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The 38 Essential San Francisco Restaurants, Summer 2017

Your answer to any question that begins, "Can you recommend a restaurant?"

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It's time to update the Eater 38, your answer and ours to any question that begins, "Can you recommend a restaurant?" This highly elite group covers the entire city, spans myriad cuisines and collectively satisfies all of your restaurant needs. Every few months, we add pertinent restaurants that were omitted, have newly become eligible (restaurants must be open at least 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 keep in mind, this list is presented in alphabetical order; there's no ranking involved.

As always, a few places must depart the 38; here they are with a brief explanation of why:

  • Tony's Pizza Napoletana remains an excellent destination for pizzas (and more) but it's time to let Una Pizza Napoletana in on the fun. Owner Anthony Mangieri's short menu of five pies draws lines on the four days its open, and especially on Saturday when a sixth pie is available. Flour, water, fire, and simplicity make this a destination for pizza fanatics.
  • Though Namu Gaji continues to serve excellent Asian-inspired dishes on the edge of Dolores Park, it departs the 38 in favor of Mister Jiu's California take on Chinese dishes. Dishes like squid and pork dumplings, and tea smoked Liberty Farms duck are outstanding, especially when consumed overlooking Chinatown's bright lights.
  • While it continues to be an excellent neighborhood restaurant, Stones Throw is taking a break from the 38, in favor of Walzwerk. The 18 year-old German restaurant recently received two stars from Eater SF critic Rachel Levin, who reports that its hearty, homey food is steadfastly worth a visit.
  • Though Zazie is an endlessly popular brunch spot, it's scooting over for Trestle this time. The three-course prix fixe can't be beat, nor can the lively location at the intersection of North Beach and Chinatown. It's consistently high quality, while the menu rotates seasonally.

Rather than having a stage-four meltdown over our having excluded your favorite restaurant from the list, wouldn't it be more productive to just nominate it for inclusion?

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Akiko’s Restaurant & Sushi Bar

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431 Bush St
San Francisco, CA 94108
(415) 397-3218
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With chefs who have worked at some of the country's best sushi meccas (Sushi Ran, Ota, etc.) and details such as Japanese applewood-aged soy sauce, Akiko's takes its sushi very seriously. The menu pleases everyone from the California roll lover to the seasoned omakase hound. Our rec? Tell your server what kind of meal you're in the mood for (all-nigiri or a mixture of hot and cold dishes, for example) and what price you'd like to pay, and just put yourself into the hands of those experienced chefs. The modern Japanese-style decor and extensive and interesting sake selection take it all to the next level.

2. Aster

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1001 Guerrero St
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 875-9810
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Another win for the Mission, in the form of chef Brett Cooper's cozy Aster. It has earned and maintained one Michelin star, while growing a legion of loyal diners. The restaurant recently switched to exclusively offering an a four-course prix fixe menu at $75 per person, with an optional $42 wine pairing.

3. Benu

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22 Hawthorne St
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 685-4860
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Three Michelin stars aren't easy to come by, and chef Corey Lee earns its via his refined tasting menu ($298). A unique mix of East and West flavors bring his French technique, California produce, and Korean heritage into focus, with dishes like foie gras xiao long bao.

Bill Addison

4. Beretta

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1199 Valencia St
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 695-1199
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This Mission hotspot is always packed, with good reason. The menu is rife with antipasti, pizzas, pastas, risottos, and rotating daily specials like cioppino and short ribs. While you wait for a table, grab one of the excellent cocktails at the bar, and plot your dining strategy. It's open late night (food til 1 a.m.), and for weekend brunch.

Beretta

5. Californios

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3115 22nd St
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 757-0994
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[Photo: Patricia Chang]

6. Cockscomb

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564 4th St
San Francisco, CA 94107
(415) 974-0700
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An open kitchen filled with fire and whole animal butchery is the heart of this lively SoMa restaurant, where chef Chris Cosentino makes your meatiest dreams come true. Beef heart tartare, foie gras deviled eggs topped with chicken skin, and an entire roasted pig head with a gold leaf-adorned snout are just a few of the memorable dishes here, backed up by solid cocktails. Come for lunch or dinner, and bring your friends to take advantage of the excellent large-format dishes.

