The 12 most beautiful San Francisco restaurants to visit right now

Photo credit: Boulevard
The wine vault at Boulevard in San Francisco has deep green colored-walls decorated with bird and forest patterns.

Whether they’re perched high on foggy hills or sitting on the dock of the bay, there are so many beautiful restaurants to choose from in San Francisco. 

A historic Chinatown banquet hall got a reboot but held onto souvenirs from its past life, including a striking wooden pergola. Live trees sway in the dining room at a family-owned Mexican American spot. At a MICHELIN-starred seafood restaurant, a prolific taxidermy collection fuels the lodge-inspired ambience.

These places serve exquisite views, drop-dead gorgeous interiors, and sensational food. Read on for a guide to the 12 most beautiful restaurants in San Francisco.

Empress by Boon (Chinatown)

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Empress by Boon’s new elegant look features lots of blue accents and intricate lattices. | Credit: Jean Bai

Elegant Empress is a historic banquet hall that has offered city views above the lanterns of Chinatown since the 1960s. But when it reopened after a seven-year shutdown in 2021, design studio Atelier LLYS unveiled an ocean of blues, intricate lattices, and screens, all while preserving the original wooden pergola. Acclaimed chef Ho Chee Boon now serves an upscale tasting menu, still staying true to the restaurant’s Cantonese heritage, but with nods to his native Malaysia. 


Elena’s (West Portal)

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Three live ficus trees line the airy dining room at Elena’s. | Credit: Elena’s

Elena’s wows with high ceilings, tall mirrored arches, and a trio of live ficus trees that sway in the dining room. Co-owner Elena Duggan, who runs the atmospheric Mexican American restaurant with her brother, John Duggan, layered lots of neutrals, natural woods, and Calacatta Oro marble with gold veins. Don’t skip the crab enchilada combo plate, and while you wait for your food, try to spot the carved wooden angel wings, sourced from an abandoned tequila hacienda in Jalisco, Mexico. 


AKIKOS (SoMa)

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The focal point at AKIKOS is a sleek chef’s counter illuminated with golden lights. | Credit: Garrett Rowland

Welcome to the sushi show. AKIKOS is the omakase authority in San Francisco and moved into a dazzling new home—a highrise in the East Cut—in 2023. The new digs are sleek and modern, complete with a “chef’s stage” bathed in golden light. Here, the sushi pros drop jewel-like bites such as soy-cured bluefin tuna nigiri, directly on the bar. Rest assured that even AKIKOS tables have a clear view of the action at the counter.


Che Fico (NoPa)

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Designer Jon de la Cruz gave a former auto body shop an industrial-chic makeover at Che Fico. | Credit: Eric Wolfinger

Che Fico is an old auto body shop turned Cali Italian star. Designed by Jon de la Cruz, the dining room is decked with exposed concrete, wood and steel beams, and red accents tricking out the tiled floors and leather booths. Diners can’t get enough of the plant-patterned wallpaper or the climate-controlled salumi room—an enticing preview of the Italian feast to come, which could include antipasti platters, fresh pasta, and Neapolitan pies topped with pineapple and fermented chiles.


Niku Steakhouse (Design District)

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Plush leather chairs and wooden walls give Niku Steakhouse its luxe atmosphere. | Credit: Joseph Weaver

Everything about this MICHELIN-starred steakhouse is luxe, from its giant golden door to its dark wooden walls and plush leather chairs. A kappo-style counter complete with double grills is responsible for a top-notch Japanese American menu that includes Wagyu imperial tomahawks, pickled market vegetables, and Parker House rolls. If you’re considering a nightcap, choose from a wall of backlit whiskey bottles. 


Sobre Mesa (Oakland)

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This sceney Afro Caribbean hotspot is filled with neon-electric accents. | Credit: Sobre Mesa 

This cocktail lounge is the brainchild of Top Chef alum Nelson German, who dipped into his Dominican roots to create an Afro Caribbean hotspot that dishes up anchovy tostones and steak empanadas. Sobre Mesa is splashed in jungle-green paint and decorated with a tangle of live plants, plus a glowy leaf mural by local artist David Cho, along with other neon-electric accents that scream “party.”  


La Connessa (Potrero Hill)

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La Connessa’s stylish interiors were inspired by Milan’s cafes. | Credit: La Connessa 

The centerpiece at this ultra-modern trattoria is a big, beautiful bar that curves around its black-and-white tiled floors. The slate blue and walnut wood interiors, decked with brass hardware, are tributes to chic Milanese cafes. It’s a stylish backdrop for La Connessa’s flawless Italian classics, like swirls of lemon spaghetti and crispy chicken smashed under a brick. 


Leo’s Oyster Bar (FiDi)

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Leo’s Oyster Bar is filled with playful touches like wallpaper with palm leaves and rattan furniture. | Credit: Leo’s Oyster Bar

Leo’s was into maximalist wallpaper and lush plants before they became ubiquitous in restaurants around the country. Ace designers Ken Fulk and Jon de la Cruz had fun designing this retro oyster bar, adorning it with playful accents like wallpaper splattered with palm leaves, a pink onyx bar, black-and-white floors, and frilly ferns. It’s an over-the-top aesthetic that can only be matched by the restaurant’s larger-than-life seafood tower—and the lobster roll, one of the city’s best.


Boulevard (Embarcadero)

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 The Belle Epoque feels are strong at this Audiffred Building beauty. | Credit: Boulevard 

Boulevard is a fabulous Belle Epoque-style dining room on the ground floor of the century-old Audiffred Building. The Californian restaurant, known for seasonal hits like a popular heritage pork chop and baked Pacific oysters, is yet another vision by Ken Fulk. The design whiz treated the historic space to a 2021 renovation and added peacock blues, soft velvets, and feather patterns. Luckily, he kept some of the most striking vintage touches, including iron lamps and hand-blown glass fixtures.


Miller & Lux (Mission Bay)

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The deep booths and twelve-sided columns at Miller & Lux pay homage to mid-century modern design. | Credit: Miller & Lux

This super glam steakhouse by celeb chef Tyler Florence sits behind the spaceship-like Chase Center. Its two-floor, 7,000-square-foot interiors are a tribute to all things mid-century modern with extravagantly deep booths, twelve-sided columns, and hickory arches. Old-school carts roll though the dining room, serving dry-aged steak, Dover sole, and Caesar salad—tossed tableside, of course. 


Angler (Embarcadero)

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One of Angler’s distinguishing features includes its prolific taxidermy collection. | Credit: Adahlia Cole

MICHELIN-starred Angler channels a sophisticated fishing lodge and stands out for a live-fire open kitchen, exposed brick, and plenty of wood paneling. But it also shines for its walls, which are covered with a prolific taxidermy collection of stag heads and trophy fish. Expect a bold seafood-focused menu featuring diver scallops, Mount Lassen trout, and hot-fried frog legs with cardamom crème fraîche.


The Garden Court at Palace Hotel (SoMa)

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The Garden Court channels a Gilded Age aesthetic with marble columns and crystal chandeliers. | Credit: The Garden Court at Palace Hotel

This luxury hotel opened in 1875, when horses pulled carriages into its courtyard. It was rebuilt after the 1906 earthquake, and today, its soaring atrium sits under a glass dome lined with marble columns and crystal chandeliers. Settle in for a regal brunch or tea—the menu is filled with daytime favorites like raspberry lemon crumble French toast and a wild smoked salmon and caviar omelet. 

Becky Duffett is a food writer living and eating in San Francisco. She was the deputy editor at Eater SF and has written for The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, and Bon Appétit, among other places.

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