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A creamy scallop handroll. Patricia Chang

The 38 Essential Restaurants in San Francisco

A guide to the best restaurants in San Francisco for any dining occasion

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The Eater 38 is our attempt to answer any question that begins, “Can you recommend a restaurant?” It’s a curated list that covers the entire city, spanning numerous cuisines, neighborhoods, and price points. It’s a list that tells the story of San Francisco through food, documenting the blend of taquerias, dumpling shops, and tasting menu destinations that make this city one of the most interesting places to eat in America. These are the places you don’t want to miss on your first trip to the Bay Area, and the ones worth returning to even if you’ve lived here for decades.

And because we want to make sure this list reflects the ever-changing nature of San Francisco’s vibrant dining scene, we update the Eater 38 on a quarterly basis, adding restaurants that were previously overlooked, are newly eligible (Eater 38 restaurants must have been open for six months), or have stepped up their game. Sometimes a still great restaurant makes way for another one, in order to keep things new and fresh — and, importantly, to make sure that the Eater 38 is an inclusive and representative list.

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission.

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Chef Francis Ang’s Abacá brings contemporary Filipino cuisine to a sunny space on the ground floor of a Fisherman’s Wharf hotel, the plant-filled restaurant further brightened by sunflower yellow banquettes and woven baskets from the southeast Asian archipelago. The dinner menu gives familiar dishes a modern California update — think, seafood pancit topped with smoked bay scallops, and longganisa pork sausage skewered on a thin stick and served with egg yolk and cane vinegar for dipping. Weekend brunch is a real treat, when you can truly appreciate Ang’s pastry skills in dishes like a chewy pandan mochi waffle and savory ensaymada French toast. 

Patricia Chang

Lucca Delicatessen

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San Francisco is a city that loves a serious sandwich, and this old-school Italian-American deli has been slicing and stacking them since 1929. The salami hangs from the ceiling, the wheels of cheese weigh down the shelves, and everyone has a favorite special, from the #1 Italian Combo with salame, ham, mortadella, and provolone, to the Pat Burrell roast beef with pepper jack and peppers. The pro move is to grab a sandwich for lunch and a box of ravioli to take home for dinner.

Salami hanging from the ceiling at Lucca Deli Lucca Deli

Sotto Mare

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Locals and tourists swarm to Sotto Mare for an exemplary taste of San Francisco’s famous seafood creation: cioppino, an Italian-American stew likely adapted by Ligurian immigrants in North Beach. It’s on nearly every table at this old-school, kitschy establishment, served in heaping silver bowls for two that brim with slightly spicy tomato broth, Dungeness crab, assorted Pacific shellfish, and some penne pasta thrown in for good measure. Other seafood staples like Louie salads round out the meal.

Ciopinno at Sotto Mare Caleb Pershan

Restaurant Nisei

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Californios alum David Yoshimura channels his Japanese-American upbringing into Nisei, his Michelin-starred debut restaurant where Japanese soul food gets the fine dining treatment. The dining room is a zen retreat with white booths and inky black walls splashed with vibrant local art. In the kitchen, Yoshimura and his team nestle a fresh oyster in a foamy bed of English peas and wasabi and wrap sweet Brentwood corn, fermented blueberries, and buttery uni in sheets of shiny nori. The culmination of the 10-course tasting menu may be an array of tsukemono set beside a small cup of bone broth miso soup with duck fat rice and a tender rack of lamb.

China Live

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George Chen’s massive Chinese food emporium is certainly an elevated way to experience all that San Francisco’s Chinatown has to offer. But if you want to try a wide variety of dishes — from fried scallion pancakes to soup dumplings to Peking duck to charred Chinese broccoli — this is probably your best bet for a one-stop shop. Plus, the open kitchen means you can watch the culinary team at work, wrapping dumplings and wok-frying rice. On your way out don’t forget to stop at the marketplace to stock up on housemade condiments, and if you’re looking to extend the night, try the upstairs bar Cold Drinks Bar, where the menu centers around smokey scotch-based cocktails. 

