Always Super: 50 Places to Eat and Drink in San Francisco
San Francisco is 49 square miles of heaven to your tastebuds. This is one of the most innovative, forward-thinking culinary scenes in the U.S. Not only is the freshest food locally grown year-round within a short distance, but also we have diversity that you can only experience by traveling around the world. In celebration of Super Bowl 50, being played at Levi's Stadium in 2016, we've got 50 on our mind. Eat and drink at these 50 places in San Francisco and you’ll make a circuit around the globe through your tastebuds.
1601 Bar & Kitchen (1601 Howard St.)
This under-the-radar Sri Lankan-inspired restaurant is truly a hidden gem—you’ll encounter fascinating flavors in elegantly executed dishes (don’t miss the egg hopper and mulligatawny soup), and the room has a modern and urban look to it. The experience over-delivers, and you’ll find quality wines (and beers) on the list. Don't leave without eating the open-faced chicken curry sandwich. www.1601sf.com
Absinthe Brasserie (398 Hayes St.)
Hayes Valley mainstay Absinthe has a classic, long bar and bistro-esque lounge, where many a walk-in diner can enjoy oysters and a burger. The cocktails are top-notch, the restaurant lively and they even have late night hours. Don't leave without eating the french onion soup gratinee and soft garlic pretzels. www.absinthe.com
Alioto’s #8 (8 Fisherman’s Wharf)
The oldest restaurant on Fisherman's Wharf serves some of the freshest seafood and Sicilian specialties complemented by spectacular views. Still operated by the original Alioto family, there’s also Alioto's Waterside Café for casual dining. And this popular spot offers free parking. Don’t leave without eating the fried calamari. www.aliotos.com
AL’s Place (1499 Valencia St.)
Start with a restaurant that epitomizes San Francisco. Named after the chef Aaron London (get it?), this tiny, intimate restaurant has been on our radar since the beginning of the year. The star in the casual, sun-filled room? Vegetables. London obsesses over them, from root to tip, using a variety of techniques from pickling to specific herb pairing. In a city as picky as San Francisco, anyone with any type of dietary restriction can come here and find something absolutely delicious. Don't leave without eating the french fries, the fritters or the curry (whatever it is that day).
Bi-Rite Creamery (3692 18th Street and 550 Divisadero St.)
Like everything good in San Francisco, there will always be a line in front of Bi-Rite Creamery, especially if the sun is peeking out behind the clouds. Scratch that; even in a light drizzle, you will see a line. Why? Bi-Rite Creamery is written up frequently in the local and national press. Also, locals are offbeat enough to wait in any weather. Don't leave without eating salted caramel and the ricanelas (cinnamon with snickerdoodle cookie pieces).
Boudin Bakery (160 Jefferson St.)
The Boudin family came to San Francisco in 1849 and struck gold of the culinary kind. When they exposed yeast that was going to be made into French bread to the San Francisco air, sourdough bread as we know it was created. As the original creator of sourdough bread, they have a permanent place on this list and in our hearts. Don't leave without eating the sourdough bread. www.boudinbakery.com
Brenda’s French Soul Food (625 Polk St.)
Brunch safely at Brenda’s by bringing along a nonjudgmental buddy who will agree to eat too much food with you. Then start with a flight of beignets (the flight comes with four beignets: plain, chocolate, crawfish, and Granny Smith) and follow it up with the shrimp and grits. Also, get a cream biscuit. You do not want to skip the cream biscuit. Don't leave without eating the beignet flight.
Burma Superstar (309 Clement St.)
Open since 1992, this classic still commands a long wait, which can stretch to an hour or more. So we just factor in extra time and arrive early. Burmese cuisine, with its signature bright and lively flavors and mix of textures, is popular here in San Francisco; Burma Superstar is our pick for the best. Aside from this flagship on Clement, there are two additional locations in the Bay Area. Don't leave without eating the tea leaf salad.
Cliff House (1090 Point Lobos Ave.)
If you are making a trip out to walk through Land’s End trail and Sutro Baths, replenish yourself at the Cliff House. Founded in 1863, the Cliff House was once a questionable meeting place for less savory citizens and has burnt down several times, with the current building dating from 1938. The delectable selection of seafood paired with arguably one of the best views of the Pacific Ocean makes this a perfect place for any occasion. Don't leave without eating popovers (breakfast/brunch) and grilled mahi mahi filet. www.cliffhouse.com
Coqueta (Pier 5)
Chef Michael Chiarello’s Spanish-inspired restaurant has a view of the water at a few of the tables, and the bar area (and outdoor patio) always draw a crowd enjoying gin and tonics, the extensive menu of hot and cold tapas, and larger plates (like paella). Don’t leave without eating the grilled albondigas and octopus. www.coquetasf.com
Dirty Habit (12 Fourth St.)
