The 26 Restaurants You Must Visit in San Francisco
1. Flour + Water - Whoa. This restaurant is rad. Some of THE best hand-rolled pasta I've ever had, served in a really chill, fun setting in the Mission district. I got to taste a few of their apps (the prettiest green beans ever, as well as a delicious halibut crudo served with stone fruit), their delicious Pomodoro pizza with fresh heirloom tomatoes, and two of their summer pastas (Raviolini stuffed with corn and smoked ricotta and Agnolotti stuffed with goat and finished with baby leeks and oregano breadcrumbs). Each dish was served with a fantastic wine pairing. The Cheesecake in a Jar dessert ended our evening on the sweetest note.
2. Souvla - Everyone kept telling me I had to try this trendy, “fine-casual” Greek spot, and, after one bite, I understood why. All their meat is rotisserie-roasted in-house, which means it's super tender and has really awesome flavor. I was blown away by how much I enjoyed the Chicken Salad (when do I ever rave about salads?), I loved the Lamb Gyro served Greek style (stuffed with French fries!), but my favorite thing had to be their frozen Greek yogurt soft serve. This inventive (and fairly healthy!) dessert is creamy and delicious and it comes with your choice of toppings: honey, baklava, sour cherry, or olive oil and sea salt.
3. Atelier Crenn – You probably know Chef Dominique Crenn from her gorgeous episode on Chef’s Table. Or maybe you know her as the first woman to receive two Michelin stars in the US. Perhaps you’ve heard her speak out in support of women (and against the controversial “Best Female Chef” award). Dominique Crenn is known for speaking her mind, and she is a masterful storyteller. Read my full post about Atelier Crenn here.
4. Petit Crenn – Want to try Dominique Crenn’s food in a more casual setting? Grab some of the best French pastries in town at her more casual outpost, Petit Crenn. Don’t be confused, it’s not a pastry shop – those are only served at brunch on Saturday and Sunday. We tried the Kouign Amman (one of the best I’ve had), the fresh Peach Tart, and the Baked Brioche topped with housemade whipped cream and berries. We also loved the Buckwheat Crepe with ricotta and zucchini, and the decadent Paris Brest, which we shared for dessert. The cherry on top of a perfect meal was meeting the queen of the kitchen, Dominique, herself! On my second visit, I tried the dinner tasting menu, and was absolutely blown away by the incredible food being served at a tiny kitchen counter in Hayes Valley.
5. Taqueria El Castillito – Asking a San Franciscan which burrito is the best in town is like asking a New Yorker which pizza is the best in the city; a ferocious debate is inevitable. One name that kept popping up was El Castillito, a low-key, no-frills taqueria with several outposts in SF. Many famous chefs like David Chang have argued that this is the best burrito in the Bay, so we had to try it for ourselves. We ordered the “Super Burrito” with al pastor, rice, refried beans, sour cream, avocado, and (the kicker!) melted cheese. I have yet to try every taqueria in the Bay, so I can’t say for sure this is THE best burrito, but it’s definitely one of the best I’ve ever had, and a must-hit in San Fran.
6. Farmhouse Thai – I’ve been very picky with my Thai food after a recent trip to Bangkok, and this super fun spot in the Mission did not disappoint. We started off our night with a tasty fishbowl cocktail made with rice wine- it was served with disco lights inside the drink. We took our waiter’s recommendation and tried the Neua Nom Tok Rolls (wagyu beef wraps) and Ahi Tuna Scoops as appetizers, and shared the Pad Thai, the Hat Yai Fried Chicken with yellow curry dipping sauce, and the Panang Neua Short Rib dish for our entrees. Everything was served with blue butterfly pea rice – such a vibrant color, and such a tasty flavor. All of the dishes were absolutely incredible. If you’re feeling brave, try a roasted grasshopper (it was actually pretty tasty!) and be sure to save room for Mango Sticky Rice.
7. Lazy Bear - What started as a pop-up, is now a "modern American dinner party" and two-star Michelin restaurant located in the heart of the Mission. Cozy, rustic vibes and communal table seating only, all dishes are served at the exact same time to each guest, and explained by a member of the Lazy Bear team. Super fun dinner, gorgeous space, and really good food.
