Editor’s Choice: 12 favorite restaurants in San Francisco

Photo credit: Ed Anderson for The Anchovy Bar
A composed plate of food on a cast-iron pan at San Francisco restaurant The Anchovy Bar

San Francisco and its food has captivated me since I was a teen. On my first trip as a 19-year-old, I returned to the same Chinese restaurant three nights in a row. 

In the years since, as I visited my college boyfriend (now husband)’s home in the Bay Area, I meticulously planned our restaurant visits. I looked at the way the cuisines of immigrants—like myself—have made the dining scene here so dynamic while working at a local food truck market. And as an editor at the San Francisco Chronicle and OpenTable, I shouted out the hottest restaurants I’ve tried.

I’m obsessed with the warm bread salad from a city legend, Turkish breakfast in the fog-encased Richmond District, and a Sardinan-inspired Noe Valley favorite. These spots deliver truly top-notch meals, whether it’s a weeknight escape or an all-out celebration. Read on for 12 SF restaurants I keep going back to.

China Live (Chinatown)

China Live is where you want to bring out-of-towners for a taste of SF’s rich Chinese heritage. | Credit: China Live

Choosing a Chinese restaurant in SF is a tall order—the city is, after all, home to some of the most legendary Chinese destinations in the country. But China Live is where you’re guaranteed to have an outstanding meal that’s ideal for bringing out-of-towners because the food and the lively space are just always that good. Grab a seat by the window to people-watch along Broadway, then dig into plates of pan-fried pork dumplings, Peking duck pockets, and salt-and-pepper crab. 

La Ciccia (Noe Valley)

Head to La Ciccia for a rare Sardinian meal in San Francisco. | Credit: Angelina Hong

Few meals are as transportive as a dinner at this cozy Noe Valley restaurant. The dishes genuinely feel like they appeared straight from Sardinia’s coast. You’ll feel that over and over again as you dig into plates of garlicky, just-al-dente-enough spaghetti with fish roe; spicy octopus stew that’s warm enough for chilly SF nights; and creamy fusilli with tuna. Date night in the backyard under the heat lamps is one for the books. 

State Bird Provisions (Western Addition)

State Bird Provisions serves a playful New American take on dim sum. | Credit: State Bird Provisions

Eating at a MICHELIN-star restaurant can sometimes feel like a serious event, but that’s never the case at State Bird Provisions. The hardest part about eating here is just sticking to your order—you’ll find yourself craning your neck each time a dim sum cart passes by with plates of duck croquettes, broiled oysters, and steamed tofu, wishing it were on your table (and it can be, if you just ask). Either way, you’ll leave wanting to try more of the ever-changing menu next time.

Mr. Digby’s (Noe Valley) 

Comfort food like this cheesy spinach bread will make you want to keep going back to Mr. Digby’s. | Credit: Mr. Digby’s

Yes, Mr. Digby’s has rightfully earned its rep as a drinks hotspot for doing some of the best cocktails in the city—the dirty martini and the spicy, mezcal-based Snake Eyes are seriously on point. But not enough is said about the rich comfort food here. There’s cheesy-yet-crispy pull-apart spinach bread, a luxurious chicken pot pie with a flaky top, and deviled eggs you’ll have to stop yourself from eating too quickly. TL;DR: Mr Digby’s is meant for lingering. 

Octavia (Pacific Heights)

The menu keeps changing at Octavia, but you’ll always find dishes that star the freshest local produce. | Credit: Molly DeCoudreaux

Octavia is the kind of elegant, effortlessly cool place you go to impress your in-laws or parents. Chef Melissa Perello and her team put in a ton of work to source the freshest ingredients from nearby farms in their small plates, pastas, and larger entrees. The tasting menu with the wine pairing is especially worthwhile because the wine selection will knock your socks off. So will dessert—which could include pavlova with salted caramel espuma or blood orange with crème fraîche ice cream.

