Stop at San Francisco’s Iconic Eats for a Special Treat
Did you come to San Francisco just to eat? Don’t be embarrassed; this is what San Francisco is famous for! If you’re here to treat yourself, you might get overloaded by the options. Not to worry; we’ve gone ahead and picked out the must-eats in San Francisco at a number of famous and unique places to eat all throughout the city’s wonderful, diverse neighborhoods. Enjoy these iconic San Francisco eats!
One of San Francisco’s most visited neighborhoods, Fisherman’s Wharf is your best bet for finding three classic San Francisco delicacies: sourdough bread, Dungeness crab, and cioppino.
The massive Boudin Bakery at Fisherman’s Wharf lets you see the scrumptious sourdough bread as it’s being made, and offers a variety of ways to enjoy it.
The Liguria Bakery on Stockton Street offers a taste of the old country with its handmade focaccia, baked fresh daily.
We recommend trying Tosca Cafe’s cappuccino, which has a bit more to it than your average brew: Marie Duffau Bas Armagnac, Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Dandelion Chocolate Ganache, and organic milk.
Dutch Crunch BBQ Pork Buns
When visiting award-winning Mr. Jui’s, these incredible appetizers are a must.
Salt and Pepper Crab
This is a popular dish in the neighborhood, but nobody does it better than R&G Lounge.
If you want to see the origins of an American Chinese food staple, you can visit the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Company!
San Francisco’s busy downtown is home to a wide variety of dining experiences, from grab-and-go storefronts to a Michelin star-winning restaurant.
Secret Breakfast Ice Cream
San Francisco loves its ice cream. No flavor put the obsession on the map more squarely than this concoction from local maker Humphry Slocombe, which blends bourbon ice cream and corn flakes. It has to be tasted to be believed.
You’d never expect to find one of the city’s best restaurants at its ferry terminal, but San Francisco is all about the unpredictable. At The Slanted Door, one of San Francisco’s most honored eateries, diners are treated to exceptional Vietnamese cuisine. Our go-to dish is the cellophane noodles, with green onion, sesame, and Dungeness crab.
The Financial District also offers chic, contemporary dining at places like Wayfare Tavern as well as the classic, no-frills professionalism of local legend Tadich Grill. There’s great bayside dining at elegant eateries such as La Mar, Waterbar, and EPIC Steak, each with their own spectacular view of the Bay Bridge. And if getting things super-fresh is your style, head to The Ferry Building on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays for its enormous farmers’ market.
You can shop ’til you drop in Union Square. Why not refuel with some of these exceptional dishes in the neighborhood?
Curried Shrimp Naan
At Taj Campton Place, you’ll find excellent Indian cuisine with a strong California influence. Our favorite is the curried shrimp naan. Fun fact: this restaurant has been awarded 10 Michelin stars in the past eight years!
French Onion Soup
Cafe Claude is tucked away on tiny Claude Lane, a spot that would be easy to miss in the hustle and bustle of Union Square. What shouldn’t be missed, though, is their awesome French onion soup. This bistro, which regularly features live music, feels like a tiny piece of Paris in San Francisco.
At Le Colonial, where French and Vietnamese cuisine combine to amaze your senses, we can’t get enough of the crispy, chili-glazed brussel sprouts, served with portabello mushrooms, carrot chips, and nuoc cham.
This rapidly evolving neighborhood is home to a little bit of everything, from historic theaters to major tech company offices. It also has a terrific variety of food you absolutely have to try.
Perhaps you’ve heard about this bakery sensation. Visit Mr. Holmes Bakehouse on Larkin Street for your chance to sample their signature cruffin, which regularly has people waiting in line before they open.
No one creates these Vietnamese sandwiches better than Saigon Sandwich, also on Larkin Street. Whether you get yours with roast chicken, roast pork, or meatballs, you won’t be disappointed.
We’re a long way from New Orleans, but the beignets at Brenda’s French Soul Food on Polk Street taste like they came straight from the French Quarter.
Out with a big group? The best way to sample the most of the menu at Bellota is to select from their shared tapas plates. You can’t go wrong no matter what you pick. Roasted beets, crispy cod, and poached prawns are just some of the delicious options.
Delarosa has 10 terrific pizzas on the menu, but our favorite item is their tremendous meatballs served in spicy marina sauce.
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) has more than just priceless art within its walls. It also has In Situ, an outstanding restaurant that compiles its menu from almost as many different places as the museum does its art collection. Among an always changing list, the wasabi lobster, served with mango jelly, Thai vinaigrette, and wasabi marshmallow, is our current favorite.
Among the many great things to come from this neighborhood is the fabled Mission-style burrito: overstuffed with beans, rice, pico de gallo, sour cream, guacamole, and the meat of your choosing. It’s a must-have for visitors, and there are plenty of places that compete for the title of best burrito in the Mission. La Taqueria, El Farolito, and Papalote are just a few of them.
Whether you go for brunch or dinner, oysters are always abundant at Foreign Cinema. This one-of-a-kind restaurant serves up exceptional cuisine while showcasing classic and rare films along its exterior patio wall.
Going out to some of the bars and clubs in San Francisco’s LGBT neighborhood? Then you’ll want some quick, easy eats before or after your evening adventures.
Hot Cookie may be small, but its creations certainly aren’t! These monster cookies, available in a variety of flavors, are a must when visiting the Castro.
One of the best by-the-slice options in the city is Marcello’s, located right across the street from the historic Castro Theater and steps from the Castro Muni stop. They have a variety of toppings and are open until 1 a.m.
Civic Center/Hayes Valley
Jam-packed with some of the city’s major cultural institutions and hottest venues—the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Opera, San Francisco Ballet, and SFJAZZ, to name but a few—Civic Center/Hayes Valley has plenty of options for a pre-show meal and a post-show drink.
