Located in the hipster NoPa neighborhood, Bar Crudo is a great spot for pescatarians and fish lovers. It’s the raw seafood dishes—from oysters on the half-shell to inventive sushi like arctic char with horseradish crème fresh and wasabi tobiko—that are the real draw here, and that keep the crowds coming.
San Francisco's Burma Love serves delicious southeast asian cuisine line tealeaf salad, platha bread, coconut rice and pork pumpkin curry.
Accredited with popularizing California cuisine, this farm-to-table institution in Berkeley is a must for anyone in the area. Co-owned by lauded restaurateur Alice Waters, the charming Arts & Craft building houses the more formal Restaurant downstairs, serving a prix fixe menu, and the bistro-like Café upstairs, a warmer and more casual spot offering an à la carte selection. Offerings at both venues change daily, though the Café always features pizza and a baked goat cheese salad, both of which are legendary.
The restaurant is located a 30-minute drive from downtown San Francisco."
Flour + Water
Flour + Water may have started out by following the trend of high-end pizzerias with communal dining, but the quality of the food and the lines out the door are testament to the fact that this small Mission eatery has gone from trend piece to mainstay. The dining room is divided into a high communal table and separate bar seating up front and an intimate room with rustic wooden tables in the back.
This democratic, communal approach puts everyone in a congenial mood. The crowd when I was here ran the gamut from young hipsters in skinny jeans to more mature gourmets who had clearly not lined up for a meal in a long time (though everyone was a good sport about it). The edited, focused menu is worth the wait. That the food is farm-to-table and often changing is a given in San Francisco, but co-chefs Thomas McNaughton and Ryan Pollnow have the creativity to elevate dishes from merely seasonal to truly memorable. My meal included a refreshing spring salad with radish, kohlrabi, shaved fennel and tarragon; a side of sautéed kale with raisins, lemon and ricotta salata, and one of the much-lauded pizzas, a flavorful thin-crust concoction piled with black trumpet mushrooms, green garlic and fior di latte. All was washed down with a crisp Falanghina and topped off with a rich chocolate dessert, served with espresso-caramel cream and sea salt. Chocolate and sea salt? A trend, for sure, but in Flour + Water’s candle-lit dining room, it simply tasted like the perfect conclusion to a flawless meal.
After honing her skills at illustrious dining establishments such as Aqua, Charles Knob Hill and Fifth Floor, as well as extensive travels in New Zealand and Italy, chef Melissa Perello opened her own spot in the Castro, named after her grandmother. Intimate but not precious, foodie but not pretentious, the restaurant showcases a market-driven menu with touches from Perello’s world travels. More than two decades since it opened and still receiving consistently good reviews, the restaurant remains a hot spot to book. Be aware that the dining room can feel noisy and somewhat cramped, so fine for a couple who don’t mind sitting close together but not ideal for a group. Reserve well in advance.
Among the dozens of burrito options in the Mission, the original La Taqueria has been making meaty and hearty burritos since 1973.
The neighborhood Nopa owes its new moniker – short for “North of the Panhandle”– to this restaurant. The eatery even gave new life to the building itself, which had gone from being a bank nearly a century ago to a laundromat in disrepair.
With exceptionally tall ceilings and massive windows, the airy structure now welcomes diners who once used Divisadero Street only as a north-south axis across the city. Dedicated not just to its local community, but the larger one as well, Nopa sources its ingredients from a committed group of northern California ranchers, farmers, cheese makers and other culinary artisans.
And wow does it put those ingredients together well. Mushroom soup with sherry and tarragon yogurt; braised rabbit legs with Meyer lemon risotto, fava beans and hazelnuts; a rightfully legendary grassfed hamburger with pickled onions and French fries – these were some of the delectable items on a recent visit. Any season, dinner at Nopa is worth a trip to the neighborhood of the same name – especially if you want a late bite.
Outerlands is located in the outer Sunset, where the streets are wet with fog in summer, wind howls in the winter, and surfers with boards balanced on their head can be found walking barefoot towards nearby Ocean Beach at any time of year. The dining options are few, but if you do find yourself out there, a meal at Outerlands is a worthwhile treat.The interior plays on the feeling of being near the water with walls covered with planks of wood made from old fences that lined Highway One, weathered over decades by the salty sea air. On a recent dinner with friends, I savored roasted brassicas drizzled with a creamy sauce hinting of anchovies, flaky trout on a bed of brussels sprouts and sunchokes, and a sinfully rich deconstructed walnut tart.
