It’s gotten to the point where local, seasonal and sustainable have become baseline keywords for Bay Area dining, but it’s not enough to just source impeccable California ingredients when seemingly everybody is doing it. Restaurants have to innovate, or at least move beyond minimal manipulation, to draw diners. Local Mission Eatery is a good example of the genre and dates to St. Patrick’s Day 2010, when Yaron Milgrom opened in San Francisco’s Mission district.
Milgrom is a first time restaurateur and a former doctoral student in Medieval Jewish Mysticism at NYU who fell for food and the Mission. He partnered with chef Jake Des Voignes, who shops at farmers markets five days per week, taking over a former Kosher butcher shop.
Local Mission Eatery features plenty of communal seating, beaded chandeliers and wood tiles that sported scenes from the neighborhood. We sat at an L-shaped counter overlooking an open kitchen, a wall of cookbooks and a vintage cash register. A decorative vase of sunflowers and a squash the size of a baseball bat rested on the counter.
The menu promised that all of our food would be “local, humane and housemade.” But of course. More interesting to me was that every dish is available in half portions, which encourages variety and allows even solo diners to experiment.
We warmed up with a heaping plate of Terrines & Pate ($16), including rich, creamy chicken liver mousse rimmed with sweet-tart blackberry gelee, coarse country pate with pickled cucumbers, and firmer tete de cochon (head cheese) with sweet whole grain mustard. We loaded them all on addictive, lightly brushed rustic bread from PANoRAMA, which is based in the Mission and sells to farmers markets like San Rafael. The bread alone was a value add.
My father and stepmother live in South Carolina, but they escape the heat and humidity for two months each summer, decamping for San Francisco. They still managed to find the flavors of home thanks to Local Mission Eatery chef Andy Henderson, who hails from Mt. Pleasant. That funny coincidence resulted in a dish of boiled peanuts partially submerged in murky likker, pork fat and red pepper flake. The peanuts were part of the Bites selection, which cost $5 each or $12 for all three. We also ordered a tart, tangy jar of pickled carrots, cherries and zucchini.
Cavatelli ($22) was fairly unusual in that it paired soft ridged pasta squiggles with sweet polenta-like corn pudding. Bacon and roasted tomatoes added a nice smoky element, and crunchy green beans and cilantro completed the flavorful puzzle.
Bonus, “Pork Loin” ($27) was porchetta, finished on the flat top to bronze the juicy, herbaceous spirals of pork meat. The accompaniments were excellent, including earthy cranberry beans, bitter chard and sweet green figs. Still, the skin could have been better if it was crispy instead of chewy.
Knead Patisserie, based in back of the space, contributed to our desserts, which were highlighted by Gravenstein apple Financiers ($8) featuring a trio of buttery coffee cakes, slices of roasted apples popularized and grown in Sonoma County, rosemary, sour apple gastrique and frosted wheat flakes.
Summer float ($8) was tricky to split, and required patience for the elements to fully integrate, but it was worth the refreshing wait. Tiny champagne grapes joined basil soda, melon balls and tangy yogurt semifreddo in a Mason jar.
We were well sated, but it was tempting to keep indulging. Local Mission Eatery also features a number of cheeses and a French press of Four Barrel coffee for only $2.50. And yes, they’re all local, or at least locally roasted.