Bar at Atelier Crenn, San Francisco, California

Atelier Crenn

Dominique Crenn is the first woman in the U.S. to earn two Michelin stars. Dining at Atelier Crenn, a serenely simple dining room accessed through a discreet door on an otherwise busy stretch of Fillmore Street, you can see why. The menu arrives as a poem that takes you through a season, through the woods (perhaps with the earthy taste of mushrooms) and to the ocean with expertly prepared dishes reflecting the scents of the sea. Each line of poetry reflects the next dish, but offers no specifics, heightening the anticipation. Because the dining room is so unfussy, because Crenn herself may come out to greet diners looking effortlessly chic in Converse tennis shoes, because the excellent food is inventive without being pretentious, the poetry works. By the time dessert arrived during a recent meal, I felt as if I had taken an incredible journey through nature. The dessert, a luscious, deep crimson sorbet looking exactly like a real beet, complete with a chocolate root, on a bed of granola, was unusual, unexpected and lusciously unforgettable.


This was San Francisco's first restaurant to earn three Michelin stars (in 2012), and chef Corey Lee can still be relied upon to push the boundaries of cuisine in a city teeming with innovative restaurants. Lee’s creativity can be sampled in the 18-course tasting menu (a classic is monkfish liver, sour cherries, pistachios and cauliflower on a cherry blossom brioche). The restaurant space designed by award-winner Richard Bloch is inspiring, as is the customized Korean porcelain by artist KwangJuYo.

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San Francisco's two-Michelin-starred Californios takes Mexican cuisine to a new level entirely with its extensive tasting menu featuring such creations as butter poached lobster in a tiny blue corn tortilla.

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Dinning Area at Cotogna, San Francisco, California


Michael Tusk, the James Beard recognized master behind Quince, brings his magic to a more accessible, casual setting. Cotogna is Italian for quince, and Cotogna specializes in rustic Italian fare.  The cozy dining room, with wood beams and low lighting, is the perfect setting for hearty and simple dishes like ricotta ravioli or chicken with green faro and raspberries.

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Spread with Lamb Shoulder, Kebabs, and Octopus


A former US Army post, this light-filled restaurant with woven chairs and green walls is now a popular green space that satisfies cravings for pita, souvlaki and hummus. Dalida’s menu is best enjoyed family style and pulls from the best of Eastern Mediterranean cuisine, specifically Istanbul and Greece. The restaurant prides itself on sourcing locally and sustainably, and the wine list comprises a carefully curated selection of bottles from small wineries. Cocktails meanwhile are meant to evoke the flavors of the Mediterranean while adding Dalida’s own spin. We recommend dining on the covered deck when the weather is nice.

Recommended by an Indagare community insider

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Bar at Frances, San Francisco, California


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.

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Food at Ju-Ni, San Francisco, California


With just sixteen seats, all of them at the sushi bar, Ju-Ni is one of the hardest reservations to get, but it’s worth the effort. Taking inspiration from restaurants in Japan, Ju-Ni serves only sushi, omakase style, meaning the chef—Geoffrey Lee from Sushi Ran and Akiko (431 Bush St)—chooses the dishes for you. Couple the incredible fish creations with sake poured by sommelier Justin Chin from Gary Danko, and dinner becomes more of an event than a meal.

Dinning Area at Lazy Bear, San Francisco, California - Courtesy Luke Andrews

Lazy Bear

Chef-owner David Barzelay started it underground a few years ago and now it’s official—with two Michelin stars to prove it. Lazy Bear is a dinner party, albeit dishing out more rarefied creations than at your typical friend's house. The decor leans into a vintage camp feel, with woodsy centerpieces, plaid accents, and menus presented as "field guides." On the night of your arrival, you’ll greet your host and enjoy cocktails and appetizers, hopefully chatting with the other guests, thanks to the communal nature of the restaurant's seating. The vibe is decidedly un-stuffy for a fine dining establishment. The host will also arrange the seating for the modern tasting menu that follows, and you’ll hear directly from the cooks about each dish. Tickets are sold mid-month for the entire following month, with buyers paying for their dinner and tip up front, and get snapped up within hours. Those unable to scoop up a reservation, or unwilling to commit to an entire meal, should check out Lazy Bear's cocktail bar with snacks just a few blocks away, True Laurel.

kung pao pastrami at a chinese restaurant

Mission Chinese Food

You don’t come here for the ambience. Nor the service. Just the food. The bold, intensely flavored, chili-peppered plates—like grandma’s spicy lamb dumplings or kung pao pastrami—that keep the lines out the door and foodies coming back for more. You could try ordering in to your hotel, but Mission Chinese warns that “We reserve the right to refuse delivery if we are too busy.” They also state that 75 cents on every order goes to charity. Gotta love that.

