on MIssion itself, which might be a good blend of coffee with the OP's Mission theme.

                      1. re: sugartoof

                        I like Sugarlump its ok coffee but the space is great and like their whole thing they are doing. Next door can't remember the name but awesome Mexican breakfast.

                        I don't know Philz mainly because I brew my own good coffee so why go out for it right? Except Blue Bottle Cafe at the Mint anytime I could sleep walk towards.

            2. Perhaps too much on the fringe (geographically and culinarily), but Zante's Indian Pizza at 3489 Mission is worth an ogle as it allegedly invented its own genre back in 1986.

              http://is.gd/5DCD

              1. I do not like Phil's Coffee but I do LOVE Ritual on Valencia bet. 21st & 22nd ( near Lucca).
                I also love La Taqueria.

                1. Oh, oh, oh ... glad I caught you ... nothing to do with the Mission, but given your love of coffee and search of things Mexican, you might squeeze some of these in near SFO

                  Great paleteria with serious coffee. I have to say the taste of the sweet potato ice cream beat out anything I tried at Nieves Cinco de Mayo ... but it is a different style. This joint is open until midnight on weekends so on your way back to SFO, you might consider it. They are also open early

                  South San Francisco: Puddle of the Frogs revisited - Zacatecano Perro Caliente, sweet potato and pine nut ice cream
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/569180

                  George's is a cool panderia that is open until 9 pm. You walk intothe kitchen and select baked goods right off the trays they were baked on ... warm conchas ... yum ... a plane snack?

                  South San Francisco: George the Mexican Rooster Bakery - pan dulce warm from the oven until 9pm
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/569142

                  I will also be posting soon about a Brazilian joint in that same area that makes fabulous Brazilian drip coffee by the cup ... they grind it to order. They open early at 6:30 am - Cafe di Casa ... they also have the best Brazilian cheese bread I have tried to date.

                  All three places are one stop from the airport - Grand Avenue exit. Linden and South Airport Blvd where two of the shops are located are streets that intersect Grand.

                  Just wanted to bring it to your attention if you are interested or find yourself with some time on the way home or need a cup of coffee on the way to your hotel.

                  1. Elf lore:
                    Gray Elves are a noble people and seek to uphold good wherever they can.
                    Living in the mountains has accustomed them to harsh climates and the like, and as such they are more enduring than common elves. Gray Elves are among the smartest of elvenkind.

                    You will need all this to survive our present weather and sort out the the various changes to your itinerary that have been suggested.

                    P.S. Edit after looking at above posts. Do not stop and ask anyone where they get their favorite coffee.

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: wolfe

                      Congratulations, wolfe, you are the third place winner in the "Help an Elf" suggestion contest.... your prize is three weeks in Fresno!

                      1. re: PolarBear

                        Can I just say that I have a huge Chow crush on all you SF Bay area Hounds? Thanks for the spirited responses and the elven lore. I can't remember ever being called "noble" even tangentially.

                        I have made notes on all your suggestions, including the pro and cons re Philz. I am so not a coffee geek, but I do like to try different coffee shops, cafes and roasteries. I really enjoyed Ritual the two times we went prior, partly because of the people watching. My favourite coffee beverage of all time is the Gibraltar from Blue Bottle which I will be seeking out again on a different day. Just thought it would be nifty to try out a couple of other places I had heard/read about.

                        PS My brother in law who lives in the Mission has been giving me weather updates but as I grew up in soggy Vancouver I do not fear the rain. Our motto: In Vancouver, you don't tan, you rust :-).

                        It would appear that I have gotten the geography more or less correct at any rate, even if I haven't picked all your favourite spots -- more to try on our next trip (did I mention my SFBA list of restos to try is now more than 45 pages long?).

                        1. re: grayelf

                          Not the right time of year, but Blue Bottle's iced New Orleans coffee is great.

                          I sort of understand. I haven't been able to get over to the Penninsula for a while and had a list of places I've been wanting to check out. So Saturday I hit 5 Italian bakeries in SF, a New Orleans joint in the Mission, two ice cream shops, a panaderia, two Brazilian restaurants, two Mexican restaurants, an Italian deli and five Russian markets. If only it hadn't been raining so hard, I might have made the other five places I wanted to stop. .

                          1. re: rworange

                            I just went over our five day itinerary with the SO for the first time. He looked at me, lifted an eyebrow and said "Do you think we might be a little overprogrammed?" I think that was his diplomatic way of saying "Do you realize you have planned an insane number of food ingestions for such a short period?" but he's a trouper...

                            1. re: grayelf

                              I just realized that if you're on 24th St. in the Mission and in the vicinity of St. Francis Fountain and Dynamo Donuts, you're missing some of the best murals from your list: Balmy Alley. It's a walkable alley that is completely full of murals--NY Times did an article about it about a year ago and then re-hashed it again recently. The 24th Street Mini-Park (across the street from St. Francis) is another artistic must-not-miss, with murals and a really astounding, huge, and gorgeous (3D) snake done in mosaic tile work. You enter through a tall green gate and you might see kids playing in the park. A new artisanal ice cream place is set to open, called Humphry Slocombe (on Harrison @ 24th). It might not be open yet, but go and see.

                              1. re: Atomica

                                Thanks, Atomica -- we did check out Balmy Alley on our April trip but did not go into the mini-park. And we'll keep an eye peeled for HS!

                                1. re: grayelf

                                  Oh, and one more thing. Maybe you have already been to La Palma Mexicatessen (very close to mini-park), but if not, they have really good homemade potato chips that are packaged in a bag with a little packet of hot sauce. Across from the cash registers.

