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March 23, 2022

The Most Unique Dining and Drinking Experiences in San Francisco

San Francisco is a city that's always prided itself on being unusual. One of the best ways to see the city and experience this yourself is to eat your way through it. Here are just some of San Francisco's most unique dining experiences.

For Unique Menus

AL's Place (1499 Valencia St.)

Not every restaurant can boast that its produce comes exclusively from a single supplier. That's just one thing that distinguishes AL's Place from the rest of the pack. There's also the fact that they use "every part of everything," offer family style service for a flat fee, and make some of the most unbelievable French fries you've ever tasted. Having been named Bon Appetit's Restaurant of the Year in 2015 doesn't hurt, either.

The Beehive (842 Valencia St.)

This quirky bar along one of the Misison's best drags for dining serves a collection of classic cocktails with a definite twist, as well as delicious snacks and bar bites. Their eponymous cocktail features botanist gin, sasparilla honey, and ginger, while the Lucky Punk features a potent combination of mezcal, oaxacan rum, and pineapple.

Foreign Cinema (2534 Mission St.)

Foreign Cinema has made the list of San Fransisco's top 100 restaurants for a whopping 17 years in a row. Captained by chefs Gayle Pirie and John Clark, Foreign Cinema offers an exquisite menu, oysters on the half shell, and retro, glamorous decor. Don't miss the Hamachi sashimi, warm rice cake, yuzu ponzu, avocado, serrano chilies, watermelon radish, and togarashi.

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Kennedy's Indian Curry House & Irish Pub (1040 Columbus Ave.)

Yes, you read that correctly. The gang at Kennedy's is so good at what they do, it's regarded as one of the city's best pubs as well as the place to go for some of the city's best Indian food. There's nothing quite like enjoying chicken tikka masala while shooting pool, or pairing your Guiness with lamb vindaloo.

Off the Grid (Various Locations)

Where do you go if you want BBQ, pizza, crab sandwiches, and hoppy microbrews all at once? You got to Off the Grid, wherever they may be. This collection of food trucks and pop-up vendors has standing engagements around San Francisco, depending on the season. In warmer, drier months, you can find them on the Main Lawn of the Presidio for a truly gut-busting, choose-your-own-adventure brunch.

State Bird Provisions (1529 Fillmore St.)

Champions of the farm-to-table ethos, Bay Area natives Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski were determined to showcase local flavors in their food at State Bird Provisions. The diversity of their menu (which can change nightly) celebrates and mirrors the diversity of San Francisco. Where else will you find jerk octopus, cheddar pancakes, and passion fruit pudding cake under one roof (or in one quaint parklet with paper lanterns)?

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Sushirrito (226 Kearney St.)

San Fransisco is one of the first places to serve up the sushi burrito, and you can't afford to miss it on a food tour of the city. Featuring delicious, sushi-grade fish, pickled veggies, perfect sticky rice, various sauces, and more, the Sushirrito is a weird, wonderful, delicious treat that's wrapped for walking.

Trick Dog (3010 20th St.)

This award-winning cocktail bar earned its stripes with a rotating menu that was as reliably delicious as it was stunningly creative. And we don't mean just what's on the menu; we mean the menu itself, as well. Artistry is the name of the game at Trick Dog, whether it's behind or on the bar.

True Laurel (753 Alabama St.)

Located in a buzzy corner of the Mission where San Francisco chefs are making a name for themselves, True Laurel offers creative comfort foods and unusual cocktails. Ever had a drink made with raisin rum or sunchoke whiskey before? If not, you need to visit True Laurel.

Zante Pizza (3489 Mission St.)

What happens when Indian cuisine meets an Italian staple? Enter Zante Pizza. This bold eatery features one of the city's cross-cultural culinary masterpieces: sweet, spicy pizza baked on fresh, house-made naan bread.

For Unique Outdoor Dining

To keep diners safe during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of San Francisco developed a creative program in which bars and restaurants could lease parking spaces in front of their establishments and use them for outdoor seating. All across the city, little parklets sprung up—and true to our city's artistic spirit, they began to take on distinctive styles and designs.

These parklets—part dining room, part artwork, and all outdoors—proved so popular that the City agreed to let business owners keep them even after indoor dining returned. With San Francisco's year-round temperate weather, not to mention our perfect people-watching, dining in these parklets is something every visitor should enjoy whenever they visit.

Cotogna (490 Pacific Ave.)

Airy, inviting, and decorated with olive trees, the parklet at Cotogna is the perfect compliment to its Cal-Italian menu. Located a short walk from city icons like the Transamerica Pyramid and the Ferry Building, Cotogna is a great place to start or end your day around the city.

