San Francisco Dining

Innovative San Francisco Dining Thrives on Quality


San Francisco dining at its best

San Francisco, one of the gastronomic capitals of the world, is obsessed with food. How to characterize the cuisine, however, is a matter not so easily worked out. Tossed around a lot in reference to San Francisco dining is the phrase “California cuisine,” which generally is understood to mean local, seasonal, organic. Where it gets interesting is how these hyper-fresh ingredients are combined, which cooking techniques are employed, and which parts of the world provide the inspiration. Such a colorful jumble of possibilities!

Here, we’ve provided a list of our favorite San Francisco dining destinations categorized by type. Judging by their success, you wouldn’t know we’re in the midst of a recession. In fact, three San Francisco dining hot spots were nominated for the James Beard Best New Restaurant Award: Frances, RN74, and Flour + Water.

As is the case with any restaurant in high demand, reservations are strongly encouraged. At many restaurants, you’d do well to make one at least a month in advance. And here’s an only-in-San Francisco fact: You can expect a 4 percent health surcharge to be added to your bill to support the city’s universal health care program.


San Francisco dining takes U.S. fare to new heights!

The Tipsy Pig

tipsy-pic-restaurantPub fare elevated to the next level — that’s what you get at this popular kid-friendly Marina/Cow Hollow “gastrotavern” that was named one of the Top 10 New Restaurants by San Francisco Chronicle restaurant critic Michael Bauer. Go for the smoked bacon macaroni and cheese or the chicken pot pie, and wash it down with a drink called Strawberry Fields.

2231 Chestnut St. (between Pierce and Scott streets); (415) 292-2300;

Restaurant Gary Danko

gary-danko-restaurant-2With a five-star Mobil rating and a Relais & Chateau designation (and the prices to match), this renowned San Francisco dining establishment mixes California modern with Upper East Side chic – all embellished with impeccable service. No weird stuff here; the fare is entirely recognizable and includes specialties like roast lobster, foie gras, and lamb loin. Don’t let the cheese cart pass you by; the cheese service here is among the best in the country. The prix-fixe menu offers three-, four- and five-course meals, and wines can be paired with each course for a set price. A take-home gift of breakfast cake is a nice way to wrap up the evening.

800 North Point St. (at Hyde); (415) 749-2060;


images-3San Francisco dining doesn’t get any more retro-glam than this restaurant, located on an alley a stone’s throw from the Transamerica Pyramid. (Think supper club meets speakeasy meets sophisticated saloon.) Adding to the 1930s and 40s feel are nightly live jazz and specialties like steak tartare and chicken hash, plus classic cocktails served up behind a long, curved mahogany bar.

56 Gold St. (near Jackson Street); (415) 433-6300;



ame restaurantEast meets West at this New American Michelin-starred San Francisco dining establishment created by Hiro Sone and his wife, Lissa Doumani (who also are the masterminds behind Terra Restaurant in St. Helena). Select from the sashimi bar (we like Lissa’s Staff Meal consisting of cuttlefish noodles tossed with sea urchin, quail egg, umami soy sauce and wasabi) as well as appetizer and entrée plates and an assortment of artisan cheeses and desserts. A five-course tasting menu with wine pairings is available for $150.

689 Mission St. (in the St. Regis Hotel); (415) 284-4040;


Asian immigrants bring the best of their heritage to the San Francisco dining scene.

Yank Sing

images122Dim sum is a San Francisco dining staple, and no one does it better than Yank Sing, which has been run by the same family for 50 years. Shanghai pork dumplings, shrimp har gau, and Peking duck are just a few favorites, but don’t leave out dessert. The sesame balls, custard tarts, and mango pudding also are outstanding. Expect a bit of a wait and a bigger-than-expected bite in the wallet.

101 Spear St., (415) 957-9300; 48 Stevenson St., (415) 541-4949;


Constantly redefining the frontier of California cuisine are these San Francisco dining standouts.