7. Cotogna

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490 Pacific Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 775-8508
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With a warm, flickering hearth in the kitchen, great service, an innovative fixed-price wine program, and Michael Tusk's pasta throwbacks from the old Quince days (the raviolo al uovo is a favorite), Cotogna is the casual Italian restaurant of your dreams, an easy E38 pick. Good luck getting a table, though, as the cozy, firelit dining room fills up fast at dinnertime. It's also an ideal destination for a relaxed lunch at one of their sidewalk tables.

8. Del Popolo

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855 Bush St
San Francisco, CA 94108
(415) 589-7940
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Though the brick-and-mortar version of chef/owner Jon Darsky's popular pizza truck has only been open for about nine months, its popularity was pre-ordained after over three years of acquiring fans of the mobile pizzeria. Now followers of Darsky's Neapolitan-inspired pizzas are lining up for beautiful antipasti like farrotto with wild morel mushrooms, sweet corn, prosciutto and egg yolk. And unlike the pizza truck days, beer and wine are on the menu.

9. Deli Board

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1058 Folsom St
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 552-7687
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This SoMa deli doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to heaping finely-crafted meats onto its pillow rolls. The menu changes daily, but it always includes Romanian pastrami (a fatter, more delicious cut according to owner Adam Mesnick). Sandwiches like the “Mina,” made with pastrami, roast beef, cheddar and muenster cheese, cole slaw and the signature “board sauce” might make it onto the menu more than once, but check back daily for meaty surprises. Hit it up for lunch Monday through Saturday.

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10. Foreign Cinema

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2534 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 648-7600
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While the beloved brunch, flickering hearth and nightly movies continue, Gayle Pirie and John Clark are keeping things fresh at their Mission standby, with North African and Mediterranean menu leanings and a deepened wine program. It's one of the city's most romantic restaurants, with staggering decor and engaging food.

11. Hong Kong Lounge II 穗香小館

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3300 Geary Blvd
San Francisco, CA 94118
(415) 668-8802
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Though the dim sum doesn't arrive on a cart, it's all extremely delicious. Coffee pork ribs, har gow, and more are all worthy of a visit, while their dinner entrees are also very good. Salt and pepper soft shell crab, or whole abalone and pea shoots in supreme oyster sauce: you can't go wrong.

12. House of Prime Rib

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1906 Van Ness Ave
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 885-4605
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This 30-year-old San Francisco classic is a total trip back in time to when plating with tweezers was not yet a thing. The restaurant's apropos name says it all — it serves one thing and one thing only, and it does that roast beef very, very well. The only choices you need 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 roving meat carts. Take visiting friends and family, celebrate big life occasions or just satisfy your steak cravings here.

13. Kin Khao

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55 Cyril Magnin St
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 362-7456
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The dynamic food at Kin Khao, a Thai respite in the Parc 55 hotel, is the kind that you crave in the weeks to follow. Owner and well-respected Chez Pim food blogger Pim Techamuanvivit doesn't blog much anymore; she's too busy translating the recipes of her native Bangkok into pedigreed, Bay Area-appropriate fare. Don't overlook the selection of unparalleled curries — all cooked from spice pastes that are made fresh daily in house — and the Bon Vivant cocktails like the Rasa Umami, made with sherry, scotch and housemade lime cordial, that round out the experience.

14. La Ciccia

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291 30th St
San Francisco, CA 94131
(415) 550-8114
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Not so much San Francisco Italian as pure unadulterated regional Italian (Sardinia, to be specific), this family-run sparkler is free of pretension and full of love. Don’t miss the spicy octopus stew, the sea urchin pasta, and the unusual wine selection.

15. La Taqueria

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2889 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 285-7117
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It wouldn’t be San Francisco without The Mission’s squadron of gut-busting taquerias. This one continues to lead the pack with unwavering rave reviews for its sublime, spot-on Mexico staples, including a recent America's Best Burrito title after an extensive FiveThirtyEight bracket.

