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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 venturing out to try 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.

To that end, we’ve added Brenda’s Meat and Three, Old Skool Cafe, Le Fantastique, Cinderella Bakery & Cafe, Breadbelly, and China Live; while the still excellent Mensho Tokyo SF, Auntie April’s, Um.ma, La Ciccia, and Dragon Beaux have been removed for now. Liholiho Yacht Club has rolled off while the restaurant is temporarily closed.

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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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Lucca Delicatessen

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2120 Chestnut St
San Francisco, CA 94123
(415) 921-7873
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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 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

2. Sotto Mare

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552 Green St
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 398-3181
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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 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

3. China Live

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644 Broadway
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 788-8188
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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’re looking 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 through 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

4. Cotogna

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490 Pacific Ave
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 775-8508
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For fresh pasta, Cotogna throws down like an Italian nonna, maintaining a reputation in a town that loves rustic Cal-Italian restaurants. It’s owned by Michael and Lindsay Tusk, in the same restaurant group as Michelin-starred Quince, but this Jackson Square restaurant is warmer and more casual. The woodfire oven and grill face out onto the open dining room, with communal wooden tables laden with spit-roasted pork, rabbit, and quail, fresh pasta, and market vegetables. Don’t miss the raviolo, the single oversized ravioli, that breaks open to reveal a buttery golden egg yolk. 

The giant raviolo pasta at Cotogna Cotogna

5. Kokkari Estiatorio

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200 Jackson St
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 981-0983
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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, which is a longstanding destination, right on the border of where the business lunches of the FiDi cross over into 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

6. Sam Wo Restaurant

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713 Clay St
San Francisco, CA 94108
(415) 989-8898
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Out-of-town visitors might come pay their respects at Sam Wo out of historical interest, as the restaurant, newly reopened in 2015, is believed to be the oldest in San Francisco’s Chinatown — and, thus, one of the very oldest Chinese restaurants in America. Far from just some historical curiosity, however, Sam Wo remains one of Chinatown’s most delicious destinations, beloved by both tourists and locals for its simple, satisfying menu of Cantonese dishes like its fish jook and barbecue rice rolls.

7. Mister Jiu's

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28 Waverly Pl
San Francisco, CA 94108
(415) 857-9688
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It was a big deal for San Francisco when chef Brandon Jew took over the historic Four Seas banquet hall space and opened an ambitious Chinese-American restaurant in the heart of Chinatown. He stayed busy during the pandemic, opening Mamahuhu, a fast-casual spinoff on Clement, as well as putting out a cookbook, Mister Jiu’s in Chinatown. But Mister Jiu’s is back open for dine-in, serving the roast duck platter with peanut butter hoisin, sea urchin cheong fun, and squid ink wontons, along with cocktails, beer, and cider.

8. House of Prime Rib

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1906 Van Ness Ave
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 885-4605
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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.

9. Akiko's Restaurant

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431 Bush St
San Francisco, CA 94108
(415) 397-3218
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In a city with many luxurious omakase counters, Akiko’s has always been a revelatory sushi experience. Tucked away in Union Square, just around the corner from the Dragon Gate to Chinatown, chef-owner Ray Lee and his family have been serving exquisite bites to intimate seats for more than 30 years. The toro, uni, caviar, and wagyu are worth the splurge.

Nigiri from Akiko’s Akiko’s

10. Octavia

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1701 Octavia St
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 408-7507
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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

11. B Patisserie

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2821 California St
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 440-1700
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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.

12. Mourad

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140 New Montgomery St #1
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 660-2500
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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. And if you’re looking for a flawless dinner, Mourad is more than worth the splurge. Swoon beneath the glittering chandeliers in the handsomely appointed dining room swathed in plants. Service is impeccable, from the warm and friendly hosts and service staff to the knowledgeable and enthusiastic wine director Jose Delgado. And everything on the menu delivers — starting with a simple bowl of warm and lemon scented olives or a buttery chicken basteeya to the large format la’acha plates and delicate desserts. 

The interior of Mourad

13. Daeho Kalbijjim & Beef Soup

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1620 Post St
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 563-1388

At this Korean hotspot in San Francisco’s Japantown, the wait for a table during peak dinner hours 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

14. Nari

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1625 Post St
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 868-6274
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Pim Techamuanvivit’s statement restaurant at Japantown’s Hotel Kabuki is unlike any other Thai spot in town — more upscale, sure, with the artful plating and (at least during pre-pandemic times) the gorgeous dining room to match. But Nari’s most meaningful impact lies in the way the restaurant is bringing bold, unapologetic Thai flavors to a grand stage in San Francisco — and doing it in a way that showcases local ingredients. There’s nothing timid about the lime-bright mushroom laab, or the earthy Monterey Bay squid tossed with cubes of sticky caramelized pork jowl.

