As a native San Franciscan, nothing warms my heart more than someone asking for recommendations on where to eat in my hometown. SF may be a small city, but it has an impressive and diverse selection of places to eat. And this is just in the city limits, not counting culinary destinations around the Bay Area. The city especially excels in Chinese, Burmese, Russian, seafood, Mission-style burritos, and not to mention we are extremely spoiled with excellent bakeries. Here’s a list of the best places to eat in San Francisco.
Tartine Bakery & Café
There’s no sign out front of this San Francisco institution, but you can tell you’ve come to the right place if there’s a line spilling into the sidewalk at anytime of the day. Some benefits of the often long wait is you can make a calculated decision on whether you should order a chocolate croissant or a morning bun (or both). This bakery excels in not only pastries, but also freshly baked bread (come at 3:30 when it comes straight out of the oven). There are also memorable hot pressed sandwiches and an assortment of warm beverages.
There are many good bakeries in San Francisco but this co-op owned one has my heart. I’m a fan because it doesn’t have the crazy all-day lines as some of the other popular bakeries in the city, but always rewards. The daily veggie pizza slice is not to be missed (or bring home a whole fully or half-baked pie) and the daily scones are crazy good. Their focaccia is solid and massive. If you get there early enough make sure to grab a pecan roll before they sell out. There are two branches in the city, one in the Inner Sunset and the other in the Mission.
Bob’s Donuts and Pastry Shop
This unassuming donut shop has the worn-in charm of a place that has been in the neighborhood for decades, and you can smell the fried apple fritters a block away. They have all the classic flavors, whether you are craving an old fashion glazed or their popular crumb donuts. They also have massive donuts the size of your head if you want to supersize your order. It’s open 24/7, so it makes a great morning pit stop or a late night bite if you are in the Nob Hill neighborhood.
Over the recent years, there are many ice cream spots around the city that have opened, but this one creates artisianal ice cream like no ones business. From the insanely addictive salted caramel ice cream to the balsamic strawberry, the flavors are unique and memorable. For the non-dairy crowd, there are always an assortment of seasonal sorbets and a vegan Chocolate Coconut. Be prepared for a long line, whether its a hot or cold day. If you want to skip the line, but still sample their ice cream, head to the soft serve window, where daily flavors are doled out like green tea and black sesame.
Seakor Polish Delicatessen
Located in the foggy Outer Richmond, this deli is take-out only, but worth stopping by for sandwiches with their smoked deli meats, hot prepared dishes like cabbage rolls and kielbasa, and mostly importantly their homemade poppy seed cake. There is also a good selection of miscellaneous Polish grocery items, from pickles to candies. As someone who briefly lived in Krakow, I’m so happy to have this lone Polish market in SF to satisfy all of my cravings. There are also non-food items like Polish magazines and greeting cards with Christmas wafers.
This Outer Richmond spot is known for their inventive, modern twists on classic dim sum dishes and delicious hot pot options. If you’re craving dim sum come here for brunch (they also serve a limited selection for dinner) and order items like their five guys xiao long bao, wild mushroom & chicken bao, and steamed egg yolk lava bao. The impressive array of hot pot fixings including American kobe, Australian wagyu and an endless array of side dishes to thrown in the pot with plenty of sauces for an added flavor kick. If you go for brunch, make sure to get there right when it opens, to avoid waiting in a seemingly endless line.
Rosemunde Sausage Grill
This sausage-centric spot is centrally located near the 24th Mission BART and is a great place to grab a sausage and a beer. They have unusual flavors like wild boar, but I usually go for something more mellow like the all-beef knockwurst. All their sausages are without additives and hormones. Their draft beer selection is extensive, as well as their condiments (curry ketchup, yes please). There are also vegetarian options as well. For a quicker, pick-up type of situation, there’s a smaller branch in the Haight.
This Japanese restaurant offers an excellent assortment of creative vegetarian/vegan dishes from noodle soups to sushi. If you’re craving something warm the kinoko (mushroom medley) miso is a good choice. Their roll menu has a lot of excellent choices, but their Garden roll is a personal favorite that includes broccolini and yamagobo (pickled burdock root). There are also la carte dishes like the broiled eggplant and tofu dish, which are worth trying. Cash only.
