Culinary Landmarks: Eight Hot Restaurants in San Francisco

From Peruvian to Persian, there is such a diversity of great restaurants in San Francisco that you’ll want to eat everywhere you go! Here are some of the top places to put on your list next time you are in town.

San Francisco is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the United States. This diversity brings a number of great aspects to life in this part of Northern California. The most basic of these terrific aspects is that San Francisco is a place where you can find amazingly delicious food from all different types of cultures. If you fail to take advantage of the different tastes of the city while you’re there, you’re doing yourself a serious injustice.

Dining and San Francisco’s Neighborhoods

There are so many different restaurants to choose from in San Francisco that you will likely have a hard time trying to decide which of the many places to select for your meals. One of the best ways to narrow down the options is to choose the San Francisco neighborhoods that appeal to you most. Then look for the best restaurants in those neighborhoods.

For example, if you’re a fan of Chinatown, seek out great dim sum there. If you thrive on the buoyant energy of the Castro, plan to dig into some of the terrific fusion food to be found in that neighborhood. If North Beach calls your name, you know that it’s probably Italian food that you’re going to want on your plate. Each San Francisco neighborhood is very distinct and each offers its own taste of the city. Doing some research into which areas you like best will help you find the foods that you’re craving while you’re there.

8 Great San Francisco Restaurants

There are literally hundreds of restaurants to choose from in San Francisco so you aren’t going to be able to try them all. If you’re interested in checking out a variety of tastes from around the city, place your bets on these eight unique restaurants:

    1. Estia

      This restaurant is located in North Beach (San Francisco’s “Little Italy”) so you’d expect it to be an Italian joint just like every other restaurant to be found there. You’d be wrong. This food comes from the Mediterranean all right but it’s Greek dishes that you’ll be enjoying. Estia is a family-owned restaurant where the Old World ambiance is as crucial to the experience as the delectable Greek foods on the menu are. Make sure to order the saganaki which will be lit on fire at your table for an en flambé treat.

    2. Kennedy’s

      Also located in North Beach is a restaurant so unique that you’d be hard pressed to find anything like it. When you first walk in, you’ll immediately notice that this is an Irish sports bar. Pool tables, video games, a jukebox and plenty of beer will clue you in if the sports on TV screens fail to do so. However, if you walk to the back of the bar, you’ll find that there’s also a fine dining Indian food restaurant here. Serving not only North Indian food but also South Indian cuisine, this restaurant is one of the best Indian food spots in the city even though it hides within an Irish sports bar.

    3. Boudin Bakery

      Located at Fisherman’s Wharf, this is an undeniably touristy restaurant, but it’s where San Francisco’s famous sourdough bread bowls are made. You won’t be able to miss them since the restaurant pipes the sourdough smoke out into the street to draw you in. With outrageous prices and a San Francisco history museum, it’s the kind of place that locals shy away from. However, the food is deliciously San Franciscan and if pressed, locals will admit that they always love when houseguests come to visit because they get to enjoy this restaurant under the guise of being a good tour guide. The views of Alcatraz in the bay that you’ll enjoy while you’re eating here will remind you of why you love San Francisco so much.

    4. Asia SF

      San Francisco is known for being many things but one of the most common of those things is that it’s a diverse city. That diversity is represented not only racially but also in San Francisco’s open acceptance of different sexual orientations. In order to truly understand the city, you have to understand this aspect of it. And Asia SF is a restaurant where you can get a taste of that understanding while also enjoying the great tastes of a multiple-course meal. That’s because AsiaSF is not just a restaurant; it’s dinner-and-a-show where the show is put on by transgender entertainers who will welcome you to the city with dazzling wit and beauty. Reservations are almost always necessary to get into this San Francisco restaurant.

    5. Lime

      Seeking a little bit of gay culture without the whole song-and-dance? You’ll want to head up to The Castro where the gay bars and pride stores are located. After doing some shopping in the area, head to this restaurant which provides California fusion food that you’ll want to write home about. Like any good Castro restaurant, it also offers strong cocktails at a decent price. Unlike many other spots, Lime has awesome heated outdoor seating for you to enjoy.

    6. Yank Sing

      This is a dim sum restaurant located in the Financial District of San Francisco. It’s the kind of place that is good for people who have never had the dim sum dining experience before because it’s considerably less overwhelming than the dim sum restaurants actually located in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Of course, there are lots of those, too, so if you’re feeling like being authentic then you might check out a different dim sum place. However, this one is guaranteed to have a great selection of different traditional Chinese foods for you to sample and enjoy.

    7. Pancho Villa Taqueria

      All of the restaurants on this list are great but most of them are in the “fine dining” (or at least nice casual dining) category. If you’re looking for something that’s a lot more laidback but tastes just as good as the others, head to The Mission where this large taqueria can be found. The food tastes like it came straight from the kitchen of a great Mexican family household. And the prices are so low you might even think that you’re really in Mexico! They don’t skimp on selection either – there are so many different types of meats and beans that you’ll have trouble figuring out what to order!

    8. Bangkok Noodles

      Another casual dining place where you can get great food is Bangkok Noodles located on Powell Street just steps away from the cable car turnaround and right around the corner from Union Square. You would think that a restaurant in this location would be touristy but you’d be wrong about this place. This is just great Thai food at a really low price. Another perk of this restaurant is that it’s open late so if you’ve been wandering around at night and are headed back to your downtown hotel, you can stop here for some great midnight meals.

Editor’s Pick: Cafe Claude

    A lovely little French bistro hidden in a rustic alley near Union Square. The French onion soup is a must have starter and the creme brulee is a necessity, so save room. Try the daily special, it’s always a great choice. Try to grab a seat outside if it’s not to chilly.

Finding Other Great San Francisco Restaurants

It’s not difficult to find other great San Francisco restaurants if these aren’t quite the ones that you had in mind. Here are some additional resources and tips for locating the dining experience that you’re in search of:

  • Yelp

    People in San Francisco are active on the Yelp review site so you can search out restaurants by cuisine or neighborhood and read the reviews that others have posted.

  • MenuPages San Francisco

    These are professional reviews of local restaurants.

  • Citysearch San Francisco

    There are both professional and local reviews listed here.

  • Craig’s List

    Post a note in the “community” section of Craigslist asking for advice on where to dine and random local residents will give you their opinions.

  • Consult the cabbies

    San Francisco is a place where you’re probably going to want to take public transportation. When you’re in a cab, get advice from the driver on where to dine.

  • Sniff it out

    You can’t go more than a block in most San Francisco neighborhoods without passing a restaurant. Just see what sounds good to you and be daring enough to go in and try it out.

San Francisco has all of the foods that you’d be interested in trying during your trip. It has touristy foods local to the area (like clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl) and culturally diverse foods ranging from Peruvian to Persian. Take the time to really enjoy the meals that the city offers while you’re there whether you’re on a day trip or living there as a resident.