Where to eat in San Francisco: Best restaurants to visit in the Bay Area
Here’s your dining strategy
A golden gate to gastronomical delights, San Francisco isn't just the home of tech giants. A foodie's paradise, the Bay Area is home to some of the best restaurants in the US, with numerous Michelin stars illuminating the culinary landscape. Naturally, all the options can be overwhelming, so we've rounded up our favourites in the city to help you navigate the dizzyingly good restaurant scene.
Occupying a narrow 1906 French Beaux Arts building at 165 O'Farrell in Union Square, this ambitious, six-storey, multi-concept pleasure palace had its sights set on being the French culinary institution in the city right from the get-go. Helmed by James Beard Award-winning, Michelin-starred chef-partner Claude Le Tohic, who last ran Joel Robuchon's three Michelin star restaurant in Las Vegas, One65 is a morning-to-night patisserie, bistro, lounge, bar, fine dining establishment all in one. On the first floor is the slick, white-washed Patisserie & Boutique, where you'll find classic French bakes, ice cream, and chocolates, along with (of course) coffee, tea and a selection of wines on tap. Upstairs on the second floor is a chocolate laboratory and a private dining room.
One65 Bistro & Grill, which we visited weeks into its opening, sits on the third floor, serving Cali-French "comfort food" within a warm, lively space that features an open kitchen, eco-friendly cork flooring mixed with panelling created from recycled porcelain China, marble dining tables and tufted banquettes. Chef de Cuisine of the bistro, Jennifer Dewasha, has an appreciation for local agriculture and often-untapped vegetables, so there's a healthy amount of thoughtfully prepped greens and roots alongside Josper-cooked meats. Simple, traditional techniques are used to highlight natural flavours, which means dishes are as delicate or robust as its core ingredients without fancy drizzles or dressings getting in the way. We started with palate-opening Jambon de Bayonne with heirloom tomato and basil atop charred sourdough toast and jambon on the side, and a spectacular crispy onion tart with creamy spring onions and porcini that still drifts into our dreams. The Magret duck, with its perfectly pink and juicy centre and a layer of fat still intact under charred skin, reminded us of our love for duck's sweet flavour and meaty richness, while the beef cheek with nettle puree is a tender, meltingly beautiful plate of comfort with all of its warm, beefy deliciousness.
While there are cocktails to imbibe at the Bistro, the dark, seductive Elements on the fourth floor is probably a better idea if you want to linger over more fancy tipples, fine wines and whiskies. Finally, on the fifth and sixth floor is O' by Claude Le Tohic ('O' plays on the French word for water and the restaurant's address on O'Farrell), a fine dining concept based on the elements of water, fire and earth. Here, chef Le Tohic presents a ten-course prix fixe menu (full vegetarian available) that focuses on — and expectedly so — classic French cooking. Pretty sure this building will still be buzzing for a long time. — CL
165 O'Farrell Street, Tel: +1 415-814-8888
The Douglas Room
San Francisco has long had a reputation for being one of America's best food cities, but you seldom find great eats in the city's hotels. There are a few exceptions, of course, and one of them is housed within Tilden Hotel. Locals usually come here for their swanky cocktails (try their bourbon-based Smoke'N Rosemary and the absinthe-infused Oscar Wilde & Free) and happy hour, but the food at The Douglas Room is just as worthy of a foodie's attention. And if you start with the honey-glazed cornbread (cast-iron baked with a crispy exterior the best I've ever eaten) and smoked trout rilette (cured in-house made with crème fraiche and good enough to eat by the spoonful), you'll soon agree that the chef means business. Mains are big, hearty affairs here — there's the signature Tilden burger, a fried chicken sandwich no one can resist, and BBQ pork that rival those in Kansas City. Too heavy? The rice noodle bowl with sambal, fresh greens, peanuts, fish, and a fried egg is comparatively cleaner that its "Big Eats", but still fun. Speaking of fun, The Douglas Room has a delightful cart service for — wait for it — ice cream. Pick your two flavours, and go all out with the all-you-can-fit toppings (cookie crumble, fruit, whipped cream, cocoa nibs, mochi and chocolate sauce) from the cart. We left the restaurant feeling so gleeful that the famously gritty Tenderloin (where the Tilden Hotel is) seemed a little less seedy when we stepped out. — CL