15. Mandalay Restaurant

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4348 California St
San Francisco, CA 94118
(415) 386-3896
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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

16. The Anchovy Bar

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1740 O'Farrell St
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 796-2710
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The Anchovy Bar, the latest restaurant from the team behind State Bird Provisions, swam into a small to stylish space just off Fillmore in 2020, giving chef Stuart Brioza plenty of room to indulge his obsession with anchovies. The menu plunges deep into the tinned fish and seafood trend with local oysters from up and down the West Coast; littleneck clams paddling alongside chunks of chorizo; and tiny, shiny, locally caught anchovies the team cures in house, when the season allows. On the beverage side they’re keeping things light and unpredictable with flights of sherry and fizzy riffs on a classic spritz.

Anchovies from the Anchovy Bar The Anchovy Bar

17. Breadbelly

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1408 Clement St
San Francisco, CA 94118
(415) 349-0969
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There’s a growing number of Asian-American bakeries in and around San Francisco putting fresh twists on classic baked foods 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, items sell out fast.

18. PPQ Dungeness Island - San Francisco

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2332 Clement St
San Francisco, CA 94121
(415) 386-8266
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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.

19. La Cocina Municipal Marketplace

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101 Hyde St
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 570-2595
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This spacious and airy food hall brings a handful of bright and delicious food 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

20. Montesacro San Francisco

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510 Stevenson St
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 795-3040
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Worthwhile Italian fare isn’t hard to find in this city, but if you’re looking specifically for Roman cuisine things get slightly trickier. Fortunately for fans of pinsa, the fluffy pizza-like dish indigenous to Rome, Montesacro is hiding in plain sight. Venture down a gritty alleyway in the Tenderloin and step inside to be transported halfway around the world to a casual Italian restaurant. The stretchy, doughy flatbreads come layered with crispy guanciale and prosciutto di Parma or still-snappy broccolini and creamy rosemary potato puree. Pair your meal with a selection from the impressive list of Italian whites, reds, and bubbles by the glass or bottle. 

Ellen Fort

21. Brenda's Meat & Three

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919 Divisadero St
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 926-8657
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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.

22. Monsieur Benjamin

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451 Gough St
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 403-2233
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Hayes Valley happens to have an exceptionally precise French restaurant, owned by star chef Corey Lee, and currently run by chef George Dingle, a Brit who knows his pastry crust. Monsieur Benjamin has black-and-white tile floors and a horseshoe bar, and deceptively simple and comforting bistro fare, from the duck confit and steak tartare to the chicken liver pate and butter lettuce salad.

Monsieur Benjamin

23. Cinderella Bakery & Cafe

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436 Balboa St
San Francisco, CA 94118
(415) 751-9690
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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

24. Le Fantastique

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22 Franklin St
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 432-7888
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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. 

25. Zuni Cafe

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1658 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 552-2522
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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. For the first time in the restaurant’s storied history, Zuni started serving takeout during the pandemic — and is the first restaurant in the city to switch over to all reusable takeout containers.

Zuni’s famous chicken with bread salad Bill Addison

26. Otra

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682 Haight St
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 500-2774
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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

27. Californios

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355 11th St
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 757-0994
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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.

28. Rintaro

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82 14th St
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 589-7022
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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.

29. Beit Rima

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86 Carl St
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 566-1274
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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 the 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 grounded in brown butter with tangy lebna 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

30. Poc-Chuc

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2886 16th St
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 558-1583
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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

31. Prubechu

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2224 Mission St #A
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 853-0671
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Reborn at its location in the Mission last year, San Francisco’s only Guamanian restaurant continues to provide newcomers to the cuisine with a delicious education into Chamorro cuisine: 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.

32. Farmhouse Kitchen Thai Cuisine

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710 Florida St
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 814-2920
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The wildly popular Farmhouse Kitchen dominated the takeout scene during the pandemic, with the Little Lao platter that became a social media sensation (sorry fans and followers, that special was retired on June 15). But regardless, this colorful Thai restaurant has always been a party, and now it’s back with hat yai fried chicken, caveman-sized braised ribs, blue rice, saucy curries, and more. It’s still great for delivery, but now open for indoor, and they’re very into birthdays.

Farmhouse Kitchen [official photo]

33. Besharam

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1275 Minnesota St
San Francisco, CA 94107
(415) 580-7662
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Fully revamped since the spring of 2019, Heena Patel’s Dogpatch restaurant shifted away from her initial “California Gujarati” cuisine concept, leaning heavily into the regional Gujarati dishes she grew up eating and launching a family-style vegetarian tasting menu option. The result? One of the most fantastic — and now, meat-free — Indian restaurants in the city. Customers may have never previously tried the smoky, spicy eggplant stew known as ringan no oro. But they’ll happily dig into those bold flavors here.

