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Good Margaritas and Mexican food... Mission District? [San Francisco]

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Hello -

I'll be traveling to San Fransico from the east coast for the first time next weekend. As we have very limited Mexican/latin options here in DC, I would love to eat some great mexican food and drink a great margarita (or two, or three...) while i'm there. I've heard the Mission District might be the best place for this? Here are some options based on what i've seen on this board.... and thoughts on these or suggestions for other/better options? We are staying at the Orchard Garden Hotel in the financial district.

La Taqueria.
Pancho Villa
Zeitgeist
Destino
El Maya Yucatan

Thanks!

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  1. Here's my opinion:

    La Taqueria--overpriced but tasty tacos (best is cabeza which most gringos don't eat, followed by steak and the carnitas.

    Zeitgeist--my bar since I was a teenager, but is way too popular now. This time of year, it's dead since the cross over Marina crowd (Georgetown types) don't go there when it's cold and rainy. Food isn't as good as it used to be, but the beer is the best in town and bloody marys rule.

    Pancho Villa--steam table Mexican that gringos seem to like but I don't care for.

    The others I can't vouch for. Up the street from the Geist you'll find Mi Lindo Yucatan. It's actually pretty authentic and cheap. Not the best, but better than most.

    As for Margaritas, the best are at Tommy's on Geary in the Richmond. Food isn't that good, but they do make a decent Pork Chop (adobo I think). Tommy's are hands down better than any. Puerto Allegre, again 1-2 blocks from Zeitgeist are pretty good and some of the food is ok.

    1. Do any Mexican restaurants in the Mission serve margaritas? I can't think of any, there are some bars that may have food. I think you're more likely to find good margaritas elsewhere. I am a big fan of Tommy's also, although the bar is almost always very crowded, and in the way that makes it hard to get your drinks. Good margaritas can be found at Maya, which has expensive food but a new chef, haven't been there since they got the new chef; Colibri, which has decent but not exceptional food and a great bar; the bar at the W, which has surprisingly good margaritas and no Mexican food; and Tres Agaves, which has food I cannot recommend at all, but does have good margaritas depending on the bartender. Tres Agaves also has excellent house tequila. I have heard that Tropisueno has good margaritas, I have only been for lunch and think the food is pretty good. For good upscale Mexican food, I like Mexico DF but don't care much for their margaritas, I usually just get shots of tequila there. Mexico DF is close to your hotel, walking distance.

      -----
      Maya Restaurant
      303 2nd St., San Francisco, CA 94107

      Tres Agaves Restaurant
      130 Townsend St, San Francisco, CA 94107

      Mexico DF
      139 Steuart Street, San Francisco, CA 94103

      Tommy's Mexican Restaurant
      5929 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94121

      Colibri Mexican Bistro
      438 Geary St., San Francisco, CA 94102

      W Hotel San Francisco
      181 Third, San Francisco, CA

      9 Replies
      1. re: realspear

        To add to this...

        I find the most interesting/unique mexican food at places that don't have margaritas (or none that I'd drink...)

        And I think the 3 places that have great margaritas in the city (and interesting tequila selections) are worth a visit and all have edible food.
        (tres agaves, tommy's and tropisueno. at least the one time I had drinks at tropisueno).

        But for the best mexican food in SF? I'd go to Poc Chuc in a heartbeat. You'll get flavors you won't find on the east coast.

        location-wise tropisueno is closest to the financial district. Tommy's would be a GREAT place to go late in the afternoon (at least that's when I find myself there... early enough to get a comfy seat at the bar; late enough to, um, drink). And Tres Agaves is good for brunch (decent food, good tequila selection and a much mellower crowd.

        I think Maya has really interesting upscale mexican food, but their margaritas as SO hit or miss. Then again, I haven't been there since they got a new chef because I was so disillusioned by the downhill slide their margaritas were going.

        enjoy!

        1. re: margieco

          Is Poc Chuc still BYOB? Or do they now have a liquor license?

          1. re: scotcheroo

            i saw folks w/ beer in brown paper bags on sunday....

        2. re: realspear

          I love the margaritas at Playa Azul (on Mission near 29th). Great atmosphere, varying food quality. HUGE dinners, but are they *good*? Oh, I guess not really, but I enjoy hanging out there a few times a month because it's close to home. You can get a steak and baked potato, or you can get oysters, or shrimp coctel. They do ceviches. Horchata is pretty good. What they don't have is enchiladas, etc. But it is over 90% Latino clientele and an almost nightly stop for the Mariachi musicians. I fully intend to go there this summer on a hot day for a bucket of small Coronas on ice.