A table of plates with entrees and dumplings from China Live. China Live

Kokkari Estiatorio

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A fire in the hearth and chickens twirling on the spit set the tone for this warm and rustic Greek tavern, a longstanding destination between the business lunches of the FiDi and the date-night dinners of historic Jackson Square. The grilled whole fish of the day and lemon-oregano lamb riblets are always a treat, as are the crispy zucchini cakes and quintet of creamy and fishy dips.

Kokkari Estiatorio

Hog Island Oyster Co.

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There’s no shortage of excellent seafood in this city by the bay, but it’s a true rite of passage to slurp briny bivalves at the Hog Island outpost inside the historic Ferry Building. Plan ahead as the line can stretch for an hour or more during peak times, but if you arrive early (the restaurant opens at 11 a.m. daily) you can look forward to platters of fresh oysters served over ice after being pulled from waters up and down the West Coast. Supplement the feast with fried local anchovies, elegant crudo, or a remarkably good grilled cheese sandwich made with three varieties of melted cheese. With a glass of bubbles in hand and views of the bridge outside, it’s a meal to remember, whether you’re a local or just in town for a weekend. 

Hog Island

Mister Jiu's

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It was a big deal for San Francisco when James Beard Award-winning chef Brandon Jew took over the historic Four Seas banquet hall space and opened an ambitious Chinese-American restaurant in the heart of Chinatown. The dining room remains a green-and-white gem of the neighborhood — and a destination for some of San Francisco’s best roast duck served with peanut butter hoisin, along with cocktails, beer, and cider.

House of Prime Rib

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This 70-year-old Nob Hill classic is a trip back to a time when plating with tweezers was not yet a thing. The name says it all: House of Prime Rib serves one thing and one thing only, and it does that roast prime rib very, very well. The only choices to make are: meat temperature, cut thickness, mashed or loaded baked potatoes, and martini or Manhattan. Each plate comes with a salad (prepared tableside), creamed spinach, Yorkshire pudding, and potatoes — and of course a hulking piece of beef cut from one of the wheeled meat carts.


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Following an extensive redesign from star designer Ken Fulk, this classic San Francisco restaurant bounced back from the pandemic more impressive than ever. Settle into a luxurious peacock blue booth under the golden glow of romantic spot lighting and let the smooth service staff usher you through a multi-course prix fixe menu from chef and owner Nancy Oakes and chef Dana Younkin. Dishes rotate frequently but stick to the California ethos of seasonal and local, though you can never go wrong with the Berkshire pork chop, served on the bone and cooked over a live fire to a perfect obsidian char. 

The renovated dining room at Boulevard. Patricia Chang


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Octavia is back and that means Melissa Perello and team are once again swinging for the fences with flawless seasonal menus starring fresh pasta and some of the city’s most unforgettable desserts. There are familiar refrains in the mix, with plates like fresh mozzarella with Jimmy Nardellos and Brentwood corn lasagna with sweet corn and bright chiles emphasizing the breadth of Northern California’s bounty. And of course, the window-fronted space remains as lively and elegant as ever, accented with structural arrangements from cult-favorite florist the Petaler.

Corn lasagna from Octavia Molly DeCoudreaux

B Patisserie

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Pastry superstars Belinda Leong and Michel Suas continue to dominate both California Street — where the duo operates B. Patisserie, b. on the Go, and their latest full-service restaurant Routier — and the San Francisco pastry scene. There’s no shortage of excellent bakers in this city, but Leong’s impossibly buttery and flakey kougin amann are truly iconic. On a first visit, it’s hard to stray from the classic iteration, but when the seasons change it’s an excellent idea to explore the fruit and black sesame variations.

