The Ultimate San Francisco Food Bucket List

The Ultimate San Francisco Food Bucket List

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Since we moved to the San Francisco Bay Area just over a year and a half ago, we’ve eaten at our fair share of restaurants in the city.  I must say, they were all remarkable and memorable.  And after having a few more scrumptious sweets this past weekend (the husband ran the SF 1/2 marathon while I waited on line for cruffins… #priorities, am I right?), I decided it was time to compile a list to share with the world.  San Francisco is full of eats from all over the globe, with many restaurants having spectacular signature dishes while others are icons of the city and cannot be missed.

Best Places to See (and Photograph) the Golden Gate Bridge >> a MUST do when visiting San Francisco! |

*If you have any other recommendations, please let me know as I’m always interested in taste testing more dishes and treats.

✓ indicates I’ve eaten there  🙂 (still have lots more to indulge in!)

Breakfast and Brunch:

The ULTIMATE list of San Francisco Food! |

1. Mama’s on Washington Square

Located right near Coit Tower, this restaurant has been around for ages.  Expect a long wait, but an equally delicious meal.

2. farm:table

Beware, the place is super tiny, but as I’ve heard from others, it’s totally worth the wait and cramped quarters.  Menu includes the daily toast, which is an absolute must have here.

3. House of Bagels 

Delicious NYC style bagels.  Enough said.

4. Honey Honey Cafe & Crepery ✓

The Nutella Banana Dessert Crepe is to die for.  Lots of soups, salads, sandwiches, and burgers to choose from as well, but we come for the crepes.

5. Happy Moose Juice

Raw juice bar serving up cold-pressed fruit & vegetable juices and almond milks.  Try some samples here.

6. Dottie’s True Blue Cafe

A fun retro-ish spot serving big helpings of American morning fare & lunch items on tables covered with old movie-star photos.  Featured on the Food Network’s popular Diners, Drive-In’s, and Dives!  Their famous pancakes with whole wheat buttermilk, spiced with ginger and cinnamon, served with pure maple syrup sounds like the perfect way to jumpstart any morning!

7. Cafe Me

Cute and hidden, but worth the find.  Go for the lox bagel, stay for the bacon, cheese, and egg English muffin. You’re welcome.

8. Eight AM

Avocado toast three ways, yes please! Perfectly located right near Ghirardelli, so you can suppress your ice cream craving right after breakfast.

9. Sweet Maple

A laid-back and unpretentious neighborhood restaurant, what more could you want?  Home of world famous Millionaire’s Bacon (brown sugar and spicy peppers included).

10. Brenda’s French Soul Food ✓

Whyyyy did it take me forever to get here. Everything on the menu is the sh*t – this place is not overrated at all. Get allll the beignets, especially the crawfish (so perfectly moist and flavorful). Psst – it’s located in a not-so-wonderful area of the city, so you probably don’t wanna go wandering while you wait for your name to be called.  And be prepared to wait. It’s popular for a reason.

11. The Dorian ✓

Looking for a fun boozy brunch in the Marina with a bunch of gal pals? The Dorian’s your spot. Don’t miss out on the nerd-topped frosés (essentially frozen rosé) and the truffle ricotta pancakes (my absolute favorite). Their happy hour specials are pretty sweet as well. Make a reservation in advance as you’ll need one, especially on the weekends.

12. Mission Rock Resort 

Looking for a quiet(-ish) spot with water views? This place is calling your name. With a pretty decent sized raw and oyster bar, plenty of choices of Egg Benedict’s, and a Dungeness Crab Roll, you’ll want to gather up your friends and spend the afternoon here. Warm day? Sit on the patio – you won’t regret it.

13. Basik Cafe ✓

Yes, our first chain on this list, but this Hawaiian cafe won’t disappoint (this location is actually the first addition to the mainland). Looking for some health-oriented plant-based breakfast fare (think açaí bowls, smoothies, etc)? I could indulge in their pitaya bowls every. single. day. I’ve eaten at another location (in Oregon, actually, who knew?!), so if everything’s the same, then you gotta get over here. A bunch of my SF friends live and die for this place.

