A Quick Travel Guide To San Francisco’s Food Scene
Blue Bottle, probably the most famous of SF coffees, has a number of kiosks and small cafes around the city. Their Hayes Valley location, a tiny spot in a back alley, is the original. IN SOMA hit up Sightglass Coffee; if you’re in the Mission head to Four Barrel and Philz Ritual Roasters. Out by the beach, Trouble Coffee Company has great coffee and notorious, though delicious, $4 toast. The Beachside Cafe pours its coffee a cup at a time. For leisurely hanging out, try North Beach’s historic Caffe Trieste, credited as the first espresso coffee house on the West Coast. On a nice day, head to Reverie in Cole Valley or the Bazar Cafe in the Richmond, both of which have great patios. Tartine has huge lines on the weekends, but is well worth the wait for perfect pastries and artisan bread.
For a sit-down brunch spot, some Tenderloin favorites are Brenda’s French Soul Food and Dottie’s True Blue Cafe, a longtime favorite that has survived its move from a hole-in-the-wall to a slightly larger location. Closer to the beach is Outerlands in the Outer Sunset, nicely decorated with driftwood. Zazie in Cole Valley has a beautiful patio with a garden. For a waterfront view, head to The Plant Cafe on Pier 3. The Lord George and The Butler and the Chef are popular SOMA spots. Ella’s is a classic spot outside the Presidio, and the Presidio Social Club is a good choice inside the park.
Dim Sum is another brunch option — on weekends people line up early. Some Richmond District favorites are Hong Kong Lounge, with multi-generational Chinese families outside angling for a table, but well worth the wait. Ton Kiang, down the block, is also popular and delicious, as is newcomer Dragon Beaux.
Every neighborhood has at least one great sandwich spot. Head to Pacific Heights’ B on the Go, the Richmond’s Lou’s Cafe, the Castro’s Ike’s Place, the Mission’s Bite Me Sandwiches, Tenderloin’s Saigon Sandwich, or North Beach’s Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Store.
The Ferry Building is a great place for lunch if you’re in the area. Out the Door is a causal spot run by Charles Pham of Slanted Door fame with banh mi sandwiches as well as other lunch fare. Il Cane Rosso is another great spot to grab lunch to eat along the Embarcadero.
Then there are burritos… La Taqueria recently won Nate Silver’s 538 Blog’s national burrito competition, bringing in hordes of burrito tourists, but most locals go there for the tacos. Other perennial burrito favorites include Cancun, Papalote (which is more appealing to vegetarians and vegans with tofu mole and soy chorizo), Pancho Villa, The Little Chihuahua (try the plantain and black bean burrito), and El Farolito. For Korean burritos, check outHRD Coffee Shop. For tacos, all of the above offer great options, as does Tacos Cala, a casual offshoot of the restaurant Cala.
You can find whatever type of food you’re craving, as well as many types you had no idea existed. Try one of the Shabu (hot pot) places that are all the rage in the Richmond District. Shabu House has a couple of locations, and there are many others.
The Tenderloin is the epicenter of cheap and interesting food. Try the Shalimar, where you may have to hustle for a table. Tadu Ethiopian Kitchen or Lers Ros are other great options.
The Richmond’s Burma Superstar is the best of several Burmese restaurants in that area. Make sure to order the tea leaf salad. Pacific Catch has several locations and is good for seafood and Asian-inspired bowls. Dosa, also with several locations, offers unique South Indian food and great drinks.
Then there’s pizza. SF has many excellent pizzerias featuring seasonal ingredients. Favorites are Una Pizza Napoletana, Pauline’s, Golden Boy Pizza, Little Star, Gaspare’s, Flour + Water, Gialina, Beretta, Jersey, Pizzeria Delfina, and last but not least, the tiny Pizzetta 211.
The line between neighborhood bistro and fine dining isn’t too wide in San Francisco, where we like to keep most things on the casual side. State Bird Provisions is one of the most difficult reservations in town. Al’s Place was named Bon Appetit’s restaurant of the year, and has a Michelin star. More upscale are Atelier Crenn or Benu, should you have $248 to drop on the tasting menu. Aziza, with nouveau Moroccan cuisine, also has a Michelin star and is a more reasonable splurge. Cala is a new place run by Mexico City Chef Gabriela Camara. Vegetarians can make a pilgrimage to Greens, famous for integrating local produce and vegetarian cuisine, in a beautiful spot on a pier at Fort Mason.
For the best in food truck variety, head to one of the Off the Grid events, where a rotating fleet of trucks converge. Fridays at Fort Mason is a lively early-evening social scene; Sundays at the Presidio parade ground is packed.Soma StrEATFood Park is another great spot to find trucks for lunch.
Or you can search out popular trucks: Del Popolo features a mobile pizza oven, Curry Up Now, Koja Kitchen, El Tonayense, and Hella Vegan Eats all have loyal followings.
For late-afternoon, al fresco drinking, head to Biergarten, Pier 23, or the Ramp. For more upscale drinks, Bar Agricole or The Alembic offer unique, thoughtful combinations. If you like to multitask and soak in a bit of history as you imbibe, head to North Beach’s Vesuvio (located on Jack Kerouac Alley), Specks, or Tosca, or to the Mission’s Elixir, one of the city’s oldest continually operating saloons. SF has a number of cozy wine bars, including Hotel Biron, Internos, or Terroir. For beer drinkers head to the Magnolia Pub and Brewery, the 21st Amendment, Thirsty Bear, or to Anchor Steam itself for a tour and tasting (reservations required). We’ve even got a cider house,UpCider.