Top 12 Best Restaurants in San Francisco

Last Updated on February 22, 2024 by Emily Johnson

The Best Restaurants in San Francisco

San Francisco is deservedly famous for its iconic Golden Gate Bridge views, hilly cityscapes, colorful Victorian homes, bustling piers, and counter-culturalHaight Ashbury vibes. But its incredible dining scene also competes for headlines when it comes to the best attractions in this food-loving city.

RestaurantCuisineSpecial Features
BenuChinese FusionMichelin-starred, innovative East-meets-West dishes
Tartine BakeryBakeryFamous for breads and pastries, international acclaim
Burma SuperstarBurmeseUnique Burmese specialties, popular for garlic noodles
Mister Jiu’sChineseModern twist on Chinese banquet dining, scenic views
Zuni CaféCalifornianIconic roasted chicken, Mediterranean-accented fare
Liholiho Yacht ClubPacific RimSeafood-focused, East-meets-West plates
House of Prime RibAmericanClassic prime rib, old-school dining
La TaqueriaMexicanKnown for Mission-style burritos, Cal-Mex style
Swan Oyster DepotSeafoodFresh seafood, counter dining experience
Atelier CrennProgressive AmericanMichelin-starred, poetic culinary experiences
Tony’s Pizza NapoletanaItalianAward-winning Neapolitan pizzas, diverse styles

From Michelin starred temples of gastronomy to tiny neighborhood joints dishing out global flavors, San Francisco dining offers seemingly endless variety. Chinatown alone holds more top-notch Chinese restaurants than many major metro areas combined. Seafood lovers find bountiful fresh catches right off the Pacific coast. And the city’s rich immigrant communities shape eclectic local specialties across Mexican, Italian, Japanese, and Vietnamese cuisines, to name just a few.

The following 12 establishments represent a sampling of San Francisco’s best restaurants spanning different neighborhoods, cuisines, atmospheres and budgets. From $50-per-plate fine dining to some of the West Coast’s best burritos under $15, these celebrated eateries illuminate why San Francisco maintains its reputation as a world-class food destination.

Benu

Name and Location: Benu is located at 22 Hawthorne St. in SoMa, San Francisco.

History and Significance: Opened in 2010 by chef Corey Lee, Benu has received three Michelin stars for its innovative tasting menus inspired by Chinese and Korean flavors.

What to Expect: An exquisite fine-dining experience with delicate, creative courses beautifully presented. The seasonal tasting menu offers about 15 small plates. Reservations book up months in advance.

Visitor Information: Open for dinner Tuesday-Saturday only with two staggered seatings per night. Jacket and tie required, formal dress suggested. Tasting menus only.

When Michelin-starred chef Corey Lee opened Benu in San Francisco’s hip SoMa arts district, he wowed critics as the first to successfully fuse fine dining with Chinese flavors and ingredients. Diners enter the sleek and modern space with vaulted ceilings and elegant wooden touches before embarking on Lee’s others worldly tasting menu fusing Chinese technique with global accents. Dishes like thousand-year eggs topped with aged Jinhua ham and caviar, or velvety soup dumplings stuffed with pork belly and truffles exemplify Lee’s East-meets-West alchemy. Plan ahead for reservations and come hungry to experience one of America’s most creative Chinese concept restaurants led by a pioneering celebrity chef.

Tartine Bakery

Name and Location: Tartine Bakery has locations in Mission District at 600 Guerrero St and Inner Sunset at 3860 17th St.

History and Significance: Founded in 2002 by Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson, known for artisanal, handmade organic breads and pastries.

What to Expect: Signatures like morning buns, frangipane tarts and sourdough loaves baked fresh daily, alongside coffee drinks and thoughtfully-sourced breakfast and lunch fare. Expect long lines out the door during peak times.

Visitor Information: Open daily from 8am-5pm, closing between lunch services. Limited indoor and outdoor seating available.

No best-of list omits Tartine Bakery, which has achieved international acclaim for its perfected breads and pastries since opening in 2002. Daily, crowds line up out the door of this Mission District landmark for flaky croissants, moist banana cream tarts and gorgeous layered cakes. But their signature masterpiece comes from the crusty, hole-pocked loaves emerging from the brick oven all day long. James Beard award-winning owners Elisabeth Pruiett and Chad Robertson built a cult following for these hearty country loaves baked to caramelized crusty perfection. Show up early to try them fresh from the oven slathered with butter and sea salt for bakery bliss. Tartine just opened a new location in Japan, but fans still queue in the Mission for the quintessential San Francisco bakery experience.

