Darya Pino Rose

I'm Darya Rose (formerly Darya Pino) and this is my personal blog. I'm the author of Foodist: Using Real Food and Real Science to Lose Weight Without Dieting, and creator of Summer Tomato, one of TIME's 50 Best Websites. I'm also a neuroscience Ph.D, NYC foodist, former dieter, & soulmate to .

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Wednesday
May162012

My Favorite SF Restaurants

 Sadly Bar Jules, formerly the best burger in SF, has closed its doors for good

Besides, "What's a healthy snack I can eat every day?," the most common question I get asked is, "Where should I eat when I visit SF?"

This is a difficult thing to answer because the list is long and constantly changing. So to reduce the number of unanswered emails sitting in my inbox, I'm going to make this post a running list of my favorite places to eat in the city.

The only criteria I'm using is that a food or drink experience I had was good enough to tell people about. By no stretch of the imagination are these recommendations for healthy eating (though some of them may lean toward the healthier side).

The prices range from extremely low to extremely high, so if you're going to book a reservation I recommend reading up on the atmosphere and prices. I've also separated these into basic categories for clarity's sake.

The most recent additions will be at the top of the list. Stay tuned.

LAST UPDATE: 2/1/16 

Food

Aster (Mission) - Tiny, tasty spot with delicious food. I know this sounds weird (especially coming from me), but get the bread and butter even though it costs $5. Trust me.

Marlowe (SoMa) - I've been going to Marlowe for years, but I feel like they've upped their game recently in their new location. Consistently great food. Try the brussels sprouts chips and the burger.

Park Tavern (North Beach) - Same owners as Marlowe and similar menu, just different vibe and location.

Mourad (Downtown) - I went to Mourad only a few weeks after it opened and was stunned by how flawlessly each dish was executed. The last two restaurants that impressed me this much on my first visit (Saison, Benu) now both have 3 Michelin stars. 

Izakaya Rintaro (Mission) - Fantastic and super legit izakaya (Japanese bar food) from Chez Panisse alum Sylvan Brackett. Great, trustworthy meats and veggies, elegantly prepared in a laid back, very Japanese atmosphere.

The Progress (Fillmore) - The folks from State Bird Provisions (see below) created another fabulous restaurant worth visiting. Casual and delicious. The only thing that's a little weird is they require you to eat family style, but there is plenty on the inventive menu to please everyone.

Central Kitchen (Mission) - I've been eating hear for years and always considered it good, but they've really upped their game recently and pushed it into my faves list. Really delicious, interesting food. Great atmosphere. Not pretentious. Lots to love.

Salumeria (Mission) - Unlike LA or NYC, it's surprisingly difficult to find a good entree-sized salad in SF. Salumeria solved that problem for me. Seasonal, hearty and delicious, they also have great sandwiches, charcuterie and pasta (to go).

Kin Khao (Tenderloin) - It's hard to find legit Thai food. It's even harder to find legit Thai food that uses excellent ingredients. So glad Kin Khao is now open.

Kusakabe (FiDi) - New favorite sushi in the city. Omakase only. Beautiful and traditional Japanese. As good as I've had anywhere outside Tokyo. Oh, and it just got it's first Michelin star.

Coqueta (Embarcadero) - Amazing Spanish food. Beautiful cocktails. Lovely atmosphere. I adore this place.

Akikos Restaurant (FiDi) - Spectacular sushi. Went back recently after a chef change and it is better than ever. Sushi connoisseurs will be very happy, but it is also pretty friendly for sushi newbies with more traditional rolls. (BTW, this is the Akikos on Bush street, not the one in Union Square).

The Restaurant at Meadowood (St. Helena) - The two best meals I've ever had were at The Restaurant (sit at the chef's counter if you can). Truly incredible from end to end. Worth the 1.5 hour drive from the city on the most special of occasions. 3 Michelin stars, with a matching price tag, but I liked it a lot more than a nearby place that rhymes with Wrench Quandry.

Boulibar (Ferry Building) - My new favorite place for lunch at the Ferry Building. Beautiful space too. And yes, the pastries and pizza are worth it.

Ichi (Bernal) - Delicious, casual sushi. Both traditional and innovative food without resorting to squirt bottles and mango rolls.

Cotogna (FiDi) - Spectacular Italian food, probably my new favorite.

Benu (SoMa) - Awesome food in a fancy atmosphere. A very high-end tasting menu with a Korean twist. One of only two 3 Michelin star restaurants in the city.

Izakaya Yuzuki (Mission) - Wow, this place is so legit. Every bite reminds me of Japan, the food is amazing, made the old-fashioned way, and totally affordable. What an awesome addition to the Mish.