          -----
          Playas Azul Restaurant
          3318 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

          1. re: Atomica

            I will have to try Playa Azul, I'm on that stretch of Mission most Friday nights. I think it's considered Bernal Heights rather than the Mission. For out-of-towners, I would not recommend BARTing out there, the walk from 24th up to Cesar Chavez is not always a great experience. Take a cab.

            1. re: realspear

              Oh, who can say exactly what's considered Mission, Outer Mission, Bernal, St. Mary's, whatever. Some probably think it's the beginning of Noe. Taking a bus is no big deal on Mission to 29th. It's my neighborhood and I feel quite safe.

              1. re: realspear

                the three blocks from 24th st. BART to cesar chavez is no more dangerous a hike than any other stretch of mission street. indeed, i would consider the environs directly around the 16th st. station to be sketchier. but please, i live here and recognize and have experienced situations i'd rather not repeat, but cabbing from the BART station to plaza azul is just paranoid. i would never discourage visitors to SF from exploring the mission. there is wonderful food and great nightlife, and this is not a war zone.

                1. re: augustiner

                  Totally agreed. I was biting my tongue, but it's my neighborhood too and I think it's pretty decent all around. You can always stop in a few of the mercados, papusa places, taquerias, and Mission Pie along the way if you're sketched out. 16th and Capp/S. Van Ness, and Mission definitely has more cracked out people in my opinion but is still safe enough for me to walk around solo.

                  If you do feel uncomfortable, as the other person mentioned, all the buses that stop on Mission at 24th St. headed South (14, 49, 67) will get you to Playa Azul.

                  1. re: Candice

                    Well, i'm not sketched out. I'm from DC - the "state" with the highest homicide rate in the nation, and I live in the neighborhood which had the most homicides in the city last year. Therefore, I feel like anything less would be easy street :). Plus, if it gets me to some great food, it's worth any sort of minor scare.

          2. Thanks! So, I take it will need to make two stops, one for drinks and one for dinner (if we want the best of both worlds :))

            Is Mission the best area to head to? Or is there somewhere else that i'm overlooking?

            6 Replies
            1. re: scotcheroo

              The best Mexican food in the Mission won't be a sit down place. It'll be at a taqueria, with counter services as opposed to table service. As mentioned, margaritas won't be found here. The list that realspear gave pretty much nails most of the margarita places w/ sit down.

              For burritos in the Mission, check these threads, with specific recommendations:

              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/574558
              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/422377

              1. re: ML8000

                Disclaimer: I dislike burritos. That said, even judging based only on tacos at most of the mission taquerias, I have to disagree. I think the best Mexican food in the Mission is in fact a sit-down place, Poc Chuc, also mentioned above. It may be the best Mexican food in the City, for that matter. No margaritas though. I'd go anyway.

                The best combination in one spot of margaritas and Mexican food (ie margaritas are good, food is ok to good, depending upon what you order) if you don't want to move around a lot, would probably be at Mexico DF, or possibly closer to your hotel, at Colibri.

                Tommy's does have a wonderful tequila list, but is a bit of a trek on public transit. (and the food is nothing to write home about).

                What I'd do if I were OP is have a margarita or two at Mexico DF or at Colibri, (I like Mexico DF better, but it is probably further from the OPs hotel) then jump on BART, get off at 16th St Mission Stop, have dinner at Poc Chuc, go home happy....

                -----
                Mexico DF
                139 Steuart Street, San Francisco, CA 94103

                Colibri Mexican Bistro
                438 Geary St., San Francisco, CA 94102

                Poc Chuc
                2886 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                1. re: susancinsf

                  I think what makes Tommy's different is not the tequila list, which is terrific, but the margaritas. As far as I can tell, Tommy's invented the margarita without the orange liqueur. What is so nice about this is that each tequila's character shows through like in a shot. The other thing about Tommy's that is different is that the limes don't seem as tart. A number of other places around town, including Tres Agaves and I think Tropisueno, now make the Tommy's style margaritas.

                  FWIW, as I said above, I don't think Mexico DF makes very good margaritas. Most people I have gone with haven't really cared for them either. At least they aren't the syrupy sweet kind.

                  In case anyone wants to make their own version of the Tommy's margaritas, try 2-3 parts tequila, 1 part lime juice, 1 part water, and 1 part agave nectar. No salt on the rim and use good tequila.

