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17 Reliable Places to Eat Around Union Square

From an elegant spot for afternoon tea to a modern Vietnamese restaurant, here are your best bets for dining around Union Square

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It’s officially summer, and if you’re the type who prefers to shop IRL, most likely at some point you will make a trek to Union Square to buy something befitting the rare-but-it-happens heat wave. But if you’ve shopped ‘til you (almost) dropped, you’ll need a nearby spot to cool your heels and refuel with some food and drinks. Let’s be honest, though: Options for food and drink around the area can be dicey, with most designed to entrap unwitting tourists. But there are plenty of places, some just a block or two away, to get a satisfying lunch or dinner that won’t leave you feeling hoodwinked or hungry.

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.
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Akiko's Restaurant

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This family-run omakase restaurant is moving to a new space in the East Cut, but for now, you can still find some of San Francisco’s best sushi in the Union Square neighborhood. Akiko’s chef and owner Ray Lee wows with a one-two punch of quality ingredients and innovative techniques making Akiko’s one of the city’s essential dining experiences. The restaurant is an intimate space so reservations are always encouraged. 

Charcoal-kisses otoro from Akiko’s Joseph Weaver

Sons & Daughters

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If you’re chasing those shiny Michelin stars around the Bay Area, then don’t overlook Sons & Daughters with its quintessentially Californian tasting menus built around seasonal produce from local farms. The interior of the restaurant was redone during the pandemic, now featuring warm woods and an elegant fireplace.

A roasted saddle of lamb and sweetbread with celery and English peas. Sons & Daughters/Facebook

Tacorea

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Korean meets Mexican cuisine at Tacorea, explaining that odd portmanteau of a name. Don’t be put off: Fusion delights are well worth it, including kimchi burritos — the big Ricardo is a smothered version — quesadillas, and bowls like “Mama Lee’s” spicy pork. More stoner-y food includes tater tot nachos. Portions are huge and service is kind.

Del Popolo

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Having slung his top-notch Neapolitan pizzas from a specially rigged, wood-oven-equipped truck for several years, local pizzaiolo Jon Darsky opened this lower Nob Hill spot and now has a Michelin Bib Gourmand listing under his belt. It’s easily some of the best pizza in the city, but the menu also boasts some excellent salads and other seasonally changing starters, like tempura-fried butternut squash, and tasso spiced pork ribs with celery root remoulade.

Peacekeeper

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With soaring ceilings and large skylights, this Lower Nob Hill watering hole feels almost like the outdoors — if the outdoors offered a menu of thoughtful cocktails with Oaxacan influence at a modern bar dressed with wood-topped stools. The namesake Peacekeeper is a spicy blend of serrano tequila, pineapple, ginger, and lime — perfect for sipping next to the bar’s fireplace.

The sunny interior of Peacekeeper with tall ceilings and large skylights. Patricia Chang

Golden Gate Tap Room

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Just off the square is this TV-filled arcade bar where, by virtue of having Skee-Ball, pinball, and hoops machines, is going to skew pretty bro-y most days. It’s more sports-focused than its other recently opened counterparts in the city like Brewcade and Coin-Op Game Room, and it’s not a place where you’re going to “dine” in any real sense of that word — but it’s a place to drink lots of beer and graze on things like popcorn shrimp and chicken nachos, aka the bare necessities after braving the shopping crowds.

Sears Fine Food

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A must-visit for locals and tourists alike, Sears Fine Foods is a historic diner that’s been in operation on the square for almost 80 years. The house specialty is Swedish pancakes, served 18 to a plate, and breakfast is served daily until 3 p.m. There’s also a lunch menu and dinner starts at 5 p.m., featuring an all-American menu of steaks and chops and an above-average prime rib. Be warned, this place is always busy, especially around breakfast hours, and you’ll often run into a line.

Cesario's

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It’s the only spot near Union Square serving up old-school, red-sauce Italian, and Cesario’s has probably some of the best of that genre of food that you’ll find outside North Beach. Chicken parmesan, lasagna, and penne Bolognese are the specials of the house here, and it’s all served on white tablecloths in a cozy dining room overlooking Mason Street. If Italian comfort food is what you’re craving and you don’t mind the small hike up the hill, this is a good bet where getting a table likely won’t be a problem.

Ryoko's Japanese Restaurant & Bar

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Ryoko’s is way, way outside the ordinary: It’s in a basement and open late-ish, while a DJ (typically a good one) plays loudly to keep the atmosphere lively. When ordering, stick mostly to the basics, though some weird house creations (like the “sexy roll” topped with melted American cheese) are worth a try. Overall, it’s a refreshing departure from the Union Square usual — and pretty much anything else.

The Rotunda

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If you’re going to dine in Union Square, might as well pull out all the stops, right? The Rotunda at Neiman Marcus is all white tablecloths and fine dining, set beneath the store’s iconic stained glass dome with unparalleled views of the square itself. The traditional move is to catch afternoon tea, though dinner is also offered.