Lunch and Dinner Dishes:

The ULTIMATE list of San Francisco Food! |

1. Lucca Ravioli Company

Who can resist from fresh pasta, ravioli included (obviously).  I’m a sucker for Italian food, and I’ve heard this is some of the best in the whole city!

2. Town Hall Restaurant

So much food I wanna try here: including the fried chicken with honey, tuna tartare, corn bread, egg toast, the list goes on!  Make sure to try the Donuts & Coffee desert and the Butterscotch and Chocolate Pot De Creme – which I heard was out of this world.

4. Fog City Diner 

Another restaurant boasting spectacular views of the Bay!  Find locally inspired American cuisine here while staring out the window.  The last time I went here was a few years ago – think I need to find my way back sooner than later!

5. El Matate

My favorite place for burritos in the Mission, and not expensive AT ALL!  Sit outside and people watch, and then head on over to Balmy Street for a bit of colorful and creative fun (the murals here are just outstanding!).

6. La Taqueria ✓

Because you can never have enough burritos in San Francisco.  They are “authentic” style, meaning no rice inside – which you won’t miss because guacamole.  ‘Nuff said.

7. Cliff House ✓

The popovers are amazing, and come in leu of bread with any meal.  A perfect spot for brunch or lunch before/after hiking Land’s End!

8. Ike’s Place

With locations all over California, this place is a safe bet when you’re craving a sandwich.  Check the selections for the location you’re going to since they all boast different creations on their menu.  With the Stupid Eggplant Sandwich, Super Mario (mozzarella sticks included), and the Fat Bastard, you’re bound to find something you like.  Lots of vegetarian options as well!

9. The Italian Homemade Company 

Wonderfully authentic!  Where I take all my visitors if we end up in North Beach (aka Little Italy).  My suggestions: the meat lasagna, (any) fresh pasta, or the flat bread with prosciutto.  I love to come here and either sit outside, or take my food to the nearby Washington Square park across from the beautiful Saints Peter and Paul Church and people watch.

10. Super Duper Burgers ✓

Super fresh and super juicy!  A fast food chain in the city that knocks it out of the park each and every time.  You can’t pass up the shakes here, either!

11. Freshroll Vietnamese ✓

My new obsession!  So different from any other asian food I’ve had here, and the rolls are perfectly packaged with your choice of protein, bean sprouts, cilantro, cucumber, and other tasty fill ins.  Pretty healthy, too!

12. Greens

I’ve heard this is an excellent place for any vegetarian lover!  The restaurant has wonderful panoramic views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Marin Headlands, and the Marina, all viewed through floor-to-ceiling windows.  The menu offers the freshest seasonal ingredients locally sourced, and it really shows in their meals!  Make a reservation because this place is usually packed!

13. Burma Superstar ✓

Tea leaf salad and Superstar Noodles – what I get every single time.  Absolutely delicious.

14. The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen

Because how can a wide variety of grilled cheese concoctions be a bad thing?!  Beats me!  This is not your mother’s grilled cheese! (PS: If you’re on the Peninsula, try The Melt, one of my favorites down there!)

15. Boudin Bakery and Cafe

If it’s your first time in San Francisco, you simply cannot leave without some chowder in a bread bowl.  Basically against the law.  I’ve sampled some of the breads (and bought entire loaves of the stuff), but still haven’t indulged in some clam chowder – AH, think I need to fix this ASAP!

16. flour + water

flour + water boasts a daily changing menu of house-made pasta and Neapolitan-style pizzas prepared in a wood-fired oven.  Kinda bummed I missed their pasta tasting which took place a bit ago to celebrate their birthday week! Currently on my “hot list”!

17. Hog Island Oyster Co.

If you’re a sucker for oysters than this place is your jam!  They harvest and shuck all their oysters at a farm nearby in Tomales Bay, where you can visit as well if you’re road tripping to Mendocino!  They have a fantastic location in Napa if you’re thinking of heading up North to go wine tasting!

