And here are the details of each one in alphabetical order :
Asia Garden (772 Pacific Ave. at Grant Ave. 415-391-6666) So you’ve read, or heard us talk, about dim sum, which means “pieces of the heart” also called a Chinese “tea lunch”. The best is Ton Kiang (below), but if it’s too far away and you’re planning to walk up Grant Avenue (Chinatown) anyway, then just a block from the end (turn left on Pacific Ave.) is Asia Garden. This huge restaurant is the biggest dim sum palace in the city. And, while it’s not on the same quality scale as Ton Kiang, we think it’s pretty good, and the servings are bigger (and cheaper). Use the dim sum guide at the end of this handout. The waiters/waitresses like it when you order in Chinese. Or just point at what you want. Cheap to moderate.
Beach Chalet (1000 Great Highway 415-386-8439). The only restaurant in Golden Gate Park, the Beach Chalet is right at the end of the park, next to the Pacific Ocean. Have a great meal looking out at Ocean Beach (so wait the extra twenty minutes to get a table by the window). If you don’t care about the view, try the Park Chalet right behind. (Same address and phone.) Either way, you walk through some amazing WPA murals and mosaics. Lots of parking, especially across the street. Moderate to expensive.
Bi-Rite Creamery (3692 18th St. 415-626-5200) Don’t be confused by the grocery store across the street with the same name. This is the ice cream place on the north side of the street. Easy to find, look for the line of people. If you just ate at La Cumbre or other places in the Mission District, you’re close to Bi-Rite.
Bob’s Donuts & Pastry Shop (1621 Polk St. between Sacramento and Clay Streets, 415-776-3141). If you’re a fan of donuts (or doughnuts), there’s Krispy Kreme (see below), there’s Voodoo Donuts (3 locations in Portland, Oregon) and there’s Bob’s in San Francisco. If you’ve got the sweet munchies late at night, they’re open 24-hours. We’re hooked on their Apple Fritters. They even have a giant glazed donut (a single one barely fits in a to-go box). We try not to go too often.
Boulevard (1 Mission Street – at Steuart Street 415-543-6084) Rated #2 in the City for the best food and service (Gary Denko is now #1).. The decor is elegant, the service incredible and the food is well worth the price. Reservations a must. Expensive.
Bourbon Steakhouse (335 Powell St. inside the St. Francis Hotel 415-397-3003). Debra and I celebrated our 20th anniversary here and it was wonderful. Impeccable service, excellent food. This is also the best hotel in town, so if you’re staying downtown, or looking for a place to stay, this is the best we have! And a great restaurant right there.
Buckeye Roadhouse (15 Shoreline Highway, Mill Valley 415-331-2600) Heading out to Muir Woods or the Wine Country, or coming back after a heavy day wine tasting? Here’s a great place to stop just minutes north of the Golden Gate Bridge in Mill Valley. You can see it right next to the freeway. Price moderate. Valet parking. It was a German spy hangout during WW II. No kidding!
Café de la Presse (352 Grant Ave. at Bush 415-398-2680) Deb’s favorite city is Paris and this is as close as you’ll get here. Convenient downtown location, a great place for breakfast, lunch or a snack.
Delancey Street Restaurant (600 Embarcadero 415-512-5179) If you’re down at Fisherman’s Wharf or Pier 39 or the Ferry Building, here’s where to go to eat. It’s pretty fancy, but you’ll be amazed by the low prices. (They’re a 501(c)3 so they can’t make a profit.) Ask the waiter how much s/he is paid. (Nothing, it’s part of their recovery.) Then you’ll understand the fantastic food and great service. Valet parking.
Eats (50 Clement St, 415-751-8000). If you go during the week, parking is reasonable and there’s no line. If you try on the weekend, parking is impossible and the line snakes down the block. It’s one of these cool neighborhood breakfast & lunch places. Great food, but nothing fancy.
Espetus (1686 Market St. at Gough 415-552-8792). If you are a true carnivore (meat lover), this is your place! It’s a Brazilian ‘churrascaria’ restaurant, huge slabs of meat – as much as you want. Beef, pork, lamb, chicken, shrimp…even sausages! And a large salad bar to start, but try not to fill up on that! It’s a ‘fixed price’ of $65 each, which is not cheap, but the cuts of meat are fabulous, tender and juicy.
