You know how you know that one good lunch spot by your office, and that one good lunch spot by your house, but literally no other lunch spots by any other things? Well starting today you’ll now know where all the good lunch spots are by ALL THE THINGS.
Here’s the best lunch spot in 25 different San Francisco neighborhoods.
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CDXX is a pretty playful place where the menu seems designed with munchies in mind (which makes sense when you find out "CDXX" are the Roman numerals for 420). The burgers and entrees here, while pricey, are made with good, quality ingredients (including vegetarian-fed, pasture-raised, and hormone-free meats) and they really go crazy at dessert -- it’s worth splitting a crispy, caramel drizzled cinnamon sugar Crougnut even if it’s absolutely nothing like the New York croissant-donut hybrid that inspired it.
Avedano’s Meats Holly Park Market (address and info) What you’re getting: Hotter Dog
This old-school butcher shop does some of the city's best panini, and if you’re not feeling fancy (Editor's Note: Are you ever?) it’s really fun to get a hot dog panini, which you can get "Regular" or "Hotter Dog," where it'll come with jalapeños and cilantro.
Mama Ji’s (address and info) What you’re getting: Steamed Shanghai vegetarian bun, BBQ pork rice roll
The Castro has totally been stepping up its food game over the past couple years and this dim sum destination (which competes with the best ones in the city’s Asian neighborhoods) is no exception. Mama Ji’s, housed in an unassuming casual cafe, focuses on dim sum for lunch (expanding into larger family-style dishes at dinner) with cart classics like dumplings and buns, plus an unparalleled vegetarian bun and the BBQ pork rice roll, which manages to be both plump and juicy.
Americanized (but amazing) sushi rolls start at $8 in the refrigerated cases at this mega gourmet mart, or if you’ve got access to an expense account, sit in the sushi bar and get some fancy sashimi, which is available à la carte and in combos that run $24-$28 for nine pieces and up.
The Ice Cream Bar (address and info) What you’re getting: Black bean burger and an ice cream float
1) They actually serve savory food here, and 2) it’s good! Get the black bean burger (which also has brown rice) because it's good, but also because it'll help you convince healthy you that having one of the soda fountain’s outrageous ice cream floats (like the New Orleans Hangover w/ chicory coffee syrup, soda, golden eagle tincture, sweet cream ice cream and soda) is totally OK.
It’s hard to go wrong with any of Long Bridge's thin-crust pizzas, which are all made with local and organic ingredients and baked up with nice leopard spotting and crunchy dough bubbles. But the white pie -- layered up with mozzarella and ricotta cheeses, spinach grown in the restaurant's own garden, a sprinkle of minced garlic, and a drizzle of olive oil -- really allows that dough to shine through.
If you’re stuck in FiDi drudgery, you might as well treat yourself to your big meal of the day at this revamped German classic. The sauerkraut in this juicy burger (which also has cheddar, caramelized onions, and mustard) will mask any beer breath that might "accidentally" become a thing while you’re in the building.
San Francisco can be tough on transplants or other picky eaters who just want meat and potatoes. Here you can get both in one edible serving vessel thanks to this tourist-embedded spot that isn’t ashamed to bring baked potatoes back. You may or may not want the included Alfredo sauce, depending on your personal level of fanciness.
Souvla (address and info) What you’re getting: Veggie pita and frozen Greek yogurt
Pitas and salads filled with rotisserie meats and veggies are the main offerings here and they’re all fresh and delicious. We usually opt for the lighter veggie option with white sweet potato and garlic yogurt sauce so we can get some of the too-addictive tart frozen Greek yogurt with baklava crumbles on top for dessert.
This combination Lao/Thai restaurant has the Thai staples you’re used to, but branch out a little and try the sampler appetizer, which is a great portion of food for lunch. It comes with Lao sausages, fried veggie spring rolls, a crispy rice-studded salad, thick noodles, and a butter-garlic sauce you’ll seriously consider drinking straight.
Hong Kong Lounge II (address and info) What you’re getting: Abalone dumpling soup and coffee pork ribs
There are dozens of lunchtime dim sum choices to you can choose from, but don’t overlook some of the restaurant’s unique offerings such as abalone dumpling soup and coffee pork ribs, along with your requisite potstickers and pork buns. Hong Kong Lounge II (which, confusingly, isn’t affiliated with Hong Kong Lounge), also has the biggest and one of the tastiest dessert menus amongst SF's dim sum institutions.
