Foodie Friday: Eat Your Heart Out, San Francisco

San Francisco

From this view, there is a whole world of wonderful restaurants and delicious food.

It’s been two years since I moved away from San Francisco, a place I called home for about 12 years. I miss many aspects of that city, but I mostly miss the food. For any foodie that has lived in or visited San Francisco, you know that it’s food heaven.

Each San Francisco neighborhood is unique with its own flavor and food culture. From fine dining in Nob Hill and picnic-ing in the Embarcadero to tamales in the Mission and brunch in the Castro to spicy Indian food in South of Market (SOMA) and Ethiopian food in Western Addition, San Francisco has everything. This list of where to eat is my own personal food diary of the places that helped refine my palate.

So, in homage of the fabulous Foggy City and the various neighborhoods and eateries that I frequented, I want to share all my secret and not-so secret places to eat great food and shop for delectable treats.

Note: Not all San Francisco Districts are listed. Neighborhoods are listed in alphabetical order. This list is subject to change.

Bernal Heights

South of the Mission, Bernal Heights is a cute area off the beaten track. One reason to stop in Bernal Heights is for the Alemany Farmers’ Market, otherwise known as “the people’s market.” I loved to shop here on the weekends for fresh, local produce and other good eats.

I ate at Goood Frickin Chicken every month for about a year. Why? Because they don’t lie – they have really goood frickin chicken! This is a Mediterranean restaurant that offers a different variety of chicken platters, including rotisserie, open flame, and shawerma.

Pastores is a great place if you’re looking for delicious chilaquiles or huevos rancheros. For more upscale comfort food in a cozy environment, check out The Blue Plate. For some down-home cooking with a lovely and romantic ambiance,  I recommend The Front Porch.


If you’re looking for a place to see great live music and enjoy good food, you must go to Cafe Du Nord. I would usually only go for specific performances, but they regularly book  great artists, both local and touring. And, of course, the food is great.

Other than Cafe Du Nord for late-night fun, my favorite dining experiences in the Castro centers around brunch.  Chow is a very charming restaurant in the Castro that has a great breakfast and lunch menu.  Another good place to eat is Home. They cater to the hangover crowd rolling out of bed for brunch, complete with hearty comfort food and a Bloody Mary Bar. Perfect for the morning after a particularly fun evening in the City!

Morning Due Cafe is a place I would often go to grab some coffee (support local coffee shops!) or a quick lunch. They have delicious food and a nice and cozy neighborhood feel to the cafe.

Civic Center/TenderNob (Nob Hill)

Le Colonial has mastered the art of Vietnamese/French fusion. People swear by The Slanted Door, but I prefer Le Colonial. The restaurant is sophisticated and sexy and it’s an ideal place for a romantic date or for a large group. If you’re looking for straight-forward Vietnamese food, look no further than Anh Hong.  It might just be the best Vietnamese food in SF.

Feel like splurging on a ridiculously indulgent meal? Check out Masa’s. Their nine-course menu was one of the most memorable meals of my life. Word to the wise, if you decide on the nine-course, do not eat for at least 5 hours ahead of time and prepare to not eat again for 24 hours afterward.

Cole Valley

Cole Valley is an adorable little neighborhood near Haight-Ashbury and I used to head here all the time for brunch. People will wait in long lines for Zazie’s on Saturday and Sunday mornings, but just next door is Bambino’s which I consider to be an even better spot for breakfast/brunch. Make sure to order their Grand Marnier French Toast!

For a night out, my favorite spot is Eos Restaurant and Wine Bar. Their wine list is, as to be expected, incredible and their food is delicious. Plus I love their ambiance for a romantic date night or for a group of friends. For a sweet or savory treat, check out Crepes On Cole.  You cannot go wrong with the Peanut Butter & Nutella crepe!


When I think of the Embarcadero, the Ferry Building is the first thing to come to mind. I would walk to the ferry building weekly, especially when the farmers market was open. This place is a must for anyone traveling to San Francisco.

