From Classics to Newfound Favorites
I’m so excited to announce a new series for Part-Time Traveler (per your requests!) Each month I’ll highlight five spots — the best restaurants in San Francisco that I’m truly loving in this moment.
They’ll be a combination of what’s new and exciting in the SF restaurant scene (because let’s face it, I probably went there to try it and I probably have some opinions,) as well as some classics that I either went back to for the hundredth time or finally got around to.
My hope is that they will be a regular answer to the question “Where should I eat in San Francisco right now?” (Perhaps my favorite question of all-time.)
Where to Eat in San Francisco
Written October 2018 | Updated July 2021
I recently returned home from a two-month traveling spree! I had the pleasure of eating in some of the world’s finest food destinations…from Tokyo to Hawaii to Paris to Barcelona and NYC.
My food focus has been a bit more international than local these past few months, but the good news is this: San Francisco is still one of the best places on Earth to eat. I still have plenty of favorites to share with you. (You’ll also find some of the newest openings I’m excited to try at the post’s end.)
Happy eating! And glad to be back (on the blog, and in SF!) xx
Italian Restaurant // Alamo Square
834 Divisadero Street
This is the latest and greatest hotspot in SF — you know, the kind that gets a few amazing reviews and celeb visits and is now impossible to get a reservation at.
I wanted not to like it, just because it has gotten so much hype…but I did. A lot. Their food is fresh and divinely prepared…a simple salad (which I wouldn’t normally have thought to order, but was enthusiastically recommended by my server) was actually one of the best I’ve ever had in my life. Expect seasonal greatness (and ask for recs if you’re having trouble choosing!)
Still abuzz with activity, I recommend doing what I did when I went and going Spanish-style with a late (after 9:30pm) reservation. You can also go to the bar (they make great drinks!) and check in with the bartender, who has a separate list for seating.
Menu Highlights: Summer salad/gazpacho, wood-fired octopus salad, the mushroom + sausage pizza, pappardelle with ragu. Also, if you’re drinking cocktails try the ‘Pepper!’
New American Restaurant // Tenderloin
111 Mason Street (at Eddy)
Well, if this isn’t the best surprise I’ve had in ages in the SF restaurant world!
If you blink in the Tenderloin, you might miss this place. If you blink and walk by, you might also miss this place. It’s located in a hotel which is usually a no-go for me when choosing a place to eat in this city.
Their food (and the space – the space is beautiful!) was unexpected, in a good way, and it quickly became one of my favorite dining experiences in San Francisco. With items like smoked egg yolk with caviar and Wagyu beef tongue pastrami, you get some of the most inventive (and delicious) dishes right to your plate. Even the recently retired SF Chronicle food critic Michael Bauer loved this place, with “some preparations are nearly as complex as you’ll find at Saison.” (Jaw drop.)
Menu Highlights: Tasting menu (an incredible value,) any of their cocktails (superbly made, and paired with food at your request.) Don’t skip the fresh sourdough bread and incredible spreads!
New American Restaurant // Civic Center
1658 Market Street
Considering how classic this place is and how frequently I exclaim that I love it, I don’t dine here nearly enough!
The exception to this, of course, is when I have friends visiting town. Any time is a great time to dine here, but I especially love going for brunch when the sun is out and you can sit on the sidewalk and watch the city go by (while you wait for the roast chicken – a must!)
Menu Highlights: Roast Chicken with warm bread salad (meant for two; order 45 minutes in advance,) Caesar salad are absolute musts. The burger is great, and so is the Bloody Mary if you’re there for brunch.
Marina Sushi Bar
Japanese Restaurant // Marina
2020 Lombard Street (at Webster)
Ok, so I’m kind of a sushi snob now like every other traveler who comes back from Japan. Still, it’s hard to imagine yet again a better deal in this city for any food, let alone Japanese!
I found my way to Marina Sushi Bar one night while trying to venture to my longstanding favorite neighborhood sushi spot, Zushi Puzzle (which is also very, very worth a visit.) As they were closed for a long vacation, I had to wander up a few blocks to find my fresh sushi fix elsewhere. I’m so glad I did.
Again from the outside, it’s easy to ignore this place. I myself have walked past it probably more than 100 times. But that, my friends, would be a sad mistake. Especially during their happy hour…because get this — you can get their nigiri and/or select rolls from only $1 (!!) from 5-7pm, and their drink specials (half-price beer and sake) go until 10pm! This. is. unheard of. Go, flourish…enjoy.
Menu Highlights: Happy hour — especially the nigiri, salmon skin roll, and sake (seriously, a large nigori/unfiltered — my favorite — was only $3.75…) Please note happy hour does not apply on Sundays.
Scandinavian/Breakfast Spot // Duboce Triangle
2172 Market Street
Although this took over one of my former favorite spots (Basque restaurant Aaxte, RIP) I became ok with it once I ate here because their breakfast is that good.
You won’t find your typical bacon and eggs here, but you will find soft scrambled eggs with Dungeness crab and smoked bacon. You will also find items like avocado toast with walnut oil and lemon and open-faced sandwiches with house-cured gravlax. They also do a breakfast Spritz cocktail. Get thee to Wooden Spoon!
Menu Highlights: House hash, Swedish pancakes, scones, soft scrambled eggs (as noted above!)
Other new openings I’m excited to try:
(Click to view menus)
Kaiyo // Peruvian Nikkei cuisine
Z & Y Bistro // a new spinoff of one of my favorite Chinatown spots
Theorita // A homey spot serving up pies and more from the pastry chef at Che Fico (need to go here immediately.)
<< See last month’s list >>
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Ack! Seeing this list makes me miss SF! There is a never-ending list of new places to go to and old places to revisit! AhhhMAZING food scene!
It’s the best!!! After traveling for two months (even though I ate extremely well while away!) I appreciate it even more!
Hope you’ll come back and visit us soon! Hugs!
Just went to Gibson a couple weeks ago for the first time and liked it too! Definitely want to get to Theorita for a pie!
Wasn’t Gibson a nice surprise? Let me know if you get to Theorita – it looks amazing!!