                  1. re: realspear

                    Truthfully, some of the tequilas at Tommy's are too wonderful to put into a mixed drink, even something simple like their margaritas. For that matter, I don't dispute the quality of their margaritas, but going there and then to the Mission would be a real shlep for someone from out of town without a car.

                    The lack of sweetness in the DF margaritas is a plus. I don't eat there much, but go fairly regularly for happy hour since a good friend works nearby, and I do enjoy it.

                2. re: ML8000

                  I think that El Delfin (on 24th Street), Poc Chuc (on 16th), Pastores (on MIssion around 30th or Cortland) and Chavas (on Mission between 24th and 25th) all of which are sit down, offer some of the very best Mexican food in the Misson.

                  1. re: vinchar

                    I'll second El Delfin, particularly if the OP feels like having prawns.

                    -----
                    El Delfin
                    3066 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

              2. San Francisco isn't known for it's Mexican food. It does have the biggest selection of tequila found outside of Mexico and the most consistently good margarita's I have ever encountered at Tommy's. The food... not so much of a draw. But the Carne Asade is good and once you've had 3 Tommy's margarita's...you're just going to need food to sober up.

                5 Replies
                1. re: Trevallon

                  >>San Francisco isn't known for it's Mexican food. <<

                  I don't disagree in general although I would extend it beyond San Francisco. I haven't had Mexican food anywhere in the US that can rival what I have had in Mexico. Most of it here om the US is "Tex-Mex," but even the Mexican stuff has been adapted in ways that aren't as good as the original, especially when compared with the food in Mexico City, Oaxaca, or Michoacan. In addition the Tex-Mex thing, there is the perception of Mexican food being mostly down-market, which ignores all the fine food in Mexico. On the other hand, we have to look at what the best we have here is, and I think San Francisco is pretty good compared to the rest of the country. I was just in LA and was really disappointed despite reading everything here and on yelp before going out.

                  1. re: Trevallon

                    Did you mean to say Tommy's isn't known for it's Mexican food? I'm one to think San Francisco is pretty well known for Mexican Food.

                    1. re: virtualguthrie

                      I think it is known for its 'Mission burritos' in some circles, but that isn't at all the same as being known for its Mexican food.

                      1. re: susancinsf

                        Since this post got bumped up I will clarify that it is San Francisco I was referring to as being known for "Mission Burritos", not Tommy's (where I have drunk but not eaten much more than chips and salsa, but see the posts below as to what to eat there).

                      2. re: virtualguthrie

                        I think the Mexican food in SF is above average for North of the Border, but totally sucks when compared to Real Mexican food. Most of the restaurants in SF are owned by Northern Mexicans--I tend to think their food sucks. There are a few exceptions--like the Yucatecan places--but 90-95% are Zacatecan or Jalisquillo joints. There's not one place in SF that makes a real al pastor taco--NONE

                    2. I'm a big Velvet Cantina fan. The margaritas and food are both solid and they take reservations.

                      1. Thanks everyone. These are some awesome suggestions. We'll try to hit one place for drinks and one for dinner and i'll post the results afterwards!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: scotcheroo

                          Tommy's makes great margaritas but it's way too loud and crowded and the food sucks.
                          What I suggest: go to La Taqueria for crispy (or regular) tacos -- it's all good, I love the chicken, not dry at all. No alcohol here. (Mission/25th St.) then go to Tres Agaves for the wonderful margaritas.

                        2. 25th and Geary Tommy's mexican restaurant! It's Yucatan style, it is muy bueno!! Honestly the best margaritas and food in town! They have so many different tequila's to choose from, one of the biggest selections in the country

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: jacobfarleigh

                            What do you order at Tommy's that you consider the best food in town? There are a lot of landmines on the menu, so specifics would be much appreciated.

                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                              OK, I'm really bored and reviewing old posts of mine, and I found this--I've revived many old posts in the last 2-3 weeks ad nauseum to many.

                              Anyway, I haven't eaten at Tommy's in a long time, but the Pork Chop Adobo (or something like that) is decent. Not something I'd seek out, but if I'm there, that's what I'd order. I live 3 blocks away, next time I walk by, I'll find the name.

                              I'm actually an old drinking buddy of the owner, who I never see anymore, now that Tommy's has made him rich and famous.

                              1. re: hankstramm

                                The other thing worth eating at Tommy's is the carne asada though it's been a long time since I've had a meal there.

                                1. re: hankstramm

                                  Mamacita does a reasonable job on both margaritas and Mexican food.