Far East Café (632 Grant Ave. 415-982-3245). We visited this place ten years ago, loved it…and then lost it. For romantic privacy, ask for a curtained booth. Food is decent old-world style and casual service.
Fog City Diner (1300 Battery St. at Lombard 415-982-2000). Good food, good service, reasonable prices. Valet parking. Fancier IL Fornaio (below) is across the street.
Fog Harbor Fish House (39 Pier 39 Concourse #213 415-421-2442). Oh, my! How many times have we said “Don’t Eat at Pier 39” but Debra thought that was unfair if we didn’t at least try some places there, and this place, Fog Harbor, consistently gets good ratings. Were we surprised! Excellent food, excellent service, beautiful view. When the General Manager, Ryan Simmons, heard there were “locals” in the place he came and talked to us. No wonder they have a prime location! His Dad started Pier 39. Moderate to Expensive.
Franciscan (43ó Fisherman’s Wharf 415-738-2059) We’ve been saying “Fisherman’s Wharf. is all just tourist traps” (except for In’n’Out – see below). But we haven’t visited many of these restaurants for a decade or more and we though that was unfair. So we’ve decided to visit them all, over time. Scoma’s (below) was first. Fog Harbor (above) was third. Franciscan was second, and it was very good. If not for slow service, would say excellent. Moderate to expensive. Good place for large parties.
Gary Danko (800 Northpoint at Hyde 415-749-2060). A block away from Ghirardelli Square is this amazing restaurant. You’ll never get a reservation unless you call exactly two months before you want to go.. However, you can eat at the bar without a reservation and they open at 5 PM. This restaurant got the highest rating ever in the Zagat Guide (29 out of 30) .The food and service are amazing, and the price is too. Way over $100 per person, not including alcohol. If you want a no-holds-barred experience, then give them a try. Valet Parking.
Gaspare’s (5546 Geary Blvd. 415-387-5025). Moving into our #1 pizza place is Gaspare’s. Steve remembers going here 40 years ago and it was great then, and still great. 29 varieties of thin crust pizza, or make up your own (we love clam pizza, an acquired taste) and a full menu of other Italian delights. Open at 4:30PM to 11PM (Midnight on Friday, Saturday)
Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory (Ghirardelli Square). (Say “Gear-a-delly”) Not a restaurant. Just desserts. Steve already has a bunch of Belden addicts (just ask Greg Dietz or Marty Van Der Burgt). Only bad thing: the restroom is a long walk away. Come “prepared”!
Gott’s Roadside (1 Ferry Bldg. Shop #6 – on the far left). In our Napa guide, you’ll see that we recommend a stop at Gott’s Roadside in St. Helena. Well, that one was so successful, they’ve opened up another right here in San Francisco. Formerly called Taylor’s Automatic Refresher, it’s in the Ferry Building, the big building at the very end of Market Street with the clock in it. Bon Appetite Magazine rated this the second best burger in the USA. Excellent for kids.
Great Eastern (649 Jackson St. 415-986-2500) If you’re wandering through Chinatown, doing the tourist thing, we think this is one of the best Chinese restaurants. It’s not on the world-class level of Ton Kiang (below) but its good food and good service, and it’s open late (1 AM) most nights. Price moderate.
Green’s (Fort Mason, Bldg A, Marina & Buchanan St. 415-771-6222) If you’re tired of meat, you’ll be amazed what these people do with veggies. Vegan nirvana. Reservations required. Expensive.
Grubstake Diner (1525 Pine St. 415-673-8268) Open until 4AM every night/morning, this diner has been around since 1967 at its current location. (The rail car portion was a previous restaurant since 1927.) Known for burgers and breakfast, it’s a late night hangout for locals. It was featured on “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives”.
Hard Knox Café (2448 Clement St. at 26th Ave. 415-752-3770). Soul food in San Francisco, and the whole family is hooked. Harrison can’t get past their humongous burgers. Steve is hooked on their oxtails which fall off the bone. Debra has tried a number of dishes including their chicken-fried pork chops (no kidding!) and fried chicken. Don’t miss their sides especially the mac’n’cheese and the collards greens.