Burma Superstar

Name and Location: Burma Superstar located at 309 Clement St. in the Inner Richmond neighborhood.

History and Significance: Opened in 1992 to introduce the unique flavors of Burmese cuisine to San Francisco. Known for the signature rainbow salad and tea leaf salad, with influences from Chinese and Indian cuisines.

What to Expect: A diverse menu of curries, noodle dishes, vegetable sides and salads. Prepare for a wait during peak mealtimes or make a reservation by phone in advance. Casual counter-order format but table service for drinks during meal.

Visitor Information: Open daily 11:30am-3:30pm for lunch and 5pm-9:30pm for dinner. Cash only for in-person payments.

No visitor’s tour of San Francisco is complete without a meal in the city’s neighborhoods serving up global cuisines. Burma Superstar in the Inner Richmond leads the pack when it comes to Burmese fare with lines daily wrapping around the block. Inside this vibrant and colorful eatery, diners discover a bonanza of unique Burmese specialties difficult to find outside Southeast Asia. Do not leave without trying the rainbow salad tossed in tangy fermented tea leaf dressing, or the Samusa soup blending lentil dumplings in coconut curry broth. But the must-order standout remains their garlic noodles, a tangle of rice noodles fried to toasty perfection with pungent garlic oil and egg. Burma Superstar’s blend of funky vibes, Rangoon regalia lining the walls, and tongue-tingling dishes transports diners straight to Myanmar, making it one of America’s most beloved Burmese dining institutions.

Mister Jiu’s

Name and Location: Mister Jiu’s Chinese restaurant located at 28 Waverly Pl. in historic Chinatown district.

History and Significance: Opened in 2016 by chef Brandon Jew as the first high-end Chinese restaurant downtown, quickly earning a Michelin star. Focused on the lighter fare of northern Chinese cuisine.

What to Expect: Sophisticated dishes like tea-smoked duck, housemade noodles and locally-sourced seafood presented in an upscale setting blending old and new Chinatown style, with a thoughtfully curated wine list and creative cocktails.

Visitor Information: Dinner Wednesday–Monday 5:30–9:30pm. Reservations essential via Tock. Valet parking available. Closed Tuesdays.

High up on Nob Hill, Mister Jiu’s overlooking Chinatown updates the concept of Chinese banquet dining with a modern California twist. Diners immerse themselves in Chinatown views through tall windows while sampling a coursed menu from chef Brandon Jew which pays respectful homage to his Chinese heritage while utilizing the state’s incredible bounty. Feast on the Monterey Bay abalone glazed in Shaoxing wine reduction, or the signature smoked local sturgeon tucked in puffy steamed buns. Plates like wok fried spot prawns with merguez spices reveal Jew’s fine dining background while delicate egg custards with dried scallops and sea urchin tea nod reverently to old world Chinatown. Exquisite ambiance plus Jew’s artful blend of Chinese soul food make Mister Jiu’s one of the city’s most sought after reservations.

Zuni Café

Name and Location: Zuni Café located at 1658 Market St. near downtown San Francisco.

History and Significance: Opened in 1979 in a converted auto repair garage, focusing on Mediterranean, Italian and French-inspired California cuisine cooked in the wood-fired oven. Known especially for the baked chicken with bread salad.

What to Expect: A diverse, seasonally changing menu offers rustic fare alongside an award-winning wine list. Dishes like meaty pizzas, oysters, pastas and salads have enduring popularity. Bustling ambiance with counter seating.

Visitor Information: Open daily 11:30am-11pm. Reservations strongly recommended, especially for dinner or large groups. No reservations for counter.

This buzzing Bernal Heights bistro helped launch chef Judy Rodgers to legendary status with diners flocking here since the late 70s for her masterful Mediterranean-accented California fare. Two signature dishes grace nearly every table: the brick oven roasted chicken for two, its crispy skin basting the moist meat and rosemary-flecked jus in the deep dish below. And Rodger’s copyrighted Caesar salad, a complex construction of romaine, garlic croutons, and grated parmesan all tossed tableside in her creamy anchovy dressing perfumed with lemon. Nightly specials like braised pork shoulder or rich oxtail risotto exemplify Zuni’s scratch-made sensibilities which highlight quality ingredients through balanced and comforting presentations. Sadly, Rodgers passed in 2013 but her legacy continues under chef Justine Kelly who adheres faithfully to Zuni’s time-tested template for Californian cuisine excellence.

Liholiho Yacht Club

Name and Location: Liholiho Yacht Club is located at 871 Sutter St. in the Nob Hill neighborhood.