Daeho Kalbijjim & Beef Soup

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At this Korean hotspot in San Francisco’s Japantown, the wait for a table during peak dinner time can stretch long as two hours, and almost every dish on the menu features some kind of preparation of beef: kalbitang (or beef rib soup); beef bibimbap; seolleongtang, the cloudy-white ox bone soup with its noted hangover-curing properties; and, if you think all that won’t be enough, boiled beef brisket that you can order as an appetizer. But the star of the show — and perhaps of the city’s entire Korean restaurant scene — is the kalbijjim, the slow-braised, spicy-sweet, fall-off-the-bone beef short rib stew that is Daeho’s claim to fame.

Braised short rib stew at Daeho Luke Tsai

Mandalay Restaurant

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San Francisco is one of the great Burmese restaurant cities in the U.S., and, though it isn’t the flashiest or the most crowded, Mandalay might be best of the bunch — certainly it’s the one that makes the least compromises to accommodate Western palates, which in general means bigger, punchier flavors. Try the homey samusa soup or any of the fragrant noodle dishes, but whatever you do, don’t skip the best fermented tea leaf salad in town — a rendition of the classic that’s available without lettuce or cabbage to tamp down the deliciously pungent flavors or diminish the outrageous crunch of the nuts and seeds.

Lahpet thoke at Mandalay Omar Mamoon

Good Luck Dim Sum

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San Francisco is fortunate to have a number of excellent options for dim sum — whether you crave something classic like Yank Sing or more modern like Dumpling Time. But for a truly local experience, Good Luck Dim Sum takes the cake. It’s an affordable option and a neighborhood favorite with a line snaking out the door on most weekend mornings. Be prepared to order fast and pay cash. The move is to take your fried sesame balls, shrimp-stuffed shumai, and lotus-leaf-wrapped sticky rice either to Golden Gate Park or out to Baker Beach for stellar views of the bay and bridge. 

Storefront of Good Luck Dim Sum Google Maps


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There’s a growing number of Asian-American bakeries in and around San Francisco putting fresh twists on classic baked goods and infusing French pastries with sweet ube and meaty chashu. But if you’re only going to check out one, make it Breadbelly, where a team of James Beard Award-nominated fine-dining alums have truly perfected the art of marrying Asian flavors with modern California tastes. The signature lime-green kaya toast topped with coconut-pandan jam and big snowflakes of sea salt is a revelation, but savory sandwiches and daily pastries deserve attention, too. Still closed for indoor dining, Breadbelly offers online ordering for pick-up starting at 10 a.m. — and click quick, as items sell out fast.

PPQ Dungeness Island - San Francisco

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Vietnamese-style roast crab, drenched in a metric ton of butter and garlic, is one of the signature dishes of the San Francisco dining experience, and no one does it better than this Richmond District institution, where any weeknight dinner can feel like a special celebration if you splurge on a couple of those crabs and a big plate of garlic noodles.

La Cocina Municipal Marketplace

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This spacious and airy food hall brings a handful of bright and delicious options to the Tenderloin. Wind your way past the inventive beverage options at trans-owned Fluid Cooperative Cafe to choose from savory menus spanning po’ boys stuffed with golden fried shrimp and andouille sausage; North African dishes from chefs Wafa and Mounir Bahloul; and momos (Nepalese dumplings) from Bini’s Kitchen. Hours are somewhat limited (it’s open for lunch only Monday through Friday) but cocktails are available at La Paloma bar until 8 p.m. on Thursday and Friday nights. 

Emilio Salehi

Chef Mourad Lahlou has two striking restaurants: Mourad offers a Michelin-starred fine dining experience downtown, while Aziza serves Moroccan comforts out in the avenues. There’s no wrong choice between the two, but Aziza delivers at a higher level than a neighborhood restaurant has any need to. For dinner, start with addictive harissa cashews and a trio of spreads with pillowy flatbread before taking on plates of hand-rolled couscous, whole branzino, or braised lamb shank. Of course, never skip the basteeya, which comes wrapped in a flaky dough and stuffed with chicken confit and spiced almonds. For weekend brunch, the Moroccan pancakes are not to be missed. 

