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18 restaurants vital to San Francisco

A photo of Red logo
by Becky Duffett
Updated December 15, 2023

San Francisco’s greatest restaurants are an extension of the city’s diversity and proximity to some of the country’s best produce and farms. Despite how tiny it is relative to other major cities—it’s only seven miles by seven miles, as any local can rattle off to you immediately—there are thousands of superb spots to eat.

An al fresco stunner in the Mission has served Mediterranean-inspired farm-to-table fare since before it was trendy. Both the MICHELIN guide and the James Beard Foundation gave nods to an inventive American small plates spot in the Western Addition. An adored seafood joint in the Richmond gives the Asian-Cajun treatment to local Dungeness crab.

The restaurants that are essential to Golden Gate City include all-time classics rooted in deep histories and newer additions that offer contemporary spins on a range of global cuisines. Read on for a guide to San Francisco’s 18 greatest restaurants to book now.

A photo of House of Prime Rib restaurant
4.8
4.8 (15185)
$50 and over
Steak
Civic Center / Hayes Valley / Van Ness
About the restaurant

House of Prime Rib has remained a top destination for both locals and visitors to San Francisco since it was founded in 1949. Boasting some of the warmest hospitality in the area, it’s home to carts filled with towering rib roasts carved to order tableside. The restaurant retains its frozen-in-time interiors, replete with red leather banquettes and generous cocktails that come with an extra drink served chilled on the side. The uninitiated should prepare for a veritable feast that starts with the cult-favorite salad, made with three kinds of lettuce, chopped egg, pimento, and sweet beets. Continue on to a plate full of prime rib, cut to your choice, and sides such as fully-loaded baked potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, and creamed spinach. Pro tip: Don’t forget to take advantage of a second piece of prime rib after you power through your first.


Top review
OpenTable Dinervip
Dined 2 days ago
Amazing time as always! Service level is outstanding and prime rib cooked to perfection
A photo of State Bird Provisions restaurant
4.7
4.7 (2983)
$50 and over
Californian
Western Addition
About the restaurant

Chefs Nicole Krasinski and Stuart Brioza’s lauded State Bird Provisions features some of the most creative presentations and interpretations of Californian cuisine. The ever-rotating small plates selections, along with essentials such as the signature state bird with provisions, is a tribute to all things quail. Since opening to tremendous buzz in 2012, the restaurant has racked up awards, starting with plaudits from both the James Beard Foundation and Bon Appétit for Best New Restaurant and a regular appearance in the MICHELIN guide as a one-star restaurant. If reservations have been snapped up at State Bird, there’s no need to despair: Krasinksi and Brioza’s other acclaimed spots, MICHELIN-starred The Progress and The Anchovy Bar, are within easy reach.


Top review
OpenTable Diner
Dined 2 days ago
Great atmosphere with the food to match. All the dishes were interesting and delicious.
A photo of La Ciccia restaurant
4.7
4.7 (2677)
$30 and under
Italian
Noe Valley
About the restaurant

Seafood-forward Sardinian cuisine is the focus at Noe Valley favorite La Ciccia. Locals have long loved the exceptionally gracious service from the team, established by former chef Massimiliano Conti and his partner and wife Lorella Degan. New owners took over in spring 2022, but Conti brought the new team up to speed on his simple but delicious plates, such as fresh spaghetti with spicy garlicky oil and bottarga. Beyond the pastas, La Ciccia also has a way with fish, whether it’s marinated anchovies or the whole fish preparations that occasionally appear on the secondi menu. The restaurant’s fame goes beyond locals—it has been singled out by MICHELIN, The New York Times, and as one of the San Francisco Chronicle’s best Italian restaurants in the Bay Area.


