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Mar 12, 2012 11:08 PM

La Lengua Chronicles - My Project for 2012 [San Francisco]

Hello SF Hounds,

I moved to San Francisco a few weeks ago, and I am living very close to the strip of Mission Street known by some as "La Lengua." Since I like exploring food options in my neighborhood, I've decided to embark on a little project – eat at every restaurant on Mission Street between Cortland and Cesar Chavez. I finally got around to making a list of all the places I have to try, and will be reporting on all of them. The aim is to have this completed by December 31st, 2012.

I would love advice about what to get at these restaurants, if you've been. Also, if you are interested in joining me for any of these meals, definitely give me a shout! I'll definitely want company for some of them.

So, here's the list of where I have to go. There are a few places that I'm not sure about including because they are mostly just bars – I think the rule will be that if there's a menu (whether food or cocktail), I will try it. Also, there are some places that are very close to that stretch of Mission Street, but not quite on it, that won't be on the official list, but I might try anyway. So I will list those as well.

Here it goes:

3489 Mission – Zante Pizza (Indian, Pizza)
3486 Mission – Pastores (Mexican)
3472 Mission – La Terraza (Mexican – Michoacan)
3471 Mission – Angkor Borei (Cambodian)
3459 Mission – Nena's Restaurant (Latin American)
3458 Mission – Universal Bakery (Mexican Bakery)
3452 Mission – Shiso (Chinese and Japanese)
3438 Mission – Nervous Dog Coffee (Café)
3401 Mission – Melody Café (Lebanese)
3385 Mission – Oye Managua (Nicaraguan)
3369 Mission – Ichi Sushi (Japanese)
3346 Mission – La Alteña (Mexican)
3349 Mission – Pizza Hut (Pizza)
3326 Mission – Coronitas Bar and Grill (Mexican, Bar)
3322 Mission – El Paisa (Honduran, Salvadoran, Mexican)
3319 Mission – Nulite Kitchen (Chinese)
3318 Mission – Playa Azul (Mexican, Seafood)
3306 Mission – El Gran Taco Loco (Taqueria)
3303 Mission – Eagle Donuts (Donut Shop)
3299 Mission – Inkas (Peruvian)
3286 Mission – Al's Café (Diner)
3263 Mission – San Miguel Restaurant (Guatemalan)
3259 Mission – Pad Thai Restaurant (Thai)
3253 Mission – Jasmine Tea House (Chinese)
3235 Mission – Dell'uva (Wine Bar)
3230 Mission – El Zocalo (Salvadoran)
3226 Mission – Mi Lindo Peru (Peruvian)
3221 Mission – SiamSaigon (Vietnamese, Thai)
3218 Mission – Blue Plate (New American)
3216 Mission – Lotus Garden (Vietnamese)
3215 Mission – Locavore (New American)
3211 Mission – Taqueria Cancun (Taqueria)
3206 Mission – Los Panchos (Salvadoran)
3202 Mission – Royal Cuckoo (Bar)
3193 Mission – El Patio Restaurant (Mexican)
3149 Mission – Baby Blues BBQ (BBQ)
3137 Mission – Acapulco SF Grill (Mexican)
3100 Mission – Sweet Chinito (Donuts, Sandwiches)

Places that need more investigation to see if they really have menus of any sort. I'll be including them if they do (and might try to at least get a drink in all of these as part of this project):

3456 Mission – El Ahorro Produce (Grocery with possible prepared food?)
3441 Mission – Tikal (Bar)
3395 Mission – Club Malibu (Club)
3355 Mission – El Amigo (Bar)
3300 Mission – 3300 Club (Bar)
3223 Mission – Knockout (Bar)
3187 Mission – Iron & Gold (Bar)
3158 Mission – El Rio (Bar)
3152 Mission – Nap's III (Bar)
3140 Mission – Roccapulco (Club)

Places that aren't on the exact stretch of Mission Street, but that I might include in my project anyway, since they are practically on that stretch.

3501 Mission – Spicy Bite (Indian)
18 Virginia – Emmy's Spaghetti Shack (Italian)
10 29th Street – Goood Frickin Chicken (Middle Eastern)
1690 Valencia – Burger King (Fast Food)

Looking at this list, I'm really impressed with the diversity of restaurants I have in my neighborhood! It's quite a unique 4-block stretch of the city (let alone any city in the world), so I'm excited. Let me know if you have any advice, keep an eye out for my posts, and wish me luck!