16. Lazy Bear

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3416 19th St, San Francisco
CA, 94110
(415) 874-9921
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For a truly unique experience, head to chef David Barzelay's ticketed Lazy Bear. The convivial nature of the event and the simultaneous service evoke a dinner party, but comparisons to your friend's house stop there. An evening at the restaurant kicks off with a cocktail hour of passed appetizers in the mezzanine before you head to the loft-like, yet cozy dining room with communal seating at two long, live-edge oak slab tables. Chefs deliver the modern American dishes to the table themselves and invite you to come into the kitchen to peer over their shoulder while they work.

17. Leo's Oyster Bar

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568 Sacramento St, San Francisco
CA, 94111
(415) 872-9982
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Leo's opened with a retro splash, immediately luring diners to its petit dining room and bar for oysters, clams, lobster rolls, and classic cocktails. The "liquid lunch" martini can be made with vodka or gin, and comes with a side of pickled vegetables— perfect for an expense account-fueled power lunch. The back bar is a lovely hideaway as well, where Champagne can be enjoyed in comfort and style.

18. Liholiho Yacht Club

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871 Sutter St
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 440-5446
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This sleek, sophisticated and slightly cheeky tribute to the Hawaiian islands blends chef Ravi Kapur's heritage with his Prospect pedigree. The Hawaiian-Indian-NorCal cuisine results in dishes like poppy seed steam buns with beef tongue and kimchi that are uniquely Kapur's, and it's all in a high-energy space with the open, bright yellow kitchen as the definite centerpiece. Pros know to stalk the bar, where stools open up much quicker than your quoted 2 ½ hour wait.

19. Mister Jiu's

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28 Waverly Pl.
San Francisco, CA 94108
(415) 857-9688
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Mister Jiu's has breathed new life into the shuttered Four Seas restaurant in the heart of Chinatown. Chef Brandon Jew has translated his Chinese-American heritage and SF upbringing into a fresh take on the cuisine, in a modern setting. Cocktails are excellent, the wine list is interesting, and classics like tea-smoked duck are made new again.

20. Mourad

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140 New Montgomery St
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 660-2500
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The restaurant itself is big and beautiful, matched only by chef Mourad Lahlou's Moroccan-inspired flavors. Choose from a la carte options like duck basteeya and family-style, large format dishes of lamb and short rib, or go for the tasting menu. Drinks are equally inspired, featuring combinations like pineapple and artichoke. (Note: the prices match the posh decor, making this a great place to take your expense account.)

21. Nopalito

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306 Broderick St
San Francisco, CA
(415) 437-0303
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Though it shares ownership with Nopa, Nopalito is very much its own beast, serving smart, sustainable sit-down Mexican fare that provides a nice counterpoint to the taqueria grind. From the addictive totopos con chile to the comforting tortilla soup to the killer carnitas, there's something for everyone here (plus damn good margaritas).

22. Outerlands

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4001 Judah St
San Francisco, CA 94122
(415) 661-6140
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Since Outerlands opened in 2009, it's been a consistently popular destination for Outer Sunset dining (especially for brunch). After last years chef shuffling and renovations, the restaurant is still operating at full speed, now with chef Yoni Levy (Alta CA) at the helm. The restaurant is continuing the traditions of amazing bread, gorgeous fog-friendly food and a laid-back beach vibe.

Patricia Chang

23. Petit Crenn

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609 Hayes St
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 864-1744
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Inspired by the cuisine of Brittany, chef Dominique Crenn's neighborhood spot offers a dinner party vibe, with impeccable, family-style dishes. A multi-course set menu is centered around seafood, like oysters and roasted whole fish; the crisp wine list, and extensive offering of cider are part of the charm at this lively spot. Reservations are required for a table, but walk-ins are always welcome at the white marble bar that has a prime view of the kitchen.

