The Best Restaurants in San Francisco Right Now
The best restaurants in San Francisco are back along with some new additions.
The pandemic was tough for San Francisco’s restaurant scene with seemingly endless closures, but in true SF style, the city is bouncing back better than ever. We’ll admit we were worried for a bit (okay, maybe a little longer than that), but we should never have doubted that the chefs, sommeliers, and bartenders who make this city great would come back with even more creativity and panache.
Still, as stoked as we are about all of the restaurants on this list (all of which opened or re-opened in the past year), the restaurant industry is still struggling with staffing shortages and supply chain issues. So, now more than ever, please be patient and tip as generously as your paycheck will allow. Most importantly, start making those reservations ASAP.
Liholiho Yacht Club
After a two-and-a-half-year closure, family-owned Liholiho Yacht Club reopened its doors in November with a new look and a (mostly) new menu. Diners can still get their favorite chef Ravi Kapur dishes inspired by his heritage, including the Tuna Poke with nori crackers and Instagram-famous Baked Hawaii. But there are also new dishes, such as a crispy Swordfish Katsu with Russian dressing, and the larger plates were scaled back so guests can try more dishes. The interior changes are subtle but give the space a more open and comfortable feel, all the better to enjoy the creative cocktails and buzzy vibe.
How to book: Reserve a table on Resy.
This new restaurant on the lobby floor of the LINE Hotel is all about elevated but approachable fare with a nod to executive chef Joe Hou’s Chinese-American roots and the bounty of Northern California. The space is light and airy, and there’s a small outdoor patio, which is the perfect spot to enjoy happy hour cocktails from SF native Danny Louie and snacks Tuesday through Friday. The space transforms into a lively restaurant at night where diners feast on playful and flavorful dishes like milk bread with pimenton and dried shrimp cultured butter, and a sweet and sour quail served with slices of fermented pineapple.
How to book: Reserve a table online.
After an impressive nine-year run as a catering company serving mouth-water Jamaican dishes, Peaches Patties has found a brick-and-mortar home inside the Ferry Building. It’s a welcome addition to the food hall, especially since SF has such a dearth of Jamaican restaurants. The restaurant is named after chef Shani Jones’s mother (her nickname is Peaches) and her delicious homemade Jamaican beef patties, which, no surprise, are also the star of the show. Flaky golden brown pastries filled with flavor in the form of spiced meat (beef or chicken) or vegetables. You can buy those individually, which is perfect if you’re doing a food tour of the Ferry Building, or alongside bigger dishes like jerk chicken and a vegan stew.
How to enjoy: Walk-ins welcome.
Chef Mike Lahnham’s phenomenal pop-up restaurant, which has existed in eight different places, has finally found a permanent home in Lower Pac Heights. This is excellent news for everyone because now we can indulge in his inventive and delicious 11-course tasting menu whenever we want. Well, maybe not whenever we want because it’s $121 (which, considering the ingredients and technique and number of courses, is actually a steal) and also because it’s open Tuesday through Saturday, but still, it feels good to know that this talented chef’s concept and his amiable and knowledgeable staff have finally found a home.
How to book: Reserve on Tock.
The Laundromat SF
SF may not have many actual laundromats left, but you know what’s a lot more fun than washing your clothes? Eating plump, freshly baked bagels by morning and Detroit-style pizza, accompanied by a local beer or glass of natural wine, by night. And those bagels aren’t just any old bagels. They’re the famous organic, hand-rolled, boiled, and baked Holey Roller Bagels that popped up in 2020 to instant accolades. Yes, SF is having a bagel and Detroit-style pizza, but we promise the folks behind this new spot aren’t “just” capitalizing on that. The bagels and pizza are legit, and really, it’s more of a “Which came first?” kind of situation that we’re just happy exists at all.
How to enjoy: Walk in or order online for to-go orders.