San Francisco is woefully lean on Persian restaurants, but at least the ones it does have -- like Lavash -- are charmers. The specialty here is kebabs and the koobideh gives you a choice mixture of ground beef and lamb, liberally seasoned with saffron and presented with a heart-ringed plate of rice. It’s a good idea to make a reservation here because they always seem to want you to have one even when the place is empty. That said, they do accept walk-ins.
Memphis Minnie’s (address and info) What you’re getting: Southern pork belly sandwich
Skip the Tuesday Rosamunde line (yeah, we know it's one of the best burgers in the city) and head to Minnie’s for that day’s recurring special. They call it pork belly but it’s really a candied bacon sandwich (CANDIED BACON SANDWICH) doused in garlic mayonnaise, spicy slaw, and cilantro.
Infuse yourself with the life energy of vegetables cooked simply and expertly with the Seasonal Sampler, a hearty meal that should keep you humming for the day. The current one for summer includes tabouleh, baba ganoush, summer beans with Champagne and shallot vinaigrette, grilled Catalan Farm summer squash, stone fruit chutney, and olives served with pita bread. It’s not a cheap lunch, but you’re also supporting the San Francisco Zen Center and 36 years of beautiful vegetarian food made by Chef Annie Somerville and crew in the process.
Its motto states that it's “always looking for more good stuff to put between two pieces of bread” and it has a weekly changing menu, so it’s hard to get attached to one particular sandwich at Pal’s (which is now back at Tony’s Market & Liquor) -- luckily, it's consistently good no matter what it is. Still, you'll want to rejoice when you see the BELTB, which stands for bacon, egg, lettuce, tomato, and sprouting broccoli. Healthy salad sandwich, yup.
San Francisco has been making strides in the deli department, but there still really aren’t that many around town. This old reliable spot will fill your craving for a good nosh. This is the only place where you can get a Reuben sandwich four different ways: corned beef, pastrami, turkey, or beef brisket. We suggest the latter, which is luscious.
Tony’s Coal Fired Pizza and Slice House (address and info) What you’re getting: Meatball sandwich
This is always a reliable spot for a quick slice of pizza, but if you’ve got a few minutes to wait, the meatball sandwich is truly truly truly a must. It does make for a good split with a friend, in which case you may still opt to get a slice to go with it anyway.
You know what's weird? If you’re a person who feels like you eat too many burritos, do note that you're one word -- naked -- away from being a salad person, because that's exactly what a naked burrito will get you at Papalote: everything from your burrito, dumped on a bed of lettuce.
Located rather randomly in the Da Vinci Villa Hotel, the fantastically named Dim Sum Club is a solid option for the dim sum classics, including the hard-to-perfect Shanghai soup dumplings. Pro tip: get two(wenty) orders.
Can't bear the line at Darwin? Head to Merigan just a couple blocks over for a heart-stopping-but-hopefully-only-for-a-second Widowmaker: roast beef, mortadella, salami, prosciutto cotto, and turkey, all dressed with provolone, pickled onions, hots, shredded lettuce, and dressing. It’s something you can totally split. (If you're a quitter.)
New Delhi Indian Restaurant (address and info) What you’re getting: Balti-style mango prawns or mushrooms
New Delhi’s food has some indescribable feel-good qualities that'll leave you energized after lunch here. It’s always good to ask about any seasonal specials that might not be on the menu, but the mango prawns (or mushrooms for a vegetarian version), made with imported mangos and seasonal tropical fruits, are flavorful and filling without being heavy.
Magnolia Gastropub & Brewery (address and info) What you’re getting: Magnolia Pub Burger
This is one of the few decent lunch options in the 'hood, and basically THE place to go if you want to get your burger on, preferably with the additions of applewood-smoked bacon, a fried egg, and cheese (blue, Gruyere, or cheddar). You have our permission to nap under your desk for the rest of the day after you're finished.
The pizza is good here and by all means get it if that’s what you’re craving for lunch, but what makes this place more special and interesting than the average pie shop is its menu of traditional Brazilian dishes. The feijoada -- a black bean-based stew with smoked meats that’s accompanied by collard greens, rice, and toasted yucca flour -- is definitely the most exotic dish to ever be served in the history of not-culinarily-adventurous West Portal.
Brenda’s Meat & Three (address and info) What you’re getting: Fried veggie po-boy
For some reason, they only serve the fried veggie po-boy (with vegan remoulade!) here and not the original Brenda’s French Soul Food on Polk St. It’s too bad, because the cornmeal-crusted cauliflower, okra, and yam bits are absolutely fabulous and should be enjoyed regardless of one’s meat-eating predilections.
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Tamara Palmer was born in San Francisco and appreciates that she hasn't been exiled yet. Celebrate with her @eatstreetfood.