HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >


Top 10 restaurants in SF

We are 2 thirtysomething London (UK) girls heading out to San Francisco in a couple of weeks. Looking for the top 10 places to eat to cover everything from coffee shops, restaurants, bars - all showcasing the best cuisine, atmosphere, service that Sf has to offer.

Any tips would be most appreciated.

Jess and Eleanor

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Your request is asked almost daily... You are advised to read through the threads, tell us what neighborhoods you are interested in, and your budget.

    "Best cuisine" is relative... Best ethnic? Best view? Best cocktails? Best molecular? Best seafood? Best dim sum? Best sushi? Best burrito? Best pastry?

    Seriously - you need to give us a lot more guidance on what you are looking for...

    1. Yes, there's a lot "best" in the town and enough good places to eat and drink that people will disagree on what is "best" (not unlike London).

      Do so research on your own first (say start with Eater.com's top 38) and then let us know what strikes your fancy, how long you will be here, what you can afford, etc. Since you're coming from the UK, I would focus on what is not available there, but that's just me.

      1. Try looking at a few places like the SF Chronicles top 100 (http://www.sfgate.com/food/top100/2013/) or yelp for an idea of what you're after as far as neighborhoods and cuisine goes.
        Also, keep in mind that BART can take you to places like Oakland cheaply and easily to extend your dining options.
        Don't be too put off by people telling you to do some homework, think about your reaction if some one asked you what the best places in London would be.

        1. not outright 10 best food places, but if i had to pick 10 that would really give you a good sense of the city:

          taqueria cancun (huge burritos are a mission staple, and this is my favorite), chapeau! (amazing french restaurnt), commis (some of the most creative food around), aziza (cal-moroccan fusion), zeitgeist (great outdoor beer garden), trick dog (excellent food and cocktails), saigon sandwich (one of the top bahn mi places), blue bottle mint plaza (my favorite coffee in SF, really god pastries too), craftsman and wolves (very creative bakery), mandalay (burmese)

          6 Replies
          1. re: vulber

            Nice list, vulber. Can you say more about the food at Trick Dog, please? I'm already sold on the cocktails for next trip ;-)

            1. re: grayelf

              just simple, creative, well-prepared bar food with a twist - wish they would post a menu online. same owners as 15 romolo and it's definitely reflected

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  thanks, must have been a somewhat new addition; i remember for a while, they didn't post it online

                  1. re: vulber

                    Thanks, Melanie. I also saw your post about it on another thread. Did not realize it was by the 15 romolo folks. We had a not great experience there a couple trips ago but will try not to hold that against Trick Dog...

                    1. re: grayelf

                      Trick Dog and 15 Romolo do not have the same owners.

                      Trick Dog is owned by a couple bartenders who worked at 15 Romolo and gained a quick reputation competing in cocktail making competitions around the time the bar started to gain a rep. They started calling themselves the Bon Vivants and working as bar consultants (most notably for Wayfare Tavern), and then brand ambassadors, before opening their own place with a couple partners (one of them worked for Blowfish, I think). They also had a bar on Market St. which has since closed.

                      They apparently had a major role is overhauling 15 Romolos drink menu after it's initial open, but I don't think that was their best work - and they often looked visibly bored during their shifts there. 15 Romolo was best before it began to get press or mentions on CH, because it operated as a slower paced bar. There was a short period where they had a lot of influence, the drinks got interesting, and they were actually made well.

          2. I like soup dumplings at Yank Sing. Bone marrow at RN74 is pretty good. A Margherita pizza at Tony's always works for me. The raviolo at Cotogna is killer. Crab cakes, at lunch at the bar at Scoma's, can be pretty good. The chicken at Zuni is very good, sand dabs at Tadich can be very good (ask your waiter first). Oysters at Waterbar, at the pewter bar, have the potential to be very good. Splurge at La Folie, take the J-Church out to Noe Valley to Incanto: sit at the bar and ask what's good.

            2 Replies
            1. re: steve h.

              i almost put la folie in my earlier list, but swapped it out for chapeau! becaue i was starting to have too many $$$$ restaurants. la folie is quite excellent and splurge worthy

              1. re: vulber

                La Folie is comfortable shoes. I like it a lot.

                Bring an appetite;-)

            2. I have 5 suggestions:

              1) I recently had a very good experience at Gitane. It has excellent innovative rustic cuisine inspired by the south of Spain and the atmosphere is soothing. I think you would love it. You can read about my visit here:


              restaurant website:


              2) Mission Chinese

              Asian fusion done the right way. Kung Pao Pastrami is amazing.



              3) State Bird-

              Hard to get in but if you show up early an get on line you will be seated.

              really amazing food

              read about my first experience there last year:


              have been back and it still is excellent.

              4) If you like spicy food go to Z & Y in Chinatown. It's really delicious and satisfying spicy Sichuan. Out of this world good. Show up early and beforehand treat yourself to reflexology across the street.


              5) Go for a walk on Ocean beach and take in the majesty of the roaring pacific. Here you will mingle with locals walking their dogs and can look for sand dollars and fossils on the beach. Go to visit the ruins of the Sutro baths nearby. Then go to the Cliffhouse. Don't plan on eating here. Instead go to the bar on the lower level and try to procure one of the small tables facing the ocean view. Have a drink and enjoy the view.