24. Rich Table

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199 Gough St
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 355-9085
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Evan and Sarah Rich's Hayes Valley favorite is a challenging reservation, thanks to wildly inventive, consistently delicious food and a smart wine selection and cocktail program. Don't miss the sardine chips, porcini doughnuts, seasonal salads, and pastas.

25. Saison

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178 Townsend St
San Francisco, CA 94107
(415) 828-7990
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Saison will take quite a chunk of your paycheck (it is the state's most expensive restaurant at $398 per person), but there's no tasting menu in town more deserving of that money. The plush, comfortable atmosphere remains relatively unstuffy despite the price tag, especially in the Salon, where you can drop in for an impromptu cocktail and order a la carte. The nightly dishes change often, achieving the artsy, evocative heights chefs of Josh Skenes' ilk aspire to, but — most importantly — they are damn delicious.

26. Sam Wo Restaurant

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713 Clay Street
San Francisco, CA 94108
(415) 989-8898
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After a year of operating in its new space in Chinatown, Sam Wo is better than ever. Old favorites like tomato chow mein mingle nicely with new additions like walnut prawns. Plus the space is fresh, clean, and part of the modern world (servers now use computers to place orders).

27. Souvla

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517 Hayes St
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 400-5458
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The original location of Souvla offers high-quality Greek cuisine, in the heart of Hayes Valley. Order their rotisserie roasted lamb, chicken, pork or sweet potato in pita or salad format (or order it Greek-style, which means fries on or in it). Or, just stop by for their version of fro-yo: frozen Greek yogurt topped with a choice of baklava, sour cherry or olive oil and sea salt.

28. SPQR

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1911 Fillmore St
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 771-7779
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Chef Matt Accarrino continues to refine his craft, serving his own irresistible brand of Italian food that remains hearty and homey despite the use of refined technique. Try to score seats at the chef's counter and don't miss the exceptional wine list, curated by award-winning sommelier Shelley Lindgren.

29. Spruce

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3640 Sacramento St, San Francisco
CA, 94118
(415) 931-5100
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Nestled deeply in Presidio Heights, Spruce is a refined neighborhood restaurant. White tablecloths, a fantastic wine list, and great service are hallmarks. Or, sit at the comfortable bar and order the burger, a favorite amongst those in the know. Add taleggio or foie gras for ultimate indulgence.

30. State Bird Provisions

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1529 Fillmore Street
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 795-1272
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San Franciscans endure three-hour waits to eat State Bird Provisions' whimsically Californian menu, served dim-sum style. Whether it's savory pancakes stacked with local cheese, delicious crudos, or a new take on tofu skin, the flavor profiles are always eye-opening, making State Bird one of the most exciting restaurants in town, if not the country.

Ed Anderson

31. Swan Oyster Depot

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1517 Polk St.
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 673-1101

Open only for lunch, Polk Street’s 100-year-old gem still churns out the best crab, oysters and sourdough in town. Anthony Bourdain unfortunately clued the tourist crowd into this one a while back, so get there early to snag one of the handful of seats (and a prime view of the quirky, old-school staff), or be prepared for a long wait.

32. The Brazen Head

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3166 Buchanan St
San Francisco, CA 94123
(415) 921-7600
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Essentially old-school is a great way to describe Brazen Head — it applies equally to the dark environs, classic American food and cocktails and longtime patrons. Almost every San Franciscan has had a late night meal here (or should). It's also a great place to take a date, due to its low-key ambiance. Note: cash or debit card only.

Eater Archives

33. Tosca Cafe

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242 Columbus Ave
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 986-9651
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It’s been a destination and neighborhood gathering spot for decades, but now Tosca’s particular brand of old-school-made-new has truly come into its own. Now owned by NYC restaurateur Ken Friedman and chef April Bloomfield, the food and cocktails are top-notch. Go for a dinner of roasted chicken for two in the dining room, or perch at the bar with a plate of bucatini with guanciale and a sherry cocktail; best of all, it serves food til 1 a.m., and drinks til 2 a.m.

