The San Francisco restaurant scene has more great meals that you can possibly eat, but here’s where you should start!
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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 Best San Francisco Restaurants
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
Poki Time is on the same block of Cow Hollow as Glaze, and was just as good! I love
Need I say more? If you need an easy meal that’s still a west coast institution, In-N-Out
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!
If my love language is good food, then Italian has a special hold on my heart. We wandered through Little Italy, looking in
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.
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
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,
Dessert & Drinks
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
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
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!