Being a native to San Francisco, I have been to my fair share of restaurants. My whole family are big foodies and we tend to go to the same places we love over and over again. Since being with Tom, we’ve tried to expand our horizons and check out new spots but there are some classics in the city that we just can never get enough of. I thought it would be useful for any of you traveling to San Francisco to get an insiders perspective to some of my favorite spots. Also, insider trick to the city when traveling there is to try and go in September or October. The city has a pretty late summer which we call Indian Summer so you are almost guaranteed spectacular weather if you travel there during those months.
This local Italian family-owned restaurant is by far my favorite in the city. Kelly and Casey are brother and sister and their dad owns the spot and it has been around since the day I can remember. Conveniently, it’s located on the corner of Jackson and Fillmore in the upscale Pacific Heights neighborhood. In all reality, each and every single item on the menu is delicious so you can’t really go wrong with whatever you choose. A few of my favorites that I tend to start with are the Vegetable Salad (the creamy dressing that they make is probably my favorite salad dressing ever) and their grilled artichoke that comes with some tasty breadcrumb mix in the middle served with a lemon aioli on the side. As a main course, the gnocci is cooked to perfection and they sometimes change out the different sauce with it depending on the time of year. Now while I usually like to try new items when I repeat restaurants, everytime I go to JF I always seem to end up ordering the same main course.. the chicken G.O.V (garlic, olive oil, and vinegar). For some reason they took this item off the menu, however they still can totally make it and when you order it, it’s a real sign you’re a total local. While it sounds pretty basic, the flavors that come out of this dish are just mouth-watering. I end up usually needing to ask for bread to soak up all the remaining sauce so if you’re at all addicted to vinegar like I am, this is the dish for you. On a side note, Tom and I had our rehearsal dinner at this spot and received quite positive feedback from our guests on the food and the service. If there is one spot to make it to when you visit the city, this should be it. Oh, and also try and sit up at the bar if you can because well… it’s always better sitting at the bar! And PS, they have a sister restaurant named Mason Pacific (yes, also on the corner of Mason and Pacific Street) that I’ve been to once and devoured every last drop on my plate so that place wouldn’t hurt to go to as well if you have time.
This is a classic institution in San Francisco that goes back years and years. Many people who visit know about this spot but have to make reservations a few weeks in advance. It’s one of those places that my family always went to for celebrations and you can always expect the same great taste. You start out by choosing the cut of meat that you want (theres about five options) and then decide on mashed or baked potato (though you can’t go wrong with either) and then decide on creamed spinach or creamed corn (I also opt for the spinach). All of that is included with your prime rib as well as yorkshire pudding and most importantly, my all-time favorite salad. They definitely know how awesome the dressing is which is why they bottle and sell it and I am a sucker for buying the dressing in bulk. Anyways, all of this food comes in each order and it’s a quite a steal for your money. Trust me when I say that there’s a reason this place has the reviews that it does and why it can sometimes take a few weeks to get in there. Oh and PS, for all the non-meat-eaters out there, HOPR also serves a salmon dish. It’s the only salmon that I absolutely love. I get made fun of sometimes by my husband for ordering the salmon at a place known for its prime rib, but I can’t help it, it’s that good.
This spot is a much more casual restaurant located in the heart of the Marina district but is a place that is not easy to get into either. Unfortunately they don’t take reservations however it moves pretty quickly there so usually the wait isn’t longer than 20-25 minutes. The tables are all community tables and the food is fresh and simple. Since I’m a sucker for burrata, I always order one of their pizzas and add burrata. I also like to make sure and get one of the bruschetta’s that they have to offer (all of them are good) and if hungry enough, will either get the meatballs or pappardelle. The mussels are cooked in a great white wine sauce as well, so really, order anything and everything you can because each item will leave you extremely satisfied. Just make sure you get something with burrata because well…. it’s burrata.
Okay, so this spot is a pretty small little spot located in the Inner Richmond district in the city. If you like Burmese cuisine, I highly recommend checking this place out. Most people rave about Burma Superstar that’s a few blocks away but there’s always a significant wait and so therefore I actually haven’t been there. I don’t think I’m really missing out though because the burmese at Mandalay is that good. My go-to dishes are the Tea Leaf Salad and the mandalay special noodles (my mouth is definitely watering as I write about these dishes). I usually will order one or two more dishes depending on how many people I’m with but I try and choose something new each time I go. All I know is that those first two dishes are mandatory. The place can get pretty busy at night so I recommend trying to go on the earlier side if possible, you’ll thank me.
If you’re a ceviche lover, this spot is FOR YOU. It’s one of those items that any time I see it on the menu (like burrata) I just have to get it. I’m a pretty big fish eater but its something about the sauces that accompany ceviche that I can’t ever get enough of. Now I recently found out that La Mar was a (small) chain restaurant and I can definitely understand why. I can’t speak to the other locations, but I can say the one in San Francisco gives you one of the best views in the city. When you get a table on their back deck, you basically feel like you are sitting on the water. On a beautiful day in SF, you can’t find a better spot to post up for a meal. I usually end up getting the ceviche sampler that gives you three smaller portions of their main ceviches because I can never decide on which one to get if I just ordered it by itself. If you’ve had Peruvian food, you’ll definitely be a huge fan of this spot no matter what you order. Also, if you make the trip to San Francisco in September or October when its the best weather, just remember to get a table on the deck.
A few other spots I recommend checking out: WaterBar (pretty much feels like you’re sitting under the Bay Bridge), Acquerello (fancy michelin-star restaurant that is totally worth the price and continues to be one of the best experiences I’ve ever had), Epic Steakhouse (right near WaterBar and gives you a badass view as well), Trattoria Contadina (there’s always a line outside, it’s that good and popular), and Park Tavern (great location with an especially awesome brunch).