Mr. Digby's (1199 Church St.)

The chic black and white color scheme at Mr. Digby's, located at the eastern end of Noe Valley's busiest stretch of excellent shopping, makes for one of the classiest parklets we've seen. You can't miss it. Just look for their logo: a dapper little dog.

Palette (816 Folsom St.)

Seeing that it's a gallery as well as a restaurant, it's no surprise that the team at Palette has created one of the most striking parklets in the city. Their long stretch of curbside seating is ensconced in metalwork that grants diners extra privacy in the busy SoMa neighborhood.

San Francisco Wine Society (408 Merchant St.)

You should enjoy wine tasting in style. That's why the team at the San Francisco Wine Society furnished their parklet with plush sofas, glittering chandeliers, and even a working fireplace! Located downtown, it's a short walk from hotels in SoMa and Union Square.

Sutter Station Tavern (554 Market St.)

This Financial District bar paid tribute to San Francisco's iconic cable cars by modeling their parklet after one, right down to the benches, poles, doors, and windows.

Tosca Cafe (242 Columbus Ave.)

How does a legendary San Francisco restaurant outdo itself after so many years? By building a parklet with a living roof! Vines and flowers hang overhead when dining outdoors at Tosca. The place takes on an extra romantic feel at night when the twinkling lights woven in turn on.

The Vault Garden (555 California St.)

The Vault began as a chic, underground establishment; but after pandemic closures, it reemerged as big, bold outdoor space. The Vault Garden is one of the largest outdoor dining spaces in San Francisco, seating up to 100 people. We'd still recommend making a reservation, though they are not required.

Wildseed (2000 Union St.)

The gleaming white parklets at this popular vegan restaurant catch every drop of sunshine that falls on the Marina. Some are even lined with flower boxes. Whether indoor or out, a table at Wildseed is always in demand on weekends for brunch. Between the food, the weather, and the passersby, it's a a feast for the senses.

Woodhouse Fish Co. (1914 Fillmore St.)

If you're going to enjoy great seafood, why not do so on a boat? The parklet at Woodhouse Fish Co.'s Fillmore location is built like a ship, complete with a wheel, portholes, and life preservers.

For Unique Staff

Asia SF (201 Ninth St.)

AsiaSF is a popular destination for both dinner and dancing. A multi-level establishment, the upstairs level offers dining and entertainment. Dancers, who are also servers, perform on and off the bar between taking orders. Once you're done eating, you can head downstairs to the establishment's nightclub, which features a house DJ and visiting acts.

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Atelier Crenn (3127 Fillmore St.)

Sure, the creations from the kitchen are in a class by themselves, but what makes Atelier Crenn so special is the woman behind it. Chef Dominique Crenn is now the most honored woman chef in the United States, having recently earned her third Michelin star.

For Unique Surroundings

Berber (1516 Broadway)

Come for the North African cuisine; stay for the dancers and aerial performers! Berber, located in picturesque Russian Hill, will stimulate all your senses with its unpredictable slate of live entertainment.

Lazy Bear (3416 19th St.)

In a city where chefs are likened to rock stars, Lazy Bear sells tickets to their dinner, much like a concert. Meals are served communally, and guests don’t know what they’ll be eating until they arrive. The chefs describe each dish to the customers. It’s like a dinner party, but with new friends and globally recognized talent in the kitchen.

San Francisco International Airport

Yes, it's true. SFO has some of the greatest airport dining in the world, primarily because restaurant space has been awarded to the best Bay Area restauranteurs and not national chains. Whether it be Boudin or Mustards Grill, you can get a first (or last) taste of the Bay Area within minutes of stepping off (or on) your flight.

Tadich Grill (240 California St.)

The oldest restaurant in California is an only-in-San-Francisco experience. Dining at Tadich Grill, you'll hear the rumble of the cable car right outside, be served by some of the most experienced waitstaff in the whole city, and even feel like a local celebrity if you dine in one of their classic, private booths.

The Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar (950 Mason St.)

The Tonga Room is a fun, Tiki-themed bar and restaurant inside the historic Fairmont Hotel. The venue features a 75-foot pool directly in the center, which is filled regularly by indoor tropical storms. If that wasn't enough, there's a live band that floats in the middle of the pool, playing on a small island.

Urban Putt (1096 South Van Ness Ave.)

Indoor mini-golf is unique in itself; but an indoor mini-golf with its own restaurant? Upstairs from the 14-hole course, inspired by San Francisco's most iconic sites and neighborhoods, you can dine on anything from a fried chicken sandwich to vegan crepes. Even better: you can take one of their terrific cocktails on the course with you.

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