Top review
Noreen
Dined 7 days ago
Excellent. If you care about the food…. Very seafood focused menu. Simple place with wonderful people and food
A photo of Nopa - San Francisco restaurant
4.7
4.7 (3390)
$31 to $50
Californian
North Panhandle / USF
About the restaurant

Nopa has remained a favorite of both neighborhood folks who gather at the bar and industry insiders looking to score an especially delicious burger since opening in 2006. Chef and co-owner Laurence Jossel is responsible for shaping Nopa’s reputation for excellent food, cocktails, and inviting interiors. The open kitchen has great views of Jossel and his team roasting meats and vegetables in a wood-fired oven, which churns out countless iterations of the legendary country pork chop with smoky and charred edges. Regulars frequently turn to Nopa’s burger and house-made Kennebec chips. Vegetarians know that the tagine, which can also be made fully vegan, represents the best of Bay Area seasonality.


Top review
Love2celebrate
Dined 1 day ago
Excellent food with fresh ingredients! Our service was friendly and very good. We sat outside which was much quieter than inside and comfortable. I love NOPA!
A photo of Foreign Cinema restaurant
4.7
4.7 (8550)
$31 to $50
Californian
Mission District
About the restaurant

Foreign Cinema has long been a shoo-in on many San Francisco best-of lists, thanks to chef and owners Gayle Pirie and John Clark, who have maintained the restaurant’s destination status since 1999. Before farm-to-table became a buzzword, Foreign Cinema was already taking advantage of the Bay Area’s robust produce to create vegetable-forward preparations and creative dishes such as its brunch staples—“pop tarts” with seasonal fruit fillings. It has always been popular to dine outdoors at Foreign Cinema, and with that availability now in full swing, films have also resumed playing via projector on the patio wall.


Top review
OpenTable Diner
Dined 7 days ago
Wonderful food and atmosphere. Loved it all!! The roasted chicken was my favorite.
A photo of Kokkari Estiatorio restaurant
4.8
4.8 (8804)
$31 to $50
Mediterranean
Financial District / Embarcadero
About the restaurant

Kokkari has been a destination for diners looking for excellent Greek food—especially lusciously prepared seafood and lamb dishes—since 1998. The restaurant takes full advantage of both local ingredients and top-shelf imports from Greece. To dine inside Kokkari is to treat your nose to overwhelmingly pleasing notes of grilled meats being cooked over a charcoal hearth. The liberal use of lemon adds zip to Greek classics such as avgolemono, a lemon and egg soup, as well as grilled octopus.


Top review
NoremaS
Dined 2 days ago
We loved it!!!! 100%! Our new favorite restaurant!!!
A photo of China Live restaurant
4.7
4.7 (3000)
$30 and under
Chinese
Chinatown
About the restaurant

Owner George Chen takes his decades of hospitality experience to create an immersive Chinatown experience at China Live. The 30,000-square-foot complex is an ode to Chinese food in all its glorious forms. The multi-level space starts with an open and inviting ground floor split into various areas with entertaining views of cooking stations throughout the space. Chefs pleat dumplings and pull noodles for dishes on the menu, which features elements from a variety of regions across China. The best seller is the juicy shen jiang bao, with a crispy pan-fried bottom and a lush pork filling. Other well-loved dishes range from Peking duck to kung pao tofu. A more sophisticated dining experience awaits upstairs at Eight Tables.


Top review
JJordanvip
Dined 1 day ago
The food and atmosphere remains as fresh as the day ChinaLive opened. Every dish is exquisite-carmelized rather than greasy kung pao firecracker chicken. A totally new take on a classic. Green papaya and shrimp salad hit all the right notes: fresh, crisp, fire peppers, biting vinegar and just a touch sweet. But the surprise of the night was a sesame soft serve topped with mango shaved ice and crunchy treats. It cools the pallet and delights the taste buds. Great food -great evening
A photo of Zuni Cafe restaurant
4.6
4.6 (7556)
$31 to $50
Modern European
Civic Center / Hayes Valley / Van Ness
About the restaurant

Zuni Cafe is one of those indelible classic San Francisco establishments that has showcased excellence over several decades. Known far and wide for its craveable hamburger, homey polenta, and roast chicken with warm bread salad for two, Zuni has consistently loomed large at the James Beard Awards, scoring its first in 2000 for the late Judy Rogers as Best Chef: West, Outstanding Restaurant in 2003, and for its service in 2018. Dining at this corner-shaped, elegant American restaurant is a true San Franciscan treat.


