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Seek out these 5 unique restaurants in San Francisco

A photo of Red logo
by OpenTable team
Updated December 21, 2022

San Francisco restaurants get their edge from Northern California’s agricultural havens and Silicon Valley’s thriving startup scene.

The city by the Bay’s most inventive restaurants boast deep and meaningful relationships with the area’s farmers, fishermen, and ranchers. Case in point: local anchovies star on the menu at a celebrated Fillmore District seafood spot. But San Francisco diners also adore immersive experiences, such as a design-forward SoMa venue that serves New American dishes on one-of-a-kind ceramics in an artistic space.

These five cutting-edge restaurants challenge the status quo. For a taste of the city’s innovative side, book a table at one of them now.

A photo of The Anchovy Bar restaurant
4.7 (807)
$50 and over
Western Addition
About the restaurant

This acclaimed seafood restaurant from the State Bird Provisions team is just around the corner from its MICHELIN-starred sibling. Leading the nation’s tinned fish trend, The Anchovy Bar is dedicated to chef Stuart Brioza’s obsession with local anchovies. It’s a labor of love to cure them in-house: when they’re less than two hours out of the water, the team beheads, guts, and scales every last fish by hand. They’re brined for 48 hours and rest in oil for 7 to 10 days before diners taste the revelations that are freshly cured boquerones on toast. The anchovies here are a far cry from the salty, fishy toppings found on cheap pizza. The Anchovy Bar has led a sea change, deepening San Francisco’s appreciation for this undersung, local ingredient.

Top review
Dined today
We love the anchovy toast! Always best to go when local anchovies are in season.
A photo of Niku Steakhouse restaurant
4.7 (686)
$50 and over
About the restaurant

The Omakase Restaurant Group opened this exceptional steakhouse in 2019. For all those who worship at the altar of wagyu, Niku sources some of the finest in the world from both Japan and America. It’s a dramatic black box of a restaurant centered on a live-fire grill; the bar glows with illuminated whisky bottles, and meat lockers display prime cuts. There’s a butcher shop next door, where all the dry-aging is handled in house. In the firepit, chef Dustin Falcon (of Lazy Bear and French Laundry fame) throws down the tomahawk steaks, chawanmushi, and crispy pig ears that helped the one-of-a-kind restaurant earn one MICHELIN star.

Top review
OpenTable Diner
Dined 2 days ago
Awesome vibe at the chef’s table and great for date night.
A photo of Elements Bar at ONE65 restaurant
4.7 (43)
$31 to $50
Downtown / Union Square
About the restaurant

Part of a multi-story French venue (led by James Beard Award winner Claude Le Tohic), Elements is an awe-inspiring cocktail destination. Ascend to the fourth floor and step into a sleek, low-lit bar, trimmed in black and gold. The imaginative drinks menu is split into four categories: air, water, fire, and earth. Cocktails arrive in four-spigot fountains, hidden in a flask inside library books, and poured in dainty teacups. But no drink is as showstopping as the “all bark and no bite,” an amari-forward concoction served in custom-made glass, presented around tree branches. Elements’s fourth-floor location means cocktails are shuttled to O’ by Claude Le Tohic, the fine-dining restaurant upstairs, by a clutch of high-tech dumbwaiters—just another cutting-edge feature that makes this sophisticated lair a San Francisco standout.

Top review
Dined on May 12, 2024
I love One65. The food and the vibe is awesome. The drinks were amazing. The service is good. Will definitely be back again.
A photo of Zuni Cafe restaurant
4.6 (7644)
$31 to $50
Modern European
Civic Center / Hayes Valley / Van Ness
About the restaurant

Zuni broke ground for California cuisine when the late great Judy Rodgers slid rustic chickens and bread salads into the hearth in the 80s and 90s. But the Market Street classic continues to evolve. It was the first San Francisco restaurant to entirely switch to reusable takeout containers. It’s thrown bake sales to support women’s healthcare access and denounce AAPI hate crimes. It’s a vocal social media advocate when it comes to housing the unhoused. Most controversially, the restaurant removed tips in 2021, citing an effort to combat the sexism and racism inherent in tipping practices. Longtime chef Nate Norris was Zuni’s trailblazer-in-chief, and though he recently announced that he’s departing the kitchen after 14 years, his impact will last. As the decades have shown, Zuni is a talented multitasker, continually serving up the city’s crispiest chicken while challenging industry expectations.

Top review
OpenTable Diner
Dined 5 days ago
The food and the service were the stars. Very incentive menu, interesting combinations. We had a wonderful meal and thoroughly enjoyed our first visit.
A photo of Palette restaurant
$50 and over
About the restaurant

This creative and modern spot is tailored for those craving an immersive experience. Chef Peter Hemsley rose through the fine-dining ranks in Paris, New York, and San Francisco (most notably, at three MICHELIN-starred Quince). For his first solo venture, Hemsley breaks out an inimitable style with artistically designed fish dishes. He takes coastal ingredients and plates them meticulously with tweezers, brushes, and even aerators. The results include oysters dotted with black caviar and splashed with magenta vermouth and deconstructed desserts topped with foam. Palette’s stunning black exterior houses an abstract mural adorned with bubbles—a preview of the effervescence that awaits inside.

Top review
Dined on Feb 5, 2023
Excellent in every way but a little too dark. We will be back.
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