18. Bacon Bacon

Anyone up for some bacon, because all the items on the menu have, you guessed it, bacon!  Besides two locations in the city, be on the lookout for their food truck when you’re craving a little salty goodness!

19. Mozzeria SF

Pizza baked in a wood burning oven – what’s better than that?! Their Hosui Pear with pancetta, brie, roasted garlic, spinach, and balsamic is what I’ll be ordering the next time I’m craving some speciality pizza!

20. Sam’s Chowder Mobile ✓

If you’re not venturing out to Half Moon Bay (where the original Sam’s Chowder House is located), then the Chowder Mobile is the next best thing!  While the menu isn’t as diverse than the real thing, the clam chowder and lobster rolls are just as tasty!  Perfect for a quick stop before exploring Golden Gate Park!

21. Samovar Tea and Lounge ✓

Not your average tea house, this lounge offers tea services from all around the world: Japan, China, India, Russia, England and Morocco for starters!  And don’t worry – some of the locations have extensive food menu’s as well if you’re thinking of heading over for lunch!

22. The Stinking Rose

Garlic lovers unite! This eatery serves over 3,000 pounds of garlic… a month! How insane is that?

23. House of Nanking ✓

A little bit touristy, but for good reason!  The Chinese food here is top-notch!  Make sure to order the garlic noodles and sesame chicken!  Mmm… my favorite!  Hop across the street (or a few) to get Chinese Mai Tai’s at Li Po’s to end your night!

24. Media Noche SF

This fancy-ish fast and casual spot is stillll on my San Francisco food bucket list! I’ve heard their Cubanos are outta this world. Look down – the spot boasts beautiful floor tiles (perfect for your Instagram). And don’t miss out on a moonbar (ice cream dipped in chocolate).

25. Nopa

When a restaurant changes its menu each week based on the available ingredients found at local farmers markets, you know its gonna be good.  Come for generous portions, a bomb ass wine list, and thoughtful, straightforward cocktails. This place is one of my friends absolute favorites in the entire city – and when I asked her what’s good, she listed out 25630 things. So yea, I have a feeling everrrything’s worth ordering.

Ingredient-focused Californian eats & creative cocktails in a lively, 2-story setting.

Food tours are an absolutely wonderful way to experience not only the food of a neighborhood, but to learn about the cultures and customs as well.  San Francisco is so diverse and you’ll absolutely love these guided food tours.  ***Click on each to find out more information.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Mission District Food Tour: You absolutely cannot visit San Francisco without indulging in some Mission treats! Voted the hippest neighborhood in America, The Mission is a mecca for eclectic eateries running the gamut from Indian tandoori to Tex-Mex.  (Aka – you don’t want to miss this).

North Beach and Little Italy Food Tour: Did someone say homemade pizza?  This little slice of SF is full of delicious Italian spots you don’t want to miss.  On this tour, you’ll taste everything from cappuccinos, chocolates, breads, pastries, olive oils, specialty meats, and more. Make sure you come hungry!

Japantown Lunch Tour (with Spa Pass!): Walk around San Francisco’s Japantown, and learn an alternative history of the city before you eat lunch and sample some Japanese delicacies.  And yea, the tour includes either a shiatsu massage or a Korean spa pass, because why not?!

Chinatown Guided Food Tour: Did you know that Chinatown draws more visitors annually than the Golden Gate Bridge?  Yes, it’s true.  You’ll visit food shops and temples, many not known to the public.  And plus, this tour even includes some time in North Beach, so you’ll cover two neighborhoods in one tour!  Pssst-there’s also a night version of this tour as well if you’re pressed on time.

A few Faves on The Peninsula:

  1. Town (San carlos) ✓
  2. Refuge (as seen on the Food Network) ✓
  3. Sam’s Chowder House (Half Moon Bay) ✓
  4. Ritz Carlton HMB ✓
  5. CREAM (multiple locations) ✓

Images via 1, 2

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