                                2. re: Atomica

                                  Good call Balmy Alley, Atomica!

                                  I'm glad to read the disagreement on Philz because for years now, I haven't been able to understand the recognition he gets as "Best of". If you like mint flavored coffee drinks made inconsistency, with over roasted beans (you can really taste the charcoal) and Fedora hats for sale - then don't miss out on Philz.

                                  However, if you're more interested in a cup of some in the very best specialty coffee the US has to offer - go over to Dynamo while they're still serving Stumptown beans.

                                3. re: grayelf

                                  No, I really think you planning is wonderful. I am now think of my next trip to your city. Every time I miss something. So I will do a action plan so I will miss less food on my next trip.

                                  Hope you have a great trip.

                                  Also my son had told elf's have a great eye sight and see for miles and miles which I now understand.

                        2. idk, I'm not sure a foodie tour of the mission would be okay without a Tartine, Bi-rite market, Bi-rite creamery, Delores Park spur.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: xanadude

                            Thanks for the continued suggestions, all. We did manage to hit La Palma last time (though we didn't buy the chips) as well as doing the BiRite/Dolores Park bit also -- I am the proud owner of a BiRite carry bag!

                            I'm psyched on all the coffee options but I may have to go for decaf if we hit them all :-).

                            And yeah, I'm a bit obsessional but I like to know that I have a plan -- it can always be changed to suit (among other things) the mood and the weather. I've actually been thinking about dreaming up some food tours for my hometown too. How much fun would that research be??

                            1. re: grayelf

                              grayelf, Feel free to post that dream tour on my Vancouver post!

                          2. >> "Do you realize you have planned an insane number of food ingestions
                            >> for such a short period?"

                            I'm not sure period's the problem. The problem might be what you've
                            planned for such a short distance. Clearly you're going to have a
                            ball on 24th St but are you aware that it's less than a half mile from
                            Potrero Ave to Mission St? Five taco stops isn't going to give you
                            much of a chance to walk it off. And as a general rule of thumb, three
                            tacos makes a meal.

                            Once you get to Mission St, you've got about 3/4 of a mile of Mission
                            to both your left and right. You might consider a big circuit, turning
                            right down Mission to 16th (or 15th or 14th) left to Valencia, and back to
                            24th (or Chavez or 30th) and then back to 24th (attenuated with
                            the mural/antojitos crawl).

                            You could fill up a good part of a day with that.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                              Thanks Chuckles -- I was actually wondering how far it was from Potrero Hill to our first stop. I will mull over your suggested route!

                            2. We've been eating at La Cumbre on Valencia (at 16th?) for about 30 years and still love it.

                              9 Replies
                              1. re: c oliver

                                La Cumbre was the very first place we ever went in the Mission back in 2003. It was one of the Ramone's favourite places for burritos, IIRC. That burrito filled me up for about two days :-).

                                1. re: grayelf

                                  The Ramones may have taken their cue from Calvin Trilling, who hypes it frequently. It's been a Gringo "A" list place for years; so-so burritos, good T-shirts.

                                  1. re: Xiao Yang

                                    Burritos are a gringo thing.

                                    La Cumbre has (or had) three things going for it: the steak, the steak to
                                    starch ratio, and the hot sauce. Since the refurbishment a couple of years
                                    back, the steak seems to have suffered a bit, and there's a little too much
                                    beans and rice. But the squeeze bottles of hot sauce are still as good as
                                    always. And you can ask the burritomaker to go easy on the rice.

                                    I can't remember a time I had anything other than a regular steak + cheese.

                                    1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                      Here's a link to an article about the origin of the burrito. Seems factual:

                                      http://marcsala.blogspot.com/2006/02/...

                                      I just couldn't believe that it's a "gringo" dish as I go to so many places where we're the only non-Hispanics there. We no longer live in SF but visit regularly. But probably haven't been to La Cumbre and didn't know about the "refurbishment." I hope they didn't get rid of that big chopping block which had seen plenty of use. We're also purists and get carne asada, beans, rice, cheese and salsa. We used to call them EDBs (elephant d**k burritos)!

                                      1. re: c oliver

                                        Well the new breed of purists get snobby about the rice element, otherwise you described a classic burrito. There are probably better out there then La Cumbre, but you'll probably be happiest recapturing the taste. Burritos were an American food, created by Chicanos. It wasn't a gringo food when you first started eating them 30 years ago.

                                        1. re: sugartoof

                                          Did you read the link I supplied re the origin? They supposedly originated in Sonora, Mexico, in the early 20th century. And the new breed purist probably wouldn'thave liked those burritos.

                                          1. re: c oliver

                                            The researcher in that article wasn't all that adept at talking to the right sources, or he would have known that it was Mission San Juan Bautista that was featured in Vertigo (though there was one scene in the Mission Dolores cemetery), and that El Faro invented the "San Francisco" (Mission) Burrito several year before La Cumbre opened.

                                            But you are right, the "new breed purist" that sugartoof evokes would probably insist on Niman Ranch beef, cooked rare.

                                        2. re: c oliver

                                          I think Farolito gets the title of EDB now.

                                          1. re: walker

                                            We've eaten there also over years. Used to live in Noe Valley (before ITwas hip) so we would hit La Cumbre if driving TO our home or Farolita if already AT home. We live at Lake Tahoe now and have a great EDB place there. We're generally the only English speakers there and it's 99% carry out. Love it.