The Yellow Building, a former horse stable in the Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco, is home to the incredible pizza restaurant, Piccino, with its accompanying coffee shop. The trendy eatery is drawing people to an area thatʼs off-the-beaten path.
Presidio Social Club
Its slogan “All the comforts of a club without the dues” sums up the appeal. This is a gathering place for San Fran types who like to feel like they are leaving the city without having to do so. The place evokes elements of a New England country club and elements of an Army facility (which it once was). Since the building is set on the beautiful Presidio grounds of the former Army base, you get a bit of the countryside served up with classics like oysters and steak. Or just come for a drink, since the ambience outshines the food. Open for brunch on weekends. This spot is best saved for a sunny day, since it's mostly deck seating.
This restaurant is definitely off the beaten path (literally underground), but if you have a craving for sushi after the theater [the San Francisco Playhouse is just down the street] or a concert, this is the place to go. They open at 6:00pm and last order is 1:30am. The place is a bit funky and they play rock and roll but the quality of fish is exceptional and the staff seems to know everyone. It’s a true San Francisco staple.
Swan Oyster Depot
This hole-in-the-wall restaurant, which was founded in 1912 and has been run by the same family since 1946, is an iconic San Francisco spot that draws a line of people (tourists and locals alike) every day. The entire restaurant consists of twenty stools at a bar—but who cares? The creamy clam chowder, speciality crab creations and oysters on the half shell keep people coming back. According to chefs Hiro Sone and Lissa Doumani: “The secret is when to go, as there are lines out the door all day long but if you go really early around 10:00 am you should be able to sit down without delay. Now don’t think that the best thing in the world isn’t oysters for breakfast because it is. The other best time is about 4:00pm, just before they close. Great start to an evening, a few oysters, a crab Louie and a glass of wine. The biggest secret about Swan’s is that as the younger generation is starting to work here some of the ways they like to eat are inching their way onto the menu. If you ask, you can get a great plate of raw fish, sardines with red onion, caper, olive oil and lemon juice or really fresh tuna with soy and wasabi. Hurrah for the next generation.
Without a doubt, Tartine is one of the best bakeries in San Francisco. For locals who don’t live in the Mission, buying a loaf of Tartine’s bread is practically a pilgrimage; give an East Coast resident an iconic morning bun and soon they will be looking into real estate in the Mission too. After all, owners Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson won the James Beard Award in 2008 for the best pastry chefs in America, and the duo has since gained national acclaim (and opened several new locations in LA and Seoul). This classic bakery serves nearly 1,000 people daily from its Guerrero street storefront, so be prepared for a line.
This upscale gastropub in the Upper Haight is a favorite for whiskey connoisseurs. Its brief food menu, more of an afterthought to the expertly poured drinks, prudently tours recent trends in high-end comfort food, ticking off each formulaic item designed to make cardiologists grimace. (With bone marrow, pork belly “BLT sliders and whiskey-glazed baby back ribs topped with fried pork rinds, all that’s missing is that familiar bowl of truffle macaroni-and-cheese.) But the presentation is well-above par, the ambiance is relaxed, and patrons are far from complaining. Besides, the real draw of the Alembic is its near Bible-length list of whiskies, brandies, tequilas and liqueurs, not to mention a globe-trotting selection of beers—several of which are over $30 a bottle. One of their menu’s many jaunty idioms, “Take Your Time,” is certainly heeded by the venue’s stylish and relaxed drinkers.
Any serious look at hipster life in San Francisco should begin with breakfast at The Mill, the buzzing coffee house in the NoPa neighborhood. Cool young SFers gather at The Mill to sip Four Barrel coffee and nibble on thick slabs of satisfying toast from Josey Baker Bread. The type of toast changes daily. If you take your coffee to go, it pairs well with a stroll through nearby Alamo Square and past the Painted Ladies, San Francisco's iconic row of historical Victorian homes.