Is it a beautiful and sunny day and want to go on a picnic? Here’s what to do for a fabulous (but not cheap) picnic idea: head to the Ferry Building and pick up some fresh baguettes from Acme Bread Company, some Berkswell cheese or a nice aged gouda from Cowgirl Creamery, and a some freshly sliced Prosciutto di Parma from Golden Gate Meat Company (and perhaps a little chocolate dessert from Recciuti Confection) and then walk down the Embarcadero to find the grassy hills practically under the Bay Bridge. On a beautiful and sunny San Francisco day, this is the best way to dine.

Financial District

The Financial District really caters to the 9-5 crowd and there are a ton of  places to grab a quick meal, like Lee’s Deli.  However, there are a few gems for people looking for a more relaxing meal with great food. One of my favorite spots is Perbaco’s, which is an excellent Italian restaurant.

Fishermans Wharf

People often head to the Wharf for bread bowls filled with clam chowder, but the Wharf for me means dressing to the nine’s and splurging at Gary Danko. Fine dining restaurants don’t get much better than Gary Danko, so make sure to head there if you’re looking for a memorable meal to celebrate a special occasion (or just because).

If you’re looking for something more low-key and authentic San Francisco, you must check out The Buena Vista. This place invented the Irish Coffee. It’s true!

Ghiradelli Square is another place to visit since, as you can imagine, there is a Ghiradelli chocolate shop and soda fountain (they hand out free samples, too!).


Nobody can visit San Francisco without stopping by Haight-Ashbury. This historical neighborhood of love and peace still has that hippie vibe to it (despite that there is a Gap on the corner of Haight and Ashbury!). It’s been there for years because, hey, even hippies need jeans.  But let’s get to the important stuff. Haight-Ashbury has an eclectic range of food choices and offers some great cuisine. Here are my favorites:

A wonderful place for breakfast is Pork Store. This stuff is greasy comfort food and the waitress might spill some coffee on you, but I love it anyways. Cafe International offers great sandwiches and salads as does Squat and Gobble Cafe. For something different, try out The Citrus Club for their excellent noodle dishes (I ate here once a week for about a year!) and Asqew Grill for their delicious skewers. The ahi tuna is my favorite.

If you’re looking for a fun place for dinner, head to Cha Cha Cha for great tapas and sangria. If you want something more upscale (yes, it does exist in the Haight!), try out RNM. This fabulous restaurant is ideal for a romantic night out or for a small group of friends.

Hayes Valley

I adore Hayes Valley. This area is filled with cute shops and great places to eat.

For a more upscale dining experience, try out Absinthe Brassiere & Bar for their delicious food and extensive wine list or Zuni Cafe for their incredible roast chicken (it might be better than mine!) and lovely ambiance.

For something more low-key, try out Suppenkuche for hearty German fare like bratwurst and spatzle served in a rustic environment. It’s best to order those dishes with German beer, too (like I had to tell you that).


If you’re visiting SF, a visit to Japantown is a must. It’s a great place to walk around and check out the shops. You actually do feel like you’re in a Japanese mall, except that apples don’t cost $10. If you’re in need of groceries or a quick snack, check out Nijiya Market for some delicious Japanese delicacies and treats. If you’re looking for sushi, my favorite spot is Takara Japanese Restaurant.

Marina/Cow Hollow

Alegrias is a wonderful place for Spanish style tapas. The place is tiny so reservations are a must!

The Mission

The Mission doesn’t just serve up incredible Mexican food (although it’s pretty much a no-fail place for Mexican fare).  However, I still have my favorite Mexican spot: El Farolito.  The carne asada quesadilla is heaven on a plate. Also, if you’re craving tamales, there is only one person you need to visit. The Tamale Lady. You will usually find her in front of a dive bar called Zeitgeist. That is all.

