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The menu at Copra features dishes from southwestern India, where chef Srijith Gopinathan grew up.
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 menu at Copra features dishes from southwestern India, where chef Srijith Gopinathan grew up.
| Patricia Chang

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.

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Eater maps are curated by editors and aim to reflect a diversity of neighborhoods, cuisines, and prices. Learn more about our editorial process. If you buy something or book a reservation from an Eater link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics policy.

Scoma's Restaurant

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It’s undeniable that the Fisherman’s Wharf of today may not quite live up to the rose-tinted memories of years gone by. But things remain reliably and pleasantly the same at Scoma’s, the nearly 60-year-old restaurant on the literal dock of the Bay. The menu will satisfy all your touristy seafood cravings for oysters, Dungeness crab cocktail, clam chowder, and cioppino, though the lengthy selections also include a spicy chicken sandwich and pasta with red sauce. Almost as much as the food, the space itself is the draw, whether you sit outside with the sound of lapping waves in the background or inside the wood-paneled dining room decorated with oodles of local sports paraphernalia.

A bowl of seafood stew. Lauren Saria

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 the pastry skills of both Ang and James Beard Award-nominated pastry chef Vince Bugtong in dishes like a chewy pandan mochi waffle and savory ensaymada French toast. 

Patricia Chang

Golden Boy Pizza

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San Francisco is absolutely swarming with great pizzerias whether you favor a floppy Neapolitan pie from Tony’s, New York-inspired slices at Outta Sight, or thick Detroit-style slabs from Square Pie Guys. But Golden Boy remains an institution for good reason: It’s a rite of passage to stand on the sidewalk under that glowing neon sign waiting for your pan or slice while soaking in all that is the North Beach neighborhood. There are classic options including cheese, pepperoni, and sausage –- but the pro-move is to get the clam and garlic pie. It’s a zingy, briny, bready meal built on a doughy base with a sturdy bottom. Take your pizza to nearby Washington Square Park if the weather allows. 

Maison Nico

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Of course, San Francisco has an armada of top-notch bakeries specializing in sourdough bread, croissants, legendary egg tarts, and Asian American pastries. But there’s only one épicerie and café where diners can get a custardy cannelé and a slab of pâté en croûte — and that’s Maison Nico. Chef Nicolas Delaroque earned a Michelin star for his eponymous restaurant, but one global pandemic later he’s focused on fabulous brioche feuilletée; pâté en croûte studded with pork, butternut squash, and smoked eel; and an eye-catching ​​seafood aspic made with hunks of lobster, red snapper, mussels, and a bouillabaisse gelée. Pop by for a light lunch, but be warned some pastries may be sold out by midday. 

Chef Nico of Maison Nico Patricia Chang

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

City View Restaurant

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Earlier this year City View, one of the city’s favorite spots for dim sum, relocated to this new home at 33 Walter U. Lum Place in Chinatown, in the shadow of Portsmouth Square. It’s a dark and elegant space with comfortable booths and dramatic spotlighting above each table. There are no carts, but the food still shines, including bouncy shrimp and pork-stuffed shumai, impossibly thin and crisp scallion pancakes, and fluffy buns that explode with salted egg yolk custard. Service is prompt and polite making this a good option for a quicker sit-down meal. 

Dumplings and scallion pancakes on a table. Lauren Saria

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, even following a light renovation earlier this spring. Jew also introduced a new prix-fixe menu format with the option to add on banquet-style plates like some of San Francisco’s best roast duck served with peanut butter hoisin, along with cocktails, beer, and cider.

Liberty Farm Peking Style Roast Duck at Mister Jiu’s. Lauren Saria

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.

Lauren Saria

Boulevard

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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

Friends Only

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These days it might be slightly easier to get a seat at this incredibly exclusive (read: just 10 seats) omakase counter, but for the most part, you’ll need to plan in advance. The effort of getting in the door, however, will be rewarded with an evening of exquisitely decadent small plates and sushi in a surprisingly relaxed and lively atmosphere. Dining at Michelin Guide-listed Friends Only feels almost like attending an intimate dinner party — if your dinner party host served black truffle-topped chawanmushi and a rainbow of uni on a single piece of nigiri. The price tag is a steep $300 before beverages and gratuity, but chef Ray Lee’s other restaurant Akikos makes a slightly more affordable option starting at $150 for lunch or $250 for dinner. 

Nigiri of bluefin tuna belly and uni. Lauren Saria

Sons & Daughters

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New Nordic feels remarkably fresh at Sons & Daughters, the fine dining destination that’s been doing the damn thing near Union Square for more than a decade now. But there’s a new executive chef in the kitchen, Harrison Cheney, and he’s blending the acidic, fermented flavors he picked up while working at two Michelin-starred Gastrologik in Stockholm, with Northern California’s pristine seasonal produce. The result is an intimate tasting menu experience that’s elegant, surprising, and warm.

Sons & Daughters

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.

A box of pastries. Lauren Saria

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.

A heaping bowl of beef stew. Luke Tsai

Chef Srijith Gopinathan has been a star of the Bay Area dining scene for years, having earned two Michelin stars at Campton Place, where he cooked for an impressive 15 years. His most recent project, however, takes things in a more personal direction. The stunningly designed Copra draws inspiration from his home state of Kerala, on the southwestern tip of India. Start with a palette of seasonal chutneys served with various lentil crisps before moving into larger plates like black cod pollichathu, which features shallot-crusted fish wrapped in banana leaves. For dessert, don’t miss the “God’s Own” Coconut Variation.