34. La Taqueria

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2889 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 285-7117
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It wouldn’t be San Francisco without the Mission’s squadron of high-quality taquerias, none better or more famous than this one. Known, in part, for long lines at all times of day, even during the pandemic, La Taq built up an unwaveringly loyal fan base even before it landed its America's Best Burrito title. The carnitas and carne asada are some of the best around; the tacos come wonderfully overloaded; and those burritos, famously, are served without rice so there’s no carb overload to distract from the quality of the meats.

35. Reem's California Mission

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2901 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 780-1953
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Open just one week before the shelter-in-place order, the highly anticipated Mission outpost of Reem Assil’s Arab bakery and restaurant — the only one in the city — faced the tall task of having to adapt and reinvent itself from its earliest days. By now its settled into the kind of all-day neighborhood staple that Assil always wanted it to be, with its menu of mana’eesh (topped flatbreads) and ka’ik sesame bread sandwiches (including the decadent, pastry-stuffed Jiddo’s Breakfast), and its brand of warm Arab hospitality.

36. El Buen Comer

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3435 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 817-1542
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Mexico City native Isabel Caudillo is serving family recipes at this Bernal Heights neighborhood restaurant, with a menu focused on guisados — slow-cooked meat and vegetable stews, like the wonderful, velvety pork mole verde, all served with big heap of rice and beans. Tacos are also excellent here, thanks to the restaurant’s well-blistered handmade tortillas made with organic masa.

37. Old Mandarin Islamic Restaurant

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3132 Vicente St
San Francisco, CA 94116
(415) 564-3481
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On cold nights, many of the regulars who’d crowd the small, scruffy dining room at Old Mandarin Islamic would order one of the spicy Beijing-style hot pots — a warming antidote to the chilly Outer Sunset fog. In general, this SF institution, one of the only places in the city that specializes in Chinese Muslim cuisine, is a great place to feast on lamb — stir-fried with cumin, braised, stuffed inside of dumplings, or boiled in a claypot. Chili-heads will want to test their endurance against the side dish/condiment known as la si ni, or “spice you to death.” 

38. Old Skool Cafe

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1429 Mendell St
San Francisco, CA 94124
(415) 822-8531
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Even if the promise of crunchy fried chicken, braised short ribs, and gumbo doesn’t inspire you, then consider the fact that this Bayview-Hunters Point restaurant also serves as a real-world vocational training ground for at-risk and formerly incarcerated youth. Celebrating its 10th anniversary this spring, Old Skool Cafe continues to offer drive-worthy soul food with a side of good karma and a healthy dose of live jazz in a room designed to transport diners to the 1920s with plush curtains, red leather booths, and dangling chandeliers.  

The interior of the Old Skool Cafe dining room. Old Skool Cafe

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1. Lucca Delicatessen

2120 Chestnut St, San Francisco, CA 94123
Salami hanging from the ceiling at Lucca Deli Lucca Deli

San Francisco is a city that loves a serious sandwich, and this old-school Italian-American deli has been slicing and stacking 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.

2120 Chestnut St
San Francisco, CA 94123

2. Sotto Mare

552 Green St, San Francisco, CA 94133
Ciopinno at Sotto Mare Caleb Pershan

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 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.

552 Green St
San Francisco, CA 94133

3. China Live

644 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133
A table of plates with entrees and dumplings from China Live. China Live

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’re looking 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 through 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. 

644 Broadway
San Francisco, CA 94133

4. Cotogna

490 Pacific Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133
The giant raviolo pasta at Cotogna Cotogna

For fresh pasta, Cotogna throws down like an Italian nonna, maintaining a reputation in a town that loves rustic Cal-Italian restaurants. It’s owned by Michael and Lindsay Tusk, in the same restaurant group as Michelin-starred Quince, but this Jackson Square restaurant is warmer and more casual. The woodfire oven and grill face out onto the open dining room, with communal wooden tables laden with spit-roasted pork, rabbit, and quail, fresh pasta, and market vegetables. Don’t miss the raviolo, the single oversized ravioli, that breaks open to reveal a buttery golden egg yolk. 

490 Pacific Ave
San Francisco, CA 94133

5. Kokkari Estiatorio

200 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94111
Kokkari Estiatorio

A fire in the hearth and chickens twirling on the spit set the tone for this warm and rustic Greek tavern, which is a longstanding destination, right on the border of where the business lunches of the FiDi cross over into 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.

200 Jackson St
San Francisco, CA 94111

6. Sam Wo Restaurant

713 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94108