              1. Many thanks for all your brilliant responses. Very grateful.I know it London it would be hard to narrow down, but I think I could produce my favourite top 10, so many thanks to those of you who posted.

                If I were to say which restaurants best showcase or epitomise 'californian' cuisine, would it be possible to answer that? Just trying to understand what people would mean when they say 'Californian' food.

                Thanks again for all your help.

                20 Replies
                1. re: Maidment80

                  The mothership of California cuisine would be Chez Panisse in Berkeley. Worth a trip across the bridge.



                  1. re: Ridge

                    If going across the bridge ends up not being worth it, try Frances or Baker & Banker for a quintessential neighborhood "Californian" restaurant.

                    For Cal-Italian, there is Cotogna, Incanto or Locanda. Or the more casual Zero Zero.

                    For experimental Californian, AQ on the affordable range or Atelier Crenn on the high end are probably your best bets.

                  2. re: Maidment80

                    Chez Panisse to visit the source.

                    Zuni for classic Cal a la Chez Panisse. Bar Jules for a cheaper, newer take on the classic style. AQ for a modernist take. Saison for the price-is-no-object version.

                    Incanto for Cal-Italian.

                    Bar Tartine for Cal-Hungarian.

                    Namu Gaji or better yet Fusebox in Oakland for Cal-Korean.

                    Nido in Oakland or Comal in Berkeley for Cal-Mexican.

                    Slanted Door for Cal-Vietnamese.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      The "Cal-Hungarian" tag for Bar Tartine might mislead visitors.
                      Cal-Asian-Hungarian and Confused, is more like it.

                      1. re: sugartoof

                        My Hungarian friend wasn't confused. There are some minor Japanese touches but they're subtle.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          When Goulash isn't a Goulash in any way, shape or form, it doesn't matter what a Hungarian says, it's still not a Goulash, and still not Hungarian cuisine.

                          They serve a Hungarian fried bread, and use Paprika, I'll give them that.

                        2. re: sugartoof

                          I dunno, I like it. Similarly, no Korean national would accept namu gaji as Korean food, but cal-Korean sounds about right.

                          1. re: dunstable

                            Are they serving kimchi as a liquid broth?

                            As for the misuse of the term Cal, it's outside the scope of the thread to really address it, but how informative is it to pretend a reference to California Cuisine or simply California, should read as "deconstructed", or "non-traditional" or "misleading and barely resembling the cuisine"? What about that prepares someone from ordering a Basteeya and getting an egg roll?

                          1. re: Civil Bear

                            From most reports, there's much less Moroccan influence at Aziza these days.

                          2. re: Robert Lauriston

                            Robert Lauriston,

                            Just out of curiosity, how do you conclude that Slanted Door is one of the Top Ten restaurants in San Francisco?

                            1. re: Fowler

                              The OP additionally asked for places that exemplified "Californian" cuisine: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9153...

                              1. re: grayelf

                                Hi grayelf,

                                I used to live in San Francisco during the days when the original Slanted Door location existed and my friends and I loved it. These days, not so much and would not put it on a list of the Top Ten restaurants in San Francisco and not even a restaurant that specifically exemplifies "California" cuisine.

                                YMMV and feel free to make a case for why I am mistaken. I always appreciate your opinions.

                              2. re: Fowler

                                There's not a lot of Cal-Vietnamese around. I wasn't answering the original question.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  I was just clarifying what Robert was responding to. He confirms above that he was not building a top ten, just throwing out some California cuisine variations. I've never been to Slanted Door as the concept and space doesn't appeal to me hugely (though I rather wish I'd had a chance to go to the original location which was I believe in the Mission?)

                                  1. re: grayelf

                                    yes, the original one was in the Mission (we had a drink in what the space became - another Charles Pham place that recently closed - name escapes me now).

                                    1. re: mariacarmen

                                      Wo Hing General Store closed March 31, 2013

                                      We had many delightful dishes at the Charles Phan original - back in the day that was 1995's Slanted Door.
                                      584 Valencia St
                                      (between 17th St & 16th St)

                                      1. re: Cynsa

                                        Same here, I much preferred the original Valencia St. Slanted Door to the current one.

                                        The latter is still a good stop for someone trying to get a handle on what California cuisine is. Despite all the badmouthing about the place, I had the best asparagus dish I ate this year there.

                              3. re: Robert Lauriston

                                Totally forgot about Saison due to the price-is-no object factor - but yes that's probably the best example of the California aesthetic.

                                1. re: goldangl95

                                  Saison's one of the most extreme practitioners of certain aspects of the Cal tradition, but they're also extreme about global sourcing to get the best of the best ingredients, which is more of a Japanese or French thing.

                            2. Ok here's my 12. Arbitrary order.
                              Bar Tartine
                              Spices II
                              Namu Gaji
                              Delfina Pizzeria
                              Tadich (sandabs or petrale sole only)
                              Koi Palace (Daly City dim sum)
                              Cooking Papa (Foster City)
                              Vik's Chaat House (Berkeley)

                              To answer your question about Cal cuisine, I would suggest everything on this list has a strong local flavor, though Koi, Vik's, Nopalito, and Cooking Papa are very true to their Hong Kong, Indian or Mexican roots, but so are many of the Bay Area natives who frequent these places or cook in them.