Rosemary & Pine
A new project from the Omakase Restaurant Group (Niku Steakhouse, Dumpling Time, Omakase), Rosemary & Pine is a more casual sister restaurant to special-occasion stunner Niku. The two restaurants also share executive chef Dustin Falcon who, before earning Niku a Michelin star, was a sous chef at Lazy Bear. Rosemary & Pine’s warm, light-filled, indoor-outdoor space is a fine place for a leisurely brunch, lunch, or dinner, with menus featuring fresh-baked bread, slow-braised meats, fresh seafood, and a whole slate of dishes cooked in the wood-fired oven.
How to book: Reservations are available via OpenTable.
Outta Sight Pizza
Chef Eric Ehler’s Outta Sight pizza pop-up at Fig & Thistle wine bar quickly became one of our favorite pies in the city, so we were delighted to hear that he was opening a standalone slice shop with his business partner Peter Dorrance. The bright, simple spot, decked out with colorful artwork from their friends, is a perfect spot to grab a big, crisp-bottomed slice of ‘za, with options ranging from classic cheese and pepperoni to mushroom (loaded with cremini, shitake, and king trumpets) and the #50 topped with cheese and pineapple. You can get whole pies, too, save the Lunch Lady, which is only available by the square slice and is topped with vodka sauce and three cheeses. Keep an eye on Instagram for daily specials.
How to order: Call 415-829-3108 to order, or order in-person.
Opening a restaurant in August 2020 is a feat unto itself. Opening a restaurant in August 2020 as a takeout-only operation, pivoting to full-service, and instantly winning a Michelin star is a whole different kind of magic, one that you’ll find on display at Marlena. Now, the husband-and-wife team of chefs David Fisher and Serena Chow Fisher have reopened Marlena after taking a beat and completing a full remodel of the 110-year-old Edwardian building that houses the restaurant. The cozy but sophisticated 34-seat space (plus a 24-seat parklet hugging Precita Park) feels like going to a dinner party at a friend’s house—if that friend has undeniably impeccable taste. Regardless, it’s well suited to Marlena’s seasonal, daily-changing $65 four-course prix-fixe menu where you might encounter dishes like fresh Tagliatelle served with beef shoulder sugo and chanterelle mushrooms or a Kabocha Squash Cheesecake.
How to book: Reservations are available via Resy.
Thad Volger’s temple to single-origin, grower-produced spirits, Bar Agricole has returned in the form of an intimate tasting room showcasing standout examples of farm-to-bottle drinking. Centered around a hand-cut ice bar, the 34-seat space is all warm woods and glowing lighting, with cozy booths for sipping cocktails, like a classic Ti’ Punch or side-by-side Old Fashioneds, each featuring bourbon from a separate cask, or sampling Bar Agricole’s own exclusive line of spirits. Whatever you’re sipping, pair it with a menu of seasonal fare (that’s sourced as intentionally as the drinks) from Bar Agricole chef Will Napoli in collaboration with chef Nick Balla. While well worth a lengthy visit for a full dinner, don’t sleep on Bar Agricole’s happy hour from 5 - 6 pm where you’ll find a fine selection of snacks and $8 cocktails.
How to book: Reservations are available via Tock.
Matthew Ho’s Bodega SF is the latest iteration of a family tradition—from 2003 to 2017, his family’s Bodega Bistro was a destination for Northern Vietnamese food in the Tenderloin. Ho carried the torch with Bodega pop-ups in 2019 and meal kits during the pandemic, leading to the opening of Bodega SF. The space, with intimate booths and communal high-top tables, is well suited to a variety of experiences, from tucking into pho at lunchtime or feasting on Oysters with Yuzu Coconut Foam and turmeric-and-dill-laced Cha Ca prepared with Whole Branzino at dinner. The menu, which balances traditional Northern Vietnamese dishes with some California-inspired interpretations, showcases local producers and goes well with a cocktail.
How to book: Reservations are available Resy.
San Francisco restaurants are seriously blessed when it comes to access to top-notch purveyors, both in terms of quality products and the care with which those products are made or sourced. Joe and Andi Conte are the founders of one of the best sustainable fisheries, Water2Table, and have partnered with chef Nick Anichini (formerly of Atelier Crenn) for a seafood-centric restaurant in the Mission. Ancora, which means anchor in Italian, showcases the best that our local waters have to offer in the form of an ever-shifting menu, available in both prix-fixe and a la carte form. Dishes might include San Francisco anchovies served with Pan Tomate, Half Moon Bay Petrale Sole, and a whole Mt. Lassen Trout for two.