345 Taylor Street, Tel: +1 877-854-4106
Burma Superstar, which opened in 1992, has repeatedly earned the title of San Francisco's best Burmese restaurants for over a decade now, and the lines at this no-reservations Bay Area dining star still shows no signs of slowing down. What devotees are (mostly) queueing for: its famed rainbow salad (pictured above), tea leaf salad, vegetarian samusa soup and the mohinga. These favourites are, thankfully, replicated in the restaurant group's hipper and trendier Mission spin-off Burma Love, which features a spicier, and a more seafood-centric menu. The curries here are also highly regarded, plus there's a bar with a solid list of cocktails and beer should you want to. — CL
211 Valencia Street, Tel: +1 415-861-2100
Located right on The Embarcadero, Coqueta serves arguably the best Spanish cuisine in the city. Inspired by personal trips to Barcelona, Chef Michael Chiarello has designed an inventive menu that celebrates regional Spanish cuisine with Northern California ingredients. Enjoy Coqueta's Pulpo a la Parilla, "Gaucho" Bistec, and my personal favorite, "Sunny side-up" Huevo, along with a glass of Sangria and full views of Coit Tower, the Bay Bridge and Treasure Island. It's no wonder the restaurant has earned numerous accolades since its 2013 opening, including Best New Restaurant and Chef of the Year titles. The Spanish word for "flirt", Coqueta will leave you more than just infatuated.
Pier 5, The Embarcadero, Tel: +1 415-704-8866
The Slanted Door
Travel to Vietnam via The Slanted Door at San Francisco's historic Ferry Building. Originally opened in 1995, the bustling restaurant outgrew its original location and is now serving modern Vietnamese cuisine in an expansive space with picturesque waterfront views. Born in Vietnam, Chef Charles Phan's original mission of bringing the flavors of his native country to the US using fresh, quality ingredients and served in a contemporary atmosphere, remains true today. Highlights of The Slanted Door menu include a five-spiced duck leg confit salad, noodles with Dungeness crab and beef, along with an extensive wine list.
One Ferry Building #3, Tel: +1 415-861-8032
Nopa, north of the Panhandle, where the restaurant is located, is well-known for its flavourful urban rustic dishes. It's so well-known that meals in the buzzing two-storey restaurant will almost certainly require a wait if you haven't made reservations in advance. A favourite among locals and tourists alike, Nopa is acclaimed for its organic wood-fired cuisine. While the wood-grilled hamburger is a must-have, Nopa's country pork chop and house-made pappardelle with slow-cooked Bolognese, deserve equal attention. Open till late, especially for San Francisco standards, the restaurant also offers a fabulous selection of cocktails to keep you going until the wee hours.
560 Divisadero Street, Tel: +1 415-864-8643
With 24 dining locations across the US, including nine in San Francisco alone, Chef Michael Mina's eponymous restaurant is the brightest Michelin-star in his culinary galaxy. Located in the city where the award-winning chef first rose to fame, Michael Mina exemplifies his philosophy of combining bold yet balanced flavors through artistically crafted dishes that fuse Japanese and French cuisine. A personal standout was the deliciously inventive Deconstructed Strawberry Shortcake. Enjoy Michael Mina's signature Trios Menu that allows guests to savor varied flavor profiles of featured seasonal ingredients throughout multiple courses.
252 California Street, Tel: +1 415-397-9222
Ensuring that you won't drop when you shop, at the top of Neiman Marcus' landmark location right on San Francisco's Union Square, The Rotunda offers the perfect respite from a busy day of shopping. Beneath a captivating stained-glass dome, enjoy the restaurant's signature light and fluffy Popover with strawberry jam and NM Chicken Salad. Along with the famed dishes are a wide variety of sandwiches and entrées, including Lobster Club and Grilled Ribeye with Uni Butter. With its elegant interiors and exquisite city views, The Rotunda is also the perfect place for a cocktail or afternoon tea before heading back down for more retail therapy.
Level Four, 150 Stockton Street, Tel: +1 415-249-2720
About Raia Gomez
Raia Gomez is a fashion stylist and editor. Originally from Manila, her lifelong love for fashion has taken her to cities all over the world to work with the best talents in the fashion and entertainment industries. Join her on Instagram, Twitter, and The Finest Print, where she profiles inspiring international innovators and influencers.