Harris Ranch (2100 Van Ness at Pacific Ave. 415-673-1888) The place for a slab of meat! Owned by cattle barons, just look at the beef hanging in the window. Yum! “Cut my steak with a butter knife” – Frank Koditek. Price moderate to expensive. Opens at 6:00 PM. Reservations suggested. Valet parking.
House of Nanking (919 Kearny at Columbus Ave. 415-421-1429). We thought owner/chef Peter Fang had closed the place but, hooray, he was just renovating. It was décor = Z, food = A. (Now it’s décor ≈ G). Real experimenters hand back the menus and tell them to bring what’s fresh. Set some ground rules, like how spicy you want it. A truly unique eatery. Cheap to moderate depending on how much you order.
House of Prime Rib (1906 Van Ness Ave. at Washington 415-885-4605). If you’re a fan of Prime Rib, as we are, this place can’t be beat. Great service with prices to match. A slab ‘o meat with style! Expensive.
HRD (521A 3rd St. at Brannan 415-543-2355.) This is a Korean fusion sandwich place. It’s a dive, but it’s very clean and delicious, especially if you like dishes on the spicy side. Does a kim chee burrito sound like fun? Or a mongolian beef philly cheesesteak? (Deb loved it.)
IL Fornaio (1265 Battery at Greenwich 415-986-0100). This is a chain, but it’s pretty good Italian. Osso Buco is a killer! Price moderate. Valet parking. If you change your mind, just go across the street to Fog City Diner (above). If you want better Italian, see Ristorante Parma below.
In’n’Out Burgers (260 Washington St. Daly City, 333 Jefferson St. [Fisherman’s Wharf] 1- 800-786-1000). We think these are the best chain burgers anywhere. Originally from Southern California, they’re now working their way across the USA. We have another just outside the county line in Daly City (on Hwy. 280). Zagat says, for burgers, In’n’Out is #1, Gott’s Roadside is #2,. (Better than Five Guys.)
Jardinere (300 Grove St. 415-861-5555) We don’t go here very often because it is so expensive, more than $100+ per person. But the food is beyond fantastic. The service is attentive, if a little slow, so don’t be in a hurry. We would rate this among the best restaurants in the city. Valet parking.
John’s Grill (63 Ellis St. at Stockton 415-986-0069). If you’re downtown shopping, or staying at a downtown hotel, and The Rotunda (below) is just too girly for you, here’s a great old meat and potatoes place that’s been going for 106 years. Dress is casual, food and service are great. This is where Sam Spade had lunch every day in “The Maltese Falcon” (if you read Dashiell Hammett). Moderate to expensive.
Kabuto (5121 Geary Blvd. at 15th Ave. 415-751-9656) This is still San Francisco’s ultimate Sushi place. If you’re a “newbie” start with a California Roll. Then try a Dragon Roll (tempura shrimp, covered in avocado with unagi –broiled eel- on top). Fabulous! If you’re a risk taker, try the “uni” (sea urchin). Spectacular! Watch out for the green blob on your plate! It’s Wasabi and it’s HOT. Price moderate to expensive. See our “sushi guide” on the last page.
Kevin’s Noodle House (Pho Huynh Hiep 2) (1833 Irving St. 415-664-0469) The hottest new cuisine is “pho” (pronounced “fuh”). This one is my son, Harrison’s, favorite even if it is far from downtown. Deb and I love it too. Pho is just a bowl of noodles with a ton of options mixed in. They have lots of things besides pho as well! Deb loves their pork chop. Lots of students are here because it’s cheap.
Krispy Kreme (1575 Sullivan Ave, Daly City, CA 94015 (650) 985-5612) Sure, this is a chain, and they’re pretty much everywhere in the USA, and this one is the closest to San Francisco. It’s just off Hwy 280 which heads south, right next to In ‘n’ Out burgers,. Might be a bit of a trip, so check out Bob’s instead (above). But when it comes to a raised glazed donut, I think Krispy Kreme is is the best there is. The free warm donut they sometimes hand you when you walk in is Steve’s version of crack cocaine, so we try not to do this too often. Yummy!
