15+ of the Best Restaurants in San Francisco

restaurants in san francisco
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San Francisco is a food lovers paradise.  You can get any type of cuisine from Asian food to Greek food, and everything in between.  And the best part about dining in such a lively city as San Francisco is that you can get any type of food at almost any hour of the day or night.  The takeout scene is incredible, the hole-in-the-wall restaurants are hiding in plain sight, waiting to welcome you in and show off their cuisine.  And even the popular, well-known restaurants don’t disappoint.  With over 4,000 restaurants to choose from in the city, the most difficult question is, “How do you pick where to eat”?  I lived in San Francisco for six months and explored the food scene from top to bottom.  Here are 18 of the best restaurants to eat at in San Francisco.

 

15+ of the Best Restaurants in San Francisco

 

1.  Balboa Cafe

Type of Food:  American

Go For:  Appetizers & Drinks

Atmosphere:  Casual ($$)

Balboa Cafe is located in Cow Hollow, one of San Francisco’s most happening neighborhoods.  It’s laid-back with a fun atmosphere.  With no reservations accepted, there’s almost always a wait to dine at Balboa Cafe and a hot spot amongst the locals.  I highly recommend coming early in the evening for appetizers and drinks before heading off to dinner elsewhere.  Balboa Cafe is also widely recognized for its fabulous espresso martinis, so make sure to order one when you visit!

 

2.  Birba

Type of Food:  Appetizers

Go For:  Before Dinner Drinks

Atmosphere:  Casual ($$)

I hesitated to add Birba to this San Francisco restaurant list because quite frankly, Birba is more of a wine bar than a restaurant.  However, it’s one of my favorite spots in the city so I decided that it deserved recognition.  Birba is an outdoor wine patio (with wines from all over the world), and also has a delicious small plates menu.  I’m partial to the tinned fish and pepper poppers.

 

3.  Burma Superstar

Type of Food:  Burmese

Go For:  Takeout/Delivery

Atmosphere:  Casual ($$)

Burma Superstar is an incredible Burmese restaurant.  On nights that you want to stay in or are feeling lazy, it’s the perfect option to choose for takeout/delivery.  While I was partial to the sesame beef and walnut chicken, you can’t try Burmese food without ordering Burma’s famous tea leaf salad.

 

4.  China Live

Type of Food:  Chinese

Go For:  Dinner

Atmosphere:  Causal ($$)

China Live is a modern-day marketplace for all things Chinese food.  There are different culinary stops set up in a big building, where you can pick and choose what types of food you want.  There are options for indoor or outdoor dining or to order takeaway.

 

5.  El Techo

Type of Food:  Latin American

Go For:  Happy Hour/Dinner

Atmosphere:  Casual ($$)

El Techo is the perfect place to eat if you’re having a night out with friends or even on a date!  It’s a fun and vibrant rooftop restaurant in the Mission neighborhood with music, great cocktails, and good food.

 

6.  Flores

Type of Food:  Mexican

Go For:  Dinner

Atmosphere:  Casual ($$)

Flores is a lively and modern Mexican eatery located in Cow Hollow.  They don’t take reservations, but this restaurant is good enough to wait for.  With an impeccably designed interior, the food and cocktails match the vibrant atmosphere of Flores.

 

7.  Flour + Water

Type of Food:  Italian

Go For:  Dinner

Atmosphere:  Fine-ish Dining ($$$)

Flour + Water is an incredible Italian restaurant in the Mission District.  The restaurant opened in 2009 and has since been influenced by food and culture throughout Italy and Northern California.  Aside from dining, you can also book a private or public pasta cooking class too – which would make for a fun date night or girls’ night out!  And a small tip… don’t miss ordering the schiacciata to soak up all of your delicious pasta sauce.

 

8.  Foreign Cinema

restaurant with movie on the projector

Type of Food:  American

Go For:  Brunch

Atmosphere:  Fine-ish Dining ($$$)

Foreign Cinema is an indoor/outdoor restaurant that streams old films on a projector outside against a brick wall.  Not only is it popular for brunch, but it’s also popular for dinner.  However, if you’re going to choose to visit for brunch OR dinner I highly recommend visiting for brunch.  I think that the brunch menu is better and the atmosphere is more lively.

 

9.  Isa Restaurant

Type of Food:  Greek

Go For:  Dinner

Atmosphere:  Casual ($$$)

Nestled in the Marina District, Isa Restaurant is one of those places you could walk by and not think twice about.  However, I highly encourage you to give it a chance as the food and wine list was out of this world.  With the menu made up of small plates inspired by California and France, each dish is unique and different than food you’ll get elsewhere in the city.  If the Foie Gras happens to be on the menu when you visit, order it!  I still dream about this dish despite having only had it once.

