San Francisco

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Talented chefs have been capitalizing on San Francisco's natural resources (local wines, seafood, and farm-fresh ingredients) for years – long before the “local food movement” became popular nation-wide. Top-tier restaurants exist in every category from Mediterranean and Vietnamese to French and Nouvelle American.

Top Restaurants in San Francisco

Bang San Thai

Even if you tripped over it, chances are that you wouldn’t notice this gem of a Thai joint. The exterior is unassuming, there’s nothing at all flashy about the inside, and it’s not in one of the most desirable neighborhoods. But don’t judge a book by its cover: Bang San boasts some of the best Thai cuisine around, and at bargain prices. Fill up for under $10 on tasty dishes like mango chicken curry or Thai red curry, which brings together pumpkin, sweet basil, and bell peppers in a spicy, coconut-milk broth. A second location recently opened around the corner on O’Farrell at Larkin Street.

505 Jones St., CA, 415-972-2772, www.bangsanthai.com
Tags: budget | thai | great value

Bar Tartine

Bar Tartine is a homey space that turns out food both simple and sublime (including to-die-for bread and pastries from its sister bakery a few blocks away). Plan a weekend brunch for the savory bread pudding; for dinner, the black cod with chilies and brown butter is always popular. As far as dessert goes, try a classic from the bakery like the lemon cream tart.

561 Valencia St., California, 415-487-1600, www.bartartine.com
Tags: french | brunch | dessert

Barbacco

This boisterous Italian place is equally appropriate for a business lunch or a post-shopping nosh – and far more affordable than its popular sister eatery, Perbacco. The casual dining establishment provides delicious Italian fare (think rustic pork ragu or quick-braised local squid with tomato and chili garlic) in the convivial atmosphere of a modern trattoria. Chat with friends – old and new – at the counter space or shared communal tables.

220 California St., CA, 415-955-1919, www.barbaccosf.com
Tags: moderate | italian

Beretta

The loud bar scene is worth braving for the delicious margherita pizza topped with burrata (fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream) or the butternut squash risotto with rosemary and crescenza (a soft Italian cheese). Come for the casual atmosphere, exceptional cocktails, or extensive weekend brunch menu. The food is fresh, seasonal, and sourced from local farms, and many vegetarian and vegan options are available.

1199 Valencia St., CA, 415-695-1199, www.berettasf.com
Tags: moderate | italian

Bourbon Steak

Michael Mina’s eponymous restaurant vacated the Westin St. Francis lobby, and his famed steakhouse moved into the same space in October 2010. Steak options come in various cuts and sizes, and all diners are brought out a complimentary tray of three kinds of duck fat fries and three different dipping sauces. Order a side of black truffle mac and cheese for the table. And don’t skip the root beer float, Mina’s signature dessert, with homemade sassafras ice cream, root bear sorbet, and a side of fresh-out-of-the-oven chocolate chip cookies.

335 Powell St., CA, 415-397-3003, www.michaelmina.net
Tags: expensive | notable chef | steakhouse | new

Burgermeister

San Francisco is on a burger binge, with artisan joints opening up left and right in some of the most foodie-centric neighborhoods. So the fact that people still line up at this chain of family-owned joints for what is arguably the city’s best burger is a testament to the quality. Each order comes loaded with fixings and yummy sides like roasted garlic fries. Burgermeister also serves killer shakes and beer.

86 Carl St., CA, 415-566-1274, www.burgermeistersf.com
Tags: budget | fast food

Citizen Cake

Star chef Elizabeth Falkner moved her restaurant to Fillmore Street in spring 2010. Although usually noted for her fabulous bakery creations (no one can resist the cupcake fad after trying her rocky road rendition), Falkner shows that her skills span sweet and savory in this full-service restaurant, bar, and patisserie. For dinner, enjoy a dish like the pan-roasted duck breast with sauce à la tangerine.

2125 Fillmore St., CA, 415-861-2228, www.citizencake.com
Tags: moderate | notable chef

Delfina

Delfina is one of San Francisco’s most beloved establishments, serving up hearty Italian food in a simple bistro-like environment. The menu changes daily but there are some standards, like garganelli pasta with guinea hen ragu. They also cure many of their own meats and make their own sausages, pastas and gelato. Those who desire lighter fare should head to one of Pizzeria Delfina’s two locations for thin-crust pies with toppings like clams or broccoli rabe with caciocavallo, mozzarella, olives, and hot peppers. Delizioso!

3621 18th St., CA, 415-552-4055, www.delfinasf.com
Tags: moderate | italian | dessert

Dosa on Fillmore

Dosa on Fillmore is a soaring space serving well-priced southern Indian dishes and spice-infused cocktails. For dinner, choose between 12 versions of the namesake dosa, and some 10 types of curries. Libations include 10 original spice-infused cocktails, many mixed with house-made infusions like coriander nectar and chicory bitters. 

