Spending a few days in the Bay Area? Try a San Francisco walking food tour. You won’t be disappointed by the excellent food and drinks in the Mission District.
We spent a few days in San Francisco this summer with the objective of taking in the city sights, including Alcatraz, but this poor planner didn’t reserve tickets early enough and every Alcatraz tour was sold out during the days we planned to be in town.
San Francisco Travel Tip: Reserve your Alcatraz tickets earlier than you think you need to. The last time I visited San Francisco, we walked up to the ticket booth and bought tickets for the Alcatraz tour that afternoon. Apparently, tickets now are limited and were sold out through the following month after we had planned to be in town.
We had a long list of things to see and do while visiting and couldn’t believe my husband and 9 year old daughter agreed to my suggestion to do a San Francisco walking food tour. I went on one in New York several years ago and it still remains a highlight. So, I jumped on Yelp and found great reviews for Avital Tours.
Avital Tours offered a few different options. In San Francisco, they have tours of North Beach and Mission District. Tours are about 3-hours and start at $84 per person. You can pay an additional $18 per person for two tasting drinks. My husband and I opted to add the drink package because why not?
A day or two before our tour, I got an email from Avital that the minimum guest requirement had not been met for the tour time we scheduled and they offered a few different alternative dates and times. I knew they had these minimums when booking and changing our tour time worked for us but I could see how this could be problematic for some people. Avital does not offer refunds, so I suggest having a flexible schedule.
Mission District Food Tour
We chose the Mission District tour and met at the historic Women’s Building where we met our guide Camille. She asked if we were there for the walking food tour and then introduced us to some of the others also waiting. Camille began the tour with some history of the Mission District and the mural on the Women’s Building. She shared the four food stops we’d be making (this varies from tour to tour) and what we’d expect.
The first stop was West of Pecos which Camille said was a traditional Tex-Mex restaurant. I half expected Chili’s because that is what I think of when I hear Tex-Mex except we were greeted with an Achiote Short Rib Empanada with a mango chutney and it was amazing. We also were treated to our first tasting cocktail which was a margarita made with Mezcal.
We sat at a huge table and chatted with a young couple from Sweden. My daughter was the only child on the tour and while Avital does say these tours aren’t designed for young children, she did pretty well since she’s an adventurous eater and can pretty much hang with adults.
Our second stop was Tacolicious which began as a booth at the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market. The place was packed but we were sat at a private table in the back and quickly served chips and salsa and a duo of soft tacos. Everyone got one chicken chili verde soft taco and one baja-style Pacific cod fish soft taco. If you love fish tacos, you will love the tacos at Tacolicious. I was really hoping for a cold Mexican beer with our tacos but our package only came with two drinks. This was the only disappointment because Tacolicious was top-notch.
Camille shared how the Mission District was an area going through gentrification over the last 20 years. It once was heavy with gang activity but has since turned into an area rich with culture and food. On the way to our next eatery, we stopped to admire a mural called Gigantes which depicted the combination of history, community and the future.
Our third food stop was artisan cured ham and oysters from Hogs & Rocks. Apparently, the owner loves the two things and that is what they serve. It was quiet on a Saturday afternoon but draws a crowd in the evening hours. I’ve had oysters before and wouldn’t consider myself a fan but my husband has never sampled an oyster. I was shocked when he threw it back. My daughter made a trade – oysters for rosemary bread – with the nice Swedish couple. We had our second cocktail here which was bourbon and ginger beer. Woah, boy.
Last up was dessert from Bi-Rite Creamery and the line out front was no joke. Camille walked right in and grabbed our cups of salted caramel ice cream. It was the perfect treat at the end of a fun afternoon.
If you think a 3-hour walking food tour sounds like too much, it’s not. The Mission District tour is flat walk with short distances between each eatery. You will sit at every location except at Bi-Rite. $84 per person is expensive. This is definitely a tour for those interested in both food, culture and history. Just like the walking food tour I took in New York, the San Francisco walking food tour is a now new highlight from part of the city I had never explored before.