Adventurous diners have long made expeditions to the Mission for San Francisco classics like Foreign Cinema or that glorious corner of 18th and Guerrero where you find Delfina and Bar Tartine. But the radius around the 16th Street BART station is now dotted with new high-end restaurants offering dining experiences worth the trip for any local or out-of-towner. Here’s where to go now:
Though it only opened in 2010, Commonwealth has become a chic urban destination for high-style cuisine. In a space that once housed a taquería, executive chef Jason Fox blends seemingly improbable ingredients into memorable dishes like grilled lamb with smoked pumpkin, Swiss chard, preserved lemon and black mole, or desserts like beer meringue with chocolate ganache, pretzel crumble and crème fraîche ice cream. The casually elegant eatery get bonus cool points for donating $10 from every $75 tasting menu to different local charities.
This is the creation of David Barzelay, a lawyer-turned-chef who started hosting underground dinners in 2009. They soon became one of the most-talked-about dining experiences in the city, so Barzelay found a permanent restaurant space. Start your evening at the midcentury loft with a glass of seasonal pre-dinner punch while perched on sofas with Pendleton cushions. When you get comfortable, waiters arrive with trays bearing gifts like a plump oyster in tomato water consommé and whipped eggs with bacon oil and hot sauce. Afterward, head downstairs to find a place at one of two communal live-edge tables that look into the kitchen. Chefs take turns introducing dishes such as warm brown bread with whipped buttermilk, crawfish with rice and vegetables, or smoked beef with fresh tomatoes and intense tomato raisins. All you have to do is lift your fork and raise a glass of wine. The only aspect of the outing that requires some work is securing a spot: You’ll need to stalk Lazy Bear’s Twitter feed to see when hard-to-snag tickets to seatings become available.
Chef Alexander Alioto has an impeccable culinary pedigree: His grandparents started the San Francisco seafood legend Alioto’s on Fisherman’s Wharf and his father Nunzio is a Master Sommelier. The chef’s own background includes learning the intricacies of fresh fish in Sicily, and serving stints with Ristorante San Domenico in Imola and Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star The French Laundry. When he opened Plin, Alioto had his father help with the wine list and his mother, Joanne, created the sleek Italian restaurant’s modern design, punctuating the space with subtle ocean themes and novel light fixtures. Plin means “pinch” in Italian, a helpful technique for making the kitchen’s delightful agnolotti. Other standout dishes include the smoked salmon with onion panna cotta, caper leaves and a grating of salt cured egg yolk, and the seafood lasagna filled with rock shrimp and petrale sole in a lemon-butter sauce and a lime-caviar garnish.