The Mission district is one of San Francisco’s premier dining destinations. Original occupant The Slanted Door has long moved away, but Delfina and Foreign Cinema have plenty of company today. Just how popular is dining in the Mission district? In the fall of 2012 it was reported that 1000 restaurant seats were added in a three-block area by 16 restaurant openings in an eighteen-month period.
Many Mission places are so popular that they are hard to get into; for example, Flour + Water typically requires 60 day advance reservations and is infamous for having turned Steve Jobs away. This is our list of five fine dining establishments in the Mission that don’t require advance planning and often have same-day reservations available.
Locanda (557 Valencia St. | http://locandasf.com/)
Chef Anthony Strong creates excellent Roman-inspired fare in the heart of the Mission at this Delfina team destination. It just might have overtaken its older sister in terms of popularity, due largely to their excellent cocktail program. The daily-changing menu is comprised of antipasti, snacks, pasta and grill specials. Fried foods are a Roman specialty, and their Jewish-style artichoke splayed out like a sunflower has become a fixture. Make a point to start with the cheese-stuffed fried Castelveltrano green olives prior to any of their excellent pasta or grill dishes.
Commonwealth (2224 Mission St. | http://www.commonwealthsf.com/)
Chef Jason Fox and Chef de Cuisine Ian Muntzert are putting together some unique market-driven menus that change frequently, evolving through the seasons. Their 6-course Chef’s Tasting Menu is just $75 -- it is a wonder that they can offer such a complex tour for so little. Plus, $10 from every prix fixe is donated to a local charity. Also available is the a la carte Modern American menu, where most items are priced between $12-$16, featuring pristine seasonal ingredients all artistically plated.
Range (842 Valencia St. | http://www.rangesf.com/)
This is the epitome of a great neighborhood restaurant: a bar serving amazing artisanal cocktails, a classy candlelit interior, a smart seasonally-oriented menu and efficient service. The focused menu of ten items offers something for every palate, with fish, poultry, meat and vegetarian items. Their daily aperitif hour runs from 5-6pm, serving low-proof sherry and vermouth cocktails along with bar bites like their excellent chicken liver mousse. Certainly worth checking out to get the appetite going for the rest of the evening!
St. Vincent (1270 Valencia St. | http://www.stvincentsf.com/)
Owner David Lynch, often referred to as a Sommelier’s Sommelier, had a compelling restaurant concept and named it after the patron saint of vintners. Every non-sparkling wine on the extensive list can be ordered as a half-bottle, giving the opportunity to explore and greater flexibility in pairing with courses. This is not your typical wine bar, as Executive Chef Bill Niles’ seasonal menu complements the diverse offering of wine and craft beers. Starters can include pickled beets or house-made pretzels, but make sure to save room for the spicy fried chicken –- and yes, the server will know exactly which wine to serve with that.
Lolinda (2518 Mission St | http://lolindasf.com/)
This Argentinian-inspired Steakhouse by the Beretta and Starbelly team transformed the cavernous Medjool space into a dining mecca. Thanks to the excellent bar program, a cocktail, wine or beer pairs easily with the Latin-infused menu, which is broken up into cold and hot starters, mid-size dishes and proteins cooked a la vara (on a stick), asador (grilled) or as full-sized platos. It’s a great place for a date night, but come with a larger group to share more Latin flavors.