Top review
MaryRvip
Dined 1 day ago
Oysters and champagne heaven. Ambience and service sublime. The duck was superb and the broth it was in was even better -- and the veggies were still crisp and yummers. Only thing I'd change is the caeser salad had too much dressing on it (though damn, it was delicious dressing)....
A photo of Spruce restaurant
4.8
4.8 (5215)
$31 to $50
Contemporary American
Presidio Heights
About the restaurant

Spruce is an undeniable San Francisco destination boasting accolades such as a MICHELIN star and Wine Spectator’s Grand Award. The food at Spruce takes inspiration from California, highlighted by the fact that it sources the bulk of its produce from less than 40 miles away at the Woodside-based SMIP Ranch. That bounty features heavily in all the restaurant’s American preparations, from its breadth of fresh salads to the accompaniments of its main dishes, such as grilled ribeye topped with broccoli di Ciccio and Bordelaise sauce.


Top review
pslavip
Dined 6 days ago
Had an excellent dinner and they accommodated my son too. He is a vegetarian and they made a special dish for his entree. Service was amazing and it was a wonderful experience.
A photo of Waterbar restaurant
4.7
4.7 (10581)
$31 to $50
Seafood
Financial District / Embarcadero
About the restaurant

It’s hard not to be swept away by the incredible Bay vistas at Waterbar. But even dining indoors in full view of the two massive floor-to-ceiling fish tanks and sweeping oyster bar is an amazing experience. Equally impressive is the seafood: Waterbar offers a wide range from fresh oysters to pan-seared filets and whole fish preparations. Sustainability is at the forefront of the restaurant’s dishes, and the care with which the kitchen prepares that bounty is fully evident in the food’s picturesque presentations.


Top review
OpenTable Diner
Dined 1 day ago
Great experience, very good food, we really enjoy this moment
A photo of A16 - San Francisco restaurant
4.5
4.5 (4922)
$31 to $50
Italian
Marina / Cow Hollow / Presidio
About the restaurant

With food that stems from the southern coastal region of Campania in Italy, A16 has been a pillar of the Marina District in San Francisco since opening in 2004. The restaurant features a narrow but welcoming interior and an open kitchen so diners have a direct view of the work the chefs put into famous dishes such as wood-oven cooked pizzas and meatballs that have their own cult following. Housemade pastas such as the maccaronara, a long, square-ish noodle enveloped by a hearty raguare also a hallmark of the satisfying cooking here. Wine director and owner Shelly Lindgren pours an award-winning list with bottles that evoke a road trip between the Italian coasts.


Top review
OpenTable Diner
Dined on May 15, 2024
Always love this place, great service and food, always so consistent
A photo of Greens Restaurant restaurant
4.7
4.7 (10864)
$50 and over
Vegetarian / Vegan
Marina / Cow Hollow / Presidio
About the restaurant

It can be hyperbolic to call a restaurant revolutionary, but there are few other ways to describe a place as influential as Greens. Opened in 1979, Greens has maintained its status as one of the premier vegetarian restaurants in the country. A long line of chefs have been influenced and inspired by both Zen Buddhism and the restaurant’s vibrant farm, Green Gulch, which provides the pristine vegetables and fruits. Almost every dish can be made fully vegan, and the liberal use of legumes, yuba (dried tofu skin), and tofu add the depth of protein. The interior is its own work of art, featuring the creations of several local artists and various types of wood to create a warm and inviting atmosphere to enhance the sweeping Pacific Ocean views.


