The First Timer's Guide to Eating in the Financial District
The FiDi is where you’ll find the city’s oldest restaurants, sporting a lot of character and classic details. Lunchtime is always a busy time, full of energy and business meetings, morphing into busy happy hours and many of the city’s nicer options for dinner.
Tadich Grill (240 California St.)
A venerable seafood classic, Tadich bears the title of San Francisco's and California’s oldest restaurant (it’s 166 years old!). No-nonsense waiters, no reservations and seafood prepared simply are the name of the game here. Whether you sit at the long bar or score a table, there’s great people watching, with a fun mix of regulars and first-timers. Seafood cocktails and, of course, crab in its many forms are solid picks.
Sam's Grill & Seafood Restaurant (374 Bush St.)
This old-school San Francisco restaurant has a longer history than many realize, stretching back to a stall in 1867 (the physical restaurant itself dates back to 1936). You’ll find white tablecloths, bent cane chairs, private rooms, snappy career waiters and a menu of fresh seafood, ranging from crab to bay shrimp cocktail to sand dabs. Recent new ownership has freshened up a few things, too.
Pabu (101 California St.)
Lovers of sushi will want to 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.).
Schroeder's Restaurant (240 Front St.)
This recently updated beer hall dates back to 1893, but the sleek look and modernized menu are definitely in the 21st century, with updated versions of spätzle, schnitzel and more. Seasonal salads help keep things light. The full bar and extensive beer and wine list have plenty to choose from.
Café Claude (7 Claude Lane)
If you want to escape to Paris, come by this authentically charming alley restaurant for lunch (get an alfresco table!) or dinner. The menu features bistro classics like steak tartare, frisee aux lardons, salade nicoise and coq au vin, with live music Thursday–Saturday 7–10 p.m.
Wayfare Tavern (558 Sacramento St.)
Tyler Florence’s updated American tavern has multiple levels, and is known for one of the best burgers in town, as well as their rather fantastic deviled eggs, fried chicken and complimentary popovers. Popular for lunch, brunch or dinner, expect a lively scene.
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. Busy bar scene and choice wine list.
Bix Restaurant (56 Gold St.)
A clubby and jazzy spot, this elegant restaurant is hidden away on an alley, and it feels like you’ve entered a Deco ocean liner once you’re inside. Order a classic cocktail, enjoy an array of their appealing appetizers (like the potato pillows with caviar), and don’t miss the steak tartare prepared tableside. Live piano and music nightly makes this supperclub a local favorite. Pro tip: Bix is open for lunch on Friday and they make an excellent burger.
Belden Place (Between Bush and Pine Streets)
When it’s a sunny day, or even in the evening (there are a bunch of heat lamps!), you’ll find an array of restaurants on this alley. While you will encounter a number of barkers and swift-talking servers trying to court you, just decide what you’re in the mood for, like mussels and frites at Plouf, French bistro at Café Bastille, Italian seafood at Brindisi Cucina di Mare, or Italian (trattoria-style) at Cafe Tiramisu. While the menus and locations are a touch dated, the alfresco atmosphere has a strong appeal.
Marcia Gagliardi writes a popular insider weekly e-column, tablehopper, about the SF dining and drinking scene, get all the latest news at www.tablehopper.com. Follow @tablehopper on Twitter and Instagram for more SF finds!
Photo by John Storey / SF Chronicle