The Mission has been blowing up this year with new restaurant openings — especially restaurants in spaces that were previously not home to restaurants, like Abbot’s Cellar, Tacolicious, and Central Kitchen, just to name a few. And Valencia Street in particular has enjoyed a solid decade of buzz for its food boom and rapid rise to fame as one of the nation’s great restaurant corridors. But, at the risk of ruining a few well guarded secrets, allow us to take a second to recognize a few of the less celebrated gems of the Mission who don’t get virtual ink spilled on their behalf on a daily or weekly basis.
Chef Mohammed Aslam has been serving solid, often excellent Pakistani and Indian food in this spot for six years now, but it’s often eclipsed in the food press by nearby staples Dosa and Udupi Palace. Still, for our money, we won’t wait for a table at either of those places if there’s one at Aslam’s, where the tandoori is top notch, and he does great things with seafood too.
What to Order: Bombay pakoras, anything from the tandoor
1037 Mission Street at 21st; 415-695-0599; See the listing here
This new Mayan restaurant right on the sketchiest stretch of Mission (between 16th and 17th) opened earlier this year and specializes in panuchos, which are traditional Yucatecan tacos with masa as a base, and salbutes, which are essentially crispy tacos or small tostadas topped with chicken or pork. Tasting Table also gave them some special love for their relleno negro soup, which “gets its toasty campfire flavor and ink-black color from toasted pasilla chiles, and its depth from chunks of blood sausage and silky strands of chicken.” And FYI, the name means “annatto” in Mayan.
What to Order: Pork panuchos, relleno negro soup
2052 Mission Street; 415-621-5510; See the listing here
This eccentric little mother-and-daughter-run Japanese spot is a well kept secret among its devotees, and you can’t always get a seat — daughter Judy, who is also the primary waitress, will either tell you to come back some other time, or make you wait patiently in back by the fridge. But the food, all organic and cooked by Judy’s mom Minako, is some of the most unusual and inventive Japanese food around, including her signature hamachi with mint sauce (pictured), and her extensive selection of tempura options and vegan nigiri that are well loved by the Mission’s vegans.
What to Order: Any of the hand-written daily specials; hamachi with mint
2154 Mission Street at 18th; 415-864-1888; See the listing here
Sandwich aficionados across the Yelp-sphere already know about this place, which serves solid sandwiches at prices competitive with the more popular Rhea’s and Ike’s. Examiner critic Jesse Hirsch called our attention to it, and its fans are often afraid to sing its praises, lest it become overrun and less cheap.
What to Order: Falafel, or chipotle chicken
2896 Folsom Street; 415-648-5400; See the listing here
This more deli-like offshoot of Walzwerk feels a little more fun (and less East German/severe) than its parent restaurant, and for three years proprietress Christiane Schmidt has been steadily plating up great grilled bratwurst and Berliner currywurst — exactly the kind of food you want during S.F.’s ten foggy and/or rainy months a year. It’s not exactly a secret, but like Walzwerk it’s a bit off the traffic pattern of Mission foodinistas, so it bears mentioning here. Also, they do a solid brunch that’s not (shhh!) overrun.
What to Order: Fried camembert, pea pancakes, cured meat plate, currywurst
2400 Folsom Street at 20th; 415-401-0200; See the listing here