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18 Essential Cookbooks From San Francisco Restaurants

For everyone craving their favorite dishes, these cookbooks bring comfort home

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Stack of cookbooks Andria Lo

For San Franciscans craving the comforts of their favorite restaurant as they hunker down across the city, there is a way to experience them at home: cookbooks. The best restaurant cookbooks celebrate iconic dishes, from Zuni’s roast chicken to the Slanted Door’s crab and cellophane noodles, capture the chef’s voice, give readers a peek inside the kitchen, and bounce back the warmth of the dining room. Far from comprehensive, here’s a short stack of cookbooks that capture the hearts and bellies of diners in San Francisco.

While getting the books delivered with a panic hoard from Amazon might be tempting, consider buying these titles through local neighborhood bookstores. Omnivore Books, Green Apple Books, the Booksmith, and more are all taking online orders, and many are offering free local delivery.

The Zuni Cafe Cookbook

Zuni’s tome is a classic, looking back through 40 years at the quintessential Californian restaurant, in the voice of the late, great Judy Rodgers. The recipe for the iconic roast chicken with bread salad is five pages long, but we’ve all got some time on our hands, right? Skimmers, take note: Salt the bird at least 24 hours in advance.
Buy: Zuni Cafe | Bookshop | Amazon

The Greens Cookbook

Born out of the serenity of the San Francisco Zen Center and founded by earth goddess Deborah Madison herself, Greens is a landmark vegetarian restaurant, and its cookbook remains a veggie authority. This writer is partial to the nostalgia of the original edition from 1987 — the retro-fabulous nut loaf! The shaped timbales! But also, the nourishing lasagnas and casseroles.
Buy: Indiebound | Amazon

We Are La Cocina

La Cocina isn’t a restaurant, it’s the incubator kitchen that’s launched many across the city, specifically supporting immigrants, women, and people of color. From Mexican tamales to Nepalese dumplings, Arab flatbread to Cambodian noodles, this book captures incredible portraits of food entrepreneurs, along with their personal stories and recipes.
Buy: La Cocina | Bookshop | Amazon

The Foreign Cinema Cookbook

Foreign Cinema celebrated its 20th anniversary last year, and the cookbook captures what’s so extraordinary about this restaurant, from the patio flickering with old movies and twinkle lights, to the high drama of oyster towers, lavender pork chops, and cinematic cocktails. The pop tart alone is a brunch legend, and it’s equally delightful eaten in pajamas, homemade bellini in hand.
Buy: Foreign Cinema | Bookshop | Amazon

My Mexico City Kitchen

Gabriela Cámara has celebrated restaurants in both Mexico City and San Francisco, but let’s claim her as a local. Her book finally came out last year, and it brings the hippie beach party home, with whole fish brushed with green and red chiles, trout tostadas with frizzled leeks, and tender tortillas.
Buy: Cala | Bookshop | Amazon

A16: Food + Wine

A16 has always been known for blistered pizza, fresh pasta, and an award-winning wine list, helmed by Shelley Lindgren, and her book marries those passions, pairing food with wine. Word nerds also love that they hired former line cook Kate Leahy as a coauthor to draft and test the recipes, and this was her first cookbook project, which subsequently launched her into a career as one of our most successful local cookbook authors.
Buy: IndieBound | Bookshop | Amazon

Flour + Water Pasta

When the going gets tough, the tough crave pasta, preferably eaten out of a bowl while sitting cross-legged on the couch. For anyone missing the all-pasta tasting menu at Flour + Water, these tortellini photos are going to see you through.
Buy: IndieBound | Bookshop | Amazon

Rich Table

Michelin-starred chefs Evan and Sarah Rich make diners feel comfy in their cozy dining room, and their seasonal Californian recipes also translate well to home kitchens. Adventurous cooks, consider this a golden opportunity to finally attempt to jimmy a sardine through a slice of potato and deep fry it as a potato chip.
Buy: Rich Table | Bookshop | Amazon

