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The Gallic influence on Vietnamese cooking dates back to its French colonial days, which explains why an Asian sandwich is served in a baguette with pate on it. Usually filled with five-spice chicken or roast pork and then embellished with fresh and pickled vegetables and herbs, there is an American twist to be found in the meatball sandwich that is like nothing so much as a jumped-up hoagie. The fillings are spicy and the chili garnish, which you can ask the efficient counter staff to leave out, can make the sandwiches positively incendiary, though that does not seem to deter the locals who crowd this shop all day. Only cash accepted.
This eatery is hidden away so well, you're likely to walk right past it unless you know it's there. Lunchtime brings crowds of people to Garaje, where tacos, zapatos (grilled, pressed burritos) and other Mexican specialties are served with a California flair. The specialty here is fish tacos, from the seared tuna and avocado taco to the beer-battered tilapia taco with chipotle aioli. If you don't feel like fish, their burger and veggie burger have garnered rave reviews from regulars. They have a well-curated selection of craft beers on tap to go with your meal. Come prepared with cash, since they don't take credit cards.
Contrary to its name, HRD Coffee Shop is not what you'd expect it to be. Combining Korean, Chinese, American and Mexican cuisine, HRD offers unique lunch and breakfast fare. One of the best-kept secrets of the SoMa area, the establishment is popular with fans headed to the ballpark as well as locals. Most patrons opt for take away, but the simple booths and a long communal table make for ample seating. Standout dishes include the Mongolian cheesesteak, kimchi burrito and the barbecue pork served over scrambled eggs and rice.
El Farolito is one of the Mission's most beloved dive taquerias. The lighting is alright, the decor is bargain-basement, but the burritos are huge and the filling is a delicious, slow-cooked Carne Asada, tender chicken, spicy pork, or veggies and guacamole. You will also find tacos and enchiladas. It is a popular place with locals and people looking for a quick meal, especially late at night when most other spots have closed down. The service is quick and efficient. Only cash accepted.
For a taqueria to survive the competition in the city's Mission District, it has to be more than just good - it has to be great. La Taqueria, an unpretentious place with an appropriately mission-inspired decor, is just that. The tacos and burritos come with a variety of flavorful meat and vegetarian fillings, and prices that'll tempt you to order more than one. Regulars swear by the carnitas, made from slow-cooked pork and seasoned to perfection. It is a casual, friendly place that has been feeding the locals for over 25 years.
Red's Java House is a modest burger-shack that sits right on the bay at Pier 30. It has been serving San Francisco locals since 1923 and has rarely given a reason to complain. With its typical American fare of burgers, fries, hot dogs and beer and the view of the bay, this place has been a super hit among one and all. They are particularly known for the burgers, which are served on sourdough bread and only come with pickles, mustard and onion as toppings (don't worry there's ketchup on the tables.)
Pink is the color of choice at Good Luck Dim Sum. This great hole in a wall serves delicious dim sum at bargain prices to locals from around the city. Walls, tables, chairs and menus all have a rosy glow that is a bit odd, but easy to overlook when you can buy two barbecue pork buns bursting with a savory filling at a reasonable price. Steamed shrimp dumplings in opalescent wonton wrappers are spiked with chives. There is nothing fancy here, just basic dim sum served cafeteria-style rather than from rolling carts, but the food is good, the service quick and the damage to your wallet very minimal.
Gordo's Taqueria is a Bay Area institution with six locations in San Francisco and the East Bay. The original location on Clement Street first opened in 1977 and has been serving fast, fresh and delicious Mexican cuisine ever since. Build your own burrito with freshly prepared guacamole, rice, carnitas, lettuce and more.