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Eat Your Way Across San Francisco's 24th Street

From Noe Valley to Potrero Avenue, these are the restaurants, cafes and bars to visit
February 13, 2017
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by Trevor Felch

Spanning two major San Francisco residential and dining neighborhoods, 24th Street allows an expansive look at the city on a single thoroughfare. Come hungry and thirsty and enjoy the street's exciting taquerias, watering holes, bakeries and so much more. The hill between the eclectic Mission area and residential-upscale Noe Valley is steep (call it a seven out of 10 on the San Francisco scale), so if you're planning to walk, begin at Noe Valley as we've done on this list. Whether you go for fried chicken and coffee at Douglass and 24th or opt for sour beers and spam musubi by SF General Hospital, these are the bites and sips to try.

Douglass to Diamond
Firefly is still going strong after 23 years and remains a dinner-only destination for gluten-free fried chicken and contemporary California cooking. Firefly also gets bonus points for its menu note that "we love veggies and if you do too we'll make you some, just ask," which lets vegetarians know there's more to the menu than the signature meatloaf. If you start here in the morning, you can get a caffeine fix at the Philz next to Firefly.

Diamond to Castro
Diamond Cafe offers tempting sweet or savory crêpes and a solid selection of sandwiches and traditional breakfasts. Barney’s further down the street is a neighborhood burger and shake favorite with a lovely glass-enclosed patio. Indian cuisine specialist Holy Kitchen and cozy Roman Lupa Trattoria are low-key neighborhood favorites that draw Noe Valley couples looking for a quiet night out. On the fast-casual front, grab burritos at The Little Chihuahua, a spinach-feta pie from Bay Area hand-pie specialist, Peasant Pies or the DiMaggio meatball sub at the spacious Subs Inc. The latter also scoops ice cream from the Mission ice cream maker, Mitchell’s.

Castro to Noe
Newcomer Chez Marius, from the same chef as Glen Park's Le P’tit Laurent, is a welcome addition to the neighborhood. The focus on classic French cuisine is unwavering and unpretentious — opt for the likes of housemade foie gras terrine, intensely garlic- and butter-soaked escargots and duck two ways as confit and orange glazed breast. Then finish with a nightcap from the 40 taps across the street at local watering hole staple, Valley Tavern, the "neighborhood sports bar-dive bar" that is Noe Valley's version of the genre (not divey at all).

Also on this block, freshly baked baguettes, pastries and desserts abound at Noe Valley Bakery. Griddle Fresh and mini-chain La PanotiQ offer daytime meals, with pancakes, the specialty at the first, and sandwiches and salads at the other charming French-inspired cafe. There are also two notable niche stores: Plumpjack Wine & Spirits (one of the finest in any neighborhood) and Easy Breezy for reliably good frozen yogurt.

Noe to Sanchez
The Whole Foods Market and its out-of-control parking lot in the middle of this block are, by geography and constant activity, the middle of Noe Valley. But it’s next door at Bernie’s, where everyone knows everyone, that is the true neighborhood gathering spot. The coffee isn’t the city’s best, but it's satisfactory for a free Wi-Fi morning session or as a meet-up with friends. The exterior bungalow is also straight out of an old-time Americana Frank Capra film and Insta-worthy.

Across the street, Fresca offers ceviche and other Peruvian dishes with a festive vibe. Bagel fans must do the Noe Valley bagel challenge and start at Noe Bagel (Holey Bagel is on the next block). Lazeez serves shawarma and falafel as plates and wraps that hit the spot for a nourishing lunch. Lastly, for breakfast all day, Toast anchors the Noe end and Savor resides on the Sanchez end. Both are spruced up, family-friendly diners, but it’s Toast that has the vintage counter seating.

Sanchez to Vicksburg
A tour of 24th Street tour isn't complete without the appropriately named 24th Street Cheese Company and its 300 cheeses. It's the place to stop before picnicking at nearby Dolores Park. Further down the block is Haystack, serving kid-friendly Italian classics since 1972, with its kitschy spaghetti Western theme and a thicker than expected style of thin-crust pie. 

In the morning, do a bagel-tea-coffee crawl of neighboring Holey Bagel, David’s Tea and Martha Bros. Coffee. Towards Vicksburg is one of the city’s premier sushi bars, Saru, which offers both à la carte and tasting menus (the latter is the way to go). Gastropub Caskhouse is across from Saru, if elevated bar bites sound more tempting than sushi.

Of course, this block really gets going with its Saturday-only farmer's market. Along with the fresh produce, seek out Le Dix-Sept's macarons and nougat confections.

Vicksburg to Church
The Dubliner is a prime happy-hour spot for a pint, or if you're drinking in, pick up a bottle at Noe Valley Wine Merchants. Day or night, Happy Donuts is a 24-hour Noe Valley landmark, conveniently right by the MUNI streetcar stop. While there are lots of Happy Donuts out there, this really is the one. Don’t think out of the box — this is the place for an old-fashioned or raised glazed.

Church to Guerrero
Hamlet has the best cocktails in the neighborhood, complemented by jalapeño butter pretzels and a strong version of a Moroccan slaw–topped fried chicken sandwich. From here, it’s residential for a few blocks as you head downhill leaving Noe Valley.

(Mission) Guerrero to Valencia

Fiore Caffe is an isolated European cafe that serves brunch dishes until 2 PM daily and then takes a more Italian turn at dinner. Towards Valencia, Papalote’s burritos are the most polarizing in the Mission. Some diners love the idea of prawn burritos and others can’t believe that soyrizo is offered as a filling and that spinach tortillas are an option. Decide for yourself, but we think these are outstanding burritos with some great salsa too.