8. Nopa - A San Francisco staple located right next to Alamo Square, and the home of my favorite burger in the Bay. I also had a Hemingway Daiquiri that was delicious.
9. Hillside Supper Club - Really adorable neighborhood spot - literally, it's inside an old San Franciscan townhouse. Cutest exterior ever, and the most "at home" you can ever feel in a restaurant - you really come as strangers and leave as friends. We especially loved the grilled steak with truffle butter, and the warm chocolate chip cookie topped with house-made ice cream.
10. La Mar – Colorful Peruvian cuisine in a laidback, waterfront setting from Chef Gastón Acurio of Astrid y Gastón (#39 on The World’s 50 Best restaurants). Some of the best cebiches and seafood I’ve ever had (uni, toro, salmon, and more) with bright flavors that made me want to plan a trip to Peru!
11. El Buen Comer – An incredible Mexican restaurant that came from the incubator La Cocina, a wonderful organization designed to clear obstacles in the path of restaurant openings and help low-income immigrants (often women). La Cocina helps new chefs follow their dreams by providing them with a kitchen space and the tools they need to succeed in this industry. In addition to a beautiful and inspiring story, El Buen Comer is also home to the best chilaquiles of my life.
12. Zuni Café – The roasted chicken for two is legendary, the splurge on an incredible bottle of rose was the perfect pairing, but the real showstopper was the “bread salad” hiding underneath that chicken – bread soaked in the fat drippings from the chicken (+ garlic and lots of yummy spices). It was like Thanksgiving stuffing but better. Definitely the least healthy salad you could order, but nonetheless the only type of salad I want to eat from now on. This place is classic for a reason!
13. China Live – Often referred to as the Eataly of Chinese food, Chef George Chen’s empire is a Chinese food-lover’s paradise. When you first walk in, you enter a beautiful marketplace curated by George’s wife Cindy. It’s filled with spices, teas, condiments, produce, cookware and cutlery, and it is absolutely stunning. Next, you encounter the Market Restaurant, a dim sum spot with some of the best dumplings and the BBQ pork buns in town; and Oolong Cafe, an artisanal tea bar with small bites. If you’re looking for a more elevated dining experience, head upstairs to their fine dining restaurant, Eight Tables, and be sure to grab a drink at their hidden speakeasy, Cold Drinks. (This bar was so much fun that I went back multiple nights in a row!)
14. Saison - Okay, so after being dubbed California’s “most expensive” restaurant, this is probably not a place you can hit every time you’re in the city. However, Saison is a culinary experience you need to indulge in at least once in your life. This restaurant is ranked the 46th best restaurant in the world (2018), and it was awarded three Michelin stars, which is pretty much the highest honor you can receive in the food world. So, seize the day! It’s at its peak right now. With 22 courses of culinary bliss from genius Chef Joshua Skenes, this unforgettable journey for your tastebuds is worth the hefty price tag. Read my full post about Saison here.
15. Angler – A brand new, grilled seafood-focused spot from the Saison team, in an absolutely gorgeous space on the water by the Ferry Building. I only got to sample some bites at their opening party, but I definitely want to go back for a full meal when they are officially open! Highlights: the reserve caviar on a brioche bun with seaweed butter (I think I ate seven), the spicy rabbit leg in a buttermilk cream sauce, the fried baby blowfish, and the buffalo milk soft serve with raspberries.
Sweets + Bakeries
16. The Mill - OMG this toast is TRULY LIFE CHANGING!!! I don't know what Josey Baker puts in his bread (magic, probably) but this is the best damn toast I've ever had in my life. I tried three of their bestsellers (Cinnamon Sugar, Avocado Lemon, Almond Butter + Honey) and am proud (embarrassed?) to say that I finished all three by myself. That good. Added bonus: the fantastic latte by Four Barrel Coffee was just what I needed after a 6am flight.
17. Tartine Bakery - It's famous for a reason. Don't let the line scare you away; these pastries are worth the wait. Get there early enough to snag a Morning Bun (they sell out daily!), be sure to try a Lemon Tart, and, if you get there when fresh bread is coming out of the oven (early in the morning or around 4pm in the afternoon), then you’ve truly mastered the Tartine experience.