COI-restaurantRated by Zagat as one of the 10 best restaurants of the decade and awarded two stars in 2011 by Michelin, Coi (pronounced “kwa”) occupies the stratosphere of the San Francisco dining scene. But it’s not for everybody — only the adventurous and open-minded. The 11-course tasting menu is bursting with unexpected combinations of flavors and textures derived from local ingredients both familiar and strange, cultivated and wild, and cooked in traditional and cutting-edge ways. Writes San Francisco restaurant critic Michael Bauer, “(Chef) Daniel Patterson cooks with such a focused sense of place that his restaurant could only be in San Francisco.” Thus, you might find yourself eating things like roast carrots in hay, Monterey Bay abalone on the plancha with nettle-dandelion salsa verde, or pan-grilled matsutake mushrooms with potato-pine needle puree. Such a palate party doesn’t come cheaply; expect to spend close to $600 per couple with added wine pairings and the automatic 18 percent gratuity.

373 Broadway (at Montgomery Street); (415) 393-9000;


images-321This cozy, cute restaurant in the Castro is the creation of hotshot young chef/owner Melissa Perello, who honed her skills at Charles Nob Hill and Fifth Floor before serving up her own take on California-French cuisine. Tough-to-get reservations are evidence of Perello’s crowd-pleasing menu, which includes such hits as Applewood smoked bacon beignets, gnocci, crispy chickpea fritters, chicken with savory bread pudding, and lumberjack cake.

3870 17th St. (at Pond Street between Noe and Sanchez streets); (415) 621-3870;


quince-restaurant-6Ravioli and other exquisitely prepared French- and Italian-accented California cuisine by chef/owner Michael Tusk star at this San Francisco dining fixture, housed in a 1907 brick and timber building in the Jackson Square neighborhood. Order a la carte or from one of the chef’s tasting menus, and get ready to be wowed by top-notch service. Warning: Wimpy wallets won’t stand up to Quince; prepare to spend $150 per person if you order the tasting menu with wine pairings.

470 Pacific Ave. (near Montgomery); (415) 775-8500; (415) 552-2522;

Zuni Cafe

images-62Quite possibly, the roasted chicken with bread salad at this San Francisco dining institution (which has been around since the 1970s) will forever change the way you think about chicken. Even if, like us, you never order chicken at restaurants, trust us – just do it. You’d also do well to make a reservation to join the well-heeled brunch crowd in the classy yet cozy dining space. Be sure to have a couple of balsamic bloody Marys – they’re out of this world.

1658 Market Street (between Franklin and Gough); (415) 552-2522;


Classic cooking techniques imported from France are a natural fit with San Francisco dining.

Jardiniere Restaurant

jardiniere-4Chef Traci Des Jardins and renowned restaurant designer Pat Kuleto teamed up in 1997 to create this romantic enclave, and it’s been attracting symphony-goers in San Francisco’s Civic Center area ever since. Appearing on the French-California menu might be scallops, red wine-braised short ribs, duck breast with seared foie gras, roast squab with truffles, wild boar, and venison. A selection from the cheese menu at meal’s end is the perfect finale. (Good to know: This San Francisco dining establishment is “French,” which of course is a synonym for spendy. Soften the sting by taking advantage of the $45 prix fixe menu on Mondays.)

300 Grove St. (at Franklin); (415) 861-5555;


RN74The hype surrounding celebrity chef/restaurateur Michael Mina’s stylish, sexy new wine bar and restaurant in the SOMA (South of Market) district hasn’t abated since its 2009 opening. That’s because Mina knows how to pick the right partners. Executive Chef Jason Berthold, formerly of the French Laundry, is known for his modern interpretations of refined American and regional French cuisine, which is conceptualized to mesh perfectly with wine director/partner Rajat Parr’s extensive wine list highlighting the Burgundy region. Drop in for happy hour from 4-6 p.m. Monday-Friday in the bar and lounge area and get 20 percent off the wine-bar food menu.

