clock menu more-arrow no yes
Waterbar

The Best Restaurants to Take Your Parents in San Francisco

These places are certain to please even the most discerning mom or dad

View as Map

Whether your parents live nearby or are only able to visit once every couple of years, the question of where to eat somehow always seems to be the most important one whenever the family gets together. The restaurant can't be too loud or too dark or too "specific." And it needs to have comfy seats, exceptional service, take reservations, and also be reasonably priced (for SF anyway).

Even in a city with as many restaurants as San Francisco, it can be hard to find a place that fits all of that criteria. Luckily, these 16 spots exist, all of which are certain to please even the most discerning mom or dad. From safe spots like classic steakhouses and bustling French bistros to something slightly outside the comfort zone such as all-vegetarian fare or some raw fish, all of these places are ready to charm your parents.

Have a spot you fall back on when mom or dad are in town? Let us know in the comments.

Read More
Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Chez Panisse Cafe

Copy Link
1517 Shattuck Ave
Berkeley, CA 94709
(510) 548-5525
Visit Website

Even if your mom and dad aren't food-obsessed, there's a good chance they'll appreciate a meal at Alice Waters' legendary restaurant — even more so if they're not paying the downstairs restaurant's prix fixe prices. The upstairs cafe is a little more inviting anyway thanks to the casual vibe and a la carte menu that changes daily, but always has something tempting for every palate. (If they are food-obsessed and are footing the bill: opt to check the downstairs tasting menu off their bucket list.)

2. Scoma's Restuarant

Copy Link
1965 Al Scoma Way
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 771-4383
Visit Website

An SF classic, Scoma’s is a seafood wonderland of white tablecloths and waiters in vests. There’s plenty of familial history, since it’s been owned by the Scoma family since 1965. It has great views, signature dishes like cioppino and crab louie, and classic cocktails. It also takes reservations (recommended), and the noise levels are consistently manageable in the carpeted dining room.

Patricia Chang

3. Greens Restaurant

Copy Link
Building A
San Francisco, CA 94123
(415) 771-6222
Visit Website

Greens may be all vegetarian, but between the sweeping views of the Bay and the creative and sophisticated dishes, carnivorous parents might not even notice. It’s classic San Francisco, with a menu that’s a laundry list of the best produce the Bay Area has to offer. Stop by for brunch, lunch, and dinner for meyer lemon fettuccine or asparagus pizza with green garlic pesto.

4. Cotogna

Copy Link
490 Pacific Ave
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 775-8508
Visit Website

Quince’s low-key restaurant next door is an excellent place to take parents (or anyone). For their dining purposes: it takes reservations, isn’t too loud, has a menu of rustic Italian dishes from pizza to pasta, and offers a very approachable wine list. Service is welcoming and prompt, so they’ll leave feeling warm, fuzzy, and glad you’re their child.

5. La Mar

Copy Link
Pier 1½
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 397-8880
Visit Website

This Peruvian restaurant on the Embarcadero delivers everything a parent could want: beautiful views, outdoor seating (make sure mom brings a light sweater), gorgeous cocktails, impeccable service, and stunning dishes that taste as good as they look. Don't miss the ceviche, which is some of the best in town, or the empanada sampler.

La Mar

6. Terzo

Copy Link
3011 Steiner St
San Francisco, CA 94123
(415) 441-3200
Visit Website

This Cow Hollow spot is definitely a favorite among locals who live nearby, but sometimes a neighborhood spot is the best way to give an out-of-towner a glimpse of what life in SF is really like. The space feels dark when you walk in, but there's enough light that no one will need a flashlight to read the Mediterranean tapas-style menu. One of your family members not into sharing? There's a good selection of large plates, like Niman Ranch pork shoulder or a fish of the day. Hopefully they're into wine because Terzo's wine selection is top notch.

7. Kokkari Estiatorio

Copy Link
200 Jackson St
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 981-0983
Visit Website

Kokkari has everything parents love: white tablecloths, chairs with backs, attentive service, and a bonus fireplace that makes the whole room warm and cozy. The menu includes Greek staples like dolmathes and moussaka, and wood-grilled meats and seafood. Another bonus: reservations are available for a leisurely lunch or elegant dinner.

Kokkari Estiatorio

8. Trestle

Copy Link
531 Jackson St
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 772-0922
Visit Website

Located at the cusp of North Beach and the Financial District, Trestle presses all the parental buttons. Excellent, approachable food at reasonable prices — $39 for a three-course prixe fixe — and attentive service will please the pickiest of parental units.