18. Devil’s Teeth Baking Co. – A little out-of-the-way in the Sunset District, this adorable bakery is worth a trip all its own. The two must-gets here are the Special Breakfast Sandwich, served on a house-made biscuit with scrambled eggs, applewood-smoked bacon, cheese, avocado, and lemon-garlic aioli, as well as their Cinnamon Roll – it’s definitely larger than your face and also extremely gooey. We heard good things about their Lemon Tarts, too, but, alas, they were sold out by the time we got there. A good excuse for a return visit…
19. Salt & Straw – If you follow my Instagram, you’re probably familiar with the purple ice cream cone adorned with rainbow sprinkles… I post a pic of it about once a week. It’s my favorite ice cream in the world: Salt & Straw’s Honey Lavender! This delicious scoop shop, which has locations in Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, serves up extremely inventive flavors made with seasonal, local ingredients. I can’t resist getting a cone anytime I’m near a Salt & Straw!
20. Mission Pie - Slice, slice baby! This adorable shop in the Mission is serving up some of the tastiest slices of pie to ever grace my tastebuds. We tried three different pies (oh my!) - Mixed Berry topped with fresh whipped cream, Peach Blueberry topped with vanilla ice cream, and Banana Cream (my personal favorite). What's the secret to the best pie in town? Each one of their seasonal pies is made with super fresh, local ingredients, resulting in flavors that can't be beat. They're most famous for their pie (it's in their name, of course!) but don't miss out on their real food - it's absolutely delicious too. I especially loved their summer soup special, the Curried Corn Chowder.
21. Neighbor Bakehouse - My favorite pastry shop in all of San Francisco! I was absolutely blown away by the quality of their baked goods - gorgeous, thin layers; creative, seasonal flavors; and a whole lotta love. This spot is worth a trip to the Dogpatch.
22. Craftsman and Wolves - This contemporary patisserie located in the Mission District is best known for their signature pastry, "The Rebel Within" - an Asiago, sausage, and green onion muffin stuffed with a soft-cooked egg. They use high-quality ingredients for all of their pastries, and the result is absolutely delicious.
23. Bi-Rite Creamery - Small batch, hand-crafted ice cream served at a counter inside the Bi-Rite Supermarket. My favorite (seasonal) flavor is their honey lavender, and all of their treats are worth the wait.
24. Humphry Slocombe - Another favorite San Fran ice cream spot, with fun and unusual conoctions. Top scoop: Secret Breakfast (bourbon + corn flakes), bottom scoop: Toast + Jam, with little pieces of bread and jam mixed in. (This ice cream shop just opened in Los Angeles as well!)
25. Trick Dog - A frequent winner on world's best cocktail bar lists, this fun spot in the Mission District changes its menu every six months. Menus feature twelve signature cocktails, and past menus have been inspired by Pantone color swatches, children's books, zodiac signs, calendars, and more.
26. Smuggler's Cove - One step into this fun, kitschy tiki bar and you feel transported to the deck of a pirate ship. Ropes, anchors, fishing nets, and rum barrels decorate the bar, and there's rum aplenty. For a dollar more, you can up the level of strength of your exotic cocktail, but beware. The rum goes down so smooth it might be tough to get your sealegs when you're back on dry land!
The Orchard Hotel – Just off of Union Square, The Orchard Hotel is an absolutely beautiful and eco-friendly luxury boutique hotel with wonderful hospitality. My sister and I had a hard time leaving our plush robes to venture out into San Francisco. Fantastic location, lovely accommodations, and wonderful staff – what more could you want?
The Clift Royal Sonesta – On the other side of Union Square is the historic Clift Hotel, with a classic and contemporary interior design by Philippe Starck when the hotel opened in 1915. The Clift is famous for its legendary Redwood Room (a super sexy bar with wall-to-wall redwood and a killer cocktail list); its giant suites (way bigger than your average hotel room!); delicious breakfast in bed; and lots of chairs. No, really, “The Chairs Of The Clift” are functional, fashionable pieces of art. I had way too much fun posing in all of the different chairs scattered around the hotel.
Following along on Instagram? See more from the trip at #CarnivorrTravel.