Other Mission spots I adore:

Delfina is one of my favorite places for a romantic night out. It’s a lovely restaurant with excellent Italian-style fare. Another great place to head out for a nice meal is Foreign Cinema. It might be one of my favorite spots in the city for a night out. Not only is the food delicious but the ambiance is simply cool. There is no other word for it.

I love crepes, as you will tell if you read this entire list. Therefore, Ti Couz is one of my favorite restaurants. It doesn’t matter if you crave sweet or savory crepes, Ti Couz will deliver. Have a craving for fries? Check out Frjtz . They have garlic fries and truffle fries and whole range of dipping sauces. Need I say more? 

Luna Park was always one of our go-to places, especially with a large group of friends. In fact, the Dude celebrated his 30th birthday here! It’s always packed on the weekends and you’ll have to wait, even with a reservation. But I think it’s worth it.

Limon is one of my favorite Peruvian restaurants and everything I have tried here is delicious. I also love the decor and ambiance.

Bar Tartine is a wonderful place for dinner, but I particularly love Tartine Bakery for their baked goods and desserts. Save some Weight Watchers points for this place – it’s well worth it! If you’re looking for good comfort food for breakfast, try the Pork Store (another location is in Haight-Ashbury) or Boogaloo’s.

North Beach

Yes, this is the “little Italy” of San Francisco, but that doesn’t mean it’s all Italiano! Some of my favorite spots aren’t Italian. Mama’s is probably the best breakfast in town, however, you will have to wait for it. There is always a  line out the door, so don’t go too hungry. For incredible (and cheap!) chicken, check out the no-fuss Ill Pollaio.  I used to eat here almost weekly and I still dream about their char-broiled chicken and salad combination plate.

For excellent seafood, head to Sotto Mare for what they call an old-school Italian/Seafood experience. Still need traditional Italian food? Trattoria Contadina is, hands down, my favorite Italian place in the city. Some people will argue with that one, but I won’t budge on my opinion. This was one of the first restaurants I ventured to when I first moved to SF in 1997 and it remained one of my favorites.

No trip to North Beach is complete without coffee. Head to Graffeo Coffee Roasting Company for delicious hand-roasted coffee. And for dessert, check out XOX Truffles for unforgettable delectable truffles (make sure to get the hazelnut!). For vegetarians/vegans, they make truffles for you, too.

Pacific Heights

One of my favorite restaurants in Pac Heights is La Mediterranee. They serve exceptional Mediterranean food and I love the cozy atmosphere.  For desserts and coffee, try out a hidden gem called Cafe Murano. It’s fantastic.

Portrero Hill

Home of OJ Simpson, the Dogpatch neighborhood (headquarters of the Hells Angels), and the crookedest street in San Francisco (it ain’t Lombard, folks!), Portrero Hill is an interesting place to visit. It also offers some great food, too.

If you’re in the mood for a small live show or want to enjoy a game with some good food and beer, head to the Connecticut Yankee. It’s a fun and friendly place with a cozy neighborhood ambiance. For good Southern food with exceptionally friendly service, try out Hard Knox Cafe. For pizza, I always loved Goat Hill Pizza.  For great sandwiches to-go,  Hazel’s Kitchen is fantastic. You can’t sit there to eat your sandwich, so bring it over to Farley’s where you can eat and enjoy their delicious coffee.

Richmond (Inner)

There are a few reasons why I would specifically drive to the Richmond district for food. One is Ton Kiang, an excellent dim sum restaurant that’s worth the wait. Another reason is Mandalay for unbelievably good Burmese food. Now, everyone will tell you to eat at Burma Superstar for great Burmese food. I disagree. Mandalay is even better and the wait isn’t nearly as long.

Richmond (Outer)

If you happen to be in Outer Richmond and you’re craving burritos, stop at either Chino’s Taqueria or Gordo Taqueria. They are my favorite places for burritos outside of the Mission district.

