Cala

4.6
488 reviews
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$31 to $50
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Mexican
Cala is an upscale Mexican eatery with a delightfully inventive menu that leans heavily towards seafood. Recent standout dishes at Cala include Dungeness crab tostadas and local bay shrimp tacos. The plating is always exquisite and the atmosphere is energetic.

If you are looking for a quick bite during lunch, Tacos Cala uses the restaurant's Hickory Street back alley entrance to serve affordable Mexico City-style tacos with rice and beans every day from 11 am - 2 pm. Unwind in the evening with Cala's sangria, mezcal margarita or other cocktails. Vegetarians will love the sopes playeros with the restaurant's "midnight" black beans. Past desserts like coconut flan or chocolate ice cream with palanqueta have finished meals off on just the right note. Reservations are recommended, though walk-ins are quite welcome.
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What Insiders Are Saying

The Infatuation
8.6

The seafood and vegetable-focused Mexican food at Cala is some of the best in San Francisco.

Ratings 8.5-9.0:Now we’re in the range of absolutely excellent restaurants that you might go to more than once a year/lifetime. These restaurants tend to define a city, and make up the places that you absolutely cannot miss if you want to have any credibility as a restaurant-informed person in a major metropolis.
What 488 People Are Saying
Overall ratings and reviews
Reviews can only be made by diners who have eaten at this restaurant
4.6based on recent ratings
4.6
food
4.5
service
4.6
ambience
4.0
value
Noise · Moderate
89% of people would recommend it to a friend
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f
San Francisco
1 review
Dined 3 days ago
Overall 5food 5service 4ambience 5

First experience at Cala was fantastic. The waiter's suggestions were all spot on, even though we dined later in the evening (8:30) and some of the menu items were unavailable. The items were served family style and coursed out perfectly, and the cocktail and wine lists were impressive and diverse.

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N
San Francisco
57 reviews
Dined 3 days ago
Overall 4food 4service 4ambience 4

Absolutely wonderful, refined, modern Mexican dining. Very authentic, amazing tortilla, tostadas, and sauces. Mostly seafood dishes, healthy and light but satisfying. Must have Trout tostada, black bean tostada, pipian sauce, ...

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SS
Los Angeles
2 reviews
Dined 3 days ago
Overall 3food 2service 2ambience 5

Our first visit here with a 5:30 reservation before a 7pm show just a block away, so we planned for plenty of time. Our server was friendly and personable, but we had second thoughts when it seemed she didn't know much about the tequilas they serve. I had some questions about the menu ordered the crab tostada as one of our plates. The three of us ordered a total of four "share plates". The avocado tostada was lovely as was the kampachi ceviche, though all were very small portions and we had a 10 minute wait or more between each plate. We ordered a second round of drinks which took a very, very long time. The camaronilla arrived with three crescents of fried dough filled with a nondescript mix where the carnitas and shrimp could not be discerned - we all agreed it was pasty and not very good. By this time we had been there well over an hour and it had been about 20 minutes since our drink order, so another server finally brought our drinks -- and our original server came by and we asked about the crab tostada. She had forgotten to order them, and we had to hurriedly finish our drinks, pay our bill, and dash out just in time for our show. All in all, we did not have enough to eat and the service was friendly but very spotty. A bill of nearly $240 for three people due to our special-order margaritas which were a shocking $21 each! Not sure if I'd go back here but maybe for a drink at the bar with plenty of time to spare.

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MR
San Francisco
25 reviews
Dined 4 days ago
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Love the service!

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JC
1 review
Dined 4 days ago
Overall 3food 3service 2ambience 4

Cala was a disappointing experience. There are only a couple of outstanding dishes (the sweet potatoes are a must) on the menu and they are really tough to find amongst the so-so ones. The food took a long time to come out and while we were waiting we tried to change our fish to the rockfish which the waiter said was impossible. This left us stuck with a bland, forgettable, black cod

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EQ
San Francisco
1 review
Dined 5 days ago
Overall 3food 2service 2ambience 4

Disappointing experience at Cala. We were really looking forward to it. The drinks and bartender were outstanding. The food was overpriced for what it was and lacked favor overall. The service was disappointing as well. You could tell our waitress really didn’t want to be there at all and they completely forgot to bring out our main dish. We had to wait about 35 minutes from the time we had our appetizer to when we got our main dish. On top of it we were forced to pay a 20% gratuity already included in our bill, which we did not think was deserved. They did serve us a complimentary glass of cava to make up for it, but it was close to 11:30pm at that time and all we wanted to do was leave by then. What a bummer!

