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Bowls of udon at Kagawa-Ya Kagawa-Ya

14 Underrated Neighborhood Gems in San Francisco

From slurpable noodles to extra crispy fried chicken, the low-key and family-run restaurants that feed our city

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San Francisco is one of the culinary capitals of the world, but while there are plenty of flashy and well funded restaurants here, it’s the small neighborhood restaurants that feed the vitality of our city and contribute to its charm. Tech entrepreneurs can’t be the only entrepreneurs running SF, and this guide aims to be a celebration of the mom-and-pop and family-run shops that keep our city satisfied, from square-cut udon to squid ink tamales to extra crispy fried chicken with red velvet waffles. These low-key and underrated neighborhood gems are sure to brighten up your day, whether with quality food or friendly service.

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; the latest data about the delta variant indicates that it may pose a low-to-moderate risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial transmission. The latest CDC guidance is here; find a COVID-19 vaccination site here.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Cancha Boutique Gastrobar

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2015 Chestnut St
San Francisco, CA 94123
(415) 529-2099
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Cancha showcases Peruvian cuisine, and the menu has a wide selection of ceviches to choose from, as well as other dishes like empanadas, pulpo anticuchero (octopus with spicy mashed potatoes), and adobo arequipeno (pork shoulder). Co-owners William Uracahua and Fatima Zimic are both friendly and helpful, and the location makes it a perfect stop after a day shopping in the Marina or hanging out on the Marina Green.

Group shot of plates at Cancha Rob Aiavao

2. Abrazo

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2000 Hyde St
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 872-9239
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Located on Hyde Street in Russian Hill, this charming and unassuming Mediterranean- and Spanish-influenced restaurant is a hidden gem. Chef and owner Michael Pawlik takes full advantage of San Francisco’s proximity to wine country with an impressive selection of wines, from local favorites like pinot noir from Flowers Vineyard in Sonoma to imported bottles from Spain. The food menu consists of Spanish staples, from seafood paella to charred octopus, all of which are exquisite and beautifully plated. Don’t forget to finish with the cinnamon-sugared ricotta bunuelos.

Pasta dish at Abrazo Rob Aiavao

3. Matterhorn Restaurant and Bakery

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2323 Van Ness Ave
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 829-7540
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This fondue restaurant is an entertaining date night spot for those looking for something different than the traditional night out. The dining room is designed to look like an Alpine ski chalet, complete with a gondola for two (be sure to request it when making reservations). While the selection of gooey cheese fondue and raclette is the main draw, don’t forget to order the tender spatzle. Who needs a passport when you can get your fill of gruyere here?

4. San Sun Restaurant

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848 Washington St
San Francisco, CA 94108
(415) 296-8228
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While you might not expect to find quality Vietnamese food in Chinatown, San Sun has served delicious and piping hot pho for more than 20 years. During the day, the restaurant is busy with locals enjoying the food or watching television. The spicy beef noodle soup packs in a ton of flavor, and the steel bowls keep the broth steaming hot. Starters like the fried fish balls and hot and sour wings are also worth adding on.

5. The Lucky Pig

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791 O'Farrell St
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 999-2628
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Hidden away in the Tenderloin, this family-run restaurant specializes in generously portioned Korean food. The Korean fried chicken is incredibly crispy, flavorful, and most importantly, juicy. While diners really can’t go wrong with ordering anything off the menu, the tteokbokki rice cakes and budae-jjigae are also spicy standouts. Be sure to stop by for the daily happy hour if you’re looking to enjoy their selection of Korean beer, wine, and soju.

Korean stew from Lucky Pig Rob Aiavao

6. Kagawa-Ya Udon

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1455 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 703-0995
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Husband-and-wife duo Katherine Chiao and Sean Lim serve mom-and-pop vibes and square-cut udon on the ground floor of the Uber headquarters. In addition to warm bowls of slurpable udon, they double down on the comfort food with Japanese curry plates and korokke. It’s self service making this a great place to grab a quick and convenient lunch or dinner when you’re in the Mid-Market area.

