Mission Creek: San Francisco's Most Exciting New Food Neighborhood

The once neglected eastern side of San Francisco’s buzziest dining neighborhood comes into its own.

Ask any San Franciscan where to find the city’s most dynamic restaurant scene, and they’ll likely point you to the Mission neighborhood. Over the past five years, the already bustling restaurant rows of Mission and Valencia streets have exploded even further, with haute burger joints, juice bars and tasting-menu spots joining the taquerias, pupuserias and laid-back dive bars that have long given the neighborhood its flavor.

Tartine Manufactory

But east of Folsom Street, it’s a different story. While the eastern Mission neighborhood has been equally subject to the soaring prices and building boom of the tech era, it’s always been light on places to grab a bite—particularly by day, when thousands of techies in live-work lofts and makers in rows of warehouses were often out of luck at lunchtime.

“The city has a restaurant glut right now—restaurants are struggling to survive,” says Paul Einbund, owner of Mariposa Street newcomer The Morris. “But this neighborhood remains underserved.”

The Morris

Now, the eastern Mission’s food scene is starting to change—and bringing some of its industrial heritage along with it. A big moment came in August, when western Mission stalwart Tartine Bakery debuted its enormous new production facility and cafe, Tartine Manufactory, in the Heath Ceramics factory at 18th and Alabama streets.

Tartine Manufactory

While the bright, wood-accented Manufactory seems tailor-made for the stroller crowd snapping Instagrams of their strawberry-lemon scones and shelling bean salads, it’s actually as much a production space as it is a place to dine.

Tartine Manufactory

“Seventy-five percent of this space is actually production or food-making,” said Vinny Eng, Tartine’s director of operations. The Manufactory now makes Tartine’s famous loaves for both its locations: “We haven’t even opened for dinner yet, and we’ve got 65 staff members.”

Other established local businesses are following suit. Dandelion Chocolate, which used to manufacture all its “bean to bar” creations at its Valencia Street retail storefront, will soon be operating from a massive former printing factory at 16th and Alabama streets. And Gus’s Community Market saw a chance to not only open a full-service grocery (the area’s first), but a production space for its prepared food as well.

Gus's Community Market

“The neighborhood, as dense as it is with workers and residents—there wasn’t really a ton of grocery options here,” says Dimitri Vardakastanis, who, with his brother Bobby, manages the markets founded by his father, the company’s namesake.

Dandelion Chocolate factory

Gus’s, which debuted in late 2015, has quickly become a neighborhood nexus. The local office crowd throngs it at lunchtime for fresh juices, deli sandwiches, sushi and a hot bar that puts Whole Foods to shame, stocked with made-on-site eats like cornmeal fried chicken, carnitas and spanakopita from the Vardakastanis’ family recipe.

Smaller restaurants are finding their niche, too. While Central Kitchen, Flour + Water, Trick Dog and Atlas Cafe have long ruled the roost on a dense block of 20th Street, newcomers are popping up nearby, from Rhea’s Café, a larger outpost of a popular Valencia Street sandwich shop, to Farmhouse Kitchen, which serves authentic Thai fare in a sleek, hip atmosphere.

The Morris

At the Morris, Einbund’s recently opened restaurant named for his late father, he took over the space of a neighborhood pioneer: Slow Club, a bastion for the young and hip since the first tech boom. (Its owner retired in 2015, after 24 years in business.) His goal, he says, is to offer a “casual, comfortable neighborhood restaurant,” San Francisco-style. Chef Gavin Schmidt hails from Michelin-starred Coi, and specializes in splashy comfort fare like handmade sausages and smoked whole duck. Einbund, a longtime fixture in the local wine scene, will curate a short menu of the day’s best bottles, along with classic cocktails, housemade sodas and craft beer—but for true oenophiles, he’ll also offer a 50-page reserve list.

Tartine Manufactory

There’s more on the way, too. David Barzelay, the Michelin-starred chef of the Mission’s Lazy Bear, recently announced a new cocktail-focused restaurant at 20th and Alabama streets, while the Vardakastanis brothers are plotting to add the year’s biggest trend—a poké bar—to Gus’s lineup. And Tartine has much more on the way at its new space, including an ice cream counter, dinner service and cocktails.

“People are excited to have new things in the vicinity, things that are walkable,” says Vardakastanis. “The food scene is always changing, and we want to change with it.”