Namu Gaji (Mission) - Absolutely delicious Korean/Japanese fusion. It's casual and there's nothing bad on the menu.

State Bird Provisions (Fillmore) - One of the most innovative restaurants I've ever tried. Michelin caliber food on dim sum style carts. The type of place that makes me want to never leave SF.

Range (Mission) - Consistently amazing food, even the chicken will blow your mind. Fabulous cocktails (some of my favorites in the city). 

Aziza (Outer Richmond) - Really high-end Morrocan food. It's delicious, but my last two trips here weren't as impressive as my first two.

Commonwealth (Mission) - Innovative and delicious food. I love how they play with flavors from various cuisines.

Dosa (Fillmore or Mission) - By far my favorite Indian food in the city. It's South Indian style, so don't expect tandoori. But the ingredients are all very high quality (hard to come by with Indian food) and the dishes are seasonal and consistently awesome. Great drinks too. Try the gin & tonic (housemade).

Coi (North Beach) - Chef Daniel Patterson is a culinary genius. The food is very intellectual, but not in a way that detracts from the taste. Very fancy, so expect to drop some cash for this special occasion spot.

Locanda (Mission) - I don't often eat pasta, but when I do I prefer Locanda.

Bar Crudo (Nopa) - Solid seafood spot (why don't we have more of these?). The crudo plates are fabulous, as is the seafood chowder. Come to think of it, it's hard to go wrong.

Nopalito (Nopa) - I thought all SF Mexican food was a disappointment until I found Nopalito (I'm from SoCal and part Mexican). Amazing sit down Mexican food. Carnitas and mole should not be missed.

Nopa (Nopa) - Always a win. This is where I send people who don't have much time to spend in the city. Everything on the menu is fabulous, it's trendy but not too pretentious. Great burger, rotisserie chicken and seasonal food. Brunch is good too. Oh, and order a Blue Bottle Martini.

Saison (SoMa) - Saison is my favorite fancy spot to go in the city proper, and it was just awarded 3 Michelin stars. Consistently some of the best food I've ever had. Expect to borrow from your children's education fund to eat here though.

Contigo (Noe Valley) - Seasonal, organic Spanish tapas and cava bar. Need I say more?

Il Cane Rosso (Ferry Building) - One of my favorite spots to grab lunch at the Ferry Building. Perfect food made from all the goodies you find at the farmers market.

Thai Time (Inner Richmond) - Most authentic Thai food I've found in SF, like stepping into Bangkok for dinner.

Zuni Cafe (Civic Center) - A city favorite that keeps putting out fabulous food. The oysters, the rabbit, the burger, all fantastic.

Sushi Ran (Sausalito) - Popular sushi spot out in Sausalito. Fabulous food and great place to impress out of town visitors or a date. Don't miss the salmon skin and spicy tuna rolls. They also carry fresh wasabi. After dinner get a drink along the waterfront and watch the sunset over the city.

Little Star Pizza (Mission or Nopa) - I've never been a huge deep dish fan, but Little Star is worth every buttery calorie. Yum.

Delfina Pizzeria (Mission) - The closest I've found to legitimate Italian pizza in SF (I lived in Italy back in 2000).

Frances (Castro) - Hard to get a reservation, but if you can swing it DEFINITELY do. And definitely get the bacon beignets.

Jardinere (Civic Center) - I love the ambiance at Jardinere, very classic and elegant. Great romantic date spot, especially pre or post ballet.

Papalote (Mission) - It's not even close to what I consider Mexican food, but the shrimp burrito is probably my favorite in the city. Even the grilled veggie burrito is awesome (super, sin crema, sin riso).

Slanted Door (Ferry Building) - Have you ever wondered what pho or bahn mi would taste like if they weren't made with crappy ingredients? They would taste like this.

Fatted Calf (Hayes Valley) - My favorite butcher in the city. I swear by their bacon, the Riverdog Farms chicken they carry, and their eggs. Anything they've seasoned or marinated themselves is usually amazing.

Tacolicious (Mission or Marina) - Another place with excellent food that uses ingredients I trust. My favorite tacos in the city.

Samovar (Yerba Buena/Castro/Mission) - Great spot for tea and healthy food. No internet, so don't confuse this with a coffee shop.

Bi-Rite Market (Mission or Nopa) - Best deli in the city. All the prepared foods are amazing, as is everything carried in the store. The world would be a much better place if all businesses were run like Bi-Rite

 

Brunch

Central Kitchen (Mission) - New to the brunch scene, but already one of my new favorites.

