Eat like a local: San Francisco’s 14 favorite neighborhood restaurants

Halibut with pearl couscous salad and mashed potatoes at Lokma, a popular Istanbul-meets-San Francisco spot in the Richmond. | Credit: Lokma

Local favorites in San Francisco earn that love with inclusive settings, deep hospitality, connection to their communities, and, of course, signature dishes people crave. Favorites in the Bay Area dining scene include true neighborhood joints as well as award-winning national icons.

A family-run spot in the Lower Haight showcases traditional Mexican ingredients, grinding masa onsite. An industrial-chic Mediterranean hangout in the Richmond serves up Turkey’s greatest hits. In Oakland, a Jamaican restaurant fed children who relied on school lunch programs when schools shut during the pandemic.

When restaurants are vital to their neighborhoods, dining takes on a deeper meaning. Read on for a list of 14 neighborhood restaurants around the Bay Area that locals love for good reason.

San Francisco

Alamo Square Seafood Grill (Alamo Square)

If you’re craving generous portions of French-inspired seafood at a modest price (almost every dish is under $20), then Alamo Square Seafood is the place to go. Andre Larzul, the French owner, presides over the inviting dining room, and the restaurant brings to mind a Parisian neighborhood brasserie. Order a glass of Burgundy or Riesling with your escargots with garlic-parsley butter, blackened shrimp risotto, and Mediterranean fish soup. If you’re in the mood for meatier fare, Alamo’s got you covered: Its grilled steak comes with perfect pomme frites and bearnaise sauce.

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Paprika (The Mission)

Known for its top-notch Hungarian and Czech comfort food and beer, this modern beer hall entices diners with simple but delicious Eastern European fare. Unsurprisingly, paprika features widely, including in favorites such as chicken paprikash and pork goulash. Diners quickly become regulars for the variety of gourmet sausages, served with sauerkraut, pickles, and local bread.

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Zuni Café (Civic Center)

The roast chicken with bread salad, a Zuni Café mainstay. | Credit: Eric Wolfinger

The roasted chicken with warm bread salad, bitter greens, pine nuts, and Zante currants, is a rite of passage for any food lover, and meeting up for a drink or a quick bite in the bar overlooking Market Street is a rite of passage for any San Franciscan. Late chef Judy Rodgers steered this iconic San Francisco restaurant toward multiple James Beard Awards and a slew of other recognitions, and her legacy lives on through the restaurant’s wood-fired, hand-crafted, seasonally-driven fare.

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Frascati (Russian Hill)

If you’re craving fine Mediterranean fare with extra attentive service, you’ll appreciate the vibe at Frascati. The elegant bistro has attracted a loyal following since 1987 for classics such as duck leg with risotto, housemade fettuccine with beef bolognese sauce, and grilled pork chop with broccolini and apple salsa. Be sure to save room for a legendary dessert: Pumpkin cheesecake, warm apple cobbler, or one of the 19 flavors of housemade ice cream and sorbet.

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Chou Chou Bistro (Forest Hill)

San Francisco’s Francophiles are all about Chou Chou, with a menu that runs from gooey onion soup and assorted charcuterie to duck confit Wellington and a grilled rack of lamb. All the portions are generous and served up by a welcoming staff. Try to leave room for the housemade crème brûlée served in a heart-shaped dish, just one of the many thoughtful touches this Forest Hill bistro is renowned for.

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Lokma (Richmond District)

A meal at Lokma feels like a trip to Istanbul. Manti (Turkish dumplings with spiced ground meat), lamb kofte, and whole grilled branzino all get Californian spins with the ultra-fresh produce the city is known for. Don’t discount brunch, which draws a buzzy crowd. Order the Turkish breakfast for two, featuring pastirma (air-dried cured beef), scrambled eggs with Turkish sausage, feta, olives, fresh fruit, kisir salad, tomatoes, cucumber, kaymak (clotted cream), and warm pita with honey, gives a tour of some of Turkey’s greatest hits.

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Dumpling Home (Hayes Valley)

This neighborhood Chinese spot opened during the pandemic and caught the eye of local restaurant critics and the MICHELIN guide. It serves exceptional hand-folded dumplings, particularly the xiao long bao soup dumplings, which come in a thin-skinned steamed version, and as a pan-fried, crispy-bottomed delight. Hayes Valley locals are lucky to have this one in their area, but plenty of San Franciscans cross the city for this easygoing gem.