La Cumbre (515 Valencia at 16th St. 415-863-8205). Stand in line for some great Mexican food cheap, cheap, cheap. This is where the modern made-to-order burrito was invented! Great for kids. If you get there after 9 PM, when La Cumbre closes, just go around the corner to Pancho Villa’s Tacqueria which Deb prefers (3071 16th St at Valencia 864-8840, open ‘til Midnight). It has tiny tables and weird chairs.
Lovejoy’s Tea Room (1351 Church St. at Clipper 415-648-5895). A tranquil stop with a great selection of teas, finger sandwiches and other goodies. Wednesday-Sunday 11AM-6 PM. Reservations recommended.
LuLu (816 Folsom St. at 4th St. 415-495-5775). One of our friends at Neutrik (connector manufacturer) suggested this trendy restaurant. It’s only a block away from Moscone Center, so it’s a good choice for a customer meal. Pizza from a brick oven, pork loin or chicken from their huge fire rotisserie, the food is great. Service can be casually slow. Moderate to expensive. Valet parking.
Mama’s (1701 Stockton St. at Filbert 415-362-6421). Took us ten years before we finally braved the crowd at this legendary breakfast places, open until 3 PM. It’s almost impossible to park in this North Beach area and the line to get in goes around the block, and it’s“cash only” But that doesn’t seem to stop the hundreds that eat here every day (except Monday). Food: fantastic. Service: mildly chaotic.
Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Store Café (566 Columbus at Union 415-362-0536). A hole-in-the-wall Italian place. Great for a quick cheap bite. Open seven days ‘til 11 PM. Still not sure about the cigars.
Marlowe (330 Townsend near 4th St. 415-974-5599.) Debra thinks this is the best burger in the city. And there’s a lot more than just burgers. Try their crispy Brussel Sprout Chips (and this from a guy who hates Brussel Sprouts!). Lunch 11:30-2:30, dinner 5:30-10 (-11 on weekends.) Closed Sunday. Place is pretty small so reservations are recommended, especially for dinner.
McCormick & Kuleto (Ghirardelli Square 415-929-1730) Great seafood and beautiful views of the bay. Menu changes depending on what’s fresh. Price moderate. Especially good for large groups. Dessert (Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory, above) is only 40 steps away.
Mel’s Diner (four locations in San Francisco, 2165 Lombard St. 415-921-2867, 1050 Van Ness Ave. Ø 415-292-6357, 3355 Geary Blvd. 415-387-2244, 801 Mission St. 415-227-0793). We go to the Mel’s on Geary and Beaumont all the time. When we’re in a hurry, or can’t decide, or don’t want anything fancy, just decent food, this is where we go. Good service, reasonable prices. Good burgers. Real milk shakes (made by hand). Especially good for breakfast. Parking lots for the Geary and Lombard locations.
Molinari Delicatessen (373 Columbus Ave. 415-421-2337) Walk in and order the best sandwiches you’ve ever had. Don’t forget drinks. For dessert go to Victoria Pastry (below) just up the street. Bag it up at Molinari’s, out the door, turn left, walk three blocks until you come to Washington Square park. Sit on the benches and enjoy. Or car it to one of the sights listed on the next few pages. A great cheap meal!
Mythic Pizza (551 Haight St. 415-864-1999). If you’re out late, our son Harrison, our pizza expert, says this is the best pizza place. Open until 1:45AM most nights, 2:45AM Friday and Saturday.
Nick’s Seashore Restaurant (100 Rockaway Beach, Pacifica 650-359-3900). If you drive down Highway 1, here’s the perfect stop. Turn off at ‘Rockaway Beach’ and go to the end of the short street. Beautiful view of the ocean and great food and service. Especially good for breakfast. If this is too fancy for the kids, across the Highway is Gorilla Barbecue (2145 Coast Hwy 1 650-359-RIBS) in the orange converted train car. Featured on “Diners & Dives”, this is eat-in-your-car delicious. And they have a parking lot !
Old Clam House ( 299 Bayshore Blvd, 415-826-4880). Deb and I eat here once or twice a year. It’s a bit of a drive from downtown, so don’t be in a hurry. Wonderful food, great service. Seafood, of course. Been around since 1861. Homey atmosphere. Every dish was fresh and delicious, even the salads.
