13 San Francisco Restaurants You Need to Eat at in 2019
In a culinary scene that somehow keeps getting better every year, narrowing down your list of must-eats can be tougher than escaping from Alcatraz. To help, here are our picks for 13 restaurants not to miss in 2019, helmed by some of our most touted and talented chefs. And if you’re new to dining here, start by reading about why San Francisco is so delicious.
ALX Gastropub (680 Folsom St., SoMa)
If you’ve become bored by bar food, the super-sleek ALX Gastropub in SoMa might just make you a believer again. Pop in for lunch, dinner or Sunday brunch to see how chef Jessie Lugo amps up standard pub fare, like the goat cheeseinfused tater tots or Foie-Gyu burger, topped with truffled mushroom duxelle and a confetti of crispy shallots.
Angler (132 Embarcadero)
We included Angler on last year's list, but the waterfront restaurant has only improved with time. Why else would it be named Esquire Magazine's Best New Restaurant in America of 2018? Chef Joshua Skenes serves up an unbelievably wide variety of food. Where else could you choose between antelope tartare, rabbit, and sea urchin?
Barbara Pinseria (431 Columbus Ave., North Beach)
If you haven’t had pinsa, an ancient precursor to pizza, Barbara Pinseria is the place to try it. Helmed by Francesco Covucci and Peter Fazio, this North Beach newcomer offers sit-down service in its stylish dining room (presided over by a mural of Audrey Hepburn in "Roman Holiday") with Italian cocktails, antipasti and pasta dishes rounding out the menu. If you’re in a hurry, head next door to Barbara Express for a slice of Roman-style pizza al taglio togo.
Besharam (1275 Minnesota St., Dogpatch)
A new addition to the Minnesota Street Project creative incubator in the Dogpatch district, chef Heena Patel’s Besharam is a bold, cheeky reimagining of western Indian Gujarati cuisine. Like the plot of a Bollywood movie, Besharam dishes out unexpected twists and delightful turns—like blue cheese naan and pop-art plates emblazoned with slogans like “Hot Chai, Cold Revenge!” What else would you expect from a place whose name translates to "shameless"?
China Live Market Restaurant (644 Broadway, Chinatown)
China Live Market Restaurant lets adventurous (or indecisive) diners try a huge variety of dishes. Located on the first floor of the immersive China Live marketplace in Chinatown, the food hall-style restaurant features a large central dining room flanked by eight specialty stations, where you can watch chefs pinch dumplings, wok-fry noodles and slow roast meats in ovens that look like sculptures. The menu changes daily, but expect anything from pot stickers to kumquat-glazed Peking duck.
Kantine (1906 Market St., Central Market)
For years, chef Nichole Accettola has sold her rye bread and smørrebrød—that is, openfaced sandwiches heaped with fillings like pickled herring and paté—to rabid fans at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. Now, she has built a brick-and-mortar monument to Scandinavian cuisine with Kantine, a pleasingly minimalist café and bakery in Central Market. In addition to those beloved sandwiches and breads, Kantine serves savory porridges, scrumptious Danish pastries and buildy-our-own brunch boards fit for a (vi)king.
Kaya (1420 Market St., Central Market)
Jamaican-born chef Nigel Jones already mastered Caribbean cuisine with his Kingston 11 in Oakland. Now he’s bringing the party to Central Market with Kaya, where the reggae is always bumping and the rummy cocktails—some lit on fire, others served in coconuts—will make you feel like you’re on vacation during your vacation. Island staples like goat curry and jerk chicken blend deep, smoky flavor with bright pops of plantain, pickled papayas and other tropical treats.
Pearl (6101 California St., Richmond)
Dive into the Richmond’s vibrant dining scene at Pearl, a former laundromat turned bistro that adds a new bit of dazzle to the neighborhood. A sister restaurant to the popular Pizzetta 211, Pearl’s Mediterranean-leaning menu features wood-fired entrées, decadent desserts, standout starters like berbere-spiced carrot soup and a lick-the-plate white bolognese you’ll be dreaming about for weeks. Wash it down with a martini made with Oakland sea gin, like ocean water with a kick.
Petit Crenn (609 Hayes St., Hayes Valley)
When a three-Michelin-starred chef opens a new restaurant, it’s always a good idea to go. Especially if it’s Dominique Crenn of Atelier Crenn, who introduces a simpler (but no less creative) take on French cuisine with her new Hayes Valley bistro. NorCal meets Crenn’s native Brittany with exquisite, ever-changing seafood dishes like escargots in mushroom broth and grilled whole fish, filleted tableside. You can order à la carte, but the tasting menu is mind-blowing.
Piri Pica (590 Valencia St., Mission District)
Portugal is having a moment right now, and so is Portuguese food in San Francisco. Get your fix at Piri Pica, a new fast-casual spot in the Mission focusing on flame-grilled piri piri chicken. It’s a simple system: choose your protein, spice it up with house-made sauce, then add on soulful sides like braised greens and cabbage-herb slaw. There’s also a killer daily happy hour with a locally focused beer and wine list.
Radhaus (2 Marina Blvd., Landmark Bldg. A, Fort Mason)
Forget Texas—everything’s bigger at Radhaus, a German biergarten that debuted this past summer at Fort Mason. The massive menu features schnitzel and wurst galore (plus some lighter options that won’t bust the lederhosen); dozens of dunkels, doppels and crowd-pleasing pilsners; and a wall of windows offering wunderbar Golden Gate Bridge views. Plus, the space itself is huge, which means there’s seldom a wait—a rare treat in San Francisco.
Robin (620 Gough St., Fillmore)
Leave all notions of sushi at the door. Each course of Robin’s omakase menu is an avant-garde masterpiece of flavors and textures, expertly composed by chef Adam Tortosa. Like king salmon nigiri dolloped with tomato confit and whipped tofu. Or A5 wagyu beef blanketed with a Mount Fujiesque “snow” of frozen foie gras. Or melt-in-your-mouth sashimi sliced from fish caught right here in California. Another contemporary twist: diners can choose from a range of price points to customize their omakase for their budget and appetite.
Sorrel (3228 Sacramento St., Pacific Heights)
Before opening in early 2018, Sorrel had been selling out pop-up dinners around town for three years, which means chef Alex Hong has had some time to get things just right. That experience shows in the sophisticated service, atmosphere and menu of hyper-seasonal Californian-Italian cuisine. Tip back house cocktails while fighting over dishes like hamachi crudo, oxtail lasagna and oysters with sorrel ice; or, just order the superb dry-aged duck for two. Everybody wins!