Table full of udon at Kagawa-Ya Rob Aiavao

7. Ocean Beach Cafe

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734 La Playa St
San Francisco, CA 94121
(415) 753-9352
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Owner Joshua James is committed to not only having the largest selection of (actually tasty) non-alcoholic beer, wine, and spirits, as well as epic huli huli chicken plates and breakfast burritos, but also supporting his local neighborhood of the Outer Richmond. He hosts an Ocean Beach cleanup twice a month, open mic nights, and has live music on the weekend. Be sure to ask him about his $25 SOBAR experience, where patrons can taste as many things as James can serve in one hour.

Sandwich and beer at Ocean Beach Cafe Rob Aiavao

8. Om Indian Cuisine

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1668 Haight St
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 525-3705
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While staples like chicken tikka masala are on the menu, Om India has a great selection of nourishing vegetarian dishes, including chana masala, saag paneer, and aloo gobi. The best part is Om, unlike many competitors, actually makes their food spicy when requested. Delivery is also quick for those nights when you’re craving Indian food but want to stay in.

Chicken tikka at Om Indian Om Indian Cuisine

9. Just For You Cafe

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732 22nd St
San Francisco, CA 94107
(415) 647-3033
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The home-style breakfast at this Dogpatch neighborhood cafe is a sweet start to any weekend. The menu has the traditional American breakfast items with some Mexican specialities, but the fluffy New Orleans–style beignets are the fan favorite. If you can’t decide between the three kinds of beignets offered, order the sampler to get one of each.

Beignets at All for You Cafe Becky Duffett

10. Fujiyama-Ya

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1234 Noriega St
San Francisco, CA 94122
(415) 665-1772
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Fuji Yama-Ya is the type of low-key neighborhood restaurant you might find in a small village in Japan. This family-owned restaurant serves up some of the most delicious and fairly priced teriyaki, tempura, and sushi in San Francisco in a cozy setting. The sweet and salty beef sukiyaki is a must try, as well as the accompanying crispy tempura. The restaurant itself is small and the wait during dinner can get long, but it’s definitely worth it.

Sushi at Fujiyama-Ya Rob Aiavao

11. La Reyna Bakery & Coffee Shop

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3114 24th St
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 647-6502
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La Reyna has an incredible selection of freshly baked Mexican pan dulce. Items like conchas and elote are extremely well priced (most items are under one dollar), making this an excellent bakery to stop off in the morning for a quick breakfast while strolling tree-lined 24th Street.

Conchas at La Reyna Rob Aiavao

12. United Dumplings

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525 Cortland Ave
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 658-7363
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This minority- and woman-owned restaurant in Bernal Heights specializes in Chinese dumplings, but not exactly the standard dim sum fare. While the menu includes recipes handed down from owner Sandy Zheng’s grandmother, it also has modern flavors like Korean BBQ Beef Dumplings and Mission Chicken Pot Stickers.

Potstickers United Dumplings

13. Auntie April's Chicken, Waffles, & Soul Food Restaurant

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4618 3rd St
San Francisco, CA 94124
(415) 643-4983
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Auntie April’s has been a mainstay for soul food in the Bayview neighborhood for 13 years now. You can choose from three types of waffles (regular, cinnamon, and red velvet) to pair with the signature fried chicken. Another must try is the lemon-rosemary chicken wings and make it a full family dinner with sides like yams, rice and beans, and cornbread.

14. The Broken Record and Chicano Nuevo

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1166 Geneva Ave
San Francisco, CA 94112
(415) 963-1713
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This Excelsior neighborhood bar has a whiskey selection of more than 200 bottles to choose from and a warm and friendly staff. If you’re looking for something different, ask for rumple minze, a German liquor that leaves your mouth feeling minty fresh. And operating within the bar, Chicano Nuevo serves non-traditional bar food like squid ink tamales stuffed with shredded beef and fish tacos with salmon consomme.