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s
San Francisco
10 reviews
Dined 6 days ago
Overall 5food 5service 3ambience 4

Creative cuisine , with many choices of small medium size and large plates , excellent choice of wines , tempting desserts --over all, a pleasing exploration of tastes in the pleasant atmosphere . We will go there again .

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OT
San Francisco
5 reviews
Dined on February 14, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Amazing food, but, like everything in San Francisco, too expensive.

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L
San Francisco
11 reviews
Dined on February 14, 2019
Overall 4food 4service 4ambience 4

Very courteous staff and excellent food

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LA
San Francisco
2 reviews
Dined on February 13, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

The food was fantastic... brought my friends from London, who are tough to impress and they really enjoyed it.

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OT
San Francisco
3 reviews
Dined on February 13, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Everything was fun playful sophisticated and delicious. The service was efficient and good spirited. Cala is really a gem.

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YY
San Francisco
20 reviews
Dined on February 11, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

We love Cala and have eaten many memorable meals there in the last 2-3 years. Each time, I think, "This is the BEST!" But our next meal there always tops it. Thank you to the Executive Chef, Chef, kitchen and waitstaff for keeping the food and service always at the highest level. I can't wait till our next meal at Cala!

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RT
San Francisco
20 reviews
Dined on February 10, 2019
Overall 4food 5service 2ambience 4

Service was inconsistent with previous visits. Food was phenomenal.

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OT
San Francisco
1 review
Dined on February 10, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Top notch authentic Mexican.

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p
New York Area
110 reviews
Dined on February 10, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

We enjoyed the variety and flavors and the excellent preparation. Our favorites were the grilled oysters and the black cod. The service was also excellent and the dining room is very attractive.

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J
San Francisco
90 reviews
Dined on February 8, 2019
Overall 4food 5service 4ambience 5

I absolutely love the food at Cala. However, my husband who does not like peppers at all and prefers other meat to seafood has a hard time with the menu. solution: I will return with girl friends and /or my daugher!

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HV
San Francisco
5 reviews
Dined on February 6, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

The waiter was Darling and the food delicious

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BK
1 review
Dined on February 5, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 4ambience 5

One of the best meals I have had in along time. Loved it.

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e
San Francisco
4 reviews
Dined on February 4, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

It was outstanding as always. And our server was exceptionally good.

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OT
San Francisco
15 reviews
Dined on February 4, 2019
Overall 3food 3service 2ambience 4

The design of the space is inventive and unique...preserving the old brick walls of a the building,yet making it modern and sleek. The service is poor.....we saw our waitress when she took our order and not again until she took our bill for payment. In between we had to ask various bus people and other waiters for things that we needed. Portions are small, but priced as if bigger and the food relatively inventive, but could have used more spice and flavor. I had noted that it was a birthday when making the reservation...although nothing was done to commemorate the occasion. All in all, we would not go back.

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OT
New York Area
4 reviews
Dined on February 2, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Loved this restaurant, the food and ambiance!

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j
San Francisco
1 review
Dined on February 2, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Inventive, SF-farm fresh take on Mexican by Contramar’s dynamo female chef. Delicious and visually delightful! Seafood-focused with very helpful and accommodating service!

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OT
San Francisco
1 review
Dined on February 1, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

always great!

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T
San Francisco
8 reviews
Dined on February 1, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Mario was such a great server!! The food was amazing and the mezcal cocktails as well! And the fresh house made tortillas are amazing! Lovely birthday dinner for a friend!

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SF
San Francisco
95 reviews
Dined on February 1, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

we love cala and make a point to go there whenever we get to town.

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S
San Francisco
4 reviews
Dined on January 31, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Awesome. Loved every dish we ordered. It's such a fun San Francisco restaurant.

