You don't need to hang around long in the Mission to realize that it is a neighborhood of extremes: the wealthy yuppies rubbing shoulders with the crackheads and homeless, the trust fund hipsters alongside the striving immigrants. The Mission's culinary landscape is much the same: the vast array of taquerias crank out bargain burritos while bright young things swirl wine glasses along the 18th Street "gastro corridor" and shell out ungodly amounts of cash for eclairs at Tartine Bakery. Sometimes it feels like the only cheap eating left in the Mission is the tried-and-true super burrito, but amid all the Mexican there is at least one excellent option for quality budget grub without a glob of refried beans in sight.
Near the corner of Mission and 18th Streets sits the itsy-bitsy Yamo, a bare bones Burmese kitchen where nothing on the menu, and I really do mean nothing, costs over $5.25. The ten or so bar stools against the counter offer the only seating, and more often than not you'll end up nudging your way inside and waiting a few minutes to sit down, but it's well worth the money.
The humble menu offers a section of $3.50 appetizers -- samusas, spring rolls, potstickers -- all ranging from good to excellent depending on the number of drinks you've had. The rest is $5.25. Nothing especially groundbreaking here, but highlights include the tea salad (tea leave, cabbage, fresh tomato, onion, dried shrimp, fried beans, nuts, and sesame seeds), the mango chicken (pictured above: fresh mango, onions, peppers, cabbage, carrots, over steamed rice), and my personal favorite: Yamo cold noodles (cold noodles with house sauce, onions, cabbage, cucumbers, and chicken). Give it a shot. As they say, man cannot live on burritos alone.
-- Brian Bernbaum