A family-run restaurant in the Inner Sunset, that serves classic Korean food. This restaurant is the ideal spot to duck into on a cold day and warm up with steaming bowls of dolsot bibimbap and soft tofu soup. The banchan are made fresh, with items like savory fishcake. A solid appetizer is the soy sauce chicken wings that are crispy and moist at the same time. Another dish that is not to be missed is the seafood pancake that has a good balance of batter and assorted seafood, and is light and crispy. Make sure to get there early, since there’s limited seating.
For legit tacos, this is the place to go. It flies under the radar in comparison to other more popular Mexican spots in the Mission, but the upside is that there is hardly a long wait time. Make sure to check out the taco cart where they grill the meat right in front of you and then help yourself to the self-serve toppings bar next to the grill. They also have other item menus like meat and vegetarian burritos, and quesadillas. There is a spacious dining area and they are open late every day of the week.
Tuba Authentic Turkish Restaurant
There are a handful of good Turkish restaurants in SF, including A La Turca, but this one has excellent menu and a warm and inviting atmosphere. The menu is accommodating to both meat eaters and vegetarians, with dishes like the kofte (meatballs) or eggplant stuffed with vegetables. The fresh bread served at the beginning with a trio of dips is another highlight and the endless refills can be dangerous. There is also an extensive wine selection, including different regional wines from Turkey.
Pho Huynh Hiep 2-Kevin’s Noodle House
There’s nothing better than a warm bowl of noodle soup on a cold foggy day in SF. This spot is no frills, but they make consistently good food, provide efficient service and reasonable prices. There is a wide selection on variation on what you can have in your bowl of pho from seafood to steak slices. Their specialty drinks are also worth a try, from their pearl milk tea to their Vietnamese black coffee. Make sure to get a side order of shrimp rolls (or two) to share with your table.
This Mediterranean restaurant is a longtime favorite in the Upper Filmore for solid kebab plates and spinach and feta fillo dishes. There are excellent lunch deals, where for under $13 you can get a three-item mixed plate, as well as salad or soup. If you eat meat, the pomegranate chicken is not to be missed. The interior is cozy and beautifully decorated. Love this spot so much that I catered our wedding reception party from here. There is also a branch in the Castro as well.
For a casual sushi spot, this is at the top of my list. The underground restaurant is tucked into the first floor of a mall and can be hard to find (look for the sandwich board on Market St. to make sure you’re in the right place). I always opt for the Barbie roll that has salmon with a lemon slice on top. Their specialty rolls and fresh sashimi is the most popular items on the menu, but they also have entrees like unagi don. Come between 5-6 p.m. to take advantage of their happy hour that features discounted rolls, appetizers, and drinks. Make sure to go early to snag a spot at one of the few tables.
Located right next to Tuba in the Mission, this no-frills Vietnamese restaurant is a solid spot to get fragrant bowls of pho and cold vermicelli noodle dishes. Make sure to order their imperial rolls or shrimp rolls, which are both highly recommended and are a great start to a meal. The service is friendly and the food is affordable, especially being in the middle of the Mission. Best of all, there never seems to be much of a wait.
There’s not a lot of Polish food in the Bay Area, but this restaurant makes up for it. The restaurant’s menu features dishes from Poland, Germany, Hungry and Russia. My go-to is the cabbage rolls, mushroom and cabbage pierogi, and homemade bratwursts. Members in my party have gotten the beef stroganoff, schnitzel and goulash and have been very happy. Make sure to save room for dessert, which comes in the form of mouth-watering apple strudel.
Burmese food in a must when you’re in San Francisco, but opt for avoiding the seemingly endless line at Burma Superstar in favor of an equally delicious menu at this Burmese restaurant in the Inner Richmond. The dinning room is spacious and decorated with vibrant colors and Burmese wall art. Highlights here are the tea leaf salad, the Mandalay special noodle, and the pumpkin pork stew with curry. Make sure to order the coconut rice, which is the perfect accompaniment to any of the dishes.
Where are your favorite places to eat in San Francisco?
Photo sources: Bi-Rite