Sunday, October 26, 2008

Road Trip Day 4, Oct : Mission: The Mission

After spending the night with Michael's godparents in Redwood City (about miles south of San Francisco) and attending church with them in the morning, we heading to San Francisco for our first real taste of the town. To me, that didn't mean Fiherman's Wharf or Ghiradelli Square - it meant the Mission District, home to an ethnically and economically diverse population, and also home of the Mission burrito.

The Mission burrito, like the neighborhood from which it comes, is down to earth and bursting with flavor. We parked across the street from Taqueria Cancucn (burritos in the Mission are sold from taquerias, just to confuse those not in the know), a garishly painted place sandwiuched between thrift shops and corner produce stands. Customers waited in the narrow corridor at the back of the taqueria to place their order, then wedged themselves onto a bench at one of the long pine tables after picking up a plastic basket containing foil wrapped goodness.

Supposedly these are the places that inspired chains like Taco del Mar. But I can tell you first hand, Taco del Mar has nothing on these burritos. Michael took one bite and let out a groan of happiness. "This is the best burrito I have ever had," he simply said, and I couldn't put it any better.

But what made these burritos so good? Michael's was brimming with carne asada, while I chose pollo asado, which is, to many burrito and taco aficionados, the most boring option. But the chicken in my burrito was, well, succulent is the best word I can think of. It was juicy and slightly spicy, studded with hearty chunks of avocado (which I love, love, love), not too much rice, and wrapped in a flaky tortilla.

Now, I have read reviews of various Mission taquerias online, and seems there is much contention as to which taquerias are really authentic and truly tasy. Some rave about Cancun while others respond with a resounding, "meh." I guess that maybe the people who live there are just spoiled for choice and have to find something to argue about. All I can say is that Michael and I, as Seattleites, just devoured our burritos and couldn't have been happier. And at around $5 apiece with chips and house made salsas included, these burritos are also a great deal.

There is more to the Mission than burritos, however. We stopped for a look at the beautiful Mission Dolores. Tours to see the interior of the mission are offered, but we declined in favor of seeing more of the neighborhood on foot. We passed through a diverse mix of historic San Francisco Victorian row houses, some freshly painted and well tended, others crumbling under peeling paint. Small shops and restaurants lined the ground floors of many of the buildings, randing from pawn shops to trendy tapas bars.

Tempted by the sight of a line snaking out the door of a shop advertising fresh made organic ice cream, we got dessert at the Bi Rite Cremaery. Back on the street we enjoyed toasted cocnut and malted vanilla with peanut brittle and milk chocolate ice cream. Thick and creamy, the ice cream was a real treat (although we both agreed that we favor our own local organic ice creamery, Seattle's Molly Moon's).

For science fiction and fantasy lovers, Borderlands Books is a must. This little shop is crammed with new and used books spanning the full breadth of these genres. While we didn't buy anything, I was tempted by a lovely illustrated edition of the complete tales of Hans Christian Andersen.

We also managed to spot a few of the murals for which this area is famous, including the exceptionally colorful paintings that line the San Francisco Women's building. There are many more we unfortunately did not have the chance to see.

If You Go:
Taqueria Cancun
1003 Market Street, San Francisco

Mission Dolores
3321 16th Street, San Francisco

Bi-Rite Creamery
3692 18th Street, Sand Francisco

Borderlands Books
866 Valencia Street, San Francisco

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