Top review
hungreythanks
Dined 2 days ago
I chose this restaurant for a special occasion and it was ideal! I've been going to Green's for at least twenty-five years and it is always wonderful. Greatly appreciate how fresh the food is and the creativity of the dishes. Never disappoints.
A photo of Yank Sing - Stevenson Street restaurant
4.7
4.7 (2012)
$30 and under
Dim Sum
SOMA
About the restaurant

Three generations of the Chan family have contributed to Yank Sing’s success since its 1958 opening. A deep-rooted local devotion to Yank Sing’s dim sum helped cement its status as a must-visit for Bay Area natives, transplants, and tourists. It’s hard to argue with the critical acclaim the restaurant has scored—it was chosen again as a Bib Gourmand recipient for MICHELIN in 2022. After biting into a juicy pork soup dumpling and feeling the warm broth break free of the wrapper or tucking into a pillowy barbecue pork bao, you’ll know why.


Top review
OpenTable Diner
Dined on May 15, 2024
Fantastic restaurant. Loved their dim sum. It was fresh and delicious and the service was great
A photo of Octavia restaurant
4.6
4.6 (2519)
$50 and over
Contemporary American
Pacific Heights
About the restaurant

When star chef and owner Melissa Perello opened Frances in the Castro in 2009, rave reviews and accolades streamed in from publications such as Bon Appétit and Esquire, along with a James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant. Perello’s New American gem Octavia followed suit when it opened in 2015 in an even larger location in Pac Heights. Current chef de cuisine Nico Pena crafts approachable and comforting food featuring seasonal dishes—local quail with hedgehog mushrooms, leek tagliatelle with Dungeness crab—that swap out often.


Top review
MalloryMvip
Dined 1 day ago
We had an amazing time doing the tasting menu at Octavia! The servers were friendly, wine selection was great and each bite was delicious.
A photo of AKIKOS restaurant
4.9
4.9 (1564)
$50 and over
Japanese
SOMA
About the restaurant

Of all the exclusive and extravagant omakase bars in San Francisco—and this fish-obsessed town has a few—Akikos, first opened in 1987, stands out. Sushi master Ray Lee took over from his parents in 2009 and has been a revered presence behind the counter since 2009. Since then, many other talented chefs have come through his kitchen, including Adam Tortosa of omakase haven Robin. The new Akikos at Avery Lane debuted in a dazzling new space in the East Cut in January 2023, so grab a seat for the omakase show. Chefs set nigiri bites directly on the bar and encourage diners to use their hands instead of chopsticks.


Top review
PaulN
Dined on May 9, 2024
This was my 2nd time here. Last time was over a year ago and we did lunch omakase. This time it was for dinner. All items were different and tasted great. Sake was also on point. Would highly recommend this place for their omakase.
A photo of International Smoke San Francisco restaurant
4.6
4.6 (2823)
$31 to $50
American
SOMA
About the restaurant

Cookbook author and television personality Ayesha Curry teamed up with prolific restaurateur Michael Mina for this meaty destination on the ground floor of the leaning Millennium Tower. The menu is truly global, smoking and saucing ribs several different ways, using flavors such as gochujang and lemongrass, then rounding them out with comforts including Mina’s lobster mac and cheese and Curry’s warm cornbread. Plus, it’s a trendy scene—Curry’s husband, basketball star Steph Curry and fellow Golden State Warriors sometimes swing through.


Top review
OpenTable Diner
Dined 5 days ago
Great food. good portions, and the service was wonderful.
A photo of Chili House restaurant
4.4
4.4 (359)
$30 and under
Chinese
Richmond District
About the restaurant

Chili House was established in 1988 and prides itself on having the best Peking duck in San Francisco—a title that few contest. Chef Han Lijun has served his legendary duck to Chinese presidents and diplomats and countless local diners on Christmas Day. But there’s no need to wait for the holidays for this quintessential San Francisco experience. In addition to crackling duck with pancakes and all the fixings, Chili House also offers fiery chile wontons and tan tan noodles.


Top review
BillyB
Dined on Oct 21, 2023
Great food and very friendly and attentive service.
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