Mister Jiu’s

San Francisco's marvelous Mr. Jiu’s restaurant wows with broad views of its Chinatown neighborhood, while chef Brandon Jew further amazes diners with his creative take on the Cantonese food of his youth.

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restaurant interior that looks like a courtyard with greenery

Penny Roma

California whimsy meets delectable Italian pastas and wines at Penny Roma. Set between an indoor and outdoor courtyard with abundant plants and an open kitchen concept, this popular restaurant has a lively atmosphere on peak nights and is great for date nights or a meal with friends. While the pasta is the star (the adjoining Pasta Shop does past-making classes), true to an Italian menu there is a selection of meat courses like steak and pork chops, plus a small raw seafood menu.

Recommended by an Indagare community insider

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Food at Rich Table, San Francisco, California

Rich Table

After working at some of the best restaurants in New York and San Francisco (Bouley, Mas, Michael Mina and Quince among them), husband and wife team Rich and Sarah Evans opened their own place in trendy Hayes Valley—and quickly attracted an avid following.

The Evanses sought an earthy look to suggest dining in their home, and the resulting cozy space welcomes with coarse hardwood walls and exposed industrial lighting. The food, made with locally sourced ingredients, mixes comforting flavors with a sophisticated touch. Highlights of a recent dinner there were warm olives with the tangy lightness of preserved lemons, irresistible truffle pasta, and a slow-cooked pork belly with spring asparagus. The sugared donuts with bourbon cream were not as flavorful as I’d hoped, but the caramelized olive oil cake with fresh strawberries will keep me coming back for more.

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For an individualized omakase experience with sake pairings, look no further than Robin, where the chefs customize a menu to your preferences. The dishes either amount to $109 or $209 and are served on unique trays in an artsy space, with a sunset-tones tile backsplash behind the bar.

Recommended by an Indagare community insider

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Squash Mochi with miso, pepitas & ricotta salata on one side and Yuba 'Inari' with miso aioli & kosho vinaigrette on the other

State Bird Provisions

Winner of the 2013 James Beard best new restaurant award, this brainchild of Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski (who both worked at the much lauded, but now closed, Rubicon) takes its name from California’s state bird, the quail. Indeed, deep-fried quail is one of Brioza’s signature dishes. The penchant for less common fowl and game extends to other dishes, like guinea hen dumplings and grilled rabbit, although the ever-changing menu always features plenty of interesting fish and vegetable dishes as well. And I mean interesting, as in pickled anchovy-sesame pancakes with basil and crème fraiche. Desserts, like a mint ice cream sandwich with chocolate-fig coulis, are equally inspired. And the concept—where dishes are wheeled between guests dim sum-style—as inspired fine-dining restaurants around the country.

The unusual location, at Fillmore Street just south of Geary, is definitely not upscale, but it’s just a stone’s throw from Pacific Heights and it’s a section of town that’s seen a revival in recent years. The décor is also downbeat, but with such exotic flavors, no one is paying attention to the gray stone walls.

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Food at Tartine, San Francisco, California

Tartine Bakery

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 (but stick around, because it moves quickly).

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Halibut Tartare with Turnips & Creme Fraiche at The Progress, San Francisco, California - Courtesy Ed Anderson

The Progress

With epicures from around the globe clamoring to get a reservation at State Bird Provisions , owners Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinki opened a second foodie magnet next door. While the feel is just slightly more refined, the emphasis is still on sharing wildly creative and astonishingly delectable dishes that draw inspiration from around the world. Many ingredients are pickled, marinated or fermented, as in the smoked duck with marinated yellowfoot mushrooms, or the fermented sausage, trout quenelles and pumpkin-rice dumpling in a rich broth. Dessert is as exotic and perfectly balanced as are the savory plates, with options like walnut-rosemary torte with cream cheese ice cream and tart cherries. (Note: While we’ve listed this as in Pacific Heights, it’s in fact in a less glamorous ‘hood just across the super-wide Geary Boulevard.)

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Indagare employees walking up stiars

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