It’s a cool Friday morning in San Francisco’s Mission District. My colleague, Nathan Ryan, and I are desperately trying to find street parking which is typically a tiresome battle within the boundaries of the city. After countless circling, we find an open space half a mile from our destination, Local Mission Eatery. As we trek up 24th street, I am enthralled by the vibrant community and ethnic culture present on every block. Taquerias, Mexican bakeries, Argentinian gift shops, Jewish delicatessens, and the famous Philz Coffeeshop on the corner. This part of town feels different than the rest of San Francisco. There is a stronger sense of diversity and it made me feel at home.
I first learned about Local Mission Eatery when my film crew and I were invited for breakfast by Emily Olson, the founder of Foodzie (RIP). We sat a communal table and I was immediately intrigued by the layout of the location. The open kitchen sat in the middle of the restaurant with a bar top for guests to dine and watch the cooks in action. Towards the back was a bakery with fresh bread, pastries, and delicious coffee. Along the walls, rows of cookbooks which customers are welcome to pick up and read. Plants are grown towards the entrance of the restaurant where I found Yaron Milgrom, the owner, watering each one.
Yaron Milgrom was born in Los Angeles but moved to New York when he was three years old.
“My first taste memory of life in Los Angeles happened when I ate a loquat as a young adult in Israel,” he recalled. “As soon as I tasted it, I knew I had eaten one before but had no idea where. I called my father to find out what this magical fruit was, and found out that we had them in our backyard in Los Angeles.”
At the age 27, Yaron moved to San Francisco as a doctoral student while his wife attended a residency at San Francisco General Hospital training in family practice. While living close to the hospital, Yaron fell in love with the Mission District because of it’s small village-like feel. Even though he didn’t have a predetermined goal to open a business in San Francisco, he felt compelled to open up a restaurant that epitomized his ideals and philosophies.
“I felt there was a need for really delicious, meticulously sourced, transparent, handmade food,” he said to me. “Having employees rely on me, farmers rely on me, winemakers rely on me… It was just something I wanted in my life experience. I wanted this more than I wanted to be a professor.”
I quickly became inspired by Yaron as he told his story. His passion and the amount of respect he has towards the source of his produce, his community, and sustainability in general is something that not only restaurateurs should learn from, but all people should take notice of. You see, Local Mission Eatery is no ordinary restaurant. Every piece of food that is prepared uses local ingredients that are farm direct. All of the produce, meats, fish, eggs, dairy, wine, and even their olive oils are all sourced from California. Not only is their product farm direct, they also bake their own bread, make their own sauces, spreads, preserves, and cheeses all in-house.
“We would not make exceptions on sourcing locally and we would not make exceptions on making things handmade,” he said confidently.
At this point, you may be thinking, “Who is cooking all of this magnificent bounty?”
Enter Jacob Des Voignes, a Michelin star chef and executive chef of Local Mission Eatery. At first glance, he seemed rather calm and sympathetic. I observed him cooking in the kitchen, and there was a sense of peace throughout all of the cooks as everyone worked in-synced; no shouting or F-bombs being thrown around. Perhaps service was at a non-peak hour which resulted in a quieter crew.
Chef Jacob came from the likes of Tom Colicchio’s Craft in New York and The Fifth Floor in San Francisco, where he earned his Michelin star. Based on his past experiences in the fine dining world, he best describes the style of Local Mission Eatery to be elegant but not fussy.
“It’s like taking the fine dining technique and making it more approachable,” he says.
The food at Local Mission Eatery is classically European in many ways, but utilizes the lavish product that only California has to offer. The dishes are prepared simply but with each ingredient being intensified for its freshness and locality. I was blown away by the taste of their eggs when Chef Jacob handed me a plate with two poached eggs, mushrooms, and greens on a piece of handmade toast. Or you might fancy the lamb sausage with sweet potato, green garlic, and sunny-side eggs. If you are a fan of brunch but crave something different than the typical diner-style breakfasts, Local Mission Eatery will deliver a meal of excellence and quality. Dinner service is also available five nights a week, an upgrade from two nights a week when they first started playing around with the idea of offering dinner.
“We would not make exceptions on sourcing locally and we would not make exceptions on making things handmade.”
After indulging on some of Chef Jacob’s creations, Yaron and I took a stroll outside to talk about his other ventures. One being Local Mission Market, a chef-driven marketplace openinig later this year, and Local’s Corner, a restaurant and raw oyster bar in the heart of the Mission neighborhood.
Our first stop was what will soon be Local Mission Market. Still in the construction phase with pieces of wood everywhere and construction workers hacking away, Yaron began to shed light on this ambitious project.
“Every pasta, cracker, jam, pickle, bread, sauce, cured meat, smoked fish, hot sauce, dried fruit, and candy will be made at the kitchen, at the market.” He assured me it will be the first market of its kind and will integrate efficient technology to make the lives of customers easier. For example, customers will be able to order online, schedule pickup or delivery, and use iPads within the store. The market will also be staffed with professional chefs that are able to provide culinary advice to customers and the community.
“You’re asking someone who dedicated their life to cooking.”
After taking some time visualizing where everything will be as Yaron pointed from wall to wall, we made our way to our final stop, Local’s Corner. Originally a liquor store, Local’s Corner is nestled in-between Bryant and 23rd with residential buildings surrounding it. Much smaller than Local Mission Eatery, Local’s Corner is meant to portray a simpler, european-style life. Sitting outside, I noticed a gentlemen enjoying a glass of white wine and reading a book. Inside, a group of people chatting with a tray of raw oysters. The menu focuses on local fish with a limited kitchen and small dining space.
We sat down with a platter of various oysters on the half-shell from Drakes Bay, Miyagi, and Kumamoto. All were exquisite and fresh; a true taste of the sea. At that point, I was sold on Yaron’s mini-empire within the Mission District. His dedication and meticulously sourced products are something I greatly respected.
Yaron and Chef Jacob offer an opportunity to the rest of us that allows us to experience how the world should function.
Our culinary world is not perfect and has its fair share of the dark side, but gems like Local Mission Eatery, Local Mission Market, and Local’s Corner are what give me hope for a better tomorrow. At the core, “caring” was the first word that came to mind when I left Local’s Corner and reflected on Yaron’s story. It is a simple idea that is often shorthanded by the broader society. We care so much for our family and friends, why not extend it to those that work hard to deliver a sustainable, quality product to be enjoyed and appreciated by the lot of us? Buy local and simply care where your food is coming from. The environment will benefit, the economy will benefit, your health will benefit, but more importantly, your tastebuds will benefit from it.
Local Mission Eatery » 3111 24th Street, San Francisco, CA 94110
Local’s Corner » 2500 Bryan Street, San Francisco, CA 94110