Founded upon the magnetism of dreamers and explorers, San Francisco has always bottled the idea of “going west,” whether that’s John Muir or Harvey Milk, Etta James or Alice Waters. It is a shining city of seven hills with as much a mystical vibe as an ambitious bent. With our friends at Wildsam, we’ve created a comprehensive guide to our favorite places in the Bay and made it accessible here on our website. Here is a selection of some of the most notable places to eat in this wondrous city. The printed version of Wildsam’s official San Francisco Field Guide is available for purchase on their website and in the minibar at San Francisco Proper Hotel.
A seaworthy icon circa 1912 that’s perpetually stocked with crab claws, lobster, smoked trout, scallops, little necks, oysters, and more. If you go the salad route, ask for their olive oil vinaigrette, made extra special with Dijon and crab fat. And if you need your sea legs, order a red-eye: ice-cold Bud Light with Tabasco, Worcestershire, and oyster juice.
1517 Polk St, San Francisco, CA 94109
The driftwood aesthetic at this all-day café taps the vibe of Outer Sunset, more beach town spirit than big city hustle. Space might be cozy, but neighbors gladly shoulder up, especially for a weekend brunch of cast-iron Dutch pancakes, served sweet (strawberries and chocolate) or savory (pickled onions and bacon). Both bready fuel for the nearby surf.
4001 Judah St, San Francisco, CA 94122
Arguably the most famous dish in San Francisco is the late chef Judy Rodgers’ perfectly simple roasted chicken, a menu mainstay first brought to Zuni tables in 1987. The bird is roasted in a wood-burning oven until the skin crisps and juices bubble, then carved over mustard greens, currants and warm bread salad. This is poetry on the plate.
1658 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94102
Chef Anthony Strong’s osteria kitchen delivers Roma’s best to Mission crowds nightly. In its seven years, Locanda has built loyal neighborhood following that keeps its spirits high and its 90 seats full. Thanks especially to Italian pleasures like tonnarelli cacio e pepe, crescenza-filled tortelli, and a divine pork sugo gravy.
557 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110
On a peninsula of burrito enthusiasts, this is the pick for the classic Mission-style dish. And their riff is pleasantly less filling. La Taqueria skips the normal heaping of rice, and instead goes for pinto beans, avocado and salsa with the day’s grilled meat, then swaddling the fare in tortilla and grilling it golden at the finish.
2889 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110
Chef Michael Tusk’s elegantly modern Italian menu brings out a sophisticated nuance with the best of California growers and fishers. It’s no wonder the Michelin investigators awarded Quince its third star in 2017. Start with the champagne cart, savor delicate and refined pasta offerings, and end on sweet mignardises and espresso.
470 Pacific Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133
This no-frills dumpling house promises a true SF experience. The quick bites are as mouthwatering as they are cheap, from steamed barbecue pork buns to har gow dumplings. Order a variety. And don’t expect doting service or posh décor. But do count on a delicious meal and a genuine experience.
736 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94118
Chefs and restaurant folk flock to this Western Addition outpost with a deep wine list and a stepped-up menu served until 1am on weekends. Beyond its hearty fare (nine-hour Bolognese, New York steak with garlic potatoes), what makes Nopa truly special is the feeling that swells inside the soaring room: communal, celebratory, openly social and effortlessly intimate.
560 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117
A glance at the cocktail list sets the mood: the Castaway, the Tropicalia, and, especially delightful, the Coconut Telegraph. Liholiho transports you to what feels like an upscale (and upbeat) night out in Hawaii. A few recommendations: Yellowtail sashimi, kimchi-chili beef ribs, and the crowd-fave Spam musubi (think seaweed sushi roll, only with the WWII-era lunch meat).
871 Sutter St, San Francisco, CA 94109
From the makers of the award-winning State Bird, this high-end (but family-style) restaurant balances an ambitious level of taste with a welcoming, friendly ambiance, from the bare wood, airy room, to a wait staff that leads the table with a dose of wit and merriment. Trust their recommendations on which four main plates to share.
1525 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94115
This newcomer to Hayes Valley is part back-alley taco hideout, serving guisado-style lunch on housemade corn tortillas, and part sophisticated Mexican cantina with a seafood focus. On both fronts, the city has sent up a resounding ¡gracias! to chef Gabriela Cámara, who imported a generous dollop of it-factor from her buzzy Mexico City restaurant, Contramar.
149 Fell St, San Francisco, CA 94102
As one of three of SF Michelin three-starred restaurants, a coveted perch shared by just over 100 in the world, it’s no surprise that Joshua Skene’s tasting menu is luxurious in price ($398 per person at last visit). What is revelatory is Saison’s approachably adventurous spirit. Each finely hewn bite feels a far-off voyage.
178 Townsend St, San Francisco, CA 94107
From the sourdough virtuoso Chad Robertson and wife Elisabeth Prueitt, this 5,000-square foot space (adjacent to the Heath Ceramics flagship) is a new tribute to all things bread (loaves are first-come first-serve), and reaches beyond with a coffee kiosk, a California café, and Cookies and Cream, their ice cream shop with velvety-smooth soft serve.
595 Alabama St, San Francisco, CA 94110
This corner bistro remains one of the city’s most charming spots, a place of neighborhood joie de vivre and low-key California cuisine. Chef Melissa Perello’s bright menus change daily. If it’s in-season, try the Sonoma-raised Liberty Duck confit with ricotta dumplings. Nightly reservations are a prize, but ten spacious counter seats are reserved for walk-ins.
3870 17th St, San Francisco, CA 94114
Alice Waters’ revolutionary approach to fine dining launched in the early 70s with a devotion to local, organic ingredients at Chez Panisse. In the five decades since, the intimate dining room and upstairs café in Berkeley has grown into a global culinary destination with an unrivaled alumni network of chefs and food entrepreneurs.
1517 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709