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Dungeness crab at Scoma’s Scoma’s

18 Over-the-Top Tourist Traps in San Francisco

Take off your fanny pack and tie on a crab bib. Here’s where to bring friends and family for the full SF experience (with legit good food).

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When family and friends come to visit San Francisco, they want both the tourist and the authentic experience. They want to ride cable cars and bike the Golden Gate Bridge, and they want to try some of the food that the city by the bay is so famous for. Believe it or not, it's possible to do both, to satisfy your discerning tastes as well as their desire to play SF.

Just because a restaurant, bar, or bakery in this city attracts visitors doesn't also mean it's not good — on the contrary, everything on this list has food, drink, and pastry that's at the peak of what San Francisco has to offer. Here, you'll find storied sourdough, garlicky cioppino, slurp-worthy oysters, pioneering steam beer, and fog-cutting coffee cocktails, as well as incredible views, spots dating back over one hundred years, and roast chicken with a reputation around the world.

So next time you have visitors, consult this list because everyone is guaranteed to be happy at these 18 restaurants perfect for tourists and locals alike.

The latest CDC guidance for vaccinated diners during the COVID-19 outbreak is here; dining out still carries risks for unvaccinated diners and workers. Please be aware of changing local rules, and check individual restaurant websites for any additional restrictions such as mask requirements. Find a local vaccination site here.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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Scoma's Restaurant

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For a taste of the charms that, for better or worse, lead out-of-towners to San Francisco’s notoriously touristy Fisherman’s Wharf, Scoma’s is where it’s at. The very 1960s bar is a trip, and dishes like a “Lazy Man’s Cioppino” and classic crab Louie hit the spot. The views onto the water don’t hurt, either — the restaurant is located on its own small pier. You’ll even catch a glimpse of Scoma’s own custom-built fishing boat: The restaurant is committed to sourcing sustainable, and mostly local, seafood.

A plate of Dungeness crab Scoma’s

Boudin Bakery Cafe

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For new school artisan sourdough that’s dramatically dark and craggy, please see Tartine Bakery (below). But for old-school heavyweight sourdough, Boudin is a San Francisco original. They claim their mother starter dates back to the Gold Rush, and they’re still making dense, tangy, tourist-friendly sourdough, which, admittedly, does make the best bread bowl for serving creamy clam chowder.

Clam chowder bread bowl from Boudin Bakery Boudin Bakery

Buena Vista Cafe

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You come to Buena Vista for one thing and one thing only: the exceptional Irish coffee. When you're in need of an afternoon pick-me-up, head here for whiskey-spiked sweet coffee topped with a thick, luscious layer of whipped cream.

The Original Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop

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In a city with a rich chocolate history, Ghirardelli is the oldest continuously run chocolate factory in the United States. It’s now owned by Lindt, and the chocolate is milky sweet, very smooth, and mass-produced. But a glossy hot fudge sundae is still a delight, and the Original Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop is an old-timey treat, billowing chocolate aroma onto historic brick-lined Ghirardelli Square.

An ice cream sundae at Ghirardelli The Original Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop

Tony’s Pizza Napoletana

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World Pizza Champion Tony Gemignani bakes every kind of pizza imaginable: New York, Roman, Sicilian, and many more. His Neapolitan is an award-winner and his on-site pizza school attracts students from across the country. Bonus points for a bustling, friendly atmosphere, including a bar for date nights and booths for grandpa. And if you're feeling peckish but not in for a big meal, stop by the Slice House next door for a quick slice.

Original Joe's

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Introduce family and friends to old North Beach here, with red leather booths, white tablecloths, and walls covered in framed photographs that set the scene for ample portions of Italian-American fare. From steak with a side of raviolo to piccata and lasagna, the classics are all here, plus a secretly great burger and fries, for lunch, dinner, and brunch. And, the bar is always lively fun for dining and drinking Manhattans in a clubby atmosphere.

Lasagna from Original Joe’s Original Joe’s

Caffe Trieste

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A trip to City Lights Bookstore to pay respects to the Beat poets would not be complete without wandering up a side alley for a cappuccino, cocktail, or a cappuccino cocktail. Options abound, but one of the greats is Caffe Trieste, which has been pouring espresso since 1956. Grab a seat in the big window, flip open a newspaper, and watch the neighborhood stagger by.

Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory

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The sweet smell of vanilla, sesame, and butter lures tourists to this small alley in Chinatown to watch workers make 10,000 fortune cookies a day (and pass out hot samples). You can customize your own fortunes, making a great souvenir for tourists and non-toursits alike, and you might learn a thing or two about history while you’re at it. Fortune cookies were essentially invented in San Francisco, made to be served at the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate park in 1918, but later picked up by San Francisco’s Chinese restaurants.