Trestle Patricia Chang

9. Slanted Door

Copy Link
1 Ferry Building #3
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 861-8032
Visit Website

The wall of floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Bay are the first show stopper of this eatery that is still trendy after all these years. But the Vietnamese dishes made with the freshest local ingredients are the real hero. The menu is quite extensive, but the friendly servers can help you navigate since everything's meant to be shared. That being said, you'll definitely want to order the crispy imperial rolls and cellophane crab noodles. Just know: it can get a little loud in here, so if noise is a concern, stop by for lunch before you give your parents a tour of the Ferry Building.

10. Boulettes Larder + Boulibar

Copy Link
1, Ferry Building, #48
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 399-1155
Visit Website

Located conveniently within in the Ferry Building — a bonafide visiting parent magnet — this duo of restaurants is owned and operated by a pair of chefs firmly rooted in the canon of Bay Area cuisine and with experience at Chez Panisse, Stars, and more. Head to Boulette’s Larder for lovely breakfast and lunch, or grab cocktails, snacks, and supper at adjacent Boulibar, both influenced by cuisines of the Mediterranean, North Africa, Greece, Japan, and Eastern Europe.

Boulette’s Larder
Boulette’s Larder

11. Wayfare Tavern

Copy Link
558 Sacramento St
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 772-9060
Visit Website

The masculine vibe, complete with taxidermy animal heads, exposed brick, and dark wood, will make dad feel right at home, and mom will also be wowed by Tyler Florence's creative comfort food and the lively scene. It can get a little loud when things really get hopping, which makes this another spot on the list that is perfect for lunch.

12. Boulevard

Copy Link
1 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 543-6084
Visit Website

Boulevard continues to represent classic San Francisco fare. Longtime SF chef Nancy Oakes offers something for everyone with her refined plates of fish, like halibut and salmon, along with pork chops, lamb, and soft shell crab in a classy restaurant setting that will make you forget you live in a land of hoodies and t-shirts. This is definitely the place to take the fussiest of diners

13. Waterbar

Copy Link
399 The Embarcadero
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 284-9922
Visit Website

Yes, Waterbar can be a little touristy, given it’s Embarcadero location. But the fresh-caught seafood — all of which is sustainably-sourced and beautifully-prepared — means it is in no way a tourist trap. Like the name says, the restaurant is located on the water and has spectacular views of the Bay Bridge and Treasure Island. Between the food, the views, and the dollar oysters (until 5:30 p.m.), this is the perfect place for a family celebration.

Waterbar

14. SPQR

Copy Link
1911 Fillmore St
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 771-7779
Visit Website

The chef's counter is the place to be at this cozy restaurant that boasts one Michelin star, but there's really not a bad seat in the house, especially once the insanely delicious pasta dishes start arriving at the table. This is a great place to take parents who appreciate thoughtful Italian wines and don't mind paying a bit more for dishes that are creative and made with the best ingredients available.

SPQR

15. Marlowe

Copy Link
500 Brannan St
San Francisco, CA 94107
(415) 777-1413
Visit Website

This bustling SoMa spot has a quirky butcher shop atmosphere, but in a totally cool way even your parents will appreciate. It can get a little loud in here, so if mom or dad prefer a quiet meal, head in on the earlier side (or go for lunch). The burger is, of course, a standout, but truthfully, you can't go wrong with any of the dishes on the menu, all of which feel a bit like comfort food, but without leaving you too full.

Daisy Barringer

16. Absinthe Brasserie & Bar

Copy Link
398 Hayes St
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 551-1590
Visit Website

You'll want to reserve a table in the charming dining room of this French and Northern Italian-influenced brasserie, as most parents might find the bar area a little too cramped and loud. The cocktail menu is impressive, but the sommelier also does a great job of explaining and selling the extensive wine list, so maybe start with the former and go from there. There's something for everyone on the menu, as long as "everyone" enjoys indulgent fare like oysters and Absinthe's classic coq au vin. (Though, if not, the hamburger never disappoints.)

17. Zuni Cafe

Copy Link
1658 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 552-2522
Visit Website

Zuni is a true SF classic that opened its doors in 1979 and will probably still be serving Judy Rodgers' famous roast chicken for two come 2079. There's no doubt about what your parents need to order: the chicken is a must, as is the Caesar salad. Ask for a seat upstairs for a more intimate (and quieter) experience with good views of the downstairs diners.

