Eat like a local: San Francisco’s 10 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 beer hall in the Mission showcases excellent Hungarian and Czech comfort food. An industrial-chic Mediterranean hangout in the Richmond serves up Turkey’s greatest hits. In Albany, an Italian, Scandinavian, and Japanese-accented restaurant has earned street cred for its killer cosmopolitan dishes.

When restaurants are vital to their neighborhoods, dining takes on a deeper meaning. Read on for a list of 10 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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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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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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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

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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