The Excelsior is a neighbourhood after a low-end chowhound's stomach, full of wonderful adventures and far less pretentious even than the dot-coma stricken Mission. Low End Theory and his Paris St. bandmate O Brasileiro chowed frequently in the 'hood before the latter moved to Cambridge, Mass. in search of feijoada and an ecology grad school project. Here are some uncomprehensive tidbits from those halcyon days; the focus is on Mission between Alemany and Geneva.
Guadalajara (Mission and Onondaga) is head-and-shoulders the best and a worthy adversary for any Mission taqueria. Grilled tortilla for one's burrito, formidable meats (try the alambres platter) and low low prices. O Brasileiro liked the tortas almost as much as those in his boyhood Los Angeles. Great ranchero jukebox and low-end Mexican soccer fan vibe. El Farolito is a poor cousin to the legendary 24th St. and Mission branches, although the mystery of the quesadilla suiza (what is Swiss about it?) remains intriguing. Altena and Menudo would be the best taqueria in many neighbourhoods, but Guadalajara is across the street.
Goldilocks Bakery (Mission and Santa Rosa) is a branch of the Daly City motherlode - admittedly not the favourite of all Low End Theory's Pinoy acquaintances. Kare kare (oxtail stew with peanut sauce) is a winner. Crazy baked goods of course, and cheap! It is Filipino, so expect plenty of organ meats - a good thing in any self-respecting chowhound's view. From what Low End Theory has heard about Cinderella, it would probably win in a fairy-tale shootout. As the board has noted before, avoid fried foods at non-peak hours.
Kadok's House of Mami and Siopao (Mission and Onondaga) is also a branch of a mini-Bay Area chain. House special mami is OK, a goodly variety of meats including beef brisket, fish balls, chicken, and prawns in garlicky noodle soup. More unique are the special siopao, a Filipino-ized pao with minced meat and mung bean filling. Only $1.90! The requisite sticky sweet dipping sauce. Both dishes improved by the banana chili bottled sauce courtside. Combos and "meat prefix of choice"-silog look promising. Good value like everything in the 'hood. Buy yourself a 40-45 pound lechon for only $211 and feel the "Spanish tinge" that Jelly Roll Morton described in American jazz.
Baby's Eatery and Palabok must be one of the smallest eateries in San Francisco. The small sausages over rice are super-greasy and consequently very filling. A respectable take-out option for the fat-starved.
Stay tuned for Parts II and III. Happy exploring!