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BS
San Francisco
4 reviews
Dined on January 30, 2019
Overall 4food 4service 4ambience 4

Cala was full of inventive food and cocktails. The service staff was very attentive. The crab or trout tostadas and sweet potato entree are an absolute must! The coconut flan was exquisite.

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OT
San Francisco
3 reviews
Dined on January 29, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

more vegetarian options please

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j
San Francisco
37 reviews
Dined on January 28, 2019
Overall 4food 5service 5ambience 3

The food is different and very tasty. The service and the various folks delivering the food knew what the food was about and could explain it to us.

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w
New England
4 reviews
Dined on January 28, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 4ambience 5

I dined at Cala with a friend on a Sunday night, before a performance at the SF symphony.

Pros:
- My friend was 20 minutes late for our reservation, but we did not lose our seats. The place was packed, so I was nervous.
- All dishes were good, some were fantastic.
- It was our first time dining there, so our server took a lot of time to help explain everything to us. We took many of his suggestions and are greatly appreciative.
- We were debating whether to order another small plate and our server advised that we'd already ordered a large amount of food. He was completely correct. Oftentimes, I feel like servers are pushing me to order more than I want, so this was very refreshing.
- The "high top" / communal table works surprisingly well. We socialized with the pair dining on one side of us. On the other side was a couple on a date, and it felt very easy to give them space. Basically, unless you need a very spacious and private evening, you can make what you want out of the communal table.

Cons:
- Because we had to go to the symphony, we had to get our last course boxed up :(. This was mostly our fault because we didn't initially communicate this to our server, but our server also could have been a little more proactive, as there was another reservation for our spots not long after we had to get up to go anyway.
- (Perhaps this is an OpenTable issue) It was not clear to me at reservation time whether I was reserving a private table or space at a high top. It turned out to be a non-issue for us, but could be problematic for a more private dining occasion.

Other:
- The sweet potato dish (which I'd read about in multiple places) was excellent, but maybe not the best for 2 people to order. The sweet potato is large and the accompanying bone marrow adds further richness, so two people with normal appetites will either end up very uncomfortably full, unable to try a variety of dishes, or wasting food. As a a single taste experience, though, the dish is fantastic.

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M
Toronto
10 reviews
Dined on January 27, 2019
Overall 4food 4service 3ambience 5

Belle ambiance et bons plats. Nous avions une réservation à 20:45 et nous allions prendre un verre/commander des petites assiettes à partager. Nous avons sentie que la qualité du service a diminuée lorsque nous avons indiqué que nous n’allions pas commander de “plat principal” ....même si notre facture s’élevait déjà 180$ pour 2. À noter qu’un pourboire de 20% est automatiquement ajouté à la facture. De façon générale, bonne expérience.

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KT
San Francisco
8 reviews
Dined on January 27, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Well crafted drinks, great recommendations for food by our server were excellent. The restaurant was full but not overly noisy, I could have a conversation and hear just fine

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S
Vancouver
3 reviews
Dined on January 27, 2019
Overall 2food 2service 1ambience 5

- 20% tip added to the bill
- food is very mediocre for the price
- service is not good - guess since tip is forced so they DO NOT CARE

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OT
Washington DC
6 reviews
Dined on January 23, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

It was delicious

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OT
San Francisco
1 review
Dined on January 21, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

The food was delightfully surprising, the service was perfect, and the ambiance was lively but intimate.

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JS
1 review
Dined on January 21, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Loved it! Thank you so much for a great meal! We will be back, Cala!

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J
San Francisco
9 reviews
Dined on January 21, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Amazing food, unique menu, truly a gem! Love the drinks too.

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OT
1 review
Dined on January 20, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Creative, delicious cuisine. Friendly, knowledgeable staff - happy to help and make great recommendations. We were thrilled.

Tostadas with lingcod and fried leeks were killer as was the “small gems” with the charred sweet potato 😋

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HT
Atlanta
1 review
Dined on January 14, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

By far the best meal I had in San Francisco. It’s a very warm and inviting place with professional service. The food itself is very fresh and inspired! I will be back!

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TN
San Francisco
13 reviews
Dined on January 14, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 4ambience 5

Excellent, innovative, cuisine with creative presentation matched equally by the ambience. Mezcal lovers paradise. Highly recommended.

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