Original Buffalo Wings (2499 Lombard St. 415-931-8181). They rebuilt this dive. When we can’t decide where to go, we order take-out from here. They have a nice full-color menu (good sign) with lots of choices. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. Their bacon cheeseburger is a killer! Parking is a challenge.
Original Joe’s (601 Union St. 415-775-4877) Well, I think this is now our #2 favorite after Ton Kiang.. If you come Wednesday evening, around 6PM, you will find us here for “Date Night. Joe’s Special, Eggplant Parm, even their cheeseburger is fabulous. We know the owner and begged her to add Calamari Streak, which is delicious. Valet parking. What else could you want? Moderate to Expensive. Tony’s Pizza is right across the street. Send the kids there!
Pacific Café (7000 Geary Blvd 415-387-7091) This is one of those neighborhood hangouts. Been here for forty years and serves great seafood. Bit of a ride from downtown. Price moderate.
Paxti’s (511 Hayes St b/t Octavia & Laguna 415-558-9991). Our son, Harrison is our pizza expert. He says this is the best in the city. Huge and delicious! This is in Hayes Valley, close to City Hall. We haven’t tried it yet. So go and give us a full report!
Perry’s (1944 Union St., 415-922-9022, 155 Steuart St. 415-495-6500, 101 Henry Adams 415-552-5697). One of Deb’s favorites. We often hang out at the Union Street location. Excellent food and service.
Pizza Delfina (2406 California St., 415-440-1189, 3621 18th St (415) 552-4055). This is one of Debra’s favorite pizza joints. The first one is really close to our house. The second one is farther away and fancier with more Italian dishes than just pizza.
Ristorante Parma (3314 Steiner at Lombard 415-567-0500) #3 on our favorites list. Everything they serve is fresh and intense. Steve orders “Stefano’s Ala Giggli” (named after him) which is capellini (thin) spaghetti with pesto and crumbled sausage. Deb loves the tortellini in cream. Harrison is hooked on their lasagna. Yum! Price moderate. Steve proposed to Debra at Table 8. She said no. If this is too fancy for the kids, send them to Super Duper (see below) at the end of the block.
Rosamunde Sausage Grill (545 Haight at Fillmore 415-437-6851). Every Tuesday, they switch (for that day only) from sausages to fabulous burgers. People are waiting in line outside. Or try one of the dozen fabulous sausages. Cheap. Wait at the Toronado beer bar (next door) with 150 kinds of beer.
The Rotunda (inside Nieman-Marcus 150 Stockton St. 415-362-4777). If you’re downtown shopping, or just seeing the sights, here’s a wonderful place to go have a light “girlie” lunch. (Guys – they serve a huge burger!) Excellent food, fancy service. Price moderate. Don’t miss their fabulous ‘popovers’.
Salt & Straw (2201 Fillmore at Sacramento St.) Just drive by this new ice cream place and the smell of freshly made waffle cones will entice you. The line goes out the door and often around the corner. If you’re looking for chocolate-vanilla-strawberry, this might not be you. But, if “salted honey marshmallow and walnuts” or “raspberry liqueur and edible flowers sorbet” sound interesting, give it a try.
Sam Wo (713 Clay St. at Kearney 989-8898). This iconic restaurant closed a few years ago and just opened up again a couple of blocks away. A lot cleaner, but the food is still good and cheap. Better service. I tried three dishes and all were excellent. Take me and I’ll tell you about the old “Sam Wo”.
Scoma’s (Pier 47, Fisherman’s Wharf 415-771-4383) Gets our vote for the best restaurant on Fisherman’s Wharf. Food is great. Service has improved. Valet parking. Moderate to expensive. Valet parking.
Sear’s Fine Food (439 Powell 415-986-0700) Want a great breakfast place? This is it! Close to downtown, it’s also a good place for an inexpensive lunch (but no dinner). May be hard to park. Cheap.
Slanted Door (1 Ferry Building – in the back 861-8032). We finally got to this Vietnamese place, one of the top-rated restaurants in town. The food was fantastic and the service excellent, but it’s so much “brass and glass”, so modern, you’ll swear you’re in LA. If you want to be with the young “in” crowd, go here.