Eater Archives

34. Trestle

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531 Jackson St
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 772-0922
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More than just a reasonable prix-fixe, Trestle is an exercise in menu ingenuity. For thirty-five dollars, diners receive three courses, with the option to add a pasta course for $10. Choose from two options in each category, all of which change regularly. Located right at the edge of North Beach and Chinatown, it's a cozy destination with approachable food.

Trestle

35. Una Pizza Napoletana

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210 11th St
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 861-3444
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An unembellished exterior greets customers at SoMa's Una Pizza Napoletana, where the menu is similarly simple. Five pizzas (six on Saturdays, when the Apollonia — eggs, parmigiano reggiano, buffalo mozzarella, salami, extra virgin olive oil, basil, garlic — is available) constitute the menu, on the four days that the restaurant is open. It's popular, and owner Anthony Mangieri only stays open til the dough runs out so run, don't walk, when the craving for Napoletana pizza strikes.

36. Walzwerk

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Read Review |
381 S Van Ness Ave
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 551-7181
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After almost two decades of business in SF, Walzwerk remains a hearty and familiar option in a sea of change. German beer, wine, and dishes like jaegerschnitzel, cured herring, and bratwurst maintain a steady stream of regulars and curious newbies alike.

37. Z & Y Restaurant

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655 Jackson St
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 981-8988
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Make a reservation at this perpetually busy restaurant, which serves an extensive menu of Sichuan cuisine. Though it's known for the spicy "Chicken with Explosive Chile Peppers," which comes atop a towering pile of dried chiles, the restaurant has a deep bench of dishes from mushu pork to ma-po to frog in flaming chile oil. While it's visually similar to many other neighboring Chinese spots, this restaurant stands out for another reason: It's beloved by legendary chef Cecilia Chiang, an arbiter of taste in Chinatown and beyond.

38. Zuni Cafe

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1658 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 552-2522
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Besides "the" chicken, Zuni's burger, Caesar salad and bloody Mary have all been called the best in the city. It's the utility belt of 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. And did we mention that chicken?

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1. Akiko’s Restaurant & Sushi Bar

431 Bush St, San Francisco, CA 94108

With chefs who have worked at some of the country's best sushi meccas (Sushi Ran, Ota, etc.) and details such as Japanese applewood-aged soy sauce, Akiko's takes its sushi very seriously. The menu pleases everyone from the California roll lover to the seasoned omakase hound. Our rec? Tell your server what kind of meal you're in the mood for (all-nigiri or a mixture of hot and cold dishes, for example) and what price you'd like to pay, and just put yourself into the hands of those experienced chefs. The modern Japanese-style decor and extensive and interesting sake selection take it all to the next level.

431 Bush St
San Francisco, CA 94108

2. Aster

1001 Guerrero St, San Francisco, CA 94110

Another win for the Mission, in the form of chef Brett Cooper's cozy Aster. It has earned and maintained one Michelin star, while growing a legion of loyal diners. The restaurant recently switched to exclusively offering an a four-course prix fixe menu at $75 per person, with an optional $42 wine pairing.

1001 Guerrero St
San Francisco, CA 94110

3. Benu

22 Hawthorne St, San Francisco, CA 94105
Bill Addison

Three Michelin stars aren't easy to come by, and chef Corey Lee earns its via his refined tasting menu ($298). A unique mix of East and West flavors bring his French technique, California produce, and Korean heritage into focus, with dishes like foie gras xiao long bao.

22 Hawthorne St
San Francisco, CA 94105

4. Beretta

1199 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110
Beretta

This Mission hotspot is always packed, with good reason. The menu is rife with antipasti, pizzas, pastas, risottos, and rotating daily specials like cioppino and short ribs. While you wait for a table, grab one of the excellent cocktails at the bar, and plot your dining strategy. It's open late night (food til 1 a.m.), and for weekend brunch.

1199 Valencia St
San Francisco, CA 94110

5. Californios

3115 22nd St, San Francisco, CA 94110

[Photo: Patricia Chang]

3115 22nd St
San Francisco, CA 94110