The Best Places to Eat at Every SFO Terminal
Fuel up before you take off.
Eating airport food is finally a thing again and a thing that you can actually look forward to at SFO since it’s truly one of the best airports for gourmandism in the country. If you’re looking for options like pretzels from Auntie Anne’s or a Cinnabon cinnamon roll, you’re out of luck, but what you will find are all sorts of restaurants that most people would love to eat at even when not embarking on an adventure.
While some restaurants remain temporarily closed—like Manufactory Food Hall, Sweet Maple’s, and Gott’s Roadside—they’re expected to open as travel picks up. But don’t let that bum you out too much, we’ve still got plenty of options, from burgers of all kinds to classic dim sum to freshly baked sourdough from Boudin, ensuring something delicious to enjoy in every terminal. And don’t worry if you’re in a rush; there are plenty of to-go options that will make your seatmate resent their tiny bag of stale pretzels even more than usual. Keep reading for some of the best places to eat (and drink) in SFO, organized by terminal, which may also sway your decision about where to fly to next.
HARVEY MILK TERMINAL 1B
Closest Gate: B7/B8
The airport version of Chef Michael Mina’s Bourbon Pub has a similar American pub fare menu to the ones you’ll find in Tahoe and Santa Clara. The menu is heavy on comfort food classics, like a crispy buffalo chicken sandwich; an over-the-top burger on a brioche bun with caramelized onions and mushrooms, bacon, smoked gouda, and truffle aioli; beef chili with cheddar and Fritos, and a side of cornbread; and mac and cheese with cheddar, broccoli, and garlic bread crumbs. For morning flights (until 11 am), there’s also comfort food in the form of breakfast fare, like an english muffin breakfast sandwich with thick-cut bacon, egg, and cheese, as well as some lighter options, like a Greek-inspired avocado toast. Diane Mina’s famous Bloody Mary, originally served during 49ers parking lot tailgates, goes with it all and shouldn’t be skipped if you enjoy a breakfast cocktail with a kick.
Closest Gate: B3
This local Vietnamese sandwich eatery is a fantastic choice if you’re looking for something fast, fresh, and flavorful. The playful takes on banh mi sandwiches are great to “grab and go” (although maybe eat the “sloppy bun,” with red curry ground beef, house garlic mayo, shaved onion, Thai basil, and jalapenos on the spot) before you board the plane. (Flying out of Terminal 3? There’s another Bun Mee near Gates F11 to F22.)
Closest Gate: B6
Vegetarians will be thrilled to know they can eat anything on Amy’s Drive Thru menu, but even omnivores will enjoy this fancy plant-based fast food joint where the ingredients are all organic and non-GMO, and every item can be made vegan upon request. But just because it’s good for you doesn’t mean it’s not delicious. The go-to order is the double patty veggie burger with double cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, and a secret sauce, but there are a few other options, like mac and cheese, chili, and fries that can be eaten separately or together (obviously get them together with cheese).
Closet Gate: B13
You can bring one of Starbird’s chicken sandwiches on the plane with you, but to do so would be cruel to your seatmate who will have to hold back their drool while you savor the crunchy crispy chicken on freshly-baked bread with whatever toppings you desire (the classic with slaw, avocado, and mayo is a stalwart, but the Korean, Thai, and Nashville versions also hold their own). And even though it’s technically fast food, you can feel good about what you’re eating because the chicken is all locally raised, sustainably farmed, and antibiotic-free. We love the chicken sandwiches, but Starbird also has chicken tenders, salads with local vegetables, tacos, and wings, most of which can be made with grilled chicken or a plant-based protein.
Closet Gate: Departures level, curbside, near Door #1
Off the Grid has a curbside spot on the Departures level for rotating food trucks on weekdays from 11 am to 2 pm. The program is pretty much geared towards airport employees looking for a more affordable dining option, but there’s no reason you can’t get in on the action. The trucks will rotate, but you’re basically guaranteed a good meal no matter which vendor is in the parking spot.