1700 Fillmore, CA, 415-441-3672, www.dosasf.com
Tags: expensive | indian | jim's pick

Foreign Cinema

At Foreign Cinema foreign and independent films are screened on the wall. The cuisine is Mediterranean, with an impressive oyster bar, sharable appetizers, and main courses like pasta and rib eye. Aside from the main dining room, there’s also a lovely, heated outdoor seating area for warmer nights, as well as an adjoining gallery featuring modern art and the more contemporary, urban-chic Laszlo Bar on the upper two levels.

2534 Mission St., CA, 415-648-7600, www.foreigncinema.com
Tags: family | expensive | editor pick | brunch

Humphry Slocombe

Gentrification is now marching east, led by pioneers like Humphry Slocombe, an ice cream parlor where strawberry candied jalapeño and sweet corn blackberry are just two of many offbeat flavors. Humphry Slocombe combines elements of a classic ice cream parlor (black-and-white tile floor, retro red leather stools) with offbeat food-inspired artwork. The shop scoops between 10 and 12 flavors daily, which rotate often.

2790 Harrison St., CA, 415-550-6971, www.humphryslocombe.com
Tags: moderate | ice cream

Incanto

Chef Chris Cosentino prides himself on being inventive and utilizing ingredients that are hard to cook with or aren’t frequently used in similar meals like acorns or green peaches. The result: A delightful, new experience for your taste buds (appetizers like pig’s trotter with foie gras, bacon, and roasted figs and entrees like raw venison liver sound unlikely to woo the palate, yet are surprisingly successful at doing just that). The menu changes on a nightly basis, but features some of the best Italian food the city has to offer.

1550 Church St., CA, 415-641-4500, www.incanto.biz
Tags: expensive | italian

Jardinière

Jardinière is consistently lauded as one of San Francisco’s finest. The reasons are simple: beautiful location with modern Art Deco touches, lively but sophisticated atmosphere, impeccable service, and incredible French cuisine. Co-owner Traci des Jardins has become somewhat of a celebrity in the food industry, too, thanks to her appearances on Iron Chef and Top Chef Masters. Try the scallops, which are always a popular item on the menu, or red wine braised short rib with horseradish potato puree and sauce bordelaise, Jardinière’s signature dish.

300 Grove St., CA, 415-861-5555, www.jardiniere.com
Tags: expensive | french | dessert | tasting menu

La Mar Cebicheria Peruana

La Mar Cebicheria Peruana is the latest addition to Lima chef Gastón Acurio’s empire, whose goal is to globalize and preserve the treasure of Peruvian cuisine: ceviche (a mixture of fresh fish and shellish marinated in lime juice and peppers). In addition to a variety of ceviches, La Mar also offers an array of salads, empanadas, skewers, and traditional Peruvian cuisine, such as a rack of lamb served with yucca mash and mint salsa criolla. Wash it all down with some dozen specialty cocktails mixed with Peru’s beloved pisco, a liquor distilled from grapes.

Pier 1.5, CA, 415-397-8880, www.lamarcebicheria.com
Tags: moderate | peruvian

Lime Tree

Asian restaurants of all stripes abound in the Sunset district along the Pacific Ocean. This particular fusion restaurant marries all of the region’s types of cuisine – Filipino, Indonesian, Thai, Malaysian, and Singaporean dishes – on one menu. It is the perfect dinner spot after a day in the sun on Ocean Beach.

450A Irving St., CA, 415-665-1415, www.limetreesf.com
Tags: budget | asian fusion

Local Restaurant & Wine Merchant

As you may have guessed from the name, wine is this Rincon Hill restaurant’s forte. Accordingly, the wine list, which spans all of the continents in its 250+ selections, is far more extensive than the culinary offerings. Nonetheless, the pizza and truffle fries are spectacular, as are all of the entrees, including the spaghetti con polpetta; the linguini with clams, mussels and tiger prawns; and all of the wood oven pizzas (like the Fungi with wild mushrooms, spring onions, roasted garlic, and arugula).

330 First St., CA, 415-777-4200, www.sf-local.com
Tags: moderate | trendy

Marlowe

Opened in February 2010, Marlowe has captivated locals with the kitchen’s highbrow comfort food (brussels sprout chips, anyone?) and its staff’s New Zealand accents. This neighborhood bistro provides rustic-chic décor, an eclectic international wine list, and a simple yet elegant menu with items like stuffed blue sole with crab, glazed celery root, baby fennel, and capers.

330 Townsend St., #101, CA, 415-974-5599, www.marlowesf.com
Tags: moderate | comfort food

Millennium

Millennium’s vegetarian fare, such as smoked cherry and chard roulade with a black pepper crust and roasted butternut squash coulis, satisfies even the heartiest carnivore. With a focus on organic food production and sustainable agriculture, the restaurant offers an upscale dining experience for the foodie with a conscience. The menu evolves based on seasonal produce and is influenced by a wide variety of international cuisines. Millennium also offers a comprehensive organic wine list. 