301 Misson St. (at Beale); (415) 543-7474;



images-123Phenomenal pizzas and pastas, a wine list of more than 500 mostly Italian selections, and a lively atmosphere – that about sums up A16, a San Francisco dining favorite in the Marina/Cow Hollow district. Whet your palate with the burrata with olive oil, sea salt, and crostini, and follow up the Funghi pizza (mushrooms, smoked mozzarella, grana, garlic, oregano, dandelion greens, olive oil) or the Tonnarelli pasta with calamari braised in its own ink, basil, and garlic. Drop in on Wednesday for lunch and you can watch the chefs deconstruct an entire pig from your perch near the open kitchen. Making reservations at least three weeks in advance is smart; be sure to request a table in the back dining room or the enclosed patio so you won’t have waiting-to-be-seated newcomers hovering over your plate.

2355 Chestnut St. (near Divisadero); (415) 771-2216;

Flour + Water

images-25When even the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs could’t get a table at San Francisco’s Italian hot spot in the gentrified Mission district, you know the buzz has reached critical mass. And the love letters just keep pouring in: Flour + Water is a 2010 James Beard Award finalist for best new restaurant in the country and was declared the home of “America’s Best Pizza” by Travel & Leisure magazine. Chef Thomas McNaughton is a Bay Area Rising Star Chef. We could go on, but you get the point: This is a kick-butt San Francisco dining adventure for the lucky few. The lowly name sums up Chef McNaughton’s philosophy that alchemy can be achieved using the most ordinary of Old World ingredients in concert with the purest, most traditional methods. Even the desserts are masterpieces, especially the chocolate budino with espresso-caramel cream and sea salt. Fewer than half the tables can be reserved, so if you’re a walk-in, expect to huddle outside with the masses while you wait to be seated, most likely at a communal table.

2401 Harrison St. (at 20th Street); (415) 826-7000;


Nothing says San Francisco dining like fresh fish, crab, and clam chowder.

Swan Oyster Depot

images-312Considered a San Francisco dining classic, this 20-stool joint dates back to 1912 and serves up oysters, clam chowder, and jokes by its third-generation owners to crowds of regulars and tourists from around the world. Hole-in-the-wall charm enhances the allure of this friendly neighborhood hangout.

1517 Polk St. (at California); (415) 673-1101


San Francisco dining is heavily influenced by California’s Latino population.



San Francisco dining Mexican-style gets major kudos at this Lower Haight hot spot for its sustainable, organic approach to traditional south-of-the-border cooking. Everybody’s crazy about the carnitas.

306 Broderick St. (between Oak and Fell); (415) 437-0303;

La Taqueria

images-8The best burrito in San Francisco? Many say yes, and we’re inclined to agree. One clue to the quality of this Mission neighborhood favorite is that they don’t use rice as a filler. What you’ll find instead is an abundance of meat so tender it melts in your mouth.

2889 Mission St.; (415) 285-7117


Slanted Door

images-9Unbeatable views of the bay combine with modern Vietnamese fare prepared with locally sourced ingredients and ecologically farmed meat, game, and poultry at this popular San Francisco dining destination. Many reviewers say good Asian food shouldn’t be as expensive as it is here, but you won’t be disappointed if you order the shaking beef or the cellophane noodles with fresh Dungeness crab. (Remember, you’re paying for the view and the hip atmosphere, too.) Meals are served family-style, and you can eat in the dining room, the bar, or the heated patio. There’s also a cocktail lounge. The Slanted Door has a to-go counter called Out the Door, which is located in the main hall of the Ferry Building around the corner from the restaurant.