This place really packs in the flirty post-work crowd, drawn to the enclosed patio (it’s safely nestled from the wind on the fifth floor) and well-crafted cocktails. The menu features some of the city’s nicer bar snacks, from the incomparable wings to steamed buns with lamb belly, plus luxe dishes like foie gras and Robuchon potatoes with caviar. Larger dishes include aged rib-eye and a pork chop, so you won’t go hungry. Don't leave without drinking the Lovable Trixster or the Sloe & Steady. NOTE: Cocktails are seasonable and are subject to change. www.dirtyhabitsf.com
Ferry Plaza Farmers Market (One Ferry Building)
One of the nation’s most well known and admired markets, this is where you can truly witness the finest bounty of Northern California produce. You’ll see local chefs elbow-to-elbow with avid home cooks at the Saturday market—it’s the busiest (and biggest) of the three days. There are also live cooking demos on Saturday and a variety of food vendors where you can enjoy brunch, lunch and snacks; you’ll also find some lunchtime vendors during the week. Open Saturday 8 a.m.–2 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday 10 a.m.–2 p.m., year-round, rain or shine. Don't leave without eating the fresh produce.www.ferrybuildingmarketplace.com
Foreign Cinema (2534 Mission St.)
For 15 years, Foreign Cinema has been the Mission District’s answer to "dinner and a movie" with a twist. Open seven days a week, diners enjoy creative dishes that feel part Californian and part French, Mediterranean and Asian. Sip from its extensive wine list and watch indie films on the big screen. Check the site for film schedule. Don't leave without eating the sesame seed fried chicken. www.foreigncinema.com
Greens (Building A, Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture)
For a true San Francisco institution dedicated to vegetarian cuisine, look no further than the legendary Greens, overlooking the Bay in historic Fort Mason. It was opened in 1979 by the San Francisco Zen Center and has been making vegetarians (and the diners who love them) happy ever since. Their chefs have produced some of the most respected vegetarian cookbooks in publication, the views are spectacular and the service is refined. Plus, in a classically Northern California twist, they were one of the first places in San Francisco to partner with their own farm, located on the Zen Center’s retreat at Green Gulch in nearby Marin County. The menu changes with the season, but the dishes are almost always on point. Don't leave without eating the potato griddle cakes or the mesquite grilled brochettes. www.greensrestaurant.com
Huxley (846 Geary St.)
Huxley is the bridge between the Tenderloin and Nob Hill, not only because of where they are located, but also by what this restaurant is: a small unpretentious Nob Hill-adjacent outpost that churns out delicious food at reasonable prices (although higher than the surrounding area). Walk in there on a Saturday for brunch and you’ll be greeted with ambiant hip-hop music and delicious food you won’t see anywhere else. Don't leave without eating the avocado toast smothered in uni aioli or the vegetable with smoked yellowtail and boiled egg.
Ike’s (3489 16th St.)
The undisputed sandwich shop of San Francisco is undoubtedly Ike's Place. A menu that spans as long as the line, this place packs them in day and night. Another perfect stopover before you head to Dolores Park. I mean, there are sandwiches named after our favorite Giants. How can this not be our favorite? Warning: these sandwiches will get messy, but are they worth it. Don't leave without eating Menage A Trois, Lincecum and Paul Ruebens.
Jardiniere (300 Grove St.)
This upscale French restaurant has a spacious bar and lounge area, which services the post-symphony/opera crowds—try to time your visit for after the shows have started and you can expect to slip in. Don't leave without eating and drinking the Monday night prix fixe with wine pairings. www.jardiniere.com
Jax Vineyards and Tasting Room (326 Brannan St.)
The first Jax wine was made in a San Francisco garage so it makes complete sense that this family owned and run winery would choose to set up shop within the city’s borders. They started out working with the Bordeaux varieties from their home vineyard in Calistoga but have since branched out to make other wines sourcing fruit from other parts of Napa and Sonoma. Don't leave without drinking the rosé. www.jaxvineyards.com
Kin Khao (55 Cyril Magnin St.)
