San Francisco’s Latino Mission District has been described as being ‘Brooklyn on steroids’ with its bustling hipster scene.
On a brief stop in the Golden City recently I was steered towards the hip neighbourhood to delve into its restaurant and bar scene.
It was a Tuesday night and I walked from San Francisco’s more manicured city centre with its high rises and sharp looking store fronts to the ramshackle warmth of the Mission District.
Think electric shops, twinkling lights and a motley bunch of characters from all walks of life.
Reaching 2526 Mission St I came across Laszlo, a cool bar full of friendly locals and punchy cocktails that promise boost your spirits.
It was 6:30pm and the bar’s happy hour was in full swing, with the theme of the evening being mezcal.
I took a seat by the window as the bar stools were all occupied with happy hour punters keen to feast on the free snacks being ushered out.
The place had a cosy atmosphere, with low lighting, wood panelled walls and dark green leather-style seat fabric. Movies were being projected on the back wall, with random scenes catching my eye now and then…
Perusing the happy hour menu (which means drinks are $7 with free snacks), we opted for a House Margarita with the tequila swapped out for mezcal and an All Is Well, featuring a heady blend of vodka, lime, bitters and ginger ale.
The bar manager Bryan was super helpful and help us secure some snacks, with some nachos and dip keeping us content.
He explained how all of the produce used by the bar is locally-sourced, with the bread delivered from a bakery down the road and the nachos freshly made to order.
If you go to Laszlo, you must round out your visit with one of their killer House Martinis followed by dinner at Foreign Cinema, which is tucked away through the back, past the loos.
There are two areas to Foreign Cinema, an outdoor space with a giant screen to project movies, and an indoor space for chillier weather.
Given it was around 10 degrees Celsius the night we dined, we slipped inside to keep warm.
Foreign Cinema’s inner space is a magnificent space, a bit like Laszlo’s sophisticated older sister, with high ceilings, a slick waiting team and soft, flattering lighting.
The wood panelled walls are swapped out for bare concrete, contrasted with strips of light wood flooring and flicks of olive green covering the seats and cosy booths.
After ordering a gin and olive martini at the shimmering back bar, we were directed to a snug corner table, where we had a great view of the diners.
Our waiter for the evening was a great character and we soon discovered he’d been an intern at NASA!
He was very helpful in guiding us through everything on offer and some of the popular picks being the winter chicory salad and the Kobe bistro steak.
The menu at Foreign Cinema follows an entertainment theme, with bites spilt into three sections including an Urban Picnic to start, Premieres to follow and Features to finish.
There is also a generous selection of oysters to pick from and shellfish platters.
To kick things of we went for eight oysters, with half from the west coast and the others from the east.
The Miyagi (Point Reyes, CA) were deliciously creamy and the Chesapeake Bay (Maryland) also got a thumbs up.
Moving on to our Urban Picnic, we plumped for the Monterey calamari a la plancha, served with Oaxacan mole, chickpeas, cumin aioli and tortilla chips.
Some warm Mediterranean mixed olives and wedges of fresh-baked bread were also recommended.
The dishes were perfectly sized to share and for Premieres we dug into a winter chicory salad and plate of deliciously pink pacific Bigeye tuna carpaccio, dressed with smashed ginger, yuzu and cilantro.
We agreed that all of the flavours were well balanced, with each dish artfully presented.
Feeling pleasantly full but in a mood for a little more, we split a main ‘Feature’ with a light medley made up of seared New Bedford scallops, roasted radicchio, salsa almond rustica, oro blanco grapefruit and sunchoke chips.
On the drinks front, I stuck with the killer martinis shaken up with Tito’s vodka and poured to the brim, while my friend dipped into the pretty extensive wine by the glass list.
After spending a good few hours in Laszlo and the Foreign Cinema, it felt as if we were lost in a full length feature of our own.
The atmosphere in both spots transports you to a world where you leave your cares behind and concentrate on happy hours, punchy martinis, fine food and charismatic servers.
My friend who is from San Francisco said he’d always heard so much about Foreign Cinema and it certainly lived up to the hype.
So roll up, roll up and immersive yourself in this tucked away la la land that promises to entertain your tastebuds right through the night…
To book a table at Laszlo or to learn more visit laszlobar.com
To book a table at Foreign Cinema or to learn more visit foreigncinema.com
Both venues are located at 2526 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110