For whatever reason — most likely its proximity to BART — the Mickey D’s at 24th and Mission got a major upgrade six years ago. Dubbed the “Hipster McDonald’s” because of its use of then-trendy reclaimed wood, it nonetheless remained what it had long been, a gathering spot for older folks and neighborhood families, a last stop for commuters getting on the train and first stop for people getting off.
The Mission’s close association with hipsterdom — always a loosely defined term, but like the Supreme Court and pornography, you know it when you see it — hasn’t ebbed, but 24th Street has reasserted its Latinx identity in the culinary domain just as much as in the political arena. Mission Mission has all but ceased publishing and all four places in the Local Mission group have vanished as well. But to state something truly obvious, 24th Street between San Jose and Potrero avenues is as diverse and wonderful as ever — and while displacement and gentrification are very real, you won’t find omakase tasting menus with four dollars signs here.
Start the morning off with eggs and coffee at the homey Sun Rise (3126 24th St.), only these eggs come Salvadorean-style, with rice and black beans, queso fresco, and plantains. Very like a NOLA-style King Cake, only ring-shaped and with candied fruits, rosca de reyes is the specialty at La Reyna Bakery (3114 24th St.) next door. La Victoria’s absence will never be filled, but if you just want a simple glazed en route to a 5:30 a.m. BART train, the no-frills Jelly Donut (3198 24th St.) covers all the bases.
While Dynamo Donut’s flowery (and occasionally butterfly-filled) backyard is perfect for reading with a maple-bacon doughnut in hand, blond-wood-filled Haus (3086 24th St.) is the neighborhood’s resident laptop farm — and it’s got a patio, too. But before it spread across California and beyond, Phil Jaber opened the very first Philz Coffee at 3101 24th St. in 2002. (Yes, that banner citing SF Weekly has hung over the door for a very long time. Thanks, Philz!)
One of a clutch of top-tier Mexican spots, Taqueria Vallarta (3033 24th St.) cranks out tacos al vapor day and night from a station right up front, with offal options taking center stage. As decked out in murals as adjacent Balmy Alley, its burritos are no slouches, either. Meat-eaters know 24th Street is home to two of S.F.’s three El Farolito locations, where chorizo super-burritos remain the city’s gold standard gut-busters. Slightly more self-consciously upscale and famed for its salsas, Papalote Mexican Grill (3409 24th St.) is anything but an interloper.
El Nuevo Frutilandia (3077 24th St.) sounds like a juice shop or produce market, but it’s a full-service Cuban-Puerto Rican restaurant (if one with moderately unusual hours). Come here for Cubano sandwiches, late-afternoon sangria, or ropa vieja, the plate of shredded beef with vegetables that’s Cuba’s iconic dish. Among the handful of top-notch Peruvian restaurants sprinkled throughout the Mission, Alma Cocina (2801 Folsom St.) stands out for its cocktails, its lomo saltado, and its Japanese-inflected ceviches, making it the ideal neighborhood dinner spot.
As San Francisco is nothing if not full of places you won’t find anywhere else, the rare Hungarian restaurant is right here. Paprika (3324 24th St.) is more properly a beer hall pouring German and Czech brews alongside sausages, szeged goulash, and apple strudl. Having opened nearly a decade ago, the Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen mothership (3150 24th St.) has staples like smoked trout and chopped liver alongside shrewd extras like shawarma and the Manny’s breakfast burrito (hint: it’s got pastrami). While no one bagel will settle the existential-parochial question of whether San Francisco knows how to make them, the Jersey-esque slices at The Pizza Shop (3104 24th St.) and the paper plates they’re served on definitively answer that question about that other Northeastern staple.
Like that hipster McDonald’s — only with more retro appeal — beefy Top Round Roast Beef (2962 24th St.) might technically be a chain, but one that serves hard-to-find Midwestern delights like beef on weck alongside plenty of frozen custards — plus it’s the only Bay Area location. If it’s ice cream you crave, Jake Godby and Sean Vahey of Humphry Slocombe (2790A Harrison St.) have been scooping flavorful oddities for more than a decade, including the Chocolate Smoked Sea Salt, Harvey Milk + Honey Graham, and that New York Times-baiting bourbon-and-corn-flakes combo Secret Breakfast.
A few blocks down, the century-old diner St. Francis Fountain (2801 24th St.) serves burgers and shakes and accents its soda-jerk appeal with a candy counter filled with 1980s trading cards. A few doors down is the Roosevelt Tamale Parlor (2817 24th St.), whose neon sign can almost align with St. Francis’ and with dive bar Pop’s across the street, if you get the right angle. Barry Moore and Aaron Presbrey revived it after a 2015 brush with death — Pop’s, too, closed for a time — and now it’s home to elote tamales, pozole, and burrito bowls. Just next door is La Torta Gorda (2833 24th St.), whose pulled-pork “pierna enchilada” got the No. 2 spot on the Food Network’s Top 5 Sandwiches in America in 2015.
On the more upscale end — but not by a huge leap — Nick and Anna Sager Cobarruvias’ New California establishment Son’s Addition (2990 24th St.) is the low-key place for expert takes on braised yellowtail collar, roasted hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, and brussels sprout panzanella.
Rupam Bhagat’s sprightly Ritu Indian Soul Food (3111 24th St.) has quickly become a destination for a wide array of chaats, cauliflower kebabs from the tandoor, and hefty classics like a lamb shank rogan josh, while Brandon Kirksey’s endlessly inventive Foxsister (3161 24th St.) is the place for gratifying takes on Korean bar food, grafted seamlessly onto a Benedict-heavy brunch menu — and with boozy slushies to tide you over as you watch kitschy sci-fi movies on TV. They’ve got a new happy hour menu full of wings, fried rice, and kimchi queso dip, too. Omakase, schmomakase.