This is Thai on a whole other level, made with quality ingredients and handmade curries from Pim Techamuanvivit and chef Michael Gaines. The pretty hot wings and khao soi are popular at this downtown restaurant, and if you’re a party of one the pork bowl with flat noodles and a runny egg is the answer. There are also inventive cocktails and quality wines. Don't leave without eating the khao soi.
Kingdom of Dumpling (1713 Taraval St.)
A mixture of northern dim sum and Shanghai dim sum style, including a long line that winds itself outside on weekends, KOD has it all. It is quite a drive, but it is well worth it. Don't leave without eating the xiao long bao.
La Taqueria (2889 Mission St.)
Anyone who comes to San Francisco and doesn’t experience one of the (off menu) “tacos dorados” at this benchmark taqueria is missing out. A crispy taco comes wrapped in a soft one, stuffed with your meat of choice. Get their superlative carnitas or carne asada, and whether you want it super or not is up to your appetite. Their atomic salsa verde is pure magic. Don't leave without eating a carnitas burrito dorado style.
La Urbana (661 Divisadero St.)
A neighbor to Bar Crudo, this upscale Mexican restaurant features an open air/party room that opens on the street called El Garaje, where you find folks hanging out on folding chairs and drinking margaritas (food and drink specials change weekly, like Taco Tuesday and Mezcal y Mariscos Wednesdays, but the vibe is always lively). Don't leave without eating and drinking the ceviche and a mezcal cocktail. www.laurbanasf.com
Liholiho Yacht Club (871 Sutter St.)
When one thinks of Asian fusion, spam isn't the first thing that comes to mind. That's a good thing for Liholiho Yacht Club, because they are venturing into waters less treaded before with items like their out of this world, off-menu spam masubi or spam fried rice. Even if you've never had spam before, the minute you walk into LYC, you'll be welcomed by the word "aloha" and be comforted by other Hawaiian items like poke. Don't leave without eating the tuna poke and the spam.
Lolinda (2518 Mission St.)
If you find yourself in the Mission craving some hot empanadas, ceviche, steak (with a glass of Malbec), a pork chop off the grill, and a cocktail, this Argentinean-meets-Latin American steakhouse has plenty to send you home with a full belly. The kitchen is open until 11 p.m. Sunday-Thursday (bar until 12 a.m.), and until midnight Friday-Saturday (bar until 1 a.m.). Don't leave without eating the hueso asado. www.lolindasf.com
The Market (1355 Market St.)
Housed in the Twitter Building, the Market is the perfect place to sample a variety of the freshest food the Bay Area has to offer. Components of The Market include The Market Cafe serving up Four Barrel coffee, Samovar tea, and house made breakfast items along with a sit-down restaurant offering fresh sashimi, nigiri, maki and crudo dishes composed of fresh local fish. For fast, on-the-go eats, pick up a taco from the Taco Bar or a Sicilian slice. Wash it down with a wine or beer from small, craft producers. Don't leave without eating your way through this market. www.visitthemarket.com
Mission Chinese Food (2234 Mission St.)
Out of a non-descript Chinese restaurant came a Sichuan pop-up that became so popular that it took over the space permanently. Mission Chinese Food continues to be so popular for their unique take on Chinese food, that diners need to get there early to put their names on the list. They do not take reservations. Don't leave without eating the Kung pao pastrami, salt cod rice, thrice-cooked bacon or you can roll this up all-in-one with the burrito.
Mourad (140 New Montgomery St.)
Mourad Lahlou brought modern Moroccan cuisine to new heights with Aziza, albeit in the sleepy Outer Richmond. With his newest project which opened in January 2015, Mourad, he’s bringing his food to SoMa, in modern new digs with a similar take on North African cuisine via California. Don't leave without eating the tasting menu. mouradsf.com
Namu Gaji (499 Dolores St.)
Tradition meets innovation at this Korean restaurant. Devotees often order something spicy like the stewed oxtail dish. The Kids’ menu is just as interesting, so young ones can enjoy soba noodles or a rice plate with seaweed. Options include the ntimate Dolores Street venue, but there is a sister location at the Ferry Building. Don't leave without eating the okonomiyaki.
Nopa (560 Divisadero St.)
