Fisherman’s Wharf and nearby Ghirardelli Square are true gems, destinations for both visitors from the world around and for locals who know where to find some of the city’s top food and drink. Seek out both worthwhile new additions to the area, including Filipino restaurant Abacá and Latin agave bar and taco house Barrio, and oldie-but-goodies like the city’s last standing In-N-Out. Whether you’re braving the weekend crowds with your out-of-town aunt and uncle or just heading down to the water to soak in one of the reasons why living in the Paris of the West is the best, here are 16 treasures of the Fisherman’s Wharf food and drink scene.Read More
16 Treasures of Fisherman’s Wharf Food and Drink Scene
These are the gems worth visiting on the water
Square Pie Guys
This Detroit-style pizza mini-chain has exploded in popularity since its debut two years ago. Square Pie Guys does a big delivery business through all the usual apps and offers indoor and patio dining plus takeout at this newest outpost fronting Ghirardelli Square and Aquatic Park. The pie is unique in the West Coast pizza world, with its thick, pillowy “squares;” crisped cheese-laden edges; and blend of traditional and unusual toppings. Pepperoni, for example is available either the old-fashioned way, with red sauce and mozzarella, or the uber-NorCal way, with white sauce, chile flake, green goddess dressing, and grated grana padano. Very respectable kale salads, chicken wings, and dessert complete the menu. Sweet options include ice cream or the house take on monkey bread: pizza dough dipped in butter and brown sugar, and served with blackberries, caramel, and seasoned ricotta.
Palette Tea House & Dim Sum
Yes, there’s excellent dim sum to be had right in the heart of Ghirardelli Square, from the team behind Koi Palace and Dragon Beaux, the legendary Ng brothers. Tourists or not, customers are almost certain to order a steamer of the multi-colored xiao long bao (soup dumplings) alongside the equally Instagrammable fried taro puffs crafted to resemble black swans. You can also rely on Palette’s pedigreed dim sum chefs to put out solid versions of all the classics, from har gow and barbecue pork buns to pan-fried radish cakes.
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With its stunning views, killer margaritas, housemade blue corn tortillas, and festive background music, Barrio brings a serious vacation vibe to anyone visiting its Ghirardelli Square outpost. Tacos are the focus, and the ones with fresh, grilled halibut are a natural choice in this seaside environment. Margaritas are customizable by liquor (tequila or mezcal) and flavor (standard lime, pineapple, prickly pear, or watermelon) and are available in single servings or party-sized pitchers. Palomas, micheladas, and house riffs on classic cocktails are on order, along with aguas frescas for the alcohol-free folk.
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Buena Vista Cafe
The Buena Vista, which opened in 1916, has the kind of charm that only a century-old bar can provide. The bar’s famous Irish Coffee has been a thing since it was first concocted in 1952 and, allegedly, it still serves the exact same recipe of hot coffee, Irish whiskey, sugar, and aged cream.
This longtime fine-dining institution near Ghirardelli Square continues to offer its famed risottos and decadent desserts. Head to the bar and order a la carte from the menu: the cheese cart, trio of creme brulee, and souffle are all best in class. Level up with caviar service, if you’re feeling ritzy.
Cafe de Casa
Cafe de Casa is a Brazilian-owned cafe with all manner of Brazilian street food: açai made with guardana, classic pastries like enroladinho (coconut bread filled with cheese), and coxinha (breaded dough filled with shredded chicken and cream cheese). Other highlights: pour-over coffee and seriously spicy hot sauce.
Enjoying the distinction of being the only In-N-Out within San Francisco city limits often makes this location the sole reason for locals to go to the Wharf. It’s a constantly bustling environment, filled with hungry tourists from all over the world, and locals from all walks of life. Check out a typical afternoon at California’s favorite burger chain, and head down for a double double.
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Literally sitting on the dock of the bay, Scoma’s is a gem that has been around since 1965, and it has its own fishing boat for salmon and crabs. Despite the tenure, it has managed to upgrade the cocktail program and menu quite a bit. This is a top-tier choice for a sit-down fancy-ish dinner somewhere on Fisherman’s Wharf. (Check out the making of their “lazy man’s cioppino” here.)
San Francisco’s Korean food scene has only recently started to grow, but if you are craving pajun, jook, or bibimbap, this spot has solid versions of all of the above. Owners Steven and Jiyeon Choi — who also own Kitchen Story, Sweet Maple, and a few other Bay Area neighborhood staples — have created a very decent American-style brunch including popovers, sweet-spicy “Millionaire’s” bacon, and super-thick blueberry-stuffed French toast.
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This Argentinian food truck (slash empanada counter) serves some of the area’s tastiest and most reasonably priced food. It’s best known for its flaky, Argentinian-style baked empanadas and its massive, chimichurri-topped burger (low-key one of the better burgers in the city), but you can also grab a seat in the little covered dining area and enjoy a heartier sit-down dinner — say, a grilled steak over saffron rice.
Noticed a deluge of ube-purple cocktails populating your Instagram feed in recent years? Thank Abacá for its part in making jaws drop with its $16 drinks (including a snappy nonalcoholic calamansi daquiri). The restaurant joined the Wharf’s lineup of must-hit restaurants in late 2021 and gained loads of fans for its renditions of sisig fried rice and pork lumpia.
England-born Suzanne Acevedo knows her way around a fryer. She founded this humble trailer in 2011 because she missed the fish ‘n’ chips from her homeland. Now she’s serving some of the best food on the Wharf, and some of the best fish tacos in San Francisco. Note that she doesn’t take reservations or orders by phone; online ordering is the only way to plan ahead for pickup.
Before Tartine, Josey Baker, Della Fattoria, and even Acme, there was Boudin. San Francisco sourdough is now such a crowded field that the original — developed in 1849 by French immigrant Isadore Boudin — seems ubiquitous and pedestrian. But a visit to Boudin at the Wharf, home of the historic mother dough from which all other super tangy Boudin sourdough loaves are born, reminds both locals and tourists of the iconic bread’s origin story. The flagship complex comprises a demonstration bakery, where you can watch that famous bread being made; a downstairs cafe and market; and a fancier upstairs bistro with a classic oyster bar. But for a real San Francisco experience, whether visiting or a longtime resident, stick with clam chowder in a bread bowl.
Krispy Krunchy Chicken
One of the few stand-alone Krispy Krunchy locations that isn’t embedded inside a gas station convenience store, this Southern-style fried chicken chain has been a welcome addition to the Wharf. Well-seasoned, unfailingly crunchy skin — hence the name — and sweet honey biscuits are the hallmarks here.
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Tucked away from the wharf, almost to North Beach but still worthy of inclusion, sits Fior d’Italia, operating steadfastly for 136 years — though not continuously in the same location due to famous fires, earthquakes, and other disruptive phenomena. This “flower of Italy” claims to be the oldest Italian restaurant in the United States, and a meal here underscores its staying power. The restaurant serves a traditional Northern Italian menu under the direction of the charming chef and co-owner Gianni Audieri, who’s been with the restaurant for almost 40 years. Devotees go for the fresh pasta made daily, the veal chop, and a respectably sizable dessert menu, with sweet wine and grappa selections to match.
Fog Harbor Fish House
Fog Harbor is a tourist trap to be sure, but with its prime spot on Pier 39, large outdoor dining space boasting views of the bay and bridge, and over-the-top seafood feasts, it offers a fun time for everyone. Tie on a bib for sourdough bread bowls brimming with clam chowder and piled with lump Dungeness crab meat, its specialty, and go big with lobster tails, a whole Dungeness crab, or surf and turf.