In a city as legendary as San Francisco, home to powerhouse chefs and innovative cooks since way back, it can be hard to find those historic venues that set the wheels in motion for so many famous restaurants and bars. The city’s Legacy Business Program is one such nexus to direct residents and tourists alike to old-school grocery stores, hardware stores, and even newspapers. But it’s also a fantastic way to keep track of San Francisco’s classic bakeries, bars, and cafes. Here are just 11 of the city’s finest institutions for everything from pupusas to roast duck.Read More
The 11 San Francisco Legacy Businesses to Add to Your Eating and Drinking List
There are dozens of historic bars and restaurants. This is a snapshot of the finest still in operation.
This 1974-born business in the practical boonies of the Outer Richmond holds it down with Boudin bread and entire crabs served diablo-style flushed with scallions and cracked pepper. There are so many seafood options the menu will have you singing the second verse from “Under the Sea” as you tie your bib around your neck.
The Plough and the Stars
Just before Clement Street turns into row upon row of houses, the Plough and Stars is there to wave you away with a pint of Guinness and heart-warming fried goodness. Plus, there’s tons of live music each month — naturally, it’s mostly Irish music.
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All of Ocean Avenue is worth a gourmand’s trip, really. But if you were to hit just one, Beep’s Burgers is a legacy business for a reason. Since 1962 this burger stand makes a strong case for a simple menu done extraordinarily well.
Haight-Ashbury doesn’t get enough respect for the wonderful places to eat and drink, though newly-opened sandwich shop Sandy’s may change that. Zam Zam joined the legacy business roster in 2016 and for good reason: the red-lit bar is blocks from the heart of the neighborhood and keeps the cheap drinks flowing all night.
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Pacita's Salvadorian Bakery
The oft-slept-on neighborhood of the Excelsior is home to numerous storied businesses. Pacita’s is one of that breed. The bakery opened in 1996 and is ideal for a quick pupusa to tote along with a cup of coffee or for larger orders, like custom cakes for quinceñeras and weddings.
This bar is a one-stop shop for cheap cocktails, karaoke, drag shows, and longstanding queer events like the monthly party Mango. The sprawling outdoor patio makes El Rio a terrific place to drink and dance for those concerned about long-term COVID, too.
This restaurant claims to be the first Italian restaurant in the United States, opened by Angelo Del Monte in 1886. The business has hopped through North Beach six different times, and in the aftermath of the 1906 earthquake operated out of a tent. Try the scaloppine fior, tender veal coupled with prosciutto and mushrooms.
This downtown destination for Vietnamese food opened in 1977 and is on its third generation of family ownership. Crab cakes, myriad phos, and vegetarian vermicelli soup are all on the menu — and worth a try.
Hing Lung Company aka. Go Duck Yourself
With a sassy name to match its legendary import, this Chinatown legacy business opened in 1977 and is well-loved for its rich, tangy Cantonese-style barbecued meats. This business was added to the registry in March 2023, cementing the restaurant in the annals of San Francisco history.
Goat Hill Pizza
These sourdough pizzeria extraordinaires have a shop in West Portal, but the Potrero Hill location is a destination in its own right. Grabbing a pie and taking in the scenic views at the top of the hill on a clear day is a rare San Francisco delight.
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This waterfront restaurant may have started on Union Street, but it’s hard to knock the outstanding views of the Bay Bridge that come alongside the fare at the Embarcadero location of Perry’s. The weekend brunch, starring eggs Benedicts and corned beef hash, is not to be missed.