History and Significance: Opened in 2015 by chef Ravi Kapur, quickly gaining acclaim for its creative blend of Hawaiian and California cuisines and island-inspired tiki bar cocktails.

What to Expect: Playful dishes like spam fried rice, banana lumpia dessert and famous garlic noodles offer a taste of the islands using high-quality, often local ingredients. Reservations difficult to secure.

Visitor Information: Dinner only, Wednesday–Monday 5:30–10pm. Casual dress but reservations strongly recommended, booked well in advance via Tock.Line for walk-ins may form before opening.

Off busy Geary Boulevard, Liholiho Yacht Club is the quintessential hot new restaurant for dazzling Pacific Rim plates by a James Beard Award winner that reveals San Francisco’s prime position on the Pacific Coast between Asia and the Americas. Behind Liho’s rather forgettable entrance lies a buzzing nautical themed dining room where chef Ravi Kapur spins seafood from local crabs to Japanese octopus into briny taste sensations. Signatures like fried rice topped with lobster and uni sauce exemplify Liholiho’s East-meets-West bravado, while whole roasted fish draped in black lime sticky sauce illuminate Kapur’s wizardry equally at home with Chinese woks as Japanese kaiseki technique. Worth waiting weeks for reservations, Liholiho brings serious wow factor to San Francisco’s already legendary dining scene with some of the most thrilling Asian fusion fare found outside Asia.

House of Prime Rib

Name and Location: House of Prime Rib located at 1906 Van Ness Ave. in Nob Hill neighborhood.

History and Significance: Family owned steakhouse since 1949 known for exceptional prime rib roasts carved tableside. Classic retro vibes, top-notch service.

What to Expect: Elegantly prepared meat with creamed spinach, horseradish sauce, salad and baked potato makes this a San Francisco special occasion standard. Jackets required for men. Reservations recommended.

Visitor Information: Open for dinner daily 5pm-10pm. Valet parking available. Vegetarian options limited. Extensive wine list available.

No roundup covers quintessential San Francisco dining without including at least one old school special occasion restaurant. Carnivorous displays of beef carving grandeur find their apex at House of Prime Rib, a San Francisco temple devoted to perfecting one cut of meat. Unchanged since opening in 1949, diners enter this retro red leather interior before invoking one of four prime rib sizes, from the petite 8 ounce cut to the mammoth 32 ounce slab short of feeding a whole table. Watch athletically seasoned carvers roam the dining room bearing bone-in roasts soon returned moments later with expertly carved slices fanning artfully down the plate. From salad spiked with Roquefort blue cheese dressing through the theatrical prime rib service to finishing with English plum pudding doused in brandy anglaise, House of Prime Rib delivers time-capsule dining for die-hard meat lovers and old timey culinary experience seekers.

La Taqueria

Name and Location: La Taqueria located at 2889 Mission St. in the Mission District.

History and Significance: Family-owned taqueria since 1973 popular with locals and visitors alike for perfected tacos and burritos packed with high quality ingredients.

What to Expect: Classic fillings like carne asada, carnitas and lengua (beef tongue) stuffed into tacos or giant Mission-style burritos to enjoy at the counter or take away. Cash only. Prepare to wait in line.

Visitor Information: Open Mon-Sat 11am–9pm closed Sundays. Limited indoor counter seating. Vegetarian options available.

When it comes to Mexican fare, San Francisco flaunts its own signature Cal-Mex style burrito aesthetic which finds its apotheosis at unassuming Mission classic La Taqueria. There are no tables inside this phone-booth sized counter serve joint directing constant lines out the door and deep into the block. One cook mans the tiny open kitchen hauling out plump burritos engorged with proper proportions of Mexican rice, pinto beans and your protein of choice all wrapped in a flawlessly steamed tortilla fused closed into a tinfoil seam tube. Burrito aficionados Crom anywhere on earth cast votes declaring La Taqueria’s classic Mission-style offerings reign supreme thanks to perfect consistency, ingredient quality, and scale tipping heft. Expect zero indoor seating but the most phenomenally constructed burritos north of the border found anywhere for under $15 even today.

Swan Oyster Depot

Name and Location: Swan Oyster Depot is located at 1517 Polk St in Nob Hill neighborhood.

History and Significance: Counter-serve fresh seafood institution since 1912, family owned for three generations.

What to Expect: Casually eat ultra-fresh crab, shrimp, oysters and more from the ice-filled display case. Cash only. Expect very long waits with no reservations, seating for about 20 at the counter.

