Dining in San Francisco is an adventure. As with much Californian cuisine, there’s a health-conscious lightness to the food. Local seafood and farm produce feature heavily, and dishes are influenced by the city’s longstanding Mexican and Chinese populations.
That means a dizzying array of hole-in-the-wall favourites in the Mission District and Chinatown especially, as well as a procession of top chefs putting their own spin on these rich international flavours. Like any modern American city, food trucks and pizzerias remain a go-to for more casual eats – but here even those boast some distinctly San Franciscan flair.
Choosing highlights from such a teeming food scene wasn’t easy. From far-flung food trucks to celebrity-approved hotspots to Michelin-anointed fine dining, these spots all have pedigree: here’s where to eat in San Francisco.
Tartine Bakery, The Mission
Breakfast starts here. This beloved bakery has spawned several locations around the Bay Area, plus LA and Seoul. Favourites range from croissants, buttermilk scones and bagels to indulgent sweet buns and the signature breakfast sandwich (a super-cheesy open croque monsieur on country-style bread). And check out the Tartine Manufactory offshoot about a kilometre away, where you can pre-order to avoid the long queues.
Swan Oyster Depot, Nob Hill
This world-renowned and perennially packed raw-seafood bar was a favourite of the late Anthony Bourdain. Operating almost continuously in the same Polk Street spot since 1903, Swan Oyster Depot is a cherished window into simpler times. The menu on the wall rarely changes; crabs and scallops share the spotlight with the titular oysters. With a queue routinely wrapping around the block, this is more than just a tourist magnet: it’s seafood stripped back to perfection.
Gracias Madre, The Mission
Vegetarians and vegans will feel at home in the Mission’s first entirely plant-based Mexican restaurant. With a seasonal menu sourced from its own organic farm, and milks and cheeses made from nuts, Gracias Madre proves that Mexican food sans meat and dairy still bursts with personality. The salads and dinner bowls (one has tempeh chorizo, black beans, guacamole, brown rice and pico de gallo served on a bed of romaine, topped with nacho cashew cheese and pepitas) are popular anchors, but don’t miss its “authentic with a twist” takes on dishes such as tacos or enchiladas. The weekday happy hour is an ideal time to explore the cocktail list, and brunch is its own reward.
Mister Jiu’s, Chinatown
Marrying Californian farm-to-table freshness with traditional Chinese cooking, Mister Jiu’s chef-owner Brandon Jew brings out the best of both worlds at this Michelin-starred restaurant – especially on the banquet menu, which is great for groups. Mister Jiu’s balances fresh dumplings and noodles with inventive charcuterie and seafood dishes, but there’s also an impressive slate of vegetarian options. It’s all dished up with photogenic flair: see the potstickers with beets, rainbow chard and pork.
SoMa Streat Food Park, SoMa
You won’t find a wider choice for lunch and dinner in one spot than SoMa Streat Food Park, a carnivalesque oasis of food trucks on 11th Street. The casual, beer-friendly bites range from gourmet corn dogs and juicy burgers to cheesesteaks and lobster rolls. This being California, expect a focus on fresh, local ingredients and generous splays of salad. While most of the dishes tend towards the comfort-food side of American cuisine, Asian and Middle Eastern vendors regularly pop up in the rotation as well. The team behind this spot also recently opened Spark in Mission Bay, which builds on the food-truck park concept with a beer and sangria garden and event space. Also keep your eye out for Off the Grid, a once-a-month street food picnic in The Presidio park overlooking the bay
Rich Table, Hayes Valley
This centrally situated farm-to-table fine-dining favourite makes the locally caught seafood sing. The Michelin-starred Rich Table has also garnered fans for its elevated home-style cooking, which includes pierogi, hush puppies and pork chops. Bountiful Californian produce is the hero here, from nuts and cheeses to beets and squash. With friendly service, plenty of natural light and no dress code, this feels like a home away from home.
Pizzeria Delfina, The Mission
Once you’ve ticked the boxes for seafood, Mexican, street food and fine-dining, it’s time to hit up the much-loved San Francisco pizza dynasty Pizzeria Delfina. The “white pies” (i.e. without tomato sauce) showcase everything from mushrooms to prosciutto to broccoli rabe, while the more familiar “red pies” still mix things up, with toppings such as Maine surf clams and house-made fennel sausage. You can also customise the popular vegan pie with three toppings of your choice. Besides The Mission shop, check out the locations in Pacific Heights and Downtown.
This story is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Luxury Escapes. See more of Broadsheet’s guide to San Francisco.
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