The Slanted Door

Charles Phan paved the way for California-influenced Vietnamese cooking in San Francisco, and his cookbook is just as modern, minimal, and beautiful as his bayside restaurant. The spring rolls, papaya salad, and iconic crab and cellophane noodles all bring bright flavors to dark days, and there’s comfort in duck porridge and fried shallots.
Buy: IndieBound | Bookshop | Amazon

State Bird Provisions

The Michelin-starred restaurant shook up the San Francisco restaurant scene when it rolled out dim sum carts and small dishes nearly a decade ago. The cookbook is just as unexpected as the restaurant, and yes, it includes California’s state bird, that signature buttermilk fried quail.
Buy: IndieBound | Bookshop | Amazon

Burma Superstar

Burmese cooking has a dedicated following in the Bay Area, and Burma Superstar was the restaurant that introduced many diners to the delights of the tea leaf salad, fiery tofu, and garlic noodles.
Buy: IndieBound | Bookshop | Amazon

Nopalito

Nopalito is the little brother of Nopa, and it’s pretty impossible to resist Chef Gonzalo Guzman’s Mexican home cooking. There’s no time like the present to put up a big batch of carnitas, smash some fresh salsa, and start mixing margaritas.
Buy: Nopalito | Bookshop | Amazon

Eat Something

Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen finally put out a cookbook, subtitled “for Jews who like food and food lovers who like Jews,” and it’s delicious and hilarious, filled with old bar mitzvah snapshots. Former Eater SF restaurant critic Rachel Levin scored this coauthoring gig, and she folded in arguments with the chef over bacon (they left it out), as well as the chocolate babka recipe bakers have been waiting for.
Buy: Indiebound | Bookshop | Amazon

Tartine Bread

The award-winning bakery has fallen on hard times in recent months, from getting shut down by the health department, to clashing with worker unionization efforts. (Hey chef, maybe put away the anti-union merch now that we’re facing a global health crisis?) But paying due respect, Tartine changed sourdough bread around the world, and there may never be a more beautiful loaf of bread than when Chad Robertson was still in the kitchen on Guerrero Street, personally shaping only 125 loaves per day. Of all the Tartine cookbooks, and there are maybe too many, this writer loves Bread. From the sourdough-surfer-dude bromance between chef Chad Robertson and photographer Eric Wolfinger, to the 68-page deep dive on how to make a basic country levain, it’s just so San Francisco.
Buy: Indiebound | Bookshop | Amazon

Miette

The Miette cookbook has been selling like hotcakes ever since it pubbed nearly a decade ago, and no wonder: It’s a treat. The cakes are as cute as the shop’s packaging, with fluted gingersnaps, pastel buttercreams, and tomboy cakes topped with a single rose.
Buy: Indiebound | Bookshop | Amazon

Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones

Bi-Rite grocery has its own solid cookbook, but the creamery has got the real scoop, with all of those delicious ice cream flavors, from the legendary salted caramel to chai-spiced milk chocolate. You haven’t lived until you’ve tried the homemade graham crackers, which are dump-and-stir easy.
Buy: IndieBound | Bookshop | Amazon

Making Chocolate

Chocolate lovers, this is the kind of bedside reading material that dreams are made of. Craft chocolate innovator Dandelion has full-color illustrations that gorgeously illustrate every step of the bean-to-bar process. Plus, the recipes for chef Lisa Vega’s s’mores and chocolate chip cookies.
Buy: Dandelion Chocolate | Bookshop | Amazon

Smuggler’s Cove

Stave off cabin fever with a cool cocktail. Smuggler’s Cove, the tiny tiki bar that resembles the belly of a pirate ship, has an encyclopedic cookbook riddled with rum. And some pineapple juice to prevent scurvy.
Buy: Smuggler’s Cove | Bookshop | Amazon

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