Squid ink tamales from Chicano Nuevo Rob Aiavao

1. Cancha Boutique Gastrobar

2015 Chestnut St, San Francisco, CA 94123
Group shot of plates at Cancha Rob Aiavao

Cancha showcases Peruvian cuisine, and the menu has a wide selection of ceviches to choose from, as well as other dishes like empanadas, pulpo anticuchero (octopus with spicy mashed potatoes), and adobo arequipeno (pork shoulder). Co-owners William Uracahua and Fatima Zimic are both friendly and helpful, and the location makes it a perfect stop after a day shopping in the Marina or hanging out on the Marina Green.

2015 Chestnut St
San Francisco, CA 94123

2. Abrazo

2000 Hyde St, San Francisco, CA 94109
Pasta dish at Abrazo Rob Aiavao

Located on Hyde Street in Russian Hill, this charming and unassuming Mediterranean- and Spanish-influenced restaurant is a hidden gem. Chef and owner Michael Pawlik takes full advantage of San Francisco’s proximity to wine country with an impressive selection of wines, from local favorites like pinot noir from Flowers Vineyard in Sonoma to imported bottles from Spain. The food menu consists of Spanish staples, from seafood paella to charred octopus, all of which are exquisite and beautifully plated. Don’t forget to finish with the cinnamon-sugared ricotta bunuelos.

2000 Hyde St
San Francisco, CA 94109

3. Matterhorn Restaurant and Bakery

2323 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco, CA 94109

This fondue restaurant is an entertaining date night spot for those looking for something different than the traditional night out. The dining room is designed to look like an Alpine ski chalet, complete with a gondola for two (be sure to request it when making reservations). While the selection of gooey cheese fondue and raclette is the main draw, don’t forget to order the tender spatzle. Who needs a passport when you can get your fill of gruyere here?

2323 Van Ness Ave
San Francisco, CA 94109

4. San Sun Restaurant

848 Washington St, San Francisco, CA 94108

While you might not expect to find quality Vietnamese food in Chinatown, San Sun has served delicious and piping hot pho for more than 20 years. During the day, the restaurant is busy with locals enjoying the food or watching television. The spicy beef noodle soup packs in a ton of flavor, and the steel bowls keep the broth steaming hot. Starters like the fried fish balls and hot and sour wings are also worth adding on.

848 Washington St
San Francisco, CA 94108

5. The Lucky Pig

791 O'Farrell St, San Francisco, CA 94109
Korean stew from Lucky Pig Rob Aiavao

Hidden away in the Tenderloin, this family-run restaurant specializes in generously portioned Korean food. The Korean fried chicken is incredibly crispy, flavorful, and most importantly, juicy. While diners really can’t go wrong with ordering anything off the menu, the tteokbokki rice cakes and budae-jjigae are also spicy standouts. Be sure to stop by for the daily happy hour if you’re looking to enjoy their selection of Korean beer, wine, and soju.

791 O'Farrell St
San Francisco, CA 94109

6. Kagawa-Ya Udon

1455 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94103
Table full of udon at Kagawa-Ya Rob Aiavao

Husband-and-wife duo Katherine Chiao and Sean Lim serve mom-and-pop vibes and square-cut udon on the ground floor of the Uber headquarters. In addition to warm bowls of slurpable udon, they double down on the comfort food with Japanese curry plates and korokke. It’s self service making this a great place to grab a quick and convenient lunch or dinner when you’re in the Mid-Market area.