Dave MP

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  1. Wow, mad props, as they say. I live nearby and have contemplated something like this for years. Looking at your thorough list, I'm even more daunted.

    I've probably been to about 50-60% of places listed, although some in earlier incarnations. Hmmm, I've got some input and anecdotes (a funny one about Zante's from 20 years ago), but I'll just stick to a few pieces of advice, from top to bottom on your list:

    Zante: must try both the veggie and meat Indian pizza, assuming you're an omnivore. Nothing fancy here, but I have a special regard for their samosas. For years their menu listed a white wine, which had been submitted to the printer handwritten as "slightly dry". Sloppy handwriting or a sloppy typesetter (this was quite a while ago), and the final printed menu described the wine as "slightly okay." (That's actually NOT my funny Zante story; it's too long to go into here.)

    Ichi sushi is as good as they say, so arrive with a hearty appetite.

    Alteña used to have good Al Pastor. Haven't been in a long time.

    If Coronitas has food, I'm surprised.

    Eagle Donuts: everything is super sugary and a bit stale. Not that there's no place for that in the world. Coffee is barely drinkable. Still, if you're running to the harward store in the morning, it's there. (Hardware store: Don's Lock is useless, Cole is fine if you're not in a hurry. Don't take anyone's advice in that store except perhaps in plumbing.)

    Pizza hut: you are a brave and thorough man.

    El Zocalo: don't go after midnight Friday or Saturday. It gets thuggy.

    Blue Plate: I like, but it's a bit overpriced. In good weather, sit in the backyard.

    Knockout: definitely no food.

    Royal Cuckoo: no food, I'm pretty sure. This is the next-to-last bar to be gentrified. (Rock Bar, across from Front Porch, is the latest.)

    Which reminds me, you left out Front Porch. If you're including Emmy's, arguably they should be in also.

    El Patio: my opinion is that it's sketchy, from a food-safety standpoint, but I haven't been in years.

    Acapulco SF: this is my spot, but I confess I haven't been under the new name. Formerly Brisas de Acapulco; reliably empty with predictably passable mexican food. I haven't been since they re-launched. Assuming the plumbing is unchanged, don't sit toward the bathrooms in back.

    Sweet Chinito: you're a brave man.

    El Rio: No menu, but they do have oyster days and a nice backyard cookout on Labor Day. Good folks.

    Naps: again, you're brave. You won't find any food, but I'm sure you'll find some kind of surprise.

    Welcome to the LL Autonomous Zone. You've been to Mitchell's, I presume?


    11 Replies
    1. re: waldito

      Thanks waldito for all these details!

      A few responses:

      1) Coronitas *says* it's a bar and grill. So I think they must have something to eat. Should be interesting!

      2) Yes, I am planning on being thorough. Pizza Hut will be included.

      3) I didn't think Knockout had food either, but last night they were advertising karaoke and pizza! Not sure where the pizza was from, though.

      4) The new Acapulco looks super upscale and its sole Yelp review is horrible. So this might be an interesting one now.

      5) I am thinking now that for this project that I'm going to be super strict and only include restaurants on Mission Street. So this means no Emmys, Front Porch or GFC. But that doesn't mean I can't eat at those places too as a side event.

      6) Yes, obviously I've been to Mitchell's :)

      1. re: Dave MP

        Don't Emmys and GFC have at least one wall on Mission?

        1. re: susancinsf

          GFC does, but Emmy's Mission facing wall is blocked by the bar.

          1. re: suckerpunch

            Ooops just posted about GFC before seeing this...but since GFC has the takeout entrance on take out!

      2. re: waldito

        I haven't been to La Altena in a long time either, but I'd second the recommendation to try the al pastor.

        1. re: waldito

          El Rio does have some food. On Mon/Wed/Sat nights they have Rockys Frybread on the back patio. Native American style tacos (Vegan option). Thurs night are Beans & Rice Family style. Italian Style sandwiches by Tatini on fri nights.

          1. re: waldito

            Generally agree, except that Sweet Chinito is really quite good (especially deli sandwiches and shakes).

            I also like Cafe Seventy8, which is in that area.

            1. re: xanadude

              Cafe Seventy8 has gotten insanely popular. I'm there every Saturday morning myself. If Nervous Dog would get a clue and serve better coffee and better food (though they have had decent pastries for a while now, from Sandbox), they would have a line out the door too.

              1. re: Atomica

                Where does Cafe Seventy8 get their beans (which roaster)?