18. Foreign Cinema

Copy Link
2534 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 648-7600
Visit Website

Even if your parents aren't the most adventurous duo out there, this SF fixture is a good way to introduce them to the Mission. It's hipster, but possibly in a way only a parent would recognize. Still, dining al fresco under twinkling lights while an old movie plays on the wall never stops feeling a little magical, especially since the California-Mediterranean fare is always spot on. And it's worth noting that although Foreign Cinema feels especially special at night, the brunch is also phenomenal.

1. Chez Panisse Cafe

1517 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709

Even if your mom and dad aren't food-obsessed, there's a good chance they'll appreciate a meal at Alice Waters' legendary restaurant — even more so if they're not paying the downstairs restaurant's prix fixe prices. The upstairs cafe is a little more inviting anyway thanks to the casual vibe and a la carte menu that changes daily, but always has something tempting for every palate. (If they are food-obsessed and are footing the bill: opt to check the downstairs tasting menu off their bucket list.)

1517 Shattuck Ave
Berkeley, CA 94709

2. Scoma's Restuarant

1965 Al Scoma Way, San Francisco, CA 94133
Patricia Chang

An SF classic, Scoma’s is a seafood wonderland of white tablecloths and waiters in vests. There’s plenty of familial history, since it’s been owned by the Scoma family since 1965. It has great views, signature dishes like cioppino and crab louie, and classic cocktails. It also takes reservations (recommended), and the noise levels are consistently manageable in the carpeted dining room.

1965 Al Scoma Way
San Francisco, CA 94133

3. Greens Restaurant

Building A, San Francisco, CA 94123

Greens may be all vegetarian, but between the sweeping views of the Bay and the creative and sophisticated dishes, carnivorous parents might not even notice. It’s classic San Francisco, with a menu that’s a laundry list of the best produce the Bay Area has to offer. Stop by for brunch, lunch, and dinner for meyer lemon fettuccine or asparagus pizza with green garlic pesto.

Building A
San Francisco, CA 94123

4. Cotogna

490 Pacific Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

Quince’s low-key restaurant next door is an excellent place to take parents (or anyone). For their dining purposes: it takes reservations, isn’t too loud, has a menu of rustic Italian dishes from pizza to pasta, and offers a very approachable wine list. Service is welcoming and prompt, so they’ll leave feeling warm, fuzzy, and glad you’re their child.

490 Pacific Ave
San Francisco, CA 94133

5. La Mar

Pier 1½, San Francisco, CA 94111
La Mar

This Peruvian restaurant on the Embarcadero delivers everything a parent could want: beautiful views, outdoor seating (make sure mom brings a light sweater), gorgeous cocktails, impeccable service, and stunning dishes that taste as good as they look. Don't miss the ceviche, which is some of the best in town, or the empanada sampler.

Pier 1½
San Francisco, CA 94111

6. Terzo

3011 Steiner St, San Francisco, CA 94123

This Cow Hollow spot is definitely a favorite among locals who live nearby, but sometimes a neighborhood spot is the best way to give an out-of-towner a glimpse of what life in SF is really like. The space feels dark when you walk in, but there's enough light that no one will need a flashlight to read the Mediterranean tapas-style menu. One of your family members not into sharing? There's a good selection of large plates, like Niman Ranch pork shoulder or a fish of the day. Hopefully they're into wine because Terzo's wine selection is top notch.

3011 Steiner St
San Francisco, CA 94123

7. Kokkari Estiatorio

200 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94111
Kokkari Estiatorio

Kokkari has everything parents love: white tablecloths, chairs with backs, attentive service, and a bonus fireplace that makes the whole room warm and cozy. The menu includes Greek staples like dolmathes and moussaka, and wood-grilled meats and seafood. Another bonus: reservations are available for a leisurely lunch or elegant dinner.

200 Jackson St
San Francisco, CA 94111

8. Trestle

531 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94133
Trestle Patricia Chang

Located at the cusp of North Beach and the Financial District, Trestle presses all the parental buttons. Excellent, approachable food at reasonable prices — $39 for a three-course prixe fixe — and attentive service will please the pickiest of parental units.

531 Jackson St
San Francisco, CA 94133

9. Slanted Door

1 Ferry Building #3, San Francisco, CA 94111

The wall of floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Bay are the first show stopper of this eatery that is still trendy after all these years. But the Vietnamese dishes made with the freshest local ingredients are the real hero. The menu is quite extensive, but the friendly servers can help you navigate since everything's meant to be shared. That being said, you'll definitely want to order the crispy imperial rolls and cellophane crab noodles. Just know: it can get a little loud in here, so if noise is a concern, stop by for lunch before you give your parents a tour of the Ferry Building.