580 Geary St., CA, 415-345-3900, www.millenniumrestaurant.com
Tags: expensive | notable wine list | organic

Mission Beach Café

This sleepy neighborhood spot opened in 2007 with a comfortable, modern décor and a farmers’ market-driven dinner menu. Though the café serves brunch/lunch daily, weekend breakfasts steal the show with indulgent riffs on classics, including a Dungeness crab Benedict topped with hollandaise, avocado, and orange reduction.

198 Guerrero St., CA, 415-861-0198, www.missionbeachcafesf.com
Tags: moderate | new american | brunch

Murray Circle

Even for those not staying at the Cavallo Point Lodge, it is worth the trip over the bridge for the superb chef’s tasting menu at its restaurant, Murray Circle. Enjoy delectable San Francisco fare inspired by daily market offerings like Pacific oyster bisque or roasted baby beets with quinoa and whipped ricotta. The dining room is elegant and comfortable, and the historic porch offers stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the city skyline. There’s a filling lunch tasting menu with four mini-courses plus a dessert for just $25, which is a steal for this quality of food.

601 Murray Circle, CA, 415-339-4750, www.murraycircle.com
Tags: expensive | views | hotel restaurant | local ingredients

One Market Restaurant

Bradley Ogden’s restaurant has long been a hotspot for American cuisine. For the ultimate experience, pay to sit at the “Chef’s Table” where you’ll interact with the chef while enjoying exquisite cuisine. Nosh on fan favorites like tater tots with house made ketchup or Dungeness crab to start; follow with an entrée of bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin or seared scallops for a main; and finish up with the Valrhona chocolate soufflé cake for dessert. Or sample a little of everything through the tasting menu ($79 for six courses; $39 for three).

1 Market St., CA, 415-777-5577, www.onemarket.com
Tags: expensive | notable chef | smart splurge

Oola

Oola promotes itself as an American bistro with some of the best “San Francisco” food around, which essentially translates to a menu offering classics like spicy ahi tuna and baby back ribs in an artful presentation. The atmosphere is dark and romantic, and the cocktails, in particular, are divine – the watermelon Cosmo and the blood orange margarita are two of the restaurant’s specialties; do yourself a favor and sample them both.

860 Folsom St., CA, 415-995-2061, www.oola-sf.com
Tags: moderate | great value | trendy

Pluto's

Popular among San Francisco residents for its mega-affordable menu and wholesome buffet, Pluto’s pleases health-food devotees with the freshest in salad ingredients. For those who prefer a heartier meal, there are sandwiches made from oven-roasted poultry, grilled meat, and breads baked fresh each day. A second Pluto’s is located in the Inner Sunset at Irving and Eighth Avenue.

3258 Scott St., CA, 415-775-8867, www.plutosfreshfood.com
Tags: budget | healthy

Saison

One knows that Saison is no ordinary restaurant before even sitting down – that’s because diners enter through the kitchen. Chef and co-owner Joshua Skenes offers a set, seasonal, eight-course tasting menu with bottomless wine pairing five nights a week in this Mission District hidden, intimate space. 

2124 Folsom St., CA, 415-828-7990, www.saisonsf.com
Tags: expensive | dining | new american

Slanted Door

This popular, modern Vietnamese restaurant showcases ecologically-farmed, local meat, game, and poultry and is located inside the Ferry Building. The design is simple; cypress wood tables and chairs blend into the background, drawing attention toward the Bay Bridge views.  Dishes run the gamut of cellophane noodles with crab (a local favorite) to lamb shank with mint and braised artichokes. Because of its convenient location and the ever-present buzz, Slanted Door – helmed by renowned chef, Charles Phan – is swamped most nights; thus, reservations are essential.

1 Ferry Building #3, CA, 415-861-8032, www.slanteddoor.com
Tags: moderate | editor pick | views | waterfront | organic | vietnamese

Starbelly

If its quirky name doesn’t draw you into this intimate Castro find, the delicious food surely will. The concept is California comfort food, but the menu spans more than just that. Patrons can order from a mix of thin crust pizzas (with creative toppings), mini corn dogs, gazpacho, salted cod, flounder, rotisserie chicken, popcorn clams, and more. There’s a patio out back for warm evenings; inside, diners sit communal style, along a table fashioned from a bowling alley lane. It didn’t take long after Starbelly opened in 2009 (by the team behind Beretta) before it became the place to dine in the neighborhood – and it’s easy to see why.

3583 16th St., CA, 415-252-7500, www.starbellysf.com
Tags: notable chef | hotel restaurant | open late | new american | brunch | jim's pick

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