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The Best San Francisco Restaurants

The San Francisco restaurant scene has more great meals that you can possibly eat, but here’s where you should start! 

The San Francisco restaurant scene has more great meals that you can possibly eat, but here's where you should start! | Teaspoon of Nose

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We went to San Francisco mostly for the food. After my husband spent six months deployed and eating cafeteria food (at best) and MREs (at worst), we were ALL ABOUT some good meals. So after a week hitting the San Francisco restaurant scene pretty hard, here are a few of our favorites! 

The San Francisco restaurant scene has more great meals that you can possibly eat, but here's where you should start! | Teaspoon of Nose

The Best San Francisco Restaurants

Breakfast

Norcina

If you’re looking for a quick and easy breakfast in the Fisherman’s Wharf area, you want Norcina. This place is tucked away, but that’s good for us because it means the prices aren’t inflated for tourists! The espresso is delicious (take it from a coffee nerd), and they’ve got both hot breakfast dishes and fresh pastries if you need a quick grab-and-go breakfast. We ducked in here waiting for our Alcatraz ferry and it was a total find. I cannot recommend this spot enough if you’re in the Wharf area. 

Home Plate

The San Francisco restaurant scene has more great meals that you can possibly eat, but here's where you should start! | Teaspoon of Nose

I assumed this spot would have more of a baseball (or Americana) theme going on, but it’s a cute brunch spot complete with Instagrammable walls and bottomless mimosas. Home Plate is in the Cow Hollow, which is cram full of cool restaurants and hangout spots. The food is fantastic – we each got benedicts (crab cake for me, duck confit for him) and I honestly don’t know which one I thought was better. Instead of bread, they offer scones warm from the oven with two versions of apple butter. YUM. 

Park Tavern

The San Francisco restaurant scene has more great meals that you can possibly eat, but here's where you should start! | Teaspoon of Nose

A local recommended this place. His description was a little vague, but reviews said go for brunch, so we did. And we 100% loved it! Park Tavern offers upscale American food, with a trendy tavern vibe inside. The food is delicious and fresh, with surprising winners on their menu like grapefruit brûlée served with crème fraîche and mint.

I chose shrimp and grits, and they nailed the grits (not guaranteed outside the south!). It also had a good level of spice. Another surprise was the boozy smoothie, a luscious combination of espresso, ice cream, bourbon, and banana. My only complaint? Served in too small a glass! 

Lunch & Mid-priced Meals

Taqueria El Castellito

When David Chang says Taqueria El Castellito is the best burrito in the Mission District, you just go. And it didn’t disappoint! Get the Zapata with al pastor (pork), and unless you’re not ravenous, split it with someone. It’s one of those perfect little hole in the wall spots that you wouldn’t necessarily find on your own, but it’s definitely worth stopping in for lunch! 

Boudin Bakery

The San Francisco restaurant scene has more great meals that you can possibly eat, but here's where you should start! | Teaspoon of Nose

Classic clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. For the best version of this in San Francisco, go to Boudin. There are three locations – one on Pier 39, and two next to the Fisherman’s Wharf sign. The Bakery is counter service and serves soups-salad-sandwiches-pizza. We skipped the more expensive Bistro for the Bakery and loved it! But seriously, get a bread bowl. You won’t regret it. 

Umami Burger

The San Francisco restaurant scene has more great meals that you can possibly eat, but here's where you should start! | Teaspoon of Nose

Located right across the street from AT&T Park, Umami Burger is the definition of what you want in a burger. I first tried Umami Burger in NYC a few years ago, so I knew when we headed to California we had to get over there! We split the manly and the throwback and they were both stupid good burgers. In the neverending regular vs sweet potato fries debate, the sweet potato fries just barely took the win: both were addictive. Also: the photo shows a half order, so plan accordingly. 

Glaze

You know those nights when you’ve run out of steam and don’t know what to eat but you still want to eat well because you’re on vacation and don’t want to waste a second on subpar food? If you can, do that in Cow Hollow. We were spoiled for choices in the “fast casual and amazing food” category. 

We ended up walking one block, taking in all the options before each choosing a spot and sharing our goodies. My husband picked Glaze, a fast casual teriyaki grill. The beef teriyaki was amazing: rich with a craveable sauce you want to drink! And it definitely didn’t taste like it came from a bottle, the way some teriyaki sauces do. 

Poki Time

Poki Time is on the same block of Cow Hollow as Glaze, and was just as good! I love poke and could eat it every day if I lived in a state with a coastline. But on vacation, I love how fresh it is! You know you’re getting lots of great veggies and giving your body a break from the morning’s bottomless brunch while not depriving yourself of great tasting food! 