Albert Law

Brenda's Meat & Three

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Stepping off the busy Divisadero Street sidewalk and into Brenda’s Meat and Three is like stepping into another world: one where the grits are always cheesy, the biscuits impossibly flaky, and the potatoes expertly mashed. This casual spot serves three square meals a day – an impressive feat in and of itself – but supper is when you’ll see owner Brenda Buenviajé’s New Orleans roots on full display. High up on the wall a menu board displays the day’s meat options, which always includes some of the city’s best fried chicken plus rotating choices like fried catfish and shrimp etouffée.

Cinderella Bakery & Cafe

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Though the small enclave of Russian markets and businesses in the Richmond has contracted over the years, Cinderella Bakery & Cafe endures, thanks in large part to its fresh baked loaves of rye bread, puff pastry perogies, and delicately layered slices of honey cake. On the savory side, don’t skip the Russian dumplings called pelmeni, which can and should be enjoyed with broth and plenty of sour cream. 

Cake from Cinderella Bakery & Cafe Cinderella Bakery & Cafe

Le Fantastique

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If raw fish is having a moment in San Francisco, then the best place to dive into the trend is definitely Le Fantastique, the new-ish Hayes Valley wine bar and restaurant from Emily and Robbie Wilson (also the duo behind Palo Alto’s Bird Dog). On any given night the kitchen floods this urban-chic, L-shaped dining room with pristine plates of fish – seasoned, cured, and elevated to new, fresh, even floral heights. Pair highly Instagrammable mini eclairs crowned with caviar and fluffy kakagori with any of the excellent white wines for a real meal to remember. 

Zuni Cafe

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Besides “the” chicken, Zuni's burger, Caesar salad, and bloody mary have all been called the best in the city at various points in the restaurant’s illustrious, 40-plus-year career. Sitting on the edge of Hayes Valley, it’s the utility belt of San Francisco restaurants: good for brunch, for late-night dining, for oysters and a cocktail at the bar, or for a lovely sit-down meal with a date. The chicken, meanwhile, deserves every last bit of praise.  During the pandemic, Zuni started serving takeout for the first time in its storied history — and became the first restaurant in the city to switch over to all reusable takeout containers.

Zuni’s famous chicken with bread salad Bill Addison

Under swinging lines of cerulean papel picado, chef Nick Cobarruvias presents a veggie-forward menu of tacos, tostadas, and large plates that’s delightfully fresh and flavorful. There are meaty options, too, including slow-cooked carne con guajillo chile wrapped in soft tortillas made from masa that’s nixtamalized in house. But don’t overlook the hen of the wood huarache, showered with a tangle of tender and savory mushrooms, or the unexpectedly vibrant charred cabbage, sporting dark spots of char and dusted with toasted pecan dukkah. Cocktails are unfussy but well executed; you can’t go wrong with a spicy margarita sipped on the wooden parklet off Haight. 

The interior of Otra with blue papel picado hanging over a long dining room with concrete floors. Lauren Saria/Eater SF


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Val Cantu’s two-Michelin-starred Californios came roaring back in spring 2021 with a new home and the same ambitious tasting menu of exquisite cuisine rooted in Mexican traditions. In the former Bar Agricole space in SoMa, Cantu and his team honor Mexican ingredients and cooking techniques – elevating masa to new heights through in-house nixtamalization for handmade tortillas and taking creative liberties with dishes like a puffed pieces of black masa topped with sea urchin and a grilled banana served with a dollop of caviar.


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Rintaro feels like a secret hideout in the Mission, with a lovely front patio guarded from the street by a bamboo fence. Enter, and find an inviting, wood-clad izakaya from Chez Panisse alum Sylvan Mishima Brackett, whose menu has long drawn a bustling, stylish crowd that lines up before the restaurant even opens for business. Gyoza, yakitori of all kinds, pristine sashimi, and the platonic ideal of fried tori katsu (fried chicken stuffed with Cowgirl Creamery cheese) are all on order.