Patricia Chang

Kin Khao

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Kin Khao, the more casual sister restaurant to Nari in Japantown, holds a single Michelin star, and for good reason. Here chef Pim Techamuanvivit and chef de cuisine James Slagle give diners a taste of Thai cooking with no holds barred in terms of flavor. Don’t miss the steamed jar of spicy curry mouse called mushroom har mok or the charred local squid, a tart and smoky dish scattered with peanuts and cilantro. Open for lunch and dinner in a hotel near Union Square, the restaurant doesn’t offer as elegant an atmosphere as Nari, but the addictingly bold flavors more than make up for anything you might find lacking in the decor. 

Mushroom har mok at Kin Khao. Lauren Saria

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

Pasta Supply Co

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In the past year, the Bay Area has welcomed a new crop of Italian restaurants focused on affordability, and chef Anthony Strong’s Pasta Supply Co. is the best example in San Francisco. By day, it’s a retail destination for fresh pastas of all shapes and sizes, as well as sauces, cheeses, compound butter, and pantry items galore. But starting at 5 p.m., neighbors line up outside for dinner, when the kitchen team turns out twirly mafaldine with butter and cheese, salt cod “plumpers” in puttanesca sauce, or fusilli in spicy vodka tomato sauce. Almost everything costs under $20 — just be prepared for a wait since there are no reservations offered.

A plate of pasta topped with a lobster tail. Lauren Saria

Birdbox

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You could do a whole hell of a lot worse than grabbing a pre- or post-game meal at Birdbox, the fried chicken spinoff from Michelin-starred Birdsong in SoMa. Chef Chris Bleidorn serves super-crispy fried chicken by the box or shoved between sandwich buns and you can have it coated in a choice of finger-licking good flavors like sour cream and onion or the umami-forward Classic Yeast. For those doing it all for the ‘gram, there’s also the famous claw-on Claude the Claw sandwich, a testament to the restaurant’s commitment to sourcing quality chickens only.

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

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

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.

A roasted chicken cut into pieces with a salad. Lauren Saria

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

Californios

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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.

Lauren Saria

Rintaro

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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

Poc-Chuc

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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.

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. 

Hoagie from Palm City Patricia Chang

Piglet & Co

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Chef Chris Yang and partner Marcelle Gonzales Yang put down roots in the Mission for their formerly itinerant businesses Hen-Zhi and El Chino Grande in early 2023. Piglet & Co serves “Asian comfort food” out of a moody space inspired by Taiwanese night markets. The menu changes from week to week but staples include sweet-savory honey walnut shrimp and pork toast, confited Savoy cabbage, and a massive platter of chashao pork ssam. With a liquor license still in the works, beverage options include tea and sodas. Weekend brunch stars dishes such as milk bread French toast and loco moco made with dry-aged, grass-fed beef.

Toast with a pork and shrimp patty on a gold plate. Patricia Chang

Delfina Restaurant

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After taking a years-long break spurred by the pandemic, Delfina reopened on 18th Street with a fresh new look in October 2022. Co-owners Annie and Craig Stoll are proud to show off a new bar and a new private dining room, where fans old and new can get a taste of the restaurant’s pioneering Cal-Italian cuisine. The spaghetti pomodoro returned to the menu, but as ever, the selection changes just about every day so the kitchen can incorporate whatever’s freshest from the Stoll’s farm in Sonoma.

Pasta from Delfina. Albert Law

Prubechu

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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. The covered outdoor patio means every meal feels something like a beachy party, particularly when the sun in shining on this Mission District restaurant.

Taqueria Cancun

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La Taqueria and Taqueria El Farolito are, undeniably, the most famous of the Mission District’s many destinations for a massive Mission-style burrito. But ask someone who’s lived in the neighborhood for 15 years, and they might just point you toward Taqueria Cancun. Here you’ll want to order the pollo asado-stuffed Mission burrito, with the tortilla griddled on the plancha before it’s stuffed with shredded Monterey Jack cheese, tomato-tinged rice, your choice of beans, diced onion and cilantro, pico de gallo, sour cream, and avocado. If it sounds like a lot of food, that’s because it is.

The red-and-yellow exterior of Taqueria Cancún with two benches out front. Omar Mamoon

Lazy Bear

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Yes, Lazy Bear holds two Michelin stars but set aside any expectations of stuffy service and starched white tablecloths. The restaurant describes itself as a “modern dinner party” and while the original communal table has been chopped up and spread out around the dining room, an abundance of staff circulating the floor and an open kitchen make the dining experience both exceptionally professional, a little chaotic, and endlessly fun. By now several of the dishes on the ever-changing menu are staples — for example, the delicate but smoky whipped scrambled egg — but part of the fun is seeing what local and in-season ingredients the team has sourced or foraged for your visit. If you can, go all-in on one of the beverage pairings and a liquid treat for after dinner.  

Caviar at Lazy Bear Lazy Bear

SAN HO WON

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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. 

Trick Dog

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Already 11 years into its run, Trick Dog remains one of the finest cocktail bars in San Francisco. The menu rotates every quarter, with the most recent iteration taking things in a distinctly pirate-y direction. But no matter when you visit, expect drinks that surprise and delight with uncommon ingredients — for example, peanut butter and Sriracha or hoisin and absinthe — in a well-balanced cocktail. The food is nothing to scoff at either. You can’t go wrong with either the buttermilk-brined chicken nuggets or the massive kale salad.