1 Ferry Building No. 3 (at Market and Embarcadero); (415) 861-8032;


Health-conscious and socially conscious urbanites have a winner with this San Francisco dining destination.


greens restaurantExecutive Chef and cookbook author Annie Somerville whips up outstanding Mediterranean-, Mexican-, and American Southwest-inspired dishes with such color, flavor, and texture that you’ll never think to ask, “Where’s the beef?” The bayside restaurant’s close relationship with its purveyors ensures the finest seasonal organic produce and highest quality ingredients. Oh, and we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the million-dollar view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Building A, Fort Mason, (415) 771-6222;


You’ll bolt out of bed knowing these San Francisco dining spots await you with plenty of stick-to-your-ribs breakfast choices.


ella restaurantAmong the undisputed champions of San Francisco breakfasts, Ella’s rarely disappoints. If you’re a first-timer, you have to order the signature dish, chicken hash. But feel free to expand your horizons. The pumpkin pancakes and sticky buns will make your eyes roll back in your head, and the blood-orange juice (available in season) is fantastic.

500 Presidio at California; (415) 441-5669;

Pork Store Cafe

porkThis classic American greasy-spoon style café has two locations, one in the Haight and a newer one in the Mission. Nothing exotic here; the food is what you’d expect, cooked to perfection, not too expensive, and the service is outstanding. Your coffee cup will never be empty. Ask about the restaurant’s interesting history, which is tied to how it got its name.

1451 Haight St. at Ashbury, (415) 864-6981; 3122 16th St. at Valencia, (415) 626-5523;


San Francisco dining boasts some of the most amazing views in the world. See for yourself!

Cliff House

cliff houseThe world-famous Cliff House, which has been perched above the Pacific since the 1800s in one incarnation or another, is an absolute must for anyone wanting an unforgettable San Francisco dining experience. Dine at the casual Bistro Restaurant on the main level or the elegant Sutro’s on the lower level. And whatever you do, don’t miss Sunday brunch in the Terrace Room with free-flowing champagne and an extraordinary buffet. While you’re there, hike the amazing Lands End trails, stroll along Ocean Beach, or explore the famous Sutro Bath ruins. Be sure to stop in at the Camera Obscura, where ancient technology affords a close-up view of Seal Rocks. Bask in beautiful sunsets, cozy up by a crackling fire, and listen to live Friday night jazz in the Balcony Lounge at this San Francisco gem that’s now a part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

1090 Point Lobos; (415) 386-3330;



opaque restaurantPresentation, schmesentation. It doesn’t matter if you can’t see the food! That’s exactly the point at this strange-but-true San Francisco dining destination, where guests are served in total darkness by blind or visually impaired waiters. The theory, which enjoyed popularity in Europe before jumping the pond, is that we’re already over-stimulated visually, and what we need is to reconnect to our food by other sensual means. The regular three-course prix fixe menu is offered for $99. And yes, you pay in the light.

689 McAllister St.; (800) 710-1270;

Foreign Cinema

foreigncinema-restaurant-1You can take in dinner and a flick all in one spot at this Mediterranean-flavored San Francisco dining favorite in the Mission, where movies play on the heated patio after sundown. This place even has an art gallery! Good menu bets include the beef carpaccio with fried herbs and capers, oysters on the half shell, and fried curry-spiced chicken. Brunch is excellent, too, especially if you treat yourself to a house-made “pop tart.” Girly cocktails and a decent vegetarian menu add to the delight, if that’s your thing. Bottom line: We guarantee you’ll feel “cool” for coming here.

2534 Mission St. (near 21st Street); (415) 648-7600;


yoshisDinner and a show — who doesn’t love that combo? You get it all at Yoshi’s, which opened at a beautiful venue in the heart of San Francisco’s Fillmore District in Nov. 2007 and has been creating a splash ever since. The new Yoshi’s San Francisco, a sister to the Yoshi’s in Oakland at Jack London Square, combines innovative modern Japanese cuisine with world-class performances by well-known musicians. You’ll dig Executive Chef Shotoro “Sho” Kamio’s take on sushi, a blend of what he calls “simple, seasonal, surprise.”

Bonus If you dine prior to a performance, you receive complimentary reserved seating.

1330 Fillmore St.; (415) 655-5600;

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