Ferry Building Marketplace

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When's the last time you wandered through the Ferry Building? The vendors have only gotten even better, and the best time to go is on Saturday mornings to fully enjoy the farmers market. Prep yourself with patience for the inevitable crowds, but if you go with the right expectations, the outing can turn into a fun, all-day way to rediscover what you love so much about this city and make visitors love it as much as you.

City View Restaurant

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If you’re going to San Francisco, you have to visit the oldest and largest Chinatown in the country, and as long as you’re wandering Chinatown, why not get dumplings. Many storefronts will load up a box for a few bucks, but for the full dim sum experience, with carts rolling through the dining room, and steaming racks dropped on white table cloths, City View is a classic destination. Load up on steamed shrimp har gow and crispy honey walnut shrimp, and save room for egg tarts.

City View Stefanie Tuder

House of Prime Rib

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This 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.

Tadich Grill

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Before “New American” fare or “slow food,” there was Tadich Grill. Open since 1849 under a changing roster of proprietors, the restaurant is a San Francisco original, occupying its current location since 1967. Tadich Grill has tried to honor its history by keeping the interior authentic to the times with train-car-like booths lining the wall and other mid-century flourishes in the wooden bar. Just be patient, because there are no reservations and it can get pretty tourist-heavy, but the bartenders at the massive bar help you pass the time pleasantly. Once you're seated, servers in white coats help your navigate the seafood-focused menu, of which the Hangtown Fry, an oyster omelet, is most well-known. The menu is organized by cooking preparation, so you choose the style and then the type of seafood or meat.

Swan Oyster Depot

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Open only for lunch, Polk Street’s 100-year-old gem still churns out the best crab, oysters, and sourdough in town. 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.

Sears Fine Food

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A block above Union Square, with the trolley car clanging and clattering by, Sears is a pancake institution. Established in 1938, they’re known for 18 varieties of Swedish pancakes delicately arranged in small stacks, with butter and jam for schmearing.

Zuni Cafe

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Besides "the" chicken, Zuni's burger, Caesar salad, and bloody Mary have all been called the best in the city. The two-storied, triangular space is enchanting any time of day: 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?

Bill Addison

Anchor Public Taps

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Anchor may be owned by Sapporo these days, but it’s still a big deal in beer history — it’s the oldest brewery in San Francisco, going back 125 years, and it’s a pioneer of steam beer, also known as California common beer. Tours of their art deco factory are slated to resume in 2021, but for now, Anchor Public Taps, their big taproom across the street, is open and pouring that signature steam lager.

Beer from Anchor Brewing Anchor Brewing

Tartine Bakery

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The Mission bakery is the original location for the award-winning bakery, which has added locations and struggled with worker issues in the past couple of years, but there’s still a line out the door. First timers usually go for the morning bun, a knot of croissant laced with cinnamon and orange zest. But the sourdough is a big deal, ushering in a new wave of natural bread baking in San Francisco, and now imitated across the world. Bread, tarts, cookies, cakes, and more fill the rest of the saliva-inducing display, all of which make the perfect pairing with people watching in the outdoor seating area.

Tartine

La Taqueria

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It wouldn’t be San Francisco without the Mission’s squadron of gut-busting taquerias. La Taqueria is a leading choice, and once won FiveThirtyEight's America's Best Burrito, cementing it as not only a local favorite, but a nationally recognized one, too. That's reflected in lines out the door, but fear not — they move quickly. Pro tip: make sure you order your burrito "dorado," or griddled, making it nice and crispy on the outside.

Scoma's Restaurant

A plate of Dungeness crab Scoma’s

For a taste of the charms that, for better or worse, lead out-of-towners to San Francisco’s notoriously touristy Fisherman’s Wharf, Scoma’s is where it’s at. The very 1960s bar is a trip, and dishes like a “Lazy Man’s Cioppino” and classic crab Louie hit the spot. The views onto the water don’t hurt, either — the restaurant is located on its own small pier. You’ll even catch a glimpse of Scoma’s own custom-built fishing boat: The restaurant is committed to sourcing sustainable, and mostly local, seafood.