Rotunda at Neiman Marcus
Rotunda at Neiman Marcus

Mensho Tokyo SF

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This ramen spot comes directly to San Francisco from Japan and specializes in creamy, chicken-y tori paitan ramen. There’s sometimes a line outside, but it typically moves fairly fast, and in true Japanese fashion this is a get-in-get-out type of ramen shop with communal seating and limited options. The ramen options are all good, but if you’re in the mood for something rich and heartier, go for the spicy lamb ramen, which comes filled with ground lamb and garnished with chili oil.

Bartlett Hall

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This spacious, often-busy outpost is just one block off the square on O’Farrell and has a focus on beer, burgers, and fried stuff. There is typically at least one in-house brew on tap, made in the microbrewery that occupies the rear of the space, as well as eight others on tap, and a solid (if brief) cocktail selection featuring things like a barrel-aged Manhattan. Brunch includes a good huevos rancheros, and eggs Benedict with an optional topping of carnitas and jalapeño hollandaise. Expect the place to be packed with sports fans watching one of the many TVs around the bar, but otherwise, Bartlett Hall makes for an easy resting spot before tackling Macy’s head-on.

Shalimar Restaurant

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Some of the best Indian-Pakistani food in the city (at prices below those at nearby New Delhi Restaurant) can be found a few blocks from Union Square on Jones Street. Shalimar is known for its chicken jalfrezi and excellent tikka masala, but the restaurant itself is stark and fluorescent-lit, so it’s no place for visiting moms or first dates.

Jasper's Corner Tap and Kitchen

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Since it opened, Jasper’s has been a reliable pre-theater, post-shopping destination with a solid cocktail situation and plenty of hearty, slightly upscale, pub-style dinner options. Think poutine topped with duck confit, wings three ways (Sriracha Buffalo, Asian, and salt & vinegar), and a mac and cheese made with smoked gouda. Also, for this ’hood, the prices are pretty reasonable.

New Delhi Restaurant

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PBS-famous chef Ranjan Dey opened this upscale Indian restaurant in 1988, and while the regal atmosphere might feel a bit dated after all these years, it still serves reliably good food within stumbling distance of Union Square. Prices are a bit higher than your average Indian restaurant, but you won’t go wrong with any of the curries or the tandoori options. There’s also a full bar.

Bodega SF

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Bodega SF is the reimagined comeback for Tenderloin favorite Bodega Bistro, which shuttered back in 2017. Matt Ho, son of one of the restaurant’s co-owners, brought back the family restaurant as a pop-up during the pandemic, but now the Vietnamese spot has permanently relocated to a more Union Square-adjacent spot with some modern touches befitting Ho’s time as manager at Nobu Palo Alto. The restaurant will serve old favorites, such as the shaking beef and pho at lunch, as well as updated dishes like the bun cha made with heritage pork belly and cha ca, a whole branzino fish that is deboned and butterflied. If you’re feeling thirsty, there’s also the addition of a cocktail menu to help wet the whistle.

Erin Ng

Bottle Club Pub

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Bottle Club Pub is in that squishy area that is maybe Union Square and maybe Tenderloin, but makes it onto this list for a number of reasons. Sure, this Future Bars spot is in an area awash with other bars from the group (namely Zombie Village and Bourbon & Branch), but it’s a definite indicator that you’ll get some strong, well-crafted cocktails with a showstopper element — in this case, an enormous bottle and decanter collection situated on rotating shelves. Add that to the fact that the pub also has a small-but-mighty food menu (a first for Future Bars) featuring the requisite fish and chips, a smashburger (who doesn’t love a smashburger?), and fried chicken, and is kid-friendly if you have some little ones in tow.

The back bar at Bottle Club Pub with a middle shelf in blurry motion. Patricia Chang

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Akiko's Restaurant

Charcoal-kisses otoro from Akiko’s Joseph Weaver

This family-run omakase restaurant is moving to a new space in the East Cut, but for now, you can still find some of San Francisco’s best sushi in the Union Square neighborhood. Akiko’s chef and owner Ray Lee wows with a one-two punch of quality ingredients and innovative techniques making Akiko’s one of the city’s essential dining experiences. The restaurant is an intimate space so reservations are always encouraged. 

Charcoal-kisses otoro from Akiko’s Joseph Weaver

Sons & Daughters

A roasted saddle of lamb and sweetbread with celery and English peas. Sons & Daughters/Facebook

If you’re chasing those shiny Michelin stars around the Bay Area, then don’t overlook Sons & Daughters with its quintessentially Californian tasting menus built around seasonal produce from local farms. The interior of the restaurant was redone during the pandemic, now featuring warm woods and an elegant fireplace.

A roasted saddle of lamb and sweetbread with celery and English peas. Sons & Daughters/Facebook

Tacorea

Korean meets Mexican cuisine at Tacorea, explaining that odd portmanteau of a name. Don’t be put off: Fusion delights are well worth it, including kimchi burritos — the big Ricardo is a smothered version — quesadillas, and bowls like “Mama Lee’s” spicy pork. More stoner-y food includes tater tot nachos. Portions are huge and service is kind.