Valencia to Bartlett
This block is all about beef sandwiches: Big Mouth Burgers or cheesesteaks (and a supporting cast of chicken wings) at Phat Philly.

Bartlett to Mission
Who says there isn't a great place to eat or drink right by the BART station? Coffee Mission is adjacent to the station and serves excellent Verve coffee. On this block, you've also got Mexican pastries at La Mejor, a wine and pizza bar with a very catchy name (Adventure in Food and Wine) and the Eastern European gastropub, Paprika, where you should order sausage.

Mission to Shotwell
Continue past the boutique-looking McDonalds near the always entertaining 24th Street Mission BART station, and grab the namesake at Jelly Donut. Poke your head into one of the more well-known dives of the Mission, Napper Tandy. The block's real dining core is the pastrami, housemade rye, chocolate babka and truly heart-warming matzo ball soup at our city’s leading Jewish deli, Wise Sons.

Shotwell to Folsom
Continue your Mission burrito crawl at Taqueria Guadalajara (what an interior of Mexican murals!) and then some desserts at La Reyna. Both are often considered amongst the best in very competitive categories for the neighborhood. Indian soul food specialist, Dum, opened its brick-and-mortar on this block last year. The Folsom intersection boasts the original Philz Coffee on one side of 24th and the fresh-pressed juice and kombuchas of Sidewalk Juice on the other. Try both and you'll be feeling virtuous and wired!

Folsom to Harrison
This is probably the most bizarre block of the tour in terms of variety. El Nuevo Fruitlandia serves Cuban and Puerto Rican dishes with a tropical, breezy atmosphere. Then across the street, you'll find coffee shop Haus' free Wi-Fi and third-wave coffee drinks and toast, straight out of the hipster playbook. Next door is the craft-beer sports bar Big Rec Tap Room.

One of the great sushi gems of the Mission is Basa Seafood Express, a fish market that serves outstanding sushi and poke, along with fish and chips, sandwiches and fish tacos. At the corner of Treat Avenue is another spot on every dive bar must-try list, Blind Cat, which is where to go for jukebox music, pinball and no-frills cocktails and shots. Just past Treat, you can’t miss the colorful exterior of Taqueria Vallarta, highly regarded for its burritos.

Harrison to Alabama
Though the main El Farolito is on Mission by the 24th Street BART station, another El Farolito resides on this block and will satisfy any burrito craving. Looking for tortas? Tortas Los Picudos is a low-key, excellent choice for freshly griddled, towering tortas. The OG of this block is Belmar-La Gallinita Meat Market, a more than four decades-old butcher shop with some excellent tacos.

Alabama to Florida
The venerable Mexican bakery, La Victoria, is renowned for its pan dulce, alfajores cookies and dozens of other tempting pastries and desserts. It also leases its kitchen to Sour Flour Baking, which bakes excellent bread and pretzels available from La Victoria (and serves free bagels at 8 AM on Mondays!). Opposite La Victoria is one of the great names in Bay Area food, Low Cost Meat Market (do you dare try it?). The next door neighbors are more tempting for a meal with La Espiga de Oro's pupusas, burritos and tamales and many traditional Mexican specialties at El Tomate. The latter is one of the few actual sit-down Mexican restaurants in the immediate area.

Florida to Bryant
La Palma Mexicatessen is known Bay Area–wide as the source of tortillas for many of the tacos and burritos you’ve been eating. What it deserves to be better known for are the larger-than-average tacos on thick, freshly pressed corn tortillas, served in the rear of the market. The carnitas with some onions and cilantro on these tortillas is as good as taco eating gets.

Bryant to York
You can’t miss the famous Vegas-like sign above Roosevelt Sip n Eat, formerly the legendary Roosevelt Tamale Parlor (that’s what the sign still says and it's still under the same family ownership) on what's arguably the most stacked block of all 24th Street. It just switched to a vaguely more refined Mexican-American menu with a focus on the wine list, a classic sign of evolving with the times in the Mission. Oversized tortas are the specialty next door at La Torta Gordaone of the more well-known sandwich venues in the city. Go for the No. 12 pulled pork and No. 19 with poblano peppers and Oaxaca cheese. The block also has La Mexicana Bakery and the underrated Kazan for Japanese tapas (often forgotten amongst all the taquerias surrounding it). At the intersection with York, you’ll encounter the malts, patty melts and soda fountain ambiance of St. Francis Fountain. That wholesome vibe serves as the perfect contrast with classic dive bar, Pop’s, right across the street.

York to Hampshire
At York, you'll find one of the more striking murals of the many in the Mission. It's also home to Taqueria San Francisco. After a few carne asada and lengua tacos there, continue for pupusas at D'MaizeDynamo Donuts started the creative, seasonal-flavor donut trend and is still the best at it. Don't be subtle at Dynamo. Try flavors like Almanac beer glaze, chocolate-rose and lemon-thyme. 

Hampshire to Potrero
Almanac Beer Co.'s beers have been at stores and on tap for years but finally it now has its own taproom and restaurant. It's a winner from the back patio and taxidermy-heavy decor to the spam musubi and cheddar and tomato aïoli-adorned burger, currently the hottest new burger in town. Beer-wise, sours and barrel-aged beers explored as two-ounce samplers are the way to go for an initial visit. Then pick your favorite beer and toast to completing the eating and drinking tour of 24th Street.

tacos
street food
bakeries
burritos
panaderias
coffeehouses
mexican restaurants
craft brewery