One of the original and strongest players in San Francisco’s burger game is Nopa, and with good reason. Their perfectly ground and proportioned patty is served on a toasted bun with pickled onion, harissa aioli and a big pile of crisp fries. This one is officially a classic San Francisco dish and lots of industry folks swear by it after a long shift. Since they’re open until 1 a.m., you can almost always get your hands on this bad boy when you really need it (and an excellent cocktail or glass of wine). Don't leave without eating the burger (you guessed it).
Pabu (101 California St.)
In partnership with Michael Mina, chef Ken Tominaga's exacting touch has drawn lovers of sushi who will perch at the long counter here, while the remainder of the menu is upscale izakaya in style, ranging from robatayaki skewers to gyoza; larger dishes include shabu shabu and Japanese A5 Wagyu. The sake list is one of the city’s best, and the full bar and lounge get busy (especially during happy hour Monday–Friday 3–6 p.m.). Don't leave without eating the Omakase. www.pabuizakaya.com
Palm House (2032 Union St.)
Palm House offers an approachable menu of tropical comfort food (like jerk chicken and ceviche) with a California sensibility alongside inventive cocktails, all in a space inspired by turn-of-the-century Victorian homes. With an expanded patio, it's the perfect spot for a boozy slushie or margarita. Don't leave without eating the Palm House “BLT.” www.palmhousesf.com
Perbacco Ristorante & Bar (230 California St.)
You’ll enjoy some of the city’s most refined Italian here, with a focus on Piemontese cuisine (the salumi and stuffed pastas are especially notable). The dining room is refined yet understated, equally perfect for a business lunch meeting or a birthday dinner. There's a busy bar scene and choice wine list. Don't leave without eating the salumi misti plate. www.perbaccosf.com
Quince (470 Pacific Ave.)
Look, a walk-in is just not going to happen here. But you can slip into their gorgeous lounge (which they call the salon), and you’ll find a special menu you can order from. Or, head to their casual sister restaurant Cotogna next door, which has a lot more ease with finding space for walk-in diners (your wait can be under an hour, so you may as well enjoy some Champagne and caviar in Quince’s salon while you wait). Good news for oenophiles: you can order off the Quince wine list in Cotogna. Don't leave without eating the tagliolini. www.quincerestaurant.com
R&G Lounge (631 Kearny Street)
Since 1985 R&G Lounge has been known to have the best Chinese food in San Francisco. Regardless of this fact, they will always be known as the Chinese restaurant Anthony Bourdain went to and would not stop talking about the food. Don't leave without eating the salt and pepper crab. www.rnglounge.com
Rintaro (82 14th St.)
At this West Coast izakaya, every detail is meticulously crafted so that once you cross the threshold, you'll be transported back to Tokyo. If you've ever been there, you know how amazing it is to eat animal parts on a stick in an alley way. If you haven't, you'll instantly fall in love. Don't leave without eating the yakitori (and try and get a seat at the bar).
Saint Frank (2340 Polk St.)
On Polk Street in Russian Hill you’ll find Saint Frank, a stylish, sleek café that partners with Ritual Roasters for their exclusive beans. They get three roasts a week, which you can order from their uniquely designed counter (it feels very modern Italian). Their space is minimal, yet sleek. This allows you to fully focus on the expertly brewed coffee, while the baristas will happily tell you about the coffee you’re drinking. Don't leave without drinking the iced coffee.
Sam’s Grill (374 Bush St.)
When local Dungeness crab comes into season (usually around Thanksgiving), you’ll want to hightail it to Sam’s Grill for fresh, local crab. Throughout the rest of the year, it will come in from Oregon, Washington and beyond…still delicious, just not local. Don't leave without eating the petrale meuniere and the crab louis. www.samsgrillsf.com
San Tung (1031 Irving St.)
San Tung is a popular no-frills Chinese restaurant among locals that packs the place every night. This is the reason people go out to the Inner Sunset. Don't leave without eating the dry fried chicken wings and the fried green beans.
