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Tried-and-True, Casual, Institutions

My husband and I are first-time visitors to San Francisco. We'd love to dine at some tried-and-true, casual, institutions. We'll be visiting for three days at located at Union Square. Thanks so much for your recommendations!

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  1. Zuni. Great food, pretty restaurant and definitely a SF institution.

    Zuni Cafe
    1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

    1. What constitutes casual for you? Shorts and flip flops/no table service casual or more fine dining but no dress up needed? California is a pretty casual place but definitions are different. I'd say go to some taquerias...Cancun, San Jose, La Taqueria...all casual but maybe that's not what you're looking for.

      3 Replies
      1. re: ML8000

        Thanks for the suggestions!
        By casual, I mean table service but no need to dress up. Hope that clarifies.

        1. re: civetdaly

          Honestly, there are very very few places in the Bay Area where you would need to dress up -- there are only a few places that I can think of where I wouldn't wear jeans.

          1. re: JasmineG

            You are correct...heck jeans and a clean/nice shirt will get you into 99% of the places, and you'd only feel weird at the other 1%.

            Any to the OP...try Zuni Cafe.

      2. Chez Panisse (Berkeley)*
        Jai Yun*
        Helmand Palace
        Yank Sing (dim sum lunch)
        Zuni Cafe*

        *reservations essential

        1. Canteen
          Bar Crudo

          1. Agree with all the above suggestions. Zuni for sure. If you can't get a reservation, they leave 1/3 of the restaurant for walk-ins, but get there early - 5:30, not later than 6. It's also one of the best places for lunch.

            For dinner I would add the following to the list:
            Delfina - in the Mission, great neighbrhood to explore.
            Tommaso's in North Beach - for the wood-fired brick oven pizza, very casual by any standards, fun atmosphere, an SF institutuion.

            1. I would like to add Fog City Diner to the suggestions. When we were there last fall, we went there and really loved it - fun, casual but nice, good food. good area.

              1. If you want history, and places that have stood up up iver the decades, and you like seafood, I'd suggest Tadich, Sam's and Original Joe's.

                1 Reply
                1. re: mpalmer6c

                  Original Joe's is closed due to a fire and won't be reopening any time soon as the owner is still waiting for the insurance money.

                2. Lunch : Swan's Oyster Depot ... Zuni Cafe ... L'Osteria del Forno

                  Dinner : Tadich Grill ... South Park Cafe ... Slanted Door

                  Slanted Door
                  Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

                  Zuni Cafe
                  1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

                  Tadich Grill
                  240 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                  L'Osteria del Forno
                  519 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

                  Swan Oyster Depot
                  1517 Polk St, San Francisco, CA 94109

                  South Park Cafe
                  108 South Park, San Francisco, CA 94107