South of Market (SOMA)

I’m biased since I called SOMA home for about 5 years, but I truly loved so many restaurants in the area. Mehfil Indian is, hands down, my favorite Indian restaurant. Period. We would eat there every Sunday for years. Tres Agaves is another favorite. For brunch, the chilaquiles are a stand-out. For lunch or dinner, the carne asada and fish tacos were always my go-to menu items. Also, make sure to check out their tequila bar. It’s like Mecca for tequila lovers.

Yank Sing is a fantastic place for dim sum for gringos. It’s pricier and less authentic than most other dim sum restaurants, but the quality of the service and food make it worthwhile. Consider it fine-dining dim sum. If you’re looking for a cocktail at a swanky locale, look no further than the St. Regis Hotel Lobby Bar. Feeling hungry and indulgent? Check out AME in the St. Regis for an incredible meal.

Another great plce to visit is Samover Tea Lounge in the Yerba Beuna Gardens, located across from the Museum of Modern Art. It’s a wonderful place to sit back, drink delicious tea, and enjoy the view.

If you need a beer and burger, my go-to spot is 21st Amendment. It’s a great bar/restaurant to catch a game and they brew their own beer, too!

For upscale traditional food, I recommend Salt House or, one of my favorites, Town Hall.  Both have excellent American-style fare at reasonable prices. I also love the ambiance (brick and dark woods) at both establishments but, take note, that Town Hall actually sounds like Town Hall. It’s louder than a Sarah Palin Rally, so it’s not the best spot for a quiet and intimate evening. I also love Bacar for good wine and great live jazz music. For special occasions, try Boulevard. You will not be disappointed.

Sunset (Inner)

Izakaya Sozai is a wonderful sushi spot in the Sunset area. You may have to wait a while for table since the place is tiny, but it’s worth it!

For some good traditional comfort food, check out Park Chow, the sister restaurant to Chow in the Castro, and make sure to eat upstairs. Pluto’s is another great option for really tasty sandwiches and salads (they have another location in the Marina). For a sweet treat, I love Crepevine. If I could live off their Nutella crepes, I would.

Union Square

Other than the great shopping, the best reason to head to Union Square is to enjoy a meal at Michael Mina. I believe Michael Mina is one of the better fine-dining options in San Francisco, which says a lot since there are quite a few.

For something more low-key, try out Cafe Dolci for excellent banh mi Vietnamese sandwiches and Cafe Madeleine for delicious sandwiches and desserts.

Western Addition/North Panhandle (NOPA)

If you’re looking for some delicious deep-dish pizza, Little Star is a must. I have to say, I do prefer Zachary’s Pizza in Albany or Berkeley, but that would require a trip across the bridge. They apparently opened a Little Star in the Mission District as well, but I never checked that one out.

For good Mexican food, Papalote’s is a great choice and for incredible Ethiopian food, try out Assab Eritrean Restaurant. It is a fun experience (you eat with your hands) and the entrees are packed with flavor.

West Portal

I adore this little neighborhood in the City. With a small-town feeling in a 1950′s time warp, West Portal is a hidden gem that not many people venture to for food. Considering I went to college nearby and worked in the area for a few years, I got to know West Portal very well.  A few of my favorites spots include Fresca for delicious Peruvian food (order the plantains!), El Toreador for good Mexican food served in a funky and colorful restaurant, and Bursa for fantastic Turkish cuisine mixed with other Middle Eastern flavors. If you’re looking for something simple, like Italian, check out Spiazzo Caffe for excellent food or the pizza at Paradise Pizza & Pasta. Paradise pizza is so good that I blame it entirely for my freshman 15.

Do you have any favorite San Francisco restaurants or food memories you want to share? Please do!


Disclaimer: I was not compensated by any establishment listed. These are just some of the restaurants, markets, and specialty food shops that I adored and frequented during the many years I lived in San Francisco…and still return to when I visit.