San Francisco is an American city famous for its iconic Golden Gate Bridge and cable cars. But what about the San Francisco food scene? We’ve asked a local expert to share her picks for the best places to eat in San Francisco.
San Francisco is a top destination for food travelers who flock to sites like Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown and the Ferry Building. Many, including us, consider San Francisco to be one of the best food cities in America.
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California’s city by the bay also has dozens of Michelin starred restaurants as well as a myriad of global restaurants representing every corner of the world. The dining options are seemingly endless.
But where are the best places to eat in San Francisco? And by best, we mean the San Francisco restaurants where locals eat.
A Local’s Picks for the Best Places to Eat in San Francisco
We’ve asked local expert Anne Lowrey of Part-Time Traveler to provide her insider tips for the best restaurants in San Francisco. Read on for the scoop on where to eat in San Francisco:
Favorite Local San Francisco Restaurants
I have so many absolute favorite San Francisco restaurants! My top five would have to be Rintaro, Rich Table, Al’s Place, State Bird Provisions, and Swan Oyster Depot. Each is part-classic, part-revolutionary (well, Swan Oyster is just a pure classic).
I have a list of more than 300 favorite restaurants here, and it’s only getting longer…so it’s tough to recommend only five! Still, a solo seat at the bar at Nopa might be my all-time favorite.
Nopa’s open kitchen is local, organic, fresh, and inventive – all the things that really make SF food great. Anything wood-fired is always a highlight, including their burger, and they’re known for their brunch, too.
Approachable and focused on the neighborhood and community, Nopa serves some of the best food in the city. Their entire operation is true San Francisco.
Nopa is located in what has become my favorite local area for dining. Take time to explore the wonderful bars and restaurants on Divisadero Street that most visitors miss.
Al’s Place is located at 1499 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA.
Nopa is located at 560 Divisadero Street, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA.
Rich Table is located at 199 Gough Street, San Francisco, CA 94102, USA.
Rintaro is located at 82 14th Street, San Francisco, CA 94103, USA.
State Bird Provisions is located at 1529 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115, USA.
Swan Oyster Depot is located at 1517 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109, USA.
Iconic San Francisco Food
The city’s most iconic food happens to be one of my personal favorites of the wide world – the Mission Burrito.
My top three spots each have a different specialty. La Taqueria is all about the carnitas. El Farolito is all about the carne asada. Last but not least, don’t miss Taqueria Cancun for the adobada.
Why not do a crawl and try all three?
Cioppino, the seafood stew with roots in North Beach’s Little Italy, is another SF classic. You can find my favorite at Sotto Mare.
La Taqueria is located at 2889 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA.
Taqueria El Farolito is located at 2779 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA.
Sotto Mare is located at 552 Green Street, San Francisco, CA 94133, USA.
Taqueria Cancun is located at 3211 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA.
Favorite San Francisco Cafe
As a writer, I spend a lot of time working in coffee shops. In fact, I wrote a guide about my favorites!
San Francisco has a lot of great coffee on offer, but my top choice has to be Saint Frank in Russian Hill. Located in a beautiful space, Saint Frank sources some of the city’s best beans and makes a mean almond-macadamia milk cappuccino.
Special Occasion Meals
Without a doubt, my top recommendation for a special occasion meal is Atelier Crenn.
Chef Dominique Crenn continues to inspire and rack up awards across the culinary world with food that I find representative and expressive of what makes San Francisco such a special city. Her cooking feels personal and almost artful.
Starting each meal with a poem, Crenn focuses on seafood and vegetable as an homage to both her father and her roots in Brittany, France. Plan to enjoy a multi-course meal with an optional wine pairing.
Make your reservation months in advance. If you can’t score one, go to Petit Crenn for an approachable evening meal or stop by Bar Crenn for a drink.
Atelier Crenn is located at 3127 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94123, USA.
Bar Crenn is located at 3131 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94123, USA.
Petit Crenn is located at 609 Hayes Street, San Francisco, CA 94102, USA
Favorite San Francisco Desserts
Though I’m more of a savory person than sweet, my true indulgence is pastries. When I indulge, I have my favorites.
Bob’s Donuts is a true classic that serves cheap, insanely delicious donuts.
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Arsicault Bakery is nothing short of croissant heaven. B Patisserie is the place to go for kouign amann.
Can’t choose just one thing? Everything is divine at Tartine, the city’s most famous bakery.
Go to Bi-Rite if ice cream is more your thing.
Arsicault Bakery is located at 397 Arguello Boulevard, San Francisco, CA 94118, USA.
B Patisserie is located at 2821 California Street, San Francisco, CA 94115, USA.
Bi-Rite Ice Cream is located at 3692 18th Street, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA.
Bob’s Donuts is located at 1621 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109, USA.
Tartine Bakery is located at 600 Guerrero Street, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA.
Hidden San Francisco Gems
Ah, hidden gems — my favorite topic of SF food discussion. Here are a few that are particularly worthy and hidden.
Dosa is a go-to for South Indian food. They serve tasty Keralan food with a Californian influence. I also recommend eating Indian food at Udupi Palace for its authenticity and flavor.
If you want to try a Mexican spot that is full of tradition and culture — and the best pozole in the city — don’t miss Gallardo’s in the Mission. The tables are filled with local families and the walls are covered in posters of Mexican movie stars. I also like the breakfast burrito with chorizo at SanJalisco in the Mission district.
For Moroccan, it’s tough to beat the hidden Aicha on Polk Street. And, as an extra bonus, it’s BYOB!
Check out restaurants with cuisines such as Burmese, Ethiopian, and Afghani that are not often represented in other cities. While they may not make top ten lists or strike you as particularly trendy, these restaurants have given me some of the best dining experiences in the whole city.
Aicha is located at 1303 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109, USA.
Dosa has two locations in San Francisco plus one in Oakland.
Gallardo’s is located at 3248 18th Street, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA.
SanJalisco is located at 901 S Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA.
Udupi Palace is located at 1007 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA.
Meet the San Francisco Local Expert
Anne Lowrey is an award-winning freelance travel writer based in San Francisco. When she’s not hopping a plane, she writes (and eats) extensively about the dynamic SF food scene.
Offering tips to residents and visitors alike, Anne blogs at Part-Time Traveler, which emphasizes the connection between and balance of travel and home. A California native who has been to more than fifty countries, she believes passionately in exploring your home in the same manner you do when traveling.
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About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.
Original Publication Date: February 6, 2019