For almost the first century of its existence, Mission Bay was the type of neighborhood where people ate their lunches out of pails. Today, it exists mostly to serve the needs of medical and biotech workers, with a couple Starbucks and poke places that could be found in any blue-state suburb. But beneath the reputation for edge-city sterility and a feeling of missed opportunity — this formerly industrial neighborhood between SoMa and Dogpatch couldn’t manage even one full-scale craft brewery? — there are worthwhile places for meeting a friend and a few that are genuine destinations in their own right.
601 Mission Bay Blvd. North
A rhizomatic outgrowth from SoMa StrEat Food Park and part of the larger outdoor space Parklab, Spark is an urbanist dream come true. Compact, full of variety, and bursting with fire pits, it’s the liveliest place in Mission Bay to shepherd your co-workers for a pitcher of beer or a carafe of wine. KoJa Kitchen, Sam’s Chowder Mobile, Torraku Ramen, Firetail Pizza and other second-wave food trucks are stationed here for lunch and dinner, with two hours of downtime at 3 p.m. — but fear not, as happy hour begins at four. Beyond special events like the S.F. Ice Cream Festival, the space screens movies and hosts trivia. This Spark is lit.
295 Terry A Francois Blvd.
Taking a cue from old phone numbers, à la PEnnsylvania 6-5000, ATwater TAvern is a two-year-old, 180-seat indoor-outdoor spot whose location says it all. As a waterfront restaurant near the ballpark, it’s going to be booze- and oyster-centric, with coffee in the morning for the before-work crowd. But ceviche and a Corpse Reviver No. 2 never go out of style.
The Yard at Mission Rock
100 Terry A Francois Blvd.
Anchor Steam rules everything around it at this AT&T Park-reliant block party space built from shipping containers. Open Thursdays through Sundays (and busiest on game days), it’s also home to Creperie St. Germain and an outpost of the ever-growing Belcampo Meats. Can it match Spark’s everyday vitality? Not quite, plus it’s relatively shade-free and exposed to the fog, but like Hayes Valley’s PROXY, it’s casual, easy, and great for large groups.
House of Tadu Ethiopian Kitchen
1130 Fourth St.
Injera and misir wot are rare enough in San Francisco that the fact the Tenderloin staple House of Tadu opened a second location in Mission Bay feels like a true gift. Order family-style and find that there’s no better way to mop up sauces than with spongy Ethiopian bread made from a sourdough starter, especially with plenty of berbere spices on the meat. (It’s vegetarian- and vegan-friendly, too!)
1170 Fourth St.
A few years after the Bay Area’s first pizza truck started rolling, Casey opened this brick-and-mortar just across Mission Creek from SoMa. Here, thin-crust Neapolitan pies — bacon-kale, fennel sausage, bianca — link arms with exceptional craft beers. Sure, you could order some Casey’s via Caviar, but you know it’s going to be better in-house with a pint of Harmonic Kolsch.
Mission Rock Resort
817 Terry A. Francois Blvd.
While The Ramp is south of Mariposa Street and therefore technically in Dogpatch, Mission Rock Resort is squarely in Mission Bay (although at the opposite end of the neighborhood from Mission Rock Street and its future development cluster). Eating Kumamotos and Miyagis bayside is one of life’s true pleasures, but while the raw bar is this gigantic restaurant’s primary raison d’etre, brunch means classics like eggs benedict and huevos rancheros, too. In the drinks column, palomas and Moscow mules buttress a more-than-respectable wine list.
STEM Kitchen and Garden
499 Illinois St.
Of course biotech-landia would have a restaurant whose name acknowledges the science fields, but if you can get past that, you’ll find a heated outdoor patio with plenty of herbs and foliage (and a bocce court!). STEM’s putting out Cal-inspired dishes you can find almost anywhere, but between the view and the paucity of similar options within a mile radius, this four-year-old spot with breakfast, lunch, and (early) dinner is going to stay on the radar for a long time to come.
550 Gene Friend Way
Speaking of iffy names — something about referring to rustic dishes as “peasant” food feels a little off to us — this is the third location of a 25-year-old S.F. mini-chain. Fast-casual before the term existed, Peasant Pies is a place for savory treats you dig into with your hands. Don’t fret: Beyond the ham-egg-and-cheese and zucchini-and-mushroom are sweet options like chocolate flan and a pear crumble, all for under $5.
610 Long Bridge St.
An acai bowl, a smoked salmon plate, a merguez sub — this is no mere coffee shop with a pastry case. Having survived the explosion and later implosion of cafes in the Castro, Reveille expanded and the Mission Bay outpost is a beautiful interior with top-notch food, Exhibit A in any case argued on the hood’s behalf. While a $7 drip is not an everyday routine for most people, it’s open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily and serves a part of town without a Blue Bottle, Sightglass, Four Barrel, or Ritual.
Oda Restaurant & Brewery
1500 Owens St.
Named after the Kosovar term for a village gathering spot, Oda doesn’t have the name recognition it deserves. A quiet nanobrewery with great happy hour deals, its location is unquestionably mystifying — on the ground floor of the office of a pharma corp whose CEO allegedly marked up cancer drugs — but apart from the mac ’n’ cheese bar and the requisite pub-food-style small plates, it’s a beer-y Oda to joy.
Read more from SF Weekly‘s Mission Bay issue:
Mission Bay: The Most Misunderstood Neighborhood
What do you make of a place whose crowning aesthetic achievement is a 10-story parking garage?
What’s It Like to Live on a Houseboat in Mission Creek
Please don’t change the channel, this tight-knit neighborhood of 20 houseboats asks. But Mission Bay is on the move.
Mission Bay Has More Parks Than You Think
In a rare push for green spaces, 40 acres of parks are planned for residents of the 6,400 new housing units in Mission Bay.
Bio Companies Are at the Root of Mission Bay’s Growth
Before the Golden State Warriors staked claim on Mission Bay with a new arena, biotechnology companies and healthcare providers spent two decades turning it into a medical hub.
The Lefty O’Doul Bridge: A Feat of Steel and Engineering
The drawbridge that connects SoMa to Mission Bay was built before the Golden Gate Bridge even broke ground.