Foreign Cinema (Mission) - Very fun brunch spot, with excellent drinks for the hair of the dog crowd.

Plow (Potrero) - I secretly hate this place, but the potatoes are so good it's worth mentioning (I don't like the eggs or pancakes or French toast or bread pudding or coffee). Weekend lines are a nightmare, and the menu is way better on weekdays (Chinese breakfast FTW!).

 

Wine & Beer

St. Vincent (Mission) - This is technically a restaurant, but the wine and beer are so amazing it is worth mentioning here as well. They'll sell you half the bottle of any wine on the menu. Such a great way to experiment with a friend during dinner.

Toronado (Haight) - Random dive with great beers on tap.

Hotel Biron (Civic Center) - Great wines, heavy pours. And dog friendly. Great first date spot too.

Monk's Kettle (Mission) - All your beer wishes come true at Monk's Kettle.

The Wine Merchant (Ferry Building) - Reliable spot for a great bottle or glass while shopping at the Ferry Building.

 

Coffee & Tea

Front (Potrero)- Delicious, super small batch coffee in Potrero Hill. Worth a trip for the sip.

Blue Bottle Coffee - My favorite in the city. I order drip coffee or New Orleans style iced coffee. Gibralter is their specialty.

Ritual Coffee (Mission) - Also really fabulous coffee.

Samovar Tea Lounge (Yerba Buena/Castro/Missino) - I've never seen a tea spot with a better selection, particularly for Japanese green teas.

Red Blossom Tea (Chinatown) - Best spot to buy Chinese teas (ask about the formosa oolongs and charcoal roasted tung ting), worth the trip to Chinatown.

 

Dessert

Tartine Bakery (Mission) - The only cake I've ever loved.

Boulette's Larder (Ferry Building) - Mind-blowing pastries. You will be ruined for life. Get there early to get one of the few canales they make each day.

Bi-Rite Creamery (Mission or Nopa) - Best ice cream in the universe.

 

Cocktails

ABV (Mission)

Dalva Hideout (Mission)

The Alembic (Haight)

Bar Agricole (SOMA)

Beretta (Mission)

Range (Mission)

Nopa (NOPA)

Bourbon & Branch (Tenderloin - requires reservation)

 

Juice

SoW - Handmade, artisinal juice from local farm ingredients. This juice can change your life. And no cleanses in sight :) Available at the Ferry Building on Saturday or Thursday, or you can order on Good Eggs.

 

I update this regularly (and I eat a lot).

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Reader Comments (11)

No Burbon & Branch under cocktails?

May 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAaron

You've listed a lot of my favorites (especially Dalva Hideout, Alembic, Foreign Cinema, Nopa, Commonwealth, Samovar, and Dosa). A few I'd add to your list, if you haven't already tried them are Shanghai Dumpling King for xiao long bao, Hong Kong Flower Lounge for general dim sum, Cha Ya for vegan Japanese (easily the best vegan food I've eaten), and All Spice for fantastic Indian fusion (though its in San Mateo), Maven for cocktails (skip dinner, but try the duck sliders as a hearty snack/bar bite), and Mission Beach Cafe for brunch and pie.

May 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNicole

@aaron My bad! Fixed.

May 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDarya

Bookmarked. Thank you!

May 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRyan Anderson

For the record, I have tried MBC and Plow for brunch and think they're both overrated. But I'm not a pancake person.

May 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDarya

@Nicole Thanks! I'm lacking good Chinese spots. I loved Mission Chinese until it made me sick on multiple occasions.

May 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDarya

Darya, visit Smuggler's Cove for cocktails. It's a great place.

May 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterIlya Spekhov

I'm not a fan of Smuggler's Cove, cocktails are way too sweet for me.

July 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDarya

My favourite restaurant in SF is Chili House.

October 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterChili House

Blue Bottle Coffee - YES, love their coffee. For Italian, you ever try E’ Tutto Qua? I went here with my girlfriend when we first moved to the city and we've kept coming back for years. Their Maiale al Barolo is fantastic, as is the Involtino di Pollo on the dinner menu! Cheers. ~ Pavel Vasilik Portrait Art

January 6, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPavel Vasilik

I love your blog! I live in the East Bay, and I'm a huge fan of reviews like yours to guide me in my city dining. Only favor I could ask, for us non-SF folks, is if you could list the area of the city (like you do for cocktails) on your restaurant recommendations? We try to take public transportation, so it's great to know where your picks are located. Thanks again (for making me look good when I choose your restaurants and invite my friends).

Brooke

May 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterBrooke

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