Del Popolo

Having slung his top-notch Neapolitan pizzas from a specially rigged, wood-oven-equipped truck for several years, local pizzaiolo Jon Darsky opened this lower Nob Hill spot and now has a Michelin Bib Gourmand listing under his belt. It’s easily some of the best pizza in the city, but the menu also boasts some excellent salads and other seasonally changing starters, like tempura-fried butternut squash, and tasso spiced pork ribs with celery root remoulade.

Peacekeeper

The sunny interior of Peacekeeper with tall ceilings and large skylights. Patricia Chang

With soaring ceilings and large skylights, this Lower Nob Hill watering hole feels almost like the outdoors — if the outdoors offered a menu of thoughtful cocktails with Oaxacan influence at a modern bar dressed with wood-topped stools. The namesake Peacekeeper is a spicy blend of serrano tequila, pineapple, ginger, and lime — perfect for sipping next to the bar’s fireplace.

The sunny interior of Peacekeeper with tall ceilings and large skylights. Patricia Chang

Golden Gate Tap Room

Just off the square is this TV-filled arcade bar where, by virtue of having Skee-Ball, pinball, and hoops machines, is going to skew pretty bro-y most days. It’s more sports-focused than its other recently opened counterparts in the city like Brewcade and Coin-Op Game Room, and it’s not a place where you’re going to “dine” in any real sense of that word — but it’s a place to drink lots of beer and graze on things like popcorn shrimp and chicken nachos, aka the bare necessities after braving the shopping crowds.

Sears Fine Food

A must-visit for locals and tourists alike, Sears Fine Foods is a historic diner that’s been in operation on the square for almost 80 years. The house specialty is Swedish pancakes, served 18 to a plate, and breakfast is served daily until 3 p.m. There’s also a lunch menu and dinner starts at 5 p.m., featuring an all-American menu of steaks and chops and an above-average prime rib. Be warned, this place is always busy, especially around breakfast hours, and you’ll often run into a line.

Cesario's

It’s the only spot near Union Square serving up old-school, red-sauce Italian, and Cesario’s has probably some of the best of that genre of food that you’ll find outside North Beach. Chicken parmesan, lasagna, and penne Bolognese are the specials of the house here, and it’s all served on white tablecloths in a cozy dining room overlooking Mason Street. If Italian comfort food is what you’re craving and you don’t mind the small hike up the hill, this is a good bet where getting a table likely won’t be a problem.

Ryoko's Japanese Restaurant & Bar

Ryoko’s is way, way outside the ordinary: It’s in a basement and open late-ish, while a DJ (typically a good one) plays loudly to keep the atmosphere lively. When ordering, stick mostly to the basics, though some weird house creations (like the “sexy roll” topped with melted American cheese) are worth a try. Overall, it’s a refreshing departure from the Union Square usual — and pretty much anything else.

The Rotunda

Rotunda at Neiman Marcus
Rotunda at Neiman Marcus

If you’re going to dine in Union Square, might as well pull out all the stops, right? The Rotunda at Neiman Marcus is all white tablecloths and fine dining, set beneath the store’s iconic stained glass dome with unparalleled views of the square itself. The traditional move is to catch afternoon tea, though dinner is also offered.

Rotunda at Neiman Marcus
Rotunda at Neiman Marcus

Mensho Tokyo SF

This ramen spot comes directly to San Francisco from Japan and specializes in creamy, chicken-y tori paitan ramen. There’s sometimes a line outside, but it typically moves fairly fast, and in true Japanese fashion this is a get-in-get-out type of ramen shop with communal seating and limited options. The ramen options are all good, but if you’re in the mood for something rich and heartier, go for the spicy lamb ramen, which comes filled with ground lamb and garnished with chili oil.

Bartlett Hall

This spacious, often-busy outpost is just one block off the square on O’Farrell and has a focus on beer, burgers, and fried stuff. There is typically at least one in-house brew on tap, made in the microbrewery that occupies the rear of the space, as well as eight others on tap, and a solid (if brief) cocktail selection featuring things like a barrel-aged Manhattan. Brunch includes a good huevos rancheros, and eggs Benedict with an optional topping of carnitas and jalapeño hollandaise. Expect the place to be packed with sports fans watching one of the many TVs around the bar, but otherwise, Bartlett Hall makes for an easy resting spot before tackling Macy’s head-on.

Shalimar Restaurant

Some of the best Indian-Pakistani food in the city (at prices below those at nearby New Delhi Restaurant) can be found a few blocks from Union Square on Jones Street. Shalimar is known for its chicken jalfrezi and excellent tikka masala, but the restaurant itself is stark and fluorescent-lit, so it’s no place for visiting moms or first dates.

Jasper's Corner Tap and Kitchen