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San Franciscans are very serious about their food. The city has always held a deep appreciation for good eats and you’ll often find long queues for any number of neighborhood eateries, from State Bird Provisions in Lower Pacific Heights to Tartine Bakery in the Mission District. In fact, S.F. is a foodie’s dream with a range of cuisines just as diverse as the city itself. Spend a day walking through Chinatown or North Beach and you’ll find a wealth of options waiting to be devoured.
The city is also filled with classic institutions that consistently churn out delicious food and good vibes. You won’t find an S.F. local who hasn’t overindulged in favorite haunts like Delfina (and its pizzeria next door) or Swan Oyster Depot.
In the last few years, the San Francisco dining scene has exploded with even more exciting and one-of-a-kind eateries. Both locals and out-of-towners are taking note. From artisanal, churn-to-order ice cream at Smitten Ice Cream to Hawaiian-NorCal fusion at Liholiho Yacht Club, tons of the city’s newbies are making waves in the food world for their unique spins on restaurant fare.
Can’t decide where to nosh on your next trip to the City by the Bay? Check out five of our favorite spots below for lunch, dinner, dessert, and everything in between.
1. Leo's Oyster Bar
Transport yourself to the golden era at this chic, 40-seat oyster bar. The new Financial District eatery from S.F.’s beloved Big Night Restaurant Group (Park Tavern, Marlowe) boasts decadent seafood toasts, classic caviar service, and an unrivaled raw bar. Bonus points: the restaurant just opened Hideaway, a secret cocktail bar located in Leo’s back corridor. There, you’ll find a tropical oasis with an exclusive list of cocktails worthy of happy hour, like the Hideaway Punch (gin, pineapple, citrus, herbs, and spices) or a champagne cocktail with a rose water scented sugar cube.
568 Sacramento St.; 415-872-9982; leossf.com
2. The Market
Located on the ground floor of Twitter’s HQ, this 22,000-square-foot space is way more than your average tech cafeteria. Shop locally sourced produce and proteins at its grocery; pick up goodies at its S.F. mainstays like Blue Bottle Coffee, Project Juice, and cult-fave Doughnut Dolly; and then grab a gourmet bite to eat for lunch. Food options range from tapas to sushi to sandwiches and pizza.
1355 Market St., Ste. 100; 415-767-5130; visitthemarket.com
3. Smitten Ice Cream
Brave the line for Smitten Ice Cream’s churned-to-order scoops using liquid nitrogen in a science-lab looking machine called the Brr…, built by founder Robyn Sue Fisher, who discovered a new way of making old-fashioned ice cream without preservatives, stabilizers, and other harmful chemicals. There you’ll find only seasonal ingredients from local NorCal organic farms, with a rotating menu of inspired flavors, like strawberry white balsamic, nectarine crisp, and sweet corn with berries. Visit the charming Hayes Valley hub, built in an old (yet highly energy efficient!) shipping container. Its new locations open in the Mission and Marina districts this summer.
432 Octavia St., 1A; 415-863-1518; smittenicecream.com
4. Tosca Cafe
Chef April Bloomfield and partner Ken Friedman of New York City’s famed Spotted Pig took over the existing Tosca Cafe in S.F.’s North Beach neighborhood. As a local institution, the duo sought to preserve the foundation and identity of the once bar and added an Italian-meets-NorCal dinner menu to it. Order the roasted chicken for two (beware: allow one hour for it to cook!) or pop in over the weekend for their special Red Sauce Sundays menu. After dinner, indulge in the House “Cappuccino” cocktail, an updated take on a holdover from the Prohibition-era Tosca, known for containing absolutely no coffee at all.
242 Columbus Ave., San Francisco, 415-986-9651; toscacafesf.com
5. Liholiho Yacht Club
Oahu native Chef Ravi Kapur brings his Hawaiian-influenced fare to Lower Nob Hill. It's more than just an island-fusion eatery though—its flavors range from Japanese to Korean to Indian, making this spot a unique breath of fresh air that the S.F. foodies are flocking to. Order the menu staples: tuna poke with nori crackers and the poppy seed steam bun with beef tongue, kimchi, and cucumber. Stay for the lively environment and A+ people watching.
871 Sutter St.; 415-440-5446; liholihoyachtclub.com