Spruce (3640 Sacramento St. at Spruce 415-931-5100). Close to our house is this trendy yuppie watering (and feeding) spot. Lots of suits and ties. Excellent food, excellent service, but not cheap. Valet parking.
Stinking Rose (420 Columbus Ave. at Broadway 415-781-7673 ) Their motto is “We flavor our Garlic with Food”. If you are a garlic lover, this is nirvana. Great food. Try the meatloaf. Price moderate.
Super Duper (2201 Chestnut at Steiner 415-931-6528). It seems like we’re becoming a “burger city” and this brand new place is yet another excellent choice. Just down the block from Ristorante Parma (above).
Swan Oyster Depot (1517 Polk St. at Sacramento, 415-673-1101) The place is for the serious seafood lover, especially shellfish (shrimp, prawns, crab) and, of course, oysters. Don’t be in a hurry; long lines. Not fancy. Everyone sits at the counter. Moderate to expensive. Parking is a challenge on Polk St.
Swensen’s (1999 Hyde at Union, 415-775-6818). If the Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory is too far, try this ice cream legend. Debra loves their pink peppermint. Steve dreams about “sticky chewy chocolate”.
Tadich Grill (240 California 415-391-1849) The phone number is the year this true San Francisco landmark started (1849). The waiters are also a hundred years old but they get the job done. Try the ‘Hangtown Fry’ (a long story there!). Valet parking at night.
BellyBurgers (5740 Geary, 415-933-6232), with great create-your-own burgers.
Tony’s Cable Car Restaurant (2500 Geary Blvd. between Lyon and Presidio Avenue 415-931-2416). Even calling it a restaurant is stretching it. (Seating for 15.) But they’ve been there for over forty years, and if you want a good burger, made fresh, this place is always busy. Open 9 AM to 9:45 PM. You can call ahead and pick up your order. Cheap. Small parking lot is a godsend. Having no bathroom is not so great!
Tony’s Pizza (1570 Stockton St. at Union 415-835-9888) Our favorite pizza place has gone downhill, and this place has been recommended to us by more than a few friends. It is literally across the street from Original Joe’s, in North Beach, so if you want fancier, just cross the street! It can be very busy, especially on weekends. Our first try was great!
Victoria Pastry (700 Filbert St 415-781-2015) They’ve moved to a new location. Now in the heart of North Beach, our Italian neighborhood. A complete selection of Italian pastries, from cookies to tiramisu.
Villa Romano (731 Irving at 9th Avenue 415-731-2280. Tired of ‘tourista’ food, and incredible prices? Go to Market Street and take streetcar underground (not BART which is one level further down!). Get on the N-Judah heading West. It goes under Twin Peaks and comes out on Irving. Get off at 9th Avenue. Villa Romano is across the street. Sunday through Thursday, appetizer, salad/soup, entrée, dessert, wine, all for $20 per person. You can choose from almost anything on the menu. Excellent cooking, even if the service is casually slow (so don’t be in a hurry). You definitely won’t be hungry afterwards! Go back on the same streetcar going the other way.
Wayfare Tavern (558 Sacramento St. 415-772-9060). If you happen to find yourself down in the business district, maybe with a customer, here’s a really great new place. Menu continually changes based on what is fresh. Parking is a consideration but there are lots of garages around. Moderate to expensive.
Zuni Cafe (1658 Market at Gough 415-552-2522) Recently remodeled, with wonderful “California Nouvelle” cuisine in a hip but noisy casual atmosphere. Their wood-burning brick oven cooks some of the greatest dishes in town. Reservation required. Price moderate to expensive. We ask for Table 16 which looks into the kitchen. What a floor show! Deb learns something every time.
SOMA Street Food Park (corner of Division St. and 11th Street) Right across from our local Costco is this new eatery. It’s one of many parks now with a bunch of those specialty trucks. There are over 60 different food trucks on the list and only space for 10, so every time you go there will be something different. Open 11AM to 3PM for lunch, and 5PM to 10PM for dinner with covered tables. There’s one even bigger at Fort Mason called ”Off the Grid” (corner of Laguna St. and Marina Blvd.) but it’s only Friday night 5-10PM, with no tables, and it’s often cold, so bring a jacket. We’ll add more as we try them.