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The Best New Restaurants to Try Now

Cajun and Cubanos in the Mission, plus a direly needed West Oakland bakery.

Shrimp ceviche with plantain chips at Media Noche.

 

Alba Ray’s
Mission
In most respects, there’s no mistaking Mission Street for Bourbon Street. But inside this lively haunt, the lines begin to blur. Against a backdrop dripping with French Quarter atmospherics (hanging ferns, wrought iron arches), the kitchen conjures a range of Cajun classics, from blue crab–stuffed flounder and roux-thickened chicken gumbo with andouille sausage to shell-on barbecue shrimp with a side of spongy bread for sopping up the smoky sauce. Not everything’s spot-on. An escarole salad is overdressed, and a rabbit stew potpie is stingy on the rabbit. But the cumulative effect is pleasantly transportive, all the more so after a Sazerac or two. 2293 Mission St. (At 19th St.), 415-872-9409
—Josh Sens

Media Noche
Mission
Given the stubborn popularity of fast-casual dining and the iconic status of the Cubano, it was only a matter of time before the two crossed paths. Their meeting place is this cheerful corner locale, which sits in the Mission but looks very much Miami with its turquoise-and-white touches and tropical-patterned tiles. The tiny kitchen manages impressive output, its street food staples ranging from ropa vieja rice bowls to sprightly shrimp ceviche with plantain chips. But Media Noche’s calling cards are its pressed sandwiches, which include a textbook rendering of a Cubano (with roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese, mustard, and pickles) and—better yet—a riff on the same called the Media Noche, which swaps the usual crusty white bread for sweet brioche. 3465 19th St. (At Lexington St.), 415-655-3904
—J.S.

Locol Bakery
Oakland
Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson want to bring tasty, inexpensive, and relatively healthy fast food to the food deserts of the world, and this oven-centric outpost of Locol—located in a stretch of West Oakland genuinely short on dining options—is a good test case for that mission. Instead of burgers, the bakery incarnation of the restaurant specializes in pizza, and not the thin-crust variety that seems to be perpetually in vogue, but puffy, extra-cheesy, American-style pies, sold by the slice or whole at a price ($2.50/$9) that’s hard to beat. That said, the bakery’s most versatile items are the assorted Bunzz—small round loaves that resemble Mexican telera rolls. In the morning, these get toasted and reconfigured into breakfast sandwiches. But they’re also good plain, slathered with either garlic herb butter or honey nut butter, which makes them almost sweet enough to qualify as a dessert. 3446 Market St. (At 35th St.) 
—Luke Tsai

 

Originally published in the June issue of San Francisco

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