Union Square is filled with hotels and, as such, there are a number of places that cater to visiting tourists and prioritize convenience over substance. Still, it’s possible to uncover some dining gems in the area, with a range of options that go from delicious and inexpensive, to high-class and delightful. For shoppers, there are also a number of places to quickly refuel so you can get back out to department stores. There are plenty of places to get a satisfying lunch or dinner — or drinks — depending on what you’re looking for.Read More
16 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
Mensho Tokyo SF
This ramen spot comes directly to San Francisco from Japan and specializes in creamy, chicken-y tori paitan ramen. In true Japanese fashion, this is a get-in-get-out type of ramen shop with communal seating and limited options. The ramen offerings are all good, but if you’re in the mood for something rich and heartier, go for the spicy lamb miso ramen, which comes filled with ground lamb and garnished with chili oil.
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.
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.
Bottle Club Pub
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 featuring the requisite fish and chips, a smash burger, and fried chicken. It is also kid-friendly if you have little ones in tow.
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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.
Jasper's Corner Tap and Kitchen
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 braised short rib, wings, and a mac and cheese made with Monterey Jack, Swiss, and cheddar cheese.
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 worthing taking a look at.
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.
Chef Joe Hou is the head of the new LINE SF hotel’s restaurant, Tenderheart, serving food that leans on his first-generation Chinese American heritage. Expect twists on classic dishes, such as sakura boneless ribs made with a fermented black bean glaze, or the fried quail tossed in a sweet and sour sauce. If you’re more in the mood for drinks, head to rooftop bar Rise Over Run which also serves small plates from Hou.
Chef Pim Techamuanvivit’s popular Kin Khao is finally back, reopening inside the Parc 55 Hotel after being closed for over two years during the pandemic. The menu tends toward being seasonal, but among the favorite items is the mushroom hor mok, a curried mushroom dip with coconut cream, served in a jar, for spreading over rice crackers. Try the “pretty hot wings” as well, which is marinated in fish sauce and garlic, then glazed with tamarind and sriracha, or the Yaowaraj noodles with chicken, egg, scallions, cilantro, and XO sauce (and there’s a vegetarian version, as well, if you’re so inclined).
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 for cocktails, there’s a newly-opened sister bar, the Felix, conveniently located next door.
New Delhi Restaurant
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.
Sons & Daughters
If you’re chasing those shiny Michelin stars around the Bay Area, then don’t overlook dinner at Sons & Daughters. Now leading the kitchen is chef Harrison Cheney, with tasting menus inspired by Nordic cuisine and built on seasonal produce from local farms. The interior of the restaurant was redone during the pandemic, now featuring warm woods and an elegant fireplace.
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 over 80 years. The house specialty is Swedish pancakes, served 18 to a plate, and breakfast is served daily until 2 p.m. There’s also a lunch menu, and dinner starts at 5 p.m., featuring an all-American menu of steaks and seafood, such as the cioppino. Be warned, this place tends to be busy, especially around breakfast hours.
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 entrees are also offered for a heartier meal.
It’s not technically an eating spot, but if you’re looking to just kick up your heels with a drink after wandering Union Square — preferably with some music — then Harlan Records is the place for you. This Japanese listening bar-inspired space took over the former Bar Fluxus location, but turned it into an audiophile’s dream, with solid, classic drinks such as the Old Fashioned or tequila sunrise.