Closest Gate: C4
It was a tough day for all San Franciscans when Farmerbrown shuttered its Tenderloin locations, so if we find ourselves flying Delta or Alaska, we make it a point to get there early so we can sit down and enjoy a plate of chicken and waffles and a bourbon iced tea. Pro-tip: get a piece (or two) of the house-made honey butter cornbread to enjoy on the plane.
Closest Gate: D1
You’ll need to have a decent amount of time if you want to sit down and enjoy the food at this upscale (for an airport) grill known for its sustainable seafood, sizzling steaks, filling sandwiches, and over-the-top desserts, like a black and tan sundae and an old fashioned three-layer chocolate cake. Lark Creek Grill also has a bunch of breakfast options, including eggs benedict, a “big ole breakfast,” and lots of scrambles and omelets.
Closest Gate: D Gates/Retail Street
This artisanal “farm-to-flight” market is your best option for grab-and-go food in the airport (the location in International Terminal G near Gate 3 is temporarily closed). The market focuses on organic, sustainable, and local ingredients, and also has plenty of gluten-free and vegan options. The menu differs slightly between terminals, but highlights include the decadent deli sandwiches, Tyler Florence’s rotisserie chicken, and the pesto chicken pizza. Breakfast options include a yogurt and granola bar, a robust bagel bar, and a couple of breakfast sandwiches. This is also the perfect place to pick up a gift for your host, like gourmet chocolates, locally-made soaps, olive oil, and wine.
Closest Gates: F11 to F22
Koi’s Palace’s dim sum is legendary in the Bay Area, and this kiosk is the perfect quick stop to get your fill of siu mai, har gaw, bbq pork bao, xiao long bao, and lots of cooked-to-order meals, like beef chow fun, pork fried rice, and stir-fry xo spicy char-siu udon. It’s not quite the same quality as the Daly City original, but if you just remind yourself that you’re eating delicious dim sum in an airport, you won’t care for even a second. (You can also get Koi Palace dim sum if you’re traveling internationally. It’s located by the G Gates before security.)
Closest Gate: F13
Giants fans will love this restaurant for the memorabilia and orange and black vibe, while sports fans of all kinds will be hyped about the huge wrap-around digital wall showing all of the games. Not into either of those things? Well, the baseball-inspired menu will probably win you over because the Clubhouse knocks it out of the, ahem, airport with a big selection of sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, tacos, and tostadas, a choice of healthy and gluttonous breakfast items, and a large selection of specialty cocktails, beer, and wine. Only bummer? The famous Crazy Crab sandwich is not on the menu, so you’ll have to go to a game to get that, which makes it not a bummer at all. You can, however, get the also-very-famous garlic fries if that’s something you feel comfortable doing to the people sitting in your row. And the row behind you. And probably the row in front of you too.
Closest Gate: F11 to F20
This Bay Area burger chain uses organic, locally sourced, and humanely raised ingredients and is the best option for a classic burger that will leave you sated but not feeling stuffed when you’re on the plane. (Probably also a good idea to go for the single cheeseburger instead of the double because then you’ll also have room for a milkshake or soft serve cone.
INTERNATIONAL TERMINAL A
Closet Gate: A2
Visiting family or friends? A loaf of sourdough from this classic SF bakery is an excellent gift. For you, may we suggest the Dungeness crab melt if you’re planning to sit down and eat and the Dungeness crab sandwich if you’re grabbing something for the plane? There is also a slew of other sandwiches, all on their signature sourdough, as well as sourdough pizzas, sourdough tacos, sourdough tortilla breakfast wraps, and yes, of course, clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl.
INTERNATIONAL TERMINAL G
Closet Gate: G4
Now that the airport has a new initiative to reduce background noise—one that staff estimates has eliminated more than 90 minutes of unnecessary announcements each day in the International Terminal alone—Tomozaku feels like the zen-like Japanese restaurant it is. Enjoy that serenity as you take in the light wood seating, clean design, and sushi chefs doing what they do best: making you fresh and delicious sashimi, nigiri, and rolls. (There are also teriyaki rice bowls and udon, soba, and ramen noodles.)
Daisy Barringer is an SF-based writer who firmly believes that every hour is cocktail hour when you’re at the airport. Even at 6am. Follow her on Instagram @daisysf to see where she’s traveling (and what she’s drinking) these days.