Eat Like a Local: 10 Modern Classics in San Francisco
Our search for a seriously in-the-know local brought us to the doorstep of an iconic 30-year-old eatery, Fog City, which you might remember from 1990s era Visa commercials or on the cult classic film “So I Married An Axe Murderer.” Located along the Embarcadero at 1300 Battery St., the restaurant’s status as a classic San Francisco food destination was revived in 2013 after major renovations. Shane Pearce, the restaurant’s manager, has been living in the Bay Area for 30 years and can’t imagine living anywhere else. “San Francisco has a long history of open-minded residents and transplants. From fostering miners during the Gold Rush, being an LGBT sanctuary during the Second World War, nurturing an era of civil rights and anti-war activism through the 1950s and ’60s, and cultivating the software boom of the ’80s and ’90s, this remarkable city has been an incubator of creativity.”
With its influential history through the ages, it’s little wonder that meeting at interesting lounges and watering holes is so popular. “Locals here have a special zest for life, and we are a social bunch. Maybe that’s why we have so many places to eat, drink and be inspired. A bonus of being in the restaurant world is that I am able to meet industry peers. We like to get around to each others’ places.” Shane’s recommendations for outstanding bars in his favorite city on earth follows. You’ll note the lack of newbies. “My favorite places have stood the test of time, so you know locals approve.”
Gary Danko (800 North Point St.)
“At this Michelin-starred restaurant, you will be treated to a spectacular tasting menu by classically trained chef and owner Gary Danko. Aside from Mr. Danko’s flawless award-winning cuisine, prepare to be equally impressed by the establishment’s 2,000+ bottle wine list, featuring a dizzying array of vintages and varietals. Among his achievements, Danko has earned accolades from James Beard, Esquire and Wine Spectator.” Since 1999.
Absinthe Brasserie (398 Hayes St.)
“In the heart of Hayes Valley is Absinthe, an upscale French restaurant that is popular with the pre- and post-theater crowd. The food is completely unpretentious yet delicious, the interior is warm and unassuming, and the service is alwaystop-notch. As the crowning jewel, this restaurant has an excellent bar program; you’ll find some of the most talented bartenders, mixologists and sommeliers here. Combined with the chefs and the level of cooking, Absinthe is a true foodies’ paradise.” Since 1998.
Smuggler's Cove (650 Gough St.)
“Mai Tais and delicate floral drink garnishes are the stars of the show at Smuggler's Cove, a tiki-themed bar located around the corner from the Opera House. Rumored to have more varieties of rums than any other bar in the world, select from more than 400 types available or browse the extensive menu for something equally tropical.” Since 2009.
Nectar Wine Lounge (3330 Steiner St.)
“Adventurous wine lovers will be impressed with Nectar’s cellar. The menu offers over 500 different bottles and vintages to choose from. Small plates and flights are very popular, and they offer a happy hour. Owner Chris is almost always behind the bar, ask him for a suggestion about wine or really anything San Francisco-related.” Since 2004.
Beretta (1199 Valencia St.)
“Don’t be alarmed by the crowds; we’re all here to have one of Beretta’s excellent cocktails and maybe chat with the bartender. I like the Rattlesnake with rye, lemon, maple and bitters. You should try the pizza.” Since 2008.
Flour + Water (2401 Harrison St.)
“This little local gem is most well known for the pizza. Carb out for sure here, and order an excellent Sicilian red from the well-edited wine list, focused on Italy and California.” Since 2009.
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.” Since 1999.
Trick Dog (3010 20th St.)
“Trick Dog is a cocktail bar that everyone in town has already fallen in lust with. Handcrafted drinks and small bar bites bring in crowds nightly. Every six months, the owners revamp the menu with a new theme and zany yet perfectly executed drinks to match. Recognized as one of the Best Bars In America by Esquire.” Since 2013.
Bourbon & Branch (501 Jones St.)
“Housed in an original 1920s-era speakeasy, B&B manages to keep traditions alive with their unmarked, hard-to-find doorway and by requiring a password to enter. That nostalgic blast is worth it, boasting darkened vintage in - terior, an extensive cocktail menu and friendly service. Be sure to book a reservation online—which is how you will obtain the entry password!” Since 2006.
Farallon (450 Post St.)
“It’s all about the ocean at this beautifully decorated restaurant. Imagine you are dining under the sea. It’s the soft-shell crab and the wine list that will capture your attention. Expert sommelier Luke Kenning has helped to curate a generous list of bottles, demi bottles and by the glass picks. Say ‘hello’ to GM Dale Forrest for me.” Since 1997.
Photo via Trick Dog.