Abrazo (Russian Hill)

Slip inside this Russian Hill hideaway with Mediterranean tiles and arched windows that gaze out to the street for a cozy but refined meal. Michael Pawlik, the former chef at nearby favorite Frascati, shuffled a few doors down and opened Abrazo in 2018. At Abrazo, Pawlik rolls out a loosely Spanish-inspired menu that’s charmed the neighborhood. Regulars return for seafood-packed paella, smoky charred octopus, succulent braised lamb shanks, and sugar-dusted ricotta buñuelos.

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Just For You (Dogpatch)

Locals adore this little cafe tucked away in sunny Dogpatch, with a few coveted swivel stools at the bar and tables spilling onto the sidewalk. The micro diner serves mugs of strong coffee and large, oval plates of huevos rancheros, fried chicken and waffles, and some of the best beignets in the Bay—big, fluffy, straight from the fryer, and generously flecked with powdered sugar. Note that the restaurant takes no reservations and is open for breakfast and lunch only.

Sushi Hakko (Cow Hollow)

The convivial bar area at Sushi Hakko, which serves a luxurious, seafood-forward tasting menu. | Credit: Sushi Hakko

The Mins group has a reputation for opening affordable omakase spots that quickly become neighborhood favorites. At Sushi Hakko, diners can choose from two different experiences: the set menu for the tables starts at $110, while a longer and more luxurious tasting at the bar begins at $170. Either way, the contemporary Japanese spot serves the finest scallops, sea urchin, and supremely fatty tuna flown in fresh from Tokyo’s markets, made clear from the first sip of snow crab clear soup.

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Otra (Lower Haight)

The family behind the now-shuttered Son’s Addition opened this Mexican restaurant close to their home in the Haight in 2021. For his second act, chef Nick Cobarruvias dug deeper into his Mexican heritage. Otra is an ode to fresh masa, which is freshly ground in-house, using colorful heirloom corn. The dough serves as the versatile canvas for lots of fresh fish, veggies, and beans, surfacing in beloved dishes such as wild halibut aguachile and sweet potato tacos.

Uma Casa (Noe Valley)

The only Portuguese restaurant in San Francisco has a home on quiet Church Street, and its hearty plates, a blend of old-world flavors and Californian cuisine, bring much comfort to Noe Valley. Chef Telmo Faria serves crispy salt cod fritters, piri-piri chicken glazed in chile, and hearty pork stew studded with clams and linguica. Round out your homey, Iberian meal with a top-notch wine list and warm pasteis de nata (egg tarts) for dessert.

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East Bay

Kingston 11 (Oakland)

Kingston 11’s chef and owner Nigel Jones is committed to giving back to his surrounding community. | Credit: Bethanie Hines

It’s hard not to pick up a beach vacation vibe as you scan the menu at Kingston 11, which marries sunny California produce with Jamaican dishes and cooking techniques. The results are dishes such as oxtail stew, ackee and saltfish, jerk chicken, and fried plantains with black beans and cream. A breezy, island music soundtrack makes diners feel like old friends who happened upon a party. But that doesn’t mean Kingston 11 is all fun and games: Owner Nigel Jones works hard to embed the restaurant in the community; when schools shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, Kingston 11 was part of a restaurant team that fed children who normally relied on school lunch programs.

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Juanita & Maude (Albany)

Chef Scott Eastman brings inspiration from his prior experience at Scandinavian, Japanese, and Italian kitchens (including Via del Corso in Berkeley) to this unassuming East Bay spot. Juanita & Maude, named after Eastman’s grandmother and mom, channels Juanita’s cosmopolitan spirit—despite her Spanish name, her roots were Irish and African American. Seasonal produce stars on the ever-evolving menu, resulting in dishes such as tremella mushroom and Swiss chard lasagna. Expect plenty of playful hat-tips to Eastman’s past life, including spicy eggplant and broccoli donburi, made with sushi rice. With such an inventive and international lineup, it’s no surprise Juanita & Maude, which opened its doors in 2018, has scooped up plenty of local street cred, plus a nod from the MICHELIN guide.

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Becky Duffett is a food writer living and eating in San Francisco. Follow her on Instagram at @beckyduffett.

Maria C. Hunt contributed to this guide.

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