The Anchovy Bar (Western Addition)

 If the tinned-fish craze appeared in restaurant form, The Anchovy Bar would be it. | Credit: Ed Anderson

For when you really can’t be bothered to commit to just one dish, come to The Anchovy Bar. Better, yet, bring friends so you can maximize on the menu’s fishy goodness with anchovies, focaccia, and green garlic yogurt butter, broiled oysters, and trout gravlax—or go all out on the seafood tower. All of it goes down well with a glass of bubbly, like the riesling. On warmer SF days, angle for one of the precious outdoor seats.

Bansang (Western Addition)

Expect refined, contemporary riffs on Korean food at Bansang. | Credit: porkbellystudio

Bansang is where you go for a fine-dining style experience—but dressing up is totally optional. The hit Daeho team builds on its casual Korean restaurant a few blocks away with showstopping creations like uni on crispy, buttermilk bread; thinly sliced fish in a slightly spicy broth with noodles; and crispy rice cakes with chorizo and roasted gochujang. The service here is extra-attentive, which will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy when dinner ends. 

Burma Love (SOMA)

Skip waiting in line at Burma Superstar and make your way to its sibling restaurant Burma Love for food that’s just as phenomenal. | Credit: Burma Love

Lines at Burma Superstar are often long, but those in the know head to its sibling restaurant Burma Love for soulful Burmese food that’s just as good. Plus, the sleek wooden finishes and the double-height ceiling make this an ideal post-work dinner downtown (service is quick, so this is just as good if you want to suggest an impressive office lunch). You can’t really go wrong on the menu, but the tea-leaf salad and the flaky platha with a coconutty chicken sauce are musts. 

Lokma (Richmond District)

Few restaurants can rival the stellar Turkish brunch Lokma dishes up on weekends. | Credit: Lokma

Lokma does some of the best Mediterranean food in SF, but the go-to move here is to grab a spot outside for Turkish brunch so you can watch the fog lift in the Richmond. Choose from hearty plates of scrambled eggs with sweet peppers and feta; a fluffy omelet topped with tzatziki that you can dunk crispy potatoes in; and Greek yogurt pancakes with fresh fruit. Warm up with a cup of Turkish coffee or tea until the sky clears up.

Miller & Lux (Mission Bay)

For when you want dinner to feel a little bit like a show, make your way to Miller & Lux near the Chase Center. | Credit: Jason Perry

A Caesar salad that’s literally harvested tableside, elegantly plated desserts that arrive on carts, and some of the best steak in the city—if the name didn’t give it away already, there’s nothing quite like a decadent, over-the-top dinner at celebrity chef Tyler Florence’s Miller & Lux. The Bay views from the floor-to-ceiling windows and the semi-circular leather booths make any night here feel extra glamorous. 

Dancing Yak (Mission District)

 Dancing Yak is a full-on celebration of Nepali food in SF’s Mission District. | Credit: Dancing Yak

Nepali food rarely gets the kind of showy treatment it deserves. Which is one reason to come to Dancing Yak, where the massive dining room has pops of yellow, blue, and purple and intricate murals on the wall. SF’s year-round mild weather means you’ll always want to order plates of steaming-hot momos, and there are three kinds to choose from here. Dip them into the creamy sauce in the middle and keep building on a meal of Nepali staples like sekuwa (grilled meats) and shapale (meat pies). 

Zuni Café (Hayes Valley)

You can keep coming back to Zuni Café for the legendary roast chicken alone. | Credit: Eric Wolfinger

From the moment you first try the warm bread salad at Zuni, you’ll be hooked. That’s no shade to the roast chicken on top—the late Judy Rodgers’s California cooking made Zuni definition San Francisco for a reason. But the salad, moist from the chicken and with large chunks of bread, chewy-sweet currants, and pine nuts, is in a league of its own. The menu is seasonal, so expect exciting changes, but just remember that epic salad—and shoestring fries—are non-negotiables. 

Tanay Warerkar is a content marketing manager at OpenTable, where he oversees features content and stays on top of the hottest trends and developments in the restaurant industry. He brings years of experience as a food editor and reporter having worked at the San Francisco Chronicle, Eater, and the New York Daily News, to name a few.

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