Garlic house noodles; $6.00. Stir fry vegetables; $6.00. Egg rolls; $4.25. An entire meal for two for $16.00. Welcome to Yamo.
You could walk by Yamo a dozen times and never notice it was there. The tiny entryway at the intersection of 18th Street and Mission Street is nondescript and the sign “Yamo” doesn’t tell the average passerby what exactly lies inside. However, around dinnertime just about any day of the week the line stretching out the door should tip you off that something worth your time is happening inside.
Yamo is a hole-in-the-wall Burmese restaurant, run by adorable older Burmese women. The entire restaurant is a bar with about nine stools (it varies every time I go in). Three or four women at a time run the restaurant, taking orders and cooking all of the food right in front of you. If you have a party of more than three, you will not get seats next to each other, as seats are generally in high demand. If you do have a party of two or three, get ready to sit very close to strangers and enjoy an essentially communal meal.
Burmese food is delicious. I don’t know that I have ever had legitimate Burmese food previous to visiting Yamo but now I am addicted. The food is basically a fusion of Chinese, Thai, and Indian foods. My favorite dish is the house noodles with chicken. It’s heavy on the garlic with hints of a stir-fry-style soy sauce. The chicken is deliciously sautéed. Like every other entrée, the house noodles are only $6.00 – one of the cheapest entrees you will find in the City.
If house noodles are not in the cards for me, I will go for the stir-fry vegetables. The dish comes doused in brown oyster-esque sauce and a very large serving of rice. Fried rice with tofu or chicken also makes for a great entrée. Although I have never had, Yelp reviewers frequently mention that the tea leaf salad is also a great choice as an appetizer or an entrée. The veggies are generally seasonal and very tasty. As an appetizer I like the egg rolls, which are fried and vegetarian, or the spring rolls, which are fresh and include shrimp. I have never ordered dessert (the appetizers and entrees normally fill me up), but Yamo also offers a menu of authentic Burmese desserts.
In comparison, Yamo’s food is a combination of the food at China First on Clement Street and Ploy II on Haight Street. Vibe wise, Yamo is smaller than nearly every taqueria along Mission Street and about the size of the smallest dive bar you can think of. Some people might call it “cozy,” others might call it “cramped” but that is all part of the charm.
Next time you find yourself walking around the Mission, craving cheap food and eaves dropping on others’ conversations, head to Mission and 18th. Yamo will not disappoint your food cravings and inspire an addiction for hole-in-the-wall ethnic restaurants.