Beit Rima

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On a sunny afternoon or a cool San Francisco evening, there’s perhaps no better place to find comfort than on Biet Rima’s flower-lined patio or inside its cozy dining room with a generous mezze spread before you and a cold Arabic beer in hand. Owner Samir Mogannam turns seasonal produce into simple yet stunning vegetarian-friendly dishes like delicata squash in brown butter with tangy labneh and pine nut dukkah, while the meatier entrees including tender beef kabob and yogurt marinated chicken lend the menu some weight.

Delicata squash with brown butter lebneh from Beit Rima Lauren Saria


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This family-run Mission District regional Mexican mainstay specializes in Yucatecan and Mayan-inspired cuisine, which means lots of smoky, citrus-marinated pork, deeply flavorful turkey mole (served, in the Yucatecan style, as an ink-black soup), and wonderful handmade tortillas. Service could scarcely be more attentive and kind.

Caleb Pershan

Palm City

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Step inside this neighborhood wine bar and restaurant and you’ll likely feel like you stumbled into a hidden gem. This isn’t to say that Palm City Wines hasn’t gotten its share of media attention, but rather, that despite being lauded as one of the best places to get a Philly-style hoagie outside of Philadelphia, it retains a laid-back vibe befitting its home in the quiet and notoriously foggy avenues. Roll through (there are no reservations) for a glass of something fun and funky like a dark and fruity Blaufränkisch or a fresh and zippy Sicilian white to pair with one of the massive sandwiches. The Italian American makes a solid choice: Built on a sesame-seeded roll it sports a spread of spicy nduja aioli plus layers of finocchiona, mortadella, mozzarella, arugula, onions, and a dusting of parmesan cheese. 

Handroll Project

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When you consider the pedigree behind Mission Dolores newcomer Handroll Project, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the restaurant immediately drew hours-long wait times with its opening in 2022. Thankfully the restaurant now offers reservations though snagging one isn’t easy. Once you can get a seat at one of the two sushi bars, you’ll be treated to a concise list of temaki, or handrolls, envisioned by chef Geoffrey Lee of Michelin-starred Japanese restaurant Ju-Ni. Sets include 6 ($36), 7 ($55), or 10 ($98) pieces with the option to order a la carte if you prefer. If you can splurge on the ikura and ankimo temaki, with its crown of luminous salmon roe and hyper-cold shaved monkfish liver, you won’t regret it. 

Chef Geoffrey Lee shaves ankimo over an ikura handroll. Patricia Chang


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Reborn at its location in the Mission last year, San Francisco’s only Guamanian restaurant continues to provide newcomers to Chamorro cuisine with a delicious education: stroganoff-like tinaktak with egg noodles, pork ribs over red rice, and an assortment of the Guamanian-style ceviches known as kelaguen — served here on flatbreads, like a taco.


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You can’t go wrong with any of chef Corey Lee’s restaurants, whether it’s the black-and-white French bistro Monsieur B in Hayes Valley or his three Michelin-starred Benu in SoMa. But his latest, San Ho Won in the Mission, is where the chef takes things back to his Korean American roots, working with chef Jeong-In Hwang to prepare meticulously charcoal grilled double cut galbi and tender beef tongue. This is a Korean barbecue restaurant unlike any other with elegant seasonal banchan, sizzling stews, and flaky blood sausage and green onion pancakes served in an austere space wrapped in warm woods. 

True Laurel

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It’s hard to pinpoint the best cocktail bar in a city with such a deep drinking scene, but what sets True Laurel apart from the crowd is the fact that it’s not only one of the best places to knock back a couple of drinks but also serves a tight food menu that’s totally worthwhile. Both lists rotate frequently, though you can check the website for the current offerings, but the milk-washed Mai O Mai has become a local classic with a coffee-rum float and a sweet-nutty blend of lime, pistachio orgeat, and curacao. If you’re eating, don’t miss the crispy mushrooms and the absolutely iconic patty melt served on toasted beef fat pan de mie.