1 Ferry Building #3
San Francisco, CA 94111

10. Boulettes Larder + Boulibar

1, Ferry Building, #48, San Francisco, CA 94111
Boulette’s Larder
Boulette’s Larder

Located conveniently within in the Ferry Building — a bonafide visiting parent magnet — this duo of restaurants is owned and operated by a pair of chefs firmly rooted in the canon of Bay Area cuisine and with experience at Chez Panisse, Stars, and more. Head to Boulette’s Larder for lovely breakfast and lunch, or grab cocktails, snacks, and supper at adjacent Boulibar, both influenced by cuisines of the Mediterranean, North Africa, Greece, Japan, and Eastern Europe.

1, Ferry Building, #48
San Francisco, CA 94111

11. Wayfare Tavern

558 Sacramento St, San Francisco, CA 94111

The masculine vibe, complete with taxidermy animal heads, exposed brick, and dark wood, will make dad feel right at home, and mom will also be wowed by Tyler Florence's creative comfort food and the lively scene. It can get a little loud when things really get hopping, which makes this another spot on the list that is perfect for lunch.

558 Sacramento St
San Francisco, CA 94111

12. Boulevard

1 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94105

Boulevard continues to represent classic San Francisco fare. Longtime SF chef Nancy Oakes offers something for everyone with her refined plates of fish, like halibut and salmon, along with pork chops, lamb, and soft shell crab in a classy restaurant setting that will make you forget you live in a land of hoodies and t-shirts. This is definitely the place to take the fussiest of diners

1 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94105

13. Waterbar

399 The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94105
Waterbar

Yes, Waterbar can be a little touristy, given it’s Embarcadero location. But the fresh-caught seafood — all of which is sustainably-sourced and beautifully-prepared — means it is in no way a tourist trap. Like the name says, the restaurant is located on the water and has spectacular views of the Bay Bridge and Treasure Island. Between the food, the views, and the dollar oysters (until 5:30 p.m.), this is the perfect place for a family celebration.

399 The Embarcadero
San Francisco, CA 94105

14. SPQR

1911 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94115
SPQR

The chef's counter is the place to be at this cozy restaurant that boasts one Michelin star, but there's really not a bad seat in the house, especially once the insanely delicious pasta dishes start arriving at the table. This is a great place to take parents who appreciate thoughtful Italian wines and don't mind paying a bit more for dishes that are creative and made with the best ingredients available.

1911 Fillmore St
San Francisco, CA 94115

15. Marlowe

500 Brannan St, San Francisco, CA 94107
Daisy Barringer

This bustling SoMa spot has a quirky butcher shop atmosphere, but in a totally cool way even your parents will appreciate. It can get a little loud in here, so if mom or dad prefer a quiet meal, head in on the earlier side (or go for lunch). The burger is, of course, a standout, but truthfully, you can't go wrong with any of the dishes on the menu, all of which feel a bit like comfort food, but without leaving you too full.

500 Brannan St
San Francisco, CA 94107

Related Maps

16. Absinthe Brasserie & Bar

398 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA 94102

You'll want to reserve a table in the charming dining room of this French and Northern Italian-influenced brasserie, as most parents might find the bar area a little too cramped and loud. The cocktail menu is impressive, but the sommelier also does a great job of explaining and selling the extensive wine list, so maybe start with the former and go from there. There's something for everyone on the menu, as long as "everyone" enjoys indulgent fare like oysters and Absinthe's classic coq au vin. (Though, if not, the hamburger never disappoints.)

398 Hayes St
San Francisco, CA 94102

17. Zuni Cafe

1658 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94102

Zuni is a true SF classic that opened its doors in 1979 and will probably still be serving Judy Rodgers' famous roast chicken for two come 2079. There's no doubt about what your parents need to order: the chicken is a must, as is the Caesar salad. Ask for a seat upstairs for a more intimate (and quieter) experience with good views of the downstairs diners.

1658 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94102

18. Foreign Cinema

2534 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

Even if your parents aren't the most adventurous duo out there, this SF fixture is a good way to introduce them to the Mission. It's hipster, but possibly in a way only a parent would recognize. Still, dining al fresco under twinkling lights while an old movie plays on the wall never stops feeling a little magical, especially since the California-Mediterranean fare is always spot on. And it's worth noting that although Foreign Cinema feels especially special at night, the brunch is also phenomenal.

2534 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94110

Related Maps