The Most Exciting Restaurants in San Francisco Right Now

From Korean comfort food to an aperitivo hotspot and more.

fiorella sunset pizza
Photo by Hardy Wilson, courtesy of Fiorella Sunset

Maybe it’s the fall vibes. Maybe it’s the rain. It’s definitely the vaccine rate. But San Francisco feels, cautiously, optimistically… back. It feels like we’re finding our groove in this new normal-ish world in which we find ourselves. While we hesitate to get too comfortable—if the last year and a half taught us anything, it’s how quickly things can change—but the ability to go out and be with our community safely feels all the more precious. Remember this time last year? How far we’ve come!

It’s a feeling that’s amplified by a wave of exciting new restaurants that have opened in the past few months, ones that showcase the care and creativity of our beloved restaurant industry in the face of all odds. San Francisco is currently allowing indoor dining, with proof of vaccination required for those eligible. We urge you to continue following COVID best practices and be kind to restaurant staff who have been through hell and back over the last year (and please, don’t forget to tip accordingly).

These 20 restaurants, all of which opened in 2021 (many in recent months!), continue to prove how essential this industry is to our city, and how joyful it can be. Do yourself a favor and start booking those reservations ASAP.

San Ho Won
Photo by Eric Wolfinger, courtesy of San Ho Won

San Ho Won

Mission

The gist: 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 and rich blue hues, has plenty of roomy, comfortable booths to pack a crew in for a barbecue-centric feast. (There are no tabletop grills; the grilling takes place on a stove burning custom-created charcoal.)
The food: 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.
The cost: A la carte dishes are $14-$38, banchan and sides are $3-$8, and large format dishes are $32-$46. The house menu is $95 per person.
How to book: Reservations via Tock.

Hilda and Jesse
Photo by Timofei Osipenko, courtesy of Hilda and Jesse

Hilda and Jesse

North Beach

The gist: The beloved Brunch for Dinner pop-up has finally opened in its permanent home in North Beach in the form of Hilda and Jesse. Chef Kristina Liedags Compton, along with co-owner Rachel Sillcocks, have created a bright, exuberant destination for lengthy brunches (and, of course breakfast for dinner on Monday evenings), complete with striking murals and portraits of the duo’s grandparents alongside checkered floors and vintage, red vinyl swivel seats in a sweet nod to ‘50s-style diners.
The food: Classic comfort meets refined finesse with dishes like cured McFarland Springs trout, dry-aged ribeye and eggs, hash browns with fermented green garlic gribiche (and an optional caviar add-on), and Compton’s wildly popular “Pancakes Without Boundaries,” a double stack of souffled pancakes topped with grilled fruit and, if you’d like, white truffle.
The cost: Dishes are $10-$25 (without add-ons), or opt for a three-course brunch tasting menu for $45.
How to book: Reservations online.

Available for Reservations
Chezchez
Photo courtesy of Chezchez

Chezchez

Mission

The gist: The newest project from San Francisco bar stars Bon Vivants Hospitality, Chezchez is a glorious celebration of aperitivo culture housed in the former Bon Voyage! space. The two-level, indoor-