Hear us out! At Rich Table, the family style menu has options for the cautious diner (spaghetti, roasted cauliflower) as well as choices for the more adventurous. For our money, the most unique thing on the menu are the sardine chips, which we can report are great.
Soft Garlic Pretzels
Absinthe Brasserie & Bar takes its cues from French and Northern Italian cuisine. While you might expect to find great pretzels at a German beer hall, we promise these classic twists, served with Vermont cheddar Mornay, are the best.
At Cala, an excellent Mexican restaurant on Fell Street, a number of their cocktails have this smoky liquor as their primary ingredient. Whether you try the classic margarita or something more creative, you won’t be disappointed.
The mussels at Chez Maman West on Gough Street are unstopably good. When we say that, we mean you’ll have a hard time stopping yourself from ordering more!
The home of hippie-dom still has its free-loving style, as well as some more recent, tasty additions.
At Magnolia Gastropub & Brewery, you can choose from adouille, English banger, currywurst, or beer bratwurst—or you can have all four, by ordering the full sausage board with sauerkraut and stone ground mustard.
At Cha Cha Cha, in the thick of the Haight and just a few blocks from Golden Gate Park, diners must sample the Cubano Clasico Sandwich on the lunch menu. It’s a big, meaty, drippy delight.
As much as Haight-Ashbury, Fillmore has its own storied music history. Everyone from Duke Ellington to The Doors has played venues along the main drag of this neighborhood. Now it’s as well known for its top-notch dining as much as anything else.
Don’t laugh. You haven’t had toast until you’ve been to Jane, on Fillmore Street, and had their toasted walnut and fig bread, topped with fresh Jersey ricotta, honey and hazelnuts. What a decadent way to do breakfast!
State Bird Provisions is one of the most well-regarded restaurants in the city. There’s always a bit of surprise to the dining experience there. For one thing, its simple storefront is easy to walk past on busy Fillmore Street. For another, the menu frequently changes. If luck is on your side, you’ll find the pork ribs served with black beans and black garlic on the menu. We say, go for it!
San Francisco’s Japantown is one of the few remaining such enclaves in the U.S. Visit this neighborhood for its history, its culture, and its great food!
Put yourself in the hands of a skilled sushi chef for a superlative meal at Kiss Seafood. The space is tiny (and quiet), so you’ll need a reservation; but you’ll be rewarded with an elegant, subtle, and highly personal meal.
Ever wonder what satisfies a sweet tooth halfway around the world? You can find out by purchasing authentic Japanese treats at a number of stores in the Japan Center on Post Street. Visit Nijiya Market or Daiso or Ichiban Kan—or all three—for plenty of sweets inside this large neighborhood mall.
There is a drink and a location to suit every style in Nob Hill. Looking for kitschy fun? Party in the Tonga Room in the Fairmont Hotel, with its tiki torches and simulated tropical storms. Want breathtaking elegance? Head to Top of the Markin the InterContinental Mark Hopkins, with its dramatic views and fabled history. Trying to capture the spirit of the titans who shaped the city? Visit the Big 4 in the Scarlet Huntington Hotel.
One of San Francisco’s signature steakhouses, The House of Prime Rib on Van Ness Avenue offers top quality beef, cut to your liking.
The north end of the city slopes down from the majestic tip of Pacific Heights to the Marina, a neighborhood full of great dining best traveled on foot.
Strawberry Almond Cake
You might think that a restaurant dedicated to vegetarian cuisine wouldn’t have much in the dessert department. You’d be wrong. This fully vegan delight at Greens Restaurant simply can’t be missed.
Jamaican Jerk Chicken Tacos
There’s a little bit of everything in these neighborhoods, which is why you can find this Caribbean twist on typical tacos at Palm House on Union Street.
We know, pizza has appeared on this list a few times already. What makes the pizza at A16 so special is the incredible wood-fired oven that heats them up. Whatever toppings you choose (and there are many), you can’t go wrong.
This expansive neighborhood west of Arguello Street stretches all the way to the sea. Maybe that’s why it’s so full of great places to eat.
Not satisfied with the downtown options? Out here, you have your pick of the litter. Hong Kong Lounge, Ton Kiang, and Shanghai Dumpling King are just a few excellent options.
B Star and Burma Superstar are serving up some exceptional Burmese food, from a 22-ingredient rainbow salad to sesame beef to okra tofu.
Head to the end of the road and visit the famous Cliff House for a ramos fizz. This unusual cocktail—made with gin, lemon and lime juices, heavy cream, and egg whites—may have been created in New Orleans, but it’s been perfected here in San Francisco.
Heaping sandwiches on sourdough bread served at Devil’s Teeth Baking Company are a challenge worth accepting.
The dry-fried wings at San Tung are legendary. They’re always on the menu (except for Wednesdays, when the restaurant is closed).
Andytown Coffee Roasters makes their own delicious blends inspired by the sights, sounds, and flavors of the neighborhood.
If you want some great seafood without the hassle of Fisherman’s Wharf, head for the Bayview on the city’s south side.
Two of our favorite spots in the neighborhood both have plenty of history. The Old Clam House has been shucking and selling since 1861, and Radio Africa was one of the founders of San Francisco’s storied restaurant pop-up trend. Both offer excellent cuisine. The Old Clam House is a bit more predictable, while Radio Africa changes their menu every month. All the more reason to make multiple visits!
Want to have a drink in the middle of San Francisco Bay? Head across the Bay Bridge to Treasure Island, the next neighborhood about to boom in San Francisco.
The one-of-a-kind views of San Francisco’s skyline at Wood’s Island Club are best enjoyed with one of their original brews. The size of the establishment is matched by its wide variety of beers, ranging from IPAs to pilsners to saisons.