How to book: Reservations are available via OpenTable.
What would you say if we told you that there was a place that specialized in not one, not two, but three kinds of pie, alongside fried appetizers, salads, tiki drinks, natural wine, and beer? Would you think you were dreaming? That’s more or less our reaction to news of Pie Punks, a pizza spot in SOMA with, yes, three kinds of pizza—Grandma-style, thin-crust round, and Detroit-style—plus the aforementioned fried things (broccolini, cheese curds, arancini, wings), tiki drinks, and wine. Owner Lane Ford has entrusted partner Pedro Gonzalez with the dough (Gonzalez having honed his chops at Beretta and Delarosa) in partnership with Alvin Luna (formerly the executive chef of Gary Danko). Feast on pizza with a bottle of pet nat or a Henny Colada—a blended colada made with Hennessy!—and take comfort in the knowledge that dreams can, indeed, come true.
How to book: Reservations available for parties of six or larger; call 415-535-2898 to book.
Give us some Korean Fried Chicken and soju, and we’re happy. So we’re very pleased to report the arrival of Ilcha, which translates to “first round” in Korean and is the perfect spot to kick off a night out, with comforting and thoughtful Korean fare and an exciting selection of drinks. Housed in the former Nabe hot pot space, Ilcha has maintained the restaurant’s simple, sleek decor, with the addition of a mural featuring a woman in traditional Korean dress. Korean gastropub dishes dominate, including fried chicken, of course, plus tater tots topped with bulgogi and cheese. But you’ll also find a selection of stews and hot pot options, loaded with soybean paste or kimchi, bulgogi or vegetables and, if you’d like, SPAM, plus a tower of pork belly and fresh oysters served with fresh lettuce and perilla sleeves for wrapping. Pair your feast with premium sojus, beers, or makgeolli, a cloudy rice brew.
How to book: Reservations are available via Tock.
The group behind Daeho, the San Francisco and Peninsula restaurants that have garnered a cult following for their galbijjim, have a new concept on Fillmore. Bansang, which refers to a manner of table setting fit for kings and nobles, focuses on a menu of modern Korean dishes melded with French and Japanese techniques, in a spacious, light-filled space with wood accents. Chefs Ethan Min and Jin Lim, whose fine dining cred includes time at Saison, Atelier Crenn, and Michael Mina, have created a spread of shareable small plates ranging from a Beef Gochujang Tartare, seasoned with chive creme fraiche and jalapenos, to Radish Kimchi Fried Rice made with soy-braised pork, house-made kimchi, and parmesan cheese.
How to book: Reservations are available via Tock.
A sleek, all-day cafe from former Lazy Bear sous chef Matt Kirk, Automat is a magical blend of low-key daytime staple and nighttime dinner destination. The corner space is elegant and light-filled with pops of turquoise and jewel-tone banquettes, which will suit your needs whether you’re popping in for a breakfast sandwich and a loaf of bread to-go or for a lengthy sit-down dinner. Expect childhood favorites with a strong dose of creativity and technical prowess, including two breakfast sandwiches served on house-made bread, a cheesy double smashburger, and one of the best new fried chicken sandwiches in the city. During the day, you’ll find a selection of sweet and savory treats, plus loaves of bread (from throwback Wondermat! sandwich loaves to honey tahini whole wheat sourdough bread), while dinner includes refined fare like Tombo Tuna with Sambal, a Pan-Roasted Half Chicken with Green Goddess, and Steak with Fermented Au Poivre sauce.