 

10.  Mamanoko

cookie dough ice cream sushi roll

Type of Food:  Japanese

Go For:  Dinner

Atmosphere:  Fine-ish Dining ($$)

Also located in Cow Hollow, Mamanoko was my go-to spot for incredible sushi, small plates, cocktails, complete with a vibrant atmosphere.  Plus, almost every meal ended with their “cookie dough” roll.  Have I convinced you yet?

 

11.  Mama’s On Washington Square

breakfast food

Type of Food:  American

Go For:  Brunch

Atmosphere:  Casual ($$)

Mama’s on Washington Square is the go-to breakfast spot on a lazy day.  With a line forming out the door, expect to wait to be seated at this popular local hang.

 

12.  Padrecito

Type of Food:  Mexican

Go For:  Dinner

Atmosphere:  Casual ($$)

Padrecito is a Mexican restaurant in Cole Valley.  Like most restaurants in San Francisco, they do small plates well so it’s a great place to go and sample different types of food.  With a fun atmosphere, I like Padrecito’s for after-work happy hour or dinner with friends.

 

13.  Plain Jane

 

Type of Food:  American

Go For:  Brunch

Atmosphere:  Casual ($$)

Similar to Mama’s On Washington Square, Plain Jane is also an incredible breakfast spot for a lazy day.  The atmosphere is laid back, but the food is more elevated than your simple breakfast foods.

 

14.  Rich Table

pasta dishes

Type of Food:  American

Go For:  Dinner

Atmosphere:  Fine-ish Dining ($$$)

One of the most interesting restaurants I’ve ever been to, Rich Table is an incredible restaurant that has a rotating menu based on local California ingredients available.  If you’re into more eclectic food, I highly recommend making a reservation far in advance to eat here.

 

15.  Ryoko’s Japanese Restaurant & Bar

 

Type of Food:  Japanese

Go For:  Dinner

Atmosphere:  Casual ($$)

Ryoko’s is another fun sushi restaurant that is laid-back and a typical “San Francisco” restaurant.  It’s open late, there is a DJ, and when you come into the restaurant someone will yell over the noise, “What do you want?!”

 

16.  Spark Social SF

Type of Food:  Food Trucks

Go For:  Dinner

Atmosphere:  Casual ($)

Spark Social SF is an outdoor food court full of rotating food trucks, beer, and sangria.  There are fire pits that you can sit at (some that you can even reserve), long picnic tables, and it’s dog friendly.  It’s a fun place to hang out with a group of friends or a fun place to go if you want to try many different types of foods.

 

17.  State Bird Provisions

Type of Food:  American

Go For:  Dinner

Atmosphere:  FineDining ($$$)

State Bird Provisions is a Michelin-star restaurant in the Fillmore District of San Francisco.  If you’re looking for an upscale restaurant to splurge on, this would be the place.

 

18.  Zazie

Type of Food:  French

Go For:  Brunch

Atmosphere:  Casual ($$)

Another great brunch place in San Francisco, Zazie is a French brunch/dinner restaurant in Cole Valley.  The atmosphere is a lot more fun and vibrant than both Plain Jane and Mama’s On Washington Square so if you’re wanting a spot that feels more “brunch” instead of “breakfast”, I suggest Zazie.  Plus, their French toast and pancakes dishes are to die for!

 

A few things to note about dining in San Francisco.  If a restaurant does take reservations, make sure to book well in advance.  Especially for nicer restaurants, reservations are a must and those restaurants can sometimes be booked out months in advance.  Overall, San Francisco is a pretty casual city so even if you’re dining in a “fine-ish dining” restaurant, overall the vibe is more casual than in cities like Chicago or New York City.

 

Have you visited San Francisco before?  What are some of your favorite restaurants in the city?  Let me know in the comments below!

 


Are you planning on visiting San Francisco?  Don’t miss these posts to help guide your travels…

From San Francisco:  A Day Trip to Sausalito

8 Apps You Need for Transportation in San Francisco

The Best Places to go For Views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge

From San Francisco:  The Perfect Day Trip to Napa Valley

From San Francisco:  Hiking Mt Tamalpais


 

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passportsandpreemies
passportsandpreemies

Kylee is a traveling Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU) nurse with a love for solo travel, wine, and Taylor Swift. Inspiring nurses to travel both near and far, Kylee began Passports and Preemies in 2017 while volunteering in Skopje, North Macedonia. Passports and Preemies was created as a way to reach nurses and advocate for the prevention of nurse burnout by traveling. Kylee is the original creator of the “8 Day Vacay” – a vacation geared towards nurses who aim to take advantage of the potentially 8 days off between work weeks with no need to use PTO.

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