Scoma’s (Pier 47)
Tucked right in the Wharf, this seafood spot has been open for 50 years. The Lazy Man’s cioppino (with picked crab) is a classic, plus their crab cakes, shrimp or crab Louis and petrale doré. It’s not cheap, but at least the valet parking is free. Don't leave without eating the Lazy Man’s Cioppino. www.scomas.com
The Slanted Door (1 Ferry Building)
Recognized as the best restaurant in the country in 2014 by the James Beard Foundation, The Slanted Door is the mothership of the Charles Phan empire for a reason. If you're in the mood for Vietnamese, you've come to the right place. Get your fill of daikon rice cakes, spring rolls, shaking beef and crab with cellophane noodles. www.slanteddoor.com
Super Duper Burger (Multiple Locations)
San Francisco’s answer to Shake Shack. For the price, not many can beat what Super Duper Burger offers. With numerous locations around Market Street and the Financial District, this is often a place people look forward to for lunch. Pair the juicy Super Duper Burger or chicken sandwich with garlic fries and wash it all down with a cold beer or an old-fashioned milk shake. Don't leave without eating Super Duper Burger. www.superduperburgers.com
Swan Oyster Depot (1517 Polk St.)
There are a few truths that ring free in San Francisco. A line out the door of Swan Oyster Depot is one of them. People have come from the farthest reaches of the country to suck down clams and oysters from this institution. Anthony Bourdain has been quoted, "If god made anything better he kept it for himself." Don't leave without eating the combo salad and the crab back.
Tonga Room (950 Mason St.)
A Polynesian classic, this iconic San Francisco location in the Fairmont Hotel has been pouring Tonga Mai Tais since 1945. There’s a lagoon in the center of the room where the band will play on a thatched barge, and it periodically rains and thunders throughout the evening. Large (and boozy) Tiki cocktails and pupu platters will quickly get you into an island groove. Don't leave without drinking the Singapore Sling and the Zombie. www.tongaroom.com
Tony’s Pizza Napoletana (1570 Stockton St.)
Tony Gemignani is a well-known name for his expertise with all kinds and styles of pizza, and has a variety of places any pizza lover will want to visit in North Beach. Tony’s Pizza Napoletana is wildly popular (expect a wait for a table, but that’s when a visit to Tony Nik’s—no relation—for a cocktail comes in handy), and you can try his award-winning margherita pizza all the way to a Jersey-style pie. His neighboring Slice House serves one of the city’s best slices and lovers of Chicago deep dish will want to head to Capo’s. Don't leave without eating any slice of pizza. www.tonyspizzanapoletana.com
Top of the Mark (999 California St.)
Grab a cocktail and marvel at the view of San Francisco. From the top floor of the InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel, you’ll get 360-degree views of the city that you can’t get anywhere. This place is especially great for any special occasion, but we won’t fault you for coming up on a regular basis. Don't leave without drinking one of their many martinis. www.intercontinentalmarkhopkins.com/top-of-the-mark
Tosca Cafe (242 Columbus Ave.)
This venerable North Beach watering hole created national buzz when April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman (the team behind Spotted Pig in New York) took it over in 2013. The new iteration (now with a functioning kitchen) has dishes like excellent bucatini all’amatriciana, plus craft cocktails, a deep wine list, and most importantly for night owls, late-night hours. Food nightly until 1 a.m. Don't leave without drinking the house cappuccino.
Trick Dog (3010 20th St.)
On the list of the World’s Best Bars, you’ll find Trick Dog at #40, but don’t discount its food. With its Scotch eggs, The Trick Dog (their hotdog-shaped burger), and thrice-cooked fries, you want to make sure you fill up while you sip on amazing cocktails. Don't leave without eating and drinking the Trick Dog and at least one cocktail (they win for most inventive cocktail menus ever).
Trou Normand (140 New Montgomery St.)
Anyone who loves charcuterie and salumi, or wants to learn more about its myriad forms, needs to pull up to a wooden slab of the housemade meaty goodness at this chic downtown spot (served until midnight!). Cocktails are beautifully crafted here. Dinner also offers chophouse cuts of meat and seasonal vegetables. Lunch or weekend brunch on the outdoor patio is downright pleasant. Don't leave without eating the house-made charcuterie. www.trounormandsf.com
Yank Sing (101 Spear St.)
If you want upscale dim sum experience complete with the servers pushing carts AND a dim sum place with a James Beard Award, this is the place for you. Just point at what you want and you will be served a tasty dish that will whet your appetite for more. Don't leave without eating the sesame balls or the egg custard. www.yanksing.com
Zazie (941 Cole St.)
Zazie’s service is warm and caring, and the food, each and every bite, is exquisite. You’ll want to bring a buddy or three here so you can split and swap sweet and savory dishes, from their famous benedicts to their even more famous lemon curd pancakes and stuffed french toast. As a bonus, they even have a super cute patio. Pray for sun. Don't leave without eating the La Mer benedict.
Photo via Super Duper Burgers