1455 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94103

7. Ocean Beach Cafe

734 La Playa St, San Francisco, CA 94121
Sandwich and beer at Ocean Beach Cafe Rob Aiavao

Owner Joshua James is committed to not only having the largest selection of (actually tasty) non-alcoholic beer, wine, and spirits, as well as epic huli huli chicken plates and breakfast burritos, but also supporting his local neighborhood of the Outer Richmond. He hosts an Ocean Beach cleanup twice a month, open mic nights, and has live music on the weekend. Be sure to ask him about his $25 SOBAR experience, where patrons can taste as many things as James can serve in one hour.

734 La Playa St
San Francisco, CA 94121

8. Om Indian Cuisine

1668 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117
Chicken tikka at Om Indian Om Indian Cuisine

While staples like chicken tikka masala are on the menu, Om India has a great selection of nourishing vegetarian dishes, including chana masala, saag paneer, and aloo gobi. The best part is Om, unlike many competitors, actually makes their food spicy when requested. Delivery is also quick for those nights when you’re craving Indian food but want to stay in.

1668 Haight St
San Francisco, CA 94117

9. Just For You Cafe

732 22nd St, San Francisco, CA 94107
Beignets at All for You Cafe Becky Duffett

The home-style breakfast at this Dogpatch neighborhood cafe is a sweet start to any weekend. The menu has the traditional American breakfast items with some Mexican specialities, but the fluffy New Orleans–style beignets are the fan favorite. If you can’t decide between the three kinds of beignets offered, order the sampler to get one of each.

732 22nd St
San Francisco, CA 94107

10. Fujiyama-Ya

1234 Noriega St, San Francisco, CA 94122
Sushi at Fujiyama-Ya Rob Aiavao

Fuji Yama-Ya is the type of low-key neighborhood restaurant you might find in a small village in Japan. This family-owned restaurant serves up some of the most delicious and fairly priced teriyaki, tempura, and sushi in San Francisco in a cozy setting. The sweet and salty beef sukiyaki is a must try, as well as the accompanying crispy tempura. The restaurant itself is small and the wait during dinner can get long, but it’s definitely worth it.

1234 Noriega St
San Francisco, CA 94122

11. La Reyna Bakery & Coffee Shop

3114 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110
Conchas at La Reyna Rob Aiavao

La Reyna has an incredible selection of freshly baked Mexican pan dulce. Items like conchas and elote are extremely well priced (most items are under one dollar), making this an excellent bakery to stop off in the morning for a quick breakfast while strolling tree-lined 24th Street.

3114 24th St
San Francisco, CA 94110

12. United Dumplings

525 Cortland Ave, San Francisco, CA 94110
Potstickers United Dumplings

This minority- and woman-owned restaurant in Bernal Heights specializes in Chinese dumplings, but not exactly the standard dim sum fare. While the menu includes recipes handed down from owner Sandy Zheng’s grandmother, it also has modern flavors like Korean BBQ Beef Dumplings and Mission Chicken Pot Stickers.

525 Cortland Ave
San Francisco, CA 94110

13. Auntie April's Chicken, Waffles, & Soul Food Restaurant

4618 3rd St, San Francisco, CA 94124

Auntie April’s has been a mainstay for soul food in the Bayview neighborhood for 13 years now. You can choose from three types of waffles (regular, cinnamon, and red velvet) to pair with the signature fried chicken. Another must try is the lemon-rosemary chicken wings and make it a full family dinner with sides like yams, rice and beans, and cornbread.

4618 3rd St
San Francisco, CA 94124

14. The Broken Record and Chicano Nuevo

1166 Geneva Ave, San Francisco, CA 94112
Squid ink tamales from Chicano Nuevo Rob Aiavao

This Excelsior neighborhood bar has a whiskey selection of more than 200 bottles to choose from and a warm and friendly staff. If you’re looking for something different, ask for rumple minze, a German liquor that leaves your mouth feeling minty fresh. And operating within the bar, Chicano Nuevo serves non-traditional bar food like squid ink tamales stuffed with shredded beef and fish tacos with salmon consomme.

1166 Geneva Ave
San Francisco, CA 94112

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