Good Good Culture Club
This stunner of a collaboration from Liholiho Yacht Club chefs Aimee Arcilla, Kevin Keovanpheng, and Brett Shaw is dedicated to transforming the way the restaurant industry works, attempting to make it more equitable, livable, and healthy. In addition to putting that equity work front-and-center, Good Good Culture Club is all about bold flavors and shareable, heritage-driven plates anchored in local produce and quality products. The menu, which puts an emphasis on Filipino and Laotian flavors, showcases ample wood-fired cooking, making for a backyard party vibe that’s best enjoyed on the restaurant's plant-filled rooftop patio. All the dishes are winners, ranging from a local Cured Halibut with Sweet Potato Aguachile to Grilled Skirt Steak with Misoyaki.
How to book: Reservations are available online.
The team behind beloved Richmond restaurant Lokma has taken their thoughtful approach to Turkish flavors and brought it to SOMA. The two-story space was previously Cockscomb, and maintains some of those industrial-chic vibes, with touches of cozy warmth thanks to an open kitchen with copper cookware on display. Chef Daniel Gribble, formerly of Atelier Crenn, has created a fine dining menu with inspirations from both Turkey and California, which pairs nicely with a standout wine selection. Expect on-point Turkish dishes like Muhammara and Kebabs, which pair seamlessly with Raw Oysters and Branzino and Anchovy Rice Pilaf. Pair everything with fresh-baked flatbreads, made in the restaurant’s wood oven. The wine list deserves some serious attention, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t encourage you to start with a Raki Martini, which puts the anise-flavored Turkish spirit front-and-center.
How to book: Reservations can be made online.
Charles Phan, one of SF’s best-known chefs, has long been associated with The Slanted Door, his stunner of a restaurant housed in the Ferry Building that boasts one of the better waterfront locations in the city. But Phan and Slanted Door both got their start in the Mission, which makes the opening of Chuck’s Takeaway, his dedicated sandwich shop, all the more fitting. The pocket-sized space is designed for takeout only, complete with warm wood shelving filled with pantry products (courtesy of Phan’s own line, Wo Hing General Store), cookbooks, and local ceramics. As for the sandwiches, there are six options available, all served on house-made bread. In fact, everything is made in-house, including the pate for Vietnamese-style banh mi, the pickles which are served on the side, and the mayonnaise. In addition to banh mi, find egg salad on milk bread and a classic Meatball Sandwich doused in tomato sauce.
How to enjoy: Order online for takeout.
Birch & Rye
A modern Russian kitchen, Birch & Rye is a true newcomer to San Francisco’s food scene, showcasing wide-reaching historic and geographic interpretations of Russian cuisine through a California lens, courtesy of chef-owner Anya El-Wattar. The bright, airy Noe Valley space is replete with welcoming wood tones, neutral shades and, appropriately, birch trees. Some dishes may appear familiar to lovers of Eastern European fare, but Birch & Rye’s iterations of Borscht, Pelmeni, and Stroganoff have a decidedly modern, California-influenced vibe. Other hits on the changing menu may include Smoked Sturgeon, Black Cod with Salmon Roe, and Wagyu beef served with roasted cabbage. Naturally, the caviar service is well worth exploring, and pairs wonderfully with vodka, a selection of cocktails, and a wine list showcasing Californian, French, and Georgian varietals.
How to book: Make reservations via Tock.
San Ho Won
Few new restaurants have been as hotly anticipated as San Ho Won, chef Corey Lee’s homage to the Korean comfort food of his childhood. While decidedly more homestyle than Lee’s venerated Benu, expect plenty of fine dining finesse. The sleek, striking space, dominated by earthy wood tones, has plenty of comfortable booths to pack a crew in for a barbecue-centric feast, plus bar top seating for a more intimate option. The menu includes everything from specialty banchan to soups and stews and, of course, an ample selection of barbecue with cuts including classic galbi, beef tongue, and a whole-marinated Cornish hen. Don’t skip Lee’s takes on traditional Korean dishes, including a blood sausage-topped Korean Pancake, Chicken and Ginseng Jook with Abalone, and Kimchi Jigae prepared pozole-style with hominy and avocado. Or skip making hard choices and go for the family-style house menu for the table.
How to book: Reservations can be made via Tock.
Daisy Barringer is an SF-based writer who has been eating her way through the City since she moved here when she was six. Follow her on Instagram @daisysf.