In-N-Out

The San Francisco restaurant scene has more great meals that you can possibly eat, but here's where you should start! | Teaspoon of Nose

Need I say more? If you need an easy meal that’s still a west coast institution, In-N-Out is where you need to be. Go with the double double and fries. It’s not complicated, there are only 3 burger options on the menu. Want to be an insider? Get your fries animal style, which is smothered in their secret sauce (a ketchup-mayo-something hybrid). 

Dinner

Chubby Noodle

The San Francisco restaurant scene has more great meals that you can possibly eat, but here's where you should start! | Teaspoon of Nose

Our first night in town, a friend told us to try Chubby Noodle. The problem with Chubby Noodle is that you’ll want to order the whole menu!! We went with the spicy garlic noodles with fried chicken (what they’re best known for), and the pork ribs. Both were amazing – good in that way where you can’t stop eating! The garlic noodles were my favorite because they packed a little more heat than I was expecting, so plan to sweat a little! 

Pinnochio

The San Francisco restaurant scene has more great meals that you can possibly eat, but here's where you should start! | Teaspoon of Nose

If my love language is good food, then Italian has a special hold on my heart. We wandered through Little Italy, looking in window after window, before choosing this spot. It’s a nice but unassuming Sicilian restaurant, and had two things that drew me in: it was obviously family-run, and customers were speaking Italian. Both good signs. 

After a long day of exploring and eating our way through the city, we didn’t take full advantage of Pinocchio’s menu. I wish we’d planned ahead for that! Set aside a night to go here and eat your way through all their antipasti. We did get two of the best ravioli dishes I’ve ever tasted: crab-lobster with cream sauce and veal with sage butter sauce. The lobster was delicate and lovely, almost sweet, and the veal was rich and savory and comforting. Both were made in-house that day, and the waiter teased us how fast we ate it all! 

For some perspective, when we talk about San Francisco restaurants, this is the one that comes up the most. That’s how delicious it was. 

B Star

The San Francisco restaurant scene has more great meals that you can possibly eat, but here's where you should start! | Teaspoon of Nose

A friend offered to take us to his favorite spot in his neighborhood, and when a local does that, you say yes. So we met him at B Star for some Asian food! 

The menu has a little bit of everything, each with a bit of a twist. We had the pumpkin pork stew, tamarind chili shrimp, tea leaf salad, and duck skin fried rice and didn’t leave a single bite on the table! Even the coconut rice was irresistble. In a week of eating fantastic asian food in an area known for it, this spot was my favorite!

Pier Market

The San Francisco restaurant scene has more great meals that you can possibly eat, but here's where you should start! | Teaspoon of Nose

Another staple of San Francisco food tourism is cioppino, a rich fish stew with tomatoes and wine. So one night we headed to Pier Market on Pier 39 for the full tourist experience! 

First off, the cioppino is ENORMOUS. Two people easily could share it. It’s packed with fish, mussels, shrimp, and clams, and topped with half a Dungeness crab. It’s the kind of meal that has a 100% chance of ending up on your clothes, even if you’re cool enough to put on the bib the restaurant offers. But worth it – the dish is rich with perfectly cooked chunks fish. Ask for extra bread to soak up the broth because you won’t wan to leave it unfinished! 

Dessert & Drinks

Ghiradelli Square

The San Francisco restaurant scene has more great meals that you can possibly eat, but here's where you should start! | Teaspoon of Nose
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Ghirdaelli Square is the former factory. Nowadays, it’s mostly high-end shops and expensive restaurants, but if you’re in the neighborhood it’s fun to stop in for some ice cream. The whole menu is name after San Francisco landmarks, meaning you have to choose between your faovire spot and your favorite flavor. We went with Crissy Field, a massive cookie dough sundae to split which I highly recommend. One tip: they have two ice cream shops, but the upstairs location typically has a way shorter line. 

Magnolia Brewing

Looking for a good beer? Magnolia Brewing tucked into Haight-Ashbury is where it’s at. They keep enough options on tap to please the whole group, and the bartenders were friendly, knowledgeable, and quick to offer tastes. My favorite was the South Island Hiss, a surprising IPA with gooseberries. It’s a great place to park for a few hours when you want to get off your feet. And clearly a local haunt, because almost everyone knew each other as they walked in! 

The San Francisco restaurant scene has more great meals that you can possibly eat, but here's where you should start! | Teaspoon of Nose

There are a ton more San Francisco restaurant staples, like Foreign Cinema or Mission Chinese. We hit a few of the classics but also tried to branch out to try some spots off the beaten path.  I hope this list takes you beyond the TripAdvisor top 10! 

Planning a trip to San Francisco? Check out what you have to see in San Francisco or some of the neighborhoods worth exploring!

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