Content originally written for the Let’s Go: USA & Canada Guide by our researcher-writer, Graham Bishai.
809 Bush St.; (415) 885-1325; tacorea.com; open M-Sa 11:30am-3pm and 6pm until they run out
Seoul and Mexico City met and had a baby at this spot in downtown San Francisco. Kimchi in your burrito? Throw in some tater tots. (Don’t you dare pretend this doesn’t sound amazing.) Make it a Big Ricardo and they’ll put Bulgogi beef and a fried egg on there too. Tacorea is a fast-casual, order at the counter and grab a seat-type thing. The small, neon-glowing and music-bopping space has limited seating, but crowds are not deterred. Also—who would have thought—when you put tater tots in a burrito, you get really full!
Entrees from $8; vegetarian options available; wheelchair accessible
Taqueria Vallarta ($-$$)
3033 24th St.; (415) 826-8116; open Su-W 8am-1am, Th 8am-12am, F-Sa 8am-3:30am
If you were abducted by aliens and woke up here, you wouldn’t guess you were in San Francisco. Still, after smelling the aroma and seeing the food, you probably wouldn’t be all that worried about your abduction. Focus on the important things: at least they dropped you at this bomb-ass taqueria! You’ll find the taco bar at the front with several types of meat sizzling on the griddle. Just say how many, and what kind of meat. If you want something else, order up at the counter. Grab a seat in the large, muraled dining space, which brims with banter as people drink beer and devour burritos. A true watering hole for Mission residents, this place feels both other-worldly authentic, yet thoroughly local.
Entrées from $5; vegetarian and vegan options; wheelchair accessible
Baked Bear ($)
303 Columbus Ave.; (415) 757-0052; thebakedbear.com; open Su-Th 11am-11pm, Fr-Sa 11am-1am
The ice cream sandwich institution was doing great. Highly uncontroversial, and no one was complaining about them. Then, of course, someone had to get extra with it. Options you never thought were options suddenly stare you dead in the face at this ice creamery, which specializes in customizable ice cream sandwiches. Do you want the sandwich on a cookie, a brownie, or a donut? What flavor cookie? What flavor ice cream? Do you want it hot pressed? Indecision means certain agony here. Make up ya damn mind! It was never supposed to be this complicated! One sandwich can easily be shared between two people, so maybe get your travel partner to order for you. If you trust them.
Ice cream sandwiches from $6; vegan and gluten-free options; wheelchair accessible
Honey Honey Café and Crepery ($$)
599 Post St.; (415) 351-2423; honeyhoneycafeandcrepery.com; open daily 7:30am-10pm
A line snakes around the outer wall of this cafe on a weekend morning, as the cool (and patient!) kids flock here to get brunch. Or to brunch. Is it a verb yet? Unlike the kind of person who uses brunch as a verb, this place has no pretense. What it does have is a lengthy menu of diner fare, sweet and savory crêpes, space to spread out, simple wooden chairs and tables, and a giant wall-to-wall-length chalkboard displaying the menu. While most people get brunch, Honey Honey also does breakfast, lunch, and dinner. When not overflowing with overzealous brunchers, it doubles as a great coffee shop for a recharge.
Crêpes from $8, entrées from $11; vegetarian options; wheelchair accessible
Kasa Indian Eatery ($-$$)
4001 18th St.; (415) 621-6940; www.kasaindian.com; open daily 11am-10pm
Tasteful describes the cuisine as well as the atmosphere of this easy-going fast casual Indian dive. The value is excellent, too—you can get a thali platter of two entrees and all the traditional garnish for $13.50 plus tax. Choose from several Indian dishes, as a platter or a kati wrap. Its pink and purple walls whisper a sing-out-loud eccentricity that’s hushed by its modest yet evocative floral decor. Wash down that endorphin-stimulating spicy grub down with beer, a mango lassi, or one of their housemade teas or lemonades.
Entrées from $7; vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options; lunch specials M-F 11am-4pm
Graham left behind the stressed-out chaos of Cambridge for the laid back life on the West Coast. A refreshing change of pace, he assumed, until the line for coffee on his first morning took 2 mins longer than he’s used to, and the Northeast nasty jumped out. Starting in Vancouver, Graham meandered south, toning his calves being a pedestrian on San Francisco’s hills and by navigating the monstrosity that is Los Angeles using just his feet and public transit (only resorting to Uber twice!) Graham’s love for the West Coast life only increased as he sat by the Puget Sound in Seattle, sipped kombucha in the crunchy cafes of Portland, climbed into a waterfall in Yosemite and stayed in an abandoned opera house in Death Valley. By the time he hit upper 80s sun of San Diego, buff calves and sun tanned, the words “West Coast, Best Coast,” almost slipped out of his mouth. Identity crisis looming, he figured it was time to go home.