Located on Valencia Street (which is among the best foodie strips and clusters in SF, along with Hayes and Fillmore) it’s an ode to cheese but in a bar environment. San Francisco is a town of boozers who like their bars divey and old school. Chat with bartenders is the norm and even the most dumpy looking bars will offer decent cocktails and top shelf spirit brands to make this Brit blush with Gordon’s shame.
Mission Cheese is set up like that normal US bar, focus centred on the physical bar itself but with some tables dotted around too. But the catch here is that behind the bar features huge fridges of cheese and charcuterie, rather than beers and wine. Well, that’s not completely true as the booze is important here too (had a fantastic Russian River pinot), but this is a cheese bar, if there ever was such a thing.
In addition to cheese flights (and meat ones too) all manner of cheesy creations are offered – raclette, toasted cheese sandwiches (aka ‘grilled cheese’), macaroni cheese and some off menu rarebit. And much more.
I loved the presentation (individual knives for different cheese types), cornichons quite rightly, and the extra fruits, including some amazing semi-dried apricots and figs. All local of course – the Bay Area is impressively and yet tediously pedantic in bashing you with the provenance of even the humblest lettuce, to the detriment of any brevity in their menus. Like anybody knows the virtue of farmer X versus farmer Y...
Decor is great. The green tiles and fun mural against the moody Edison lighting provide a slight twist on a predictable hipster theme - that of the Saw bathroom and distressed, bevilled tiling.
Service is fantastic as are staff, and they’re hugely knowledgeable. I’ve a weakness for gruyère and other nutty Alpine cheeses, and sheepy pecorinos, and the waitress was able to match these perfectly with US cheeses. Mission Cheese is certainly a vindication for the stereotype that American cheese doesn’t go beyond its eponymous burger slice.
If you’re in San Francisco, Mission Cheese is an absolute must. Up there with the best establishments I visited in 2012, and needed in a dynamic and yet innovation-stalled London scene asap.