                1. re: scarmoza

                  Will have to check on that. But I probably won't be there until Saturday, which is 5 days from now!

                  1. re: Atomica

                    Okay, I still have never noticed what kind of beans Cafe Seventy8 uses. I forgot. But their sandwiches are definitely worth trying in this group of places in the Outer Mission. And they now have WAFFLES! My kid got one and it was actually great. You can have them with syrup or with whipped cream and fruit.

          2. Cool project.

            I really enjoyed Inka's Palta Rellena con Pollo and their Anticuchos. I wouldn't get the Picarones (Peruvian donuts) by themselves, but were great when paired with the Helado de Lucuma (Peruvian ice cream). I've had better Lomo Saltado elsewhere.

            Ichi takes forever to get into, so you're lucky you live in the neighborhood!

            Emmy's is technically on Virginia, but since their front door is on Mission, you should probably include it.

            Edit: FYI, "La Lengua" was originally coined by blogger Burrito Justice. It's the southern part of the Mission wedged between Noe Valley and Bernal Heights. The western border is Guererro/San Jose Ave and the Eastern Border is Mission. The northern border is a diagonal that follows the old Southern Pacific Railroad tracks between 26th and 24th, and the southern border is at Randall St (where San Jose Ave and Mission converge).


            5 Replies
            1. re: hyperbowler

              i found the the Google map maintained by Burrito Justice funny with "hipster Valencia" extending both norht & south into La Lengua

              1. re: drewskiSF

                Yeah, the hipster Valencia extension is great :)

                1. re: drewskiSF

                  I think he's overreaching laying claim to territory north of Army. It's only the little bit south of there where people get confused and think they're in Bernal Heights or Noe Valley.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    No one else seemed to be using that part so we annexed it. (Plus, Pi Bar and Anthony's Cookies.)

                2. re: hyperbowler

                  Inka's, in our opinion, has the best spit-roasted chicken around - INCLUDING better than GFC's. we often get it to go. having been to many, many, many peruvian restaurants in my lifetime, that's what they do best there.

                3. I live nearby too and wonder when this La Lengua business started. Will post recs and a few cautions later.

                  I'd very much like to check out Oye Managua and Playa Azul. Also Stefano's on 30th & San Jose is serving Guatemalan food now.

                  3300 Club is great aside from this Saturday.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Windy

                    I tried Playa Azul back in 2008 or 2009 and really liked it, although I can't seem to find any Chowhound post about it. So I'm looking forward to going back there.

                    Oye Managua definitely seems like it could be a good candidate for a Chowdown, so I'll be in touch about that, too!

                    Dave MP

                    1. re: Dave MP

                      I tried Plaza Azul once, probably before 2008, for dinner, and hated it. However, IIR, my sister Janet liked breakfast (huevos rancheros) there when she tried it. An update would be great.

                      Edited to add: I had a snapper dish, I think with a Veracruzano sauce. It tasted less than fresh, and the sauce was not well executed. I still shudder when I think about it. I remember thinking that fish should be more reliable at a place called Playa Azul.

                      Welcome back, looking forward to the reports even if I don't live in the hood anymore....

                  2. Definitely include Spicy Bite and GFC. I'd also encourage you to include Front Porch.

                    I would suggest that there's no point in reviewing Pizza Hut or Burger King, but then again, I'm a snob. If you're going for the encyclopedic completeness, a bit of literary naturalism, then include them and include the prepared foods at Safeway.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: BernalKC

                      I think you are right about Safeway - to be thorough, I need to include it.

                      I am still torn about Spicy Bite, because it's technically on the other side of Cortland (beyond my limit). But we'll see.

                      1. re: Dave MP

                        La Lengua extends past Cortland on both Google maps links above, so I think you're OK :)

                        1. re: Dave MP

                          If Pastores is in (which is needs to be) then Spicy Bite is too. Its directly across Mission street.

                        2. re: BernalKC

                          When have you eaten at Front Porch most recently? It was pretty awful last time I was there (and not all that great before then). The food was reheated, overfried, and oversauced. Not cheap either.

                          1. re: Windy

                            I'm not sure when I was there last, probably last summer. The original chef had gone, and we thought the new chef had filled in nicely. But who knows how stable the operation really was.

                        3. Fab project, love it. I've only been to two places on your list during our visits, Pastores and Inka's, but I still think about the fried chicken and especially the salsa amarilla at Inka's. Looking forward to reading your reports as you bite your way through, the Tongue! May have to add San Miguel to my short list for next visit to try the salpicon de res.