Like Powell did a few weeks before me, I decided the chill West Coast attitude would be a great escape from my manic life in New York City; but my layover in San Francisco had a short time limit, and a smaller budget. If you have less than 24 hours, where would you go? And if you blew all your cash on the airfare, what would you eat? I headed to the Mission to maximize the day’s potential for delicious, cheap eats. This was my San Francisco itinerary:
Blue Bottle Coffee (66 Mint Street, San Francisco, CA 94103)
Started my day off with a visit to the location off of Mint Plaza. I don’t even drink the stuff but their perfect cappuccino always feels like a treat. Plus, isn’t coffee the West Coast’s thing (see: Stumptown, Starbucks… Folgers…)? The shop is light and airy, and I would have sat down for some waffles if I didn’t have other breakfast ideas in mind.
Cappuccino – $4.00
Tartine Bakery (600 Guerrero Street, San Francisco, CA 94110)
The only bad thing about this place is the sadness that creeps in when you realize you can’t come here every day, and you have no idea when you’ll be able to return. It is supremely unfair that some people get to go there regularly and I do not, and with this logic I justified buying two pastries that were larger than my hand. The plain croissant – as perfectly buttery and flaky as you could ever want – is to me the true test of a bakery’s skill, and oft-overlooked. But if you decided to go with a morning bun instead, no one would blame you. This bun changed my idea of pastries, with dough that was light and sugary, and flecked with orange zest – like the happy child of a cinnamon bun and a croissant some genius rolled up. I would have bought one for each day of my trip had I not thought it would start a riot with the other customers.
Croissant and morning bun – $3.95 each
Duc Loi Kitchen (Duc Loi Supermarket – 2200 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110)
Subway better watch its back: if you want the ultimate $5 foot-long sandwich, this (slightly) hidden Mission banh mi counter has loads more to offer for your lunchtime hunger pains. Located in the Duc Loi Supermarket, this deli offers a variety of banh mi (vegan, fried chicken) and uses fresh, locally-sourced ingredients for their enormous sandwiches. I say keep it real and go for “The Authentic” – roasted pork belly, roasted five-spice pork shoulder, house-made head cheese, and Vietnamese pork sausage – on a french roll with all the included toppings: caper mayo, pork pâté, cilantro, daikon-carrot slaw, cucumber, jalapeños. So much delicious Subway has never even heard of.
Authentic banh mi (enough food for two) – $5.00
Humphry Slocombe - (2790 A Harrison Street, San Francisco, CA 94110)
It’s a little off the beaten path, but when this infamous ice cream shop is churning up flavors like “Magnolia Stout” and “Secret Breakfast” (secret: cornflakes and bourbon), you’d be crazy not to go searching for it. After sampling the above-mentioned flavors, I decided on a bowl of Strawberry Szechuan sorbet topped with amarena cherries. The tongue-numbing effect of the peppercorns plus the temperature was, in short, totally awesome. (Sidenote: someone please please find a reason to send me this)
Bowl, with 1 topping – less than $5
I also checked out the Ferry Building (like San Francisco’s version of Chelsea Market), tried a peanut butter and pork belly sandwich at Jamber Wine Pub, and an al pastor taco from Taqueria Cancun. And while I was sniffing out food in the Mission, I couldn’t resist poking my head in a few quirky-looking shops, like here, and here, and here. And just like that, as quick as I had arrived I was on a train to visit my friend in Davis, feeling completely satisfied.