Visitor Information: Open Monday-Saturday 10:15am-5:30pm, closed Sundays. Cash only. Take-out available. Beer and wine offered. Seniors and disabled customers may make reservations.

Slurping down seafood at the counter of this narrow century-old oyster bar chemically bonds newcomers into die-hard regulars. Part of Swan’s appeal lies in the perpetual lines trailing down quaint Polk Street. But devoted patrons also swear chef-owner Sal Sancimino sources San Francisco’s absolute freshest sustainably caught seafood delivered daily through his special fishermen relationships. Banquettes give way to counter seating jammed with raw bar platters trailing crushed ice and lemon wedges. From Swan’s signature oysters, clams and mussels to whole cracked Dungeness crab and artfully assembled seafood salads on toasted sourdough, everything shines with briny perfection begging to be devoured dockside style. Expect no website taking reservations or menu listing prices, but prepare to treasure standing in line then landing a stool at this old-fashioned SF jewel for briny seafood nirvana.

Atelier Crenn

Name and Location: Atelier Crenn located at 3127 Fillmore St. in the Marina District.

History and Significance: Opened in 2011 under acclaimed female chef Dominique Crenn, earning three Michelin stars for her artistic postmodern cuisine and dedication to sustainable practices.

What to Expect: Expect an open, airy environment for the culinary spectacle of thepoetic 15-20 course tasting menus that change with the seasons. Reservations often book many months in advance.

Visitor Information: Offering two seatings at 5:30pm and 7:45pm Thursday-Monday. Business formal dress code. Valet parking available.

Ushering San Francisco to the apex of progressive American gastronomy, chef Dominique Crenn’s provocative tasting menu reflects influences from her childhood in France to Zen Buddhist philosophies in a genre she terms poetical culinaria. Her flagship Atelier Crenn offers two experiences: a salon embracing flexibility for rotating creative expressions, and a dining room presenting her orchestrated artistic manifesto rendered in edible artworks investigating the nature of memory and emotion. Guests accept Crenn’s invitation to embark on a personal journey conveyed through fragrant spheres bobbing in cherry wood smoke, uni melted atop gnarled black branches, or rabbit glazed in onions smoked beneath glass cloches. Equally striking on the palate as the imaginations, Crenn’s intensely personal cuisine reveals her relentless pursuit to elevate dining to a thought-provoking art form at one of America’s most acclaimed restaurants.

Tony’s Pizza Napoletana

Name and Location: Tony’s Pizza Napoletana has various locations throughout the Bay Area, flagshop at 1554 Stockton St. near Union Square.

History and Significance: Started in 1985 focusing exclusively on authentic Neapolitan style pizza baked in imported wood-fired ovens by 12-time World Pizza Champion Tony Gemignani.

What to Expect: Perfectly blistered thin crusts topped with San Marzano tomatoes, housemade mozzarella, pepperoni and other high quality ingredients per tradition. Expect a wait at the original location.

Visitor Information: Open daily 11:30am-10pm, closing between lunch and dinner services. Casual counter service but table reservations recommended via Yelp. Outdoor seating available.

San Francisco consolidates strong claims over perfecting various pizza styles but for Neapolitan pies with chewy, char-speckled crusts baked at inferno temperatures in wood-fired ovens, Tony Gemignani’s franchise solely devoted to Italy’s archetypal pizza commands superiority. No ordinary pizzeria, Tony currently holds 13 different pizza accolades affirming his Midas touch crafting diverse regional Italian pizza permutations across various SF locations bearing his name. But his original Tony’s anchored in North Beach most proudly represents his home team specialty: Naples-style Neapolitan pies with blackened crusts and melty house-pulled mozzarella crowned with bright San Marzano tomato sauce. Expect lines literally out the door at peak times but one bite of Tony’s perfected Neapolitan pizza base topped with Prosciutto de Parma or fresh bufala mozzarella immediately erases any wait from memory. This temple of Naples’ gift to the food world handily earns Tony Gemignani global fame as the undisputed “World Pizza Champion”.

Conclusion

Cosmopolitan yet proudly local, San Francisco’s incredible dining spectrum amazes visitors and satisfies its diverse residents all at once. Michelin-starred temples of gastronomy like Atelier Crenn make national headlines for intricate artistry while tiny neighborhood joints like La Taqueria garner worldwide cheering sections for their genre standouts crafted with pride and consistency for decades. Whatever atmosphere or ethnicity desired, San Francisco surely delivers full-flavored dining adventures around every famously hilly corner. Beyond the dozen highlighted here, thousand more excellent eateries await discovery in a city proudly wearing its infatuation with food as a badge of honor for all to savor.

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