A plate of Dungeness crab Scoma’s

Boudin Bakery Cafe

Clam chowder bread bowl from Boudin Bakery Boudin Bakery

For new school artisan sourdough that’s dramatically dark and craggy, please see Tartine Bakery (below). But for old-school heavyweight sourdough, Boudin is a San Francisco original. They claim their mother starter dates back to the Gold Rush, and they’re still making dense, tangy, tourist-friendly sourdough, which, admittedly, does make the best bread bowl for serving creamy clam chowder.

Clam chowder bread bowl from Boudin Bakery Boudin Bakery

Buena Vista Cafe

You come to Buena Vista for one thing and one thing only: the exceptional Irish coffee. When you're in need of an afternoon pick-me-up, head here for whiskey-spiked sweet coffee topped with a thick, luscious layer of whipped cream.

The Original Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop

An ice cream sundae at Ghirardelli The Original Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop

In a city with a rich chocolate history, Ghirardelli is the oldest continuously run chocolate factory in the United States. It’s now owned by Lindt, and the chocolate is milky sweet, very smooth, and mass-produced. But a glossy hot fudge sundae is still a delight, and the Original Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop is an old-timey treat, billowing chocolate aroma onto historic brick-lined Ghirardelli Square.

An ice cream sundae at Ghirardelli The Original Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop

Tony’s Pizza Napoletana

World Pizza Champion Tony Gemignani bakes every kind of pizza imaginable: New York, Roman, Sicilian, and many more. His Neapolitan is an award-winner and his on-site pizza school attracts students from across the country. Bonus points for a bustling, friendly atmosphere, including a bar for date nights and booths for grandpa. And if you're feeling peckish but not in for a big meal, stop by the Slice House next door for a quick slice.

Original Joe's

Lasagna from Original Joe’s Original Joe’s

Introduce family and friends to old North Beach here, with red leather booths, white tablecloths, and walls covered in framed photographs that set the scene for ample portions of Italian-American fare. From steak with a side of raviolo to piccata and lasagna, the classics are all here, plus a secretly great burger and fries, for lunch, dinner, and brunch. And, the bar is always lively fun for dining and drinking Manhattans in a clubby atmosphere.

Lasagna from Original Joe’s Original Joe’s

Caffe Trieste

A trip to City Lights Bookstore to pay respects to the Beat poets would not be complete without wandering up a side alley for a cappuccino, cocktail, or a cappuccino cocktail. Options abound, but one of the greats is Caffe Trieste, which has been pouring espresso since 1956. Grab a seat in the big window, flip open a newspaper, and watch the neighborhood stagger by.

Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory

The sweet smell of vanilla, sesame, and butter lures tourists to this small alley in Chinatown to watch workers make 10,000 fortune cookies a day (and pass out hot samples). You can customize your own fortunes, making a great souvenir for tourists and non-toursits alike, and you might learn a thing or two about history while you’re at it. Fortune cookies were essentially invented in San Francisco, made to be served at the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate park in 1918, but later picked up by San Francisco’s Chinese restaurants.

Ferry Building Marketplace

When's the last time you wandered through the Ferry Building? The vendors have only gotten even better, and the best time to go is on Saturday mornings to fully enjoy the farmers market. Prep yourself with patience for the inevitable crowds, but if you go with the right expectations, the outing can turn into a fun, all-day way to rediscover what you love so much about this city and make visitors love it as much as you.

City View Restaurant

City View Stefanie Tuder

If you’re going to San Francisco, you have to visit the oldest and largest Chinatown in the country, and as long as you’re wandering Chinatown, why not get dumplings. Many storefronts will load up a box for a few bucks, but for the full dim sum experience, with carts rolling through the dining room, and steaming racks dropped on white table cloths, City View is a classic destination. Load up on steamed shrimp har gow and crispy honey walnut shrimp, and save room for egg tarts.

City View Stefanie Tuder

House of Prime Rib

This 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.

Tadich Grill

Before “New American” fare or “slow food,” there was Tadich Grill. Open since 1849 under a changing roster of proprietors, the restaurant is a San Francisco original, occupying its current location since 1967. Tadich Grill has tried to honor its history by keeping the interior authentic to the times with train-car-like booths lining the wall and other mid-century flourishes in the wooden bar. Just be patient, because there are no reservations and it can get pretty tourist-heavy, but the bartenders at the massive bar help you pass the time pleasantly. Once you're seated, servers in white coats help your navigate the seafood-focused menu, of which the Hangtown Fry, an oyster omelet, is most well-known. The menu is organized by cooking preparation, so you choose the style and then the type of seafood or meat.

Swan Oyster Depot

Open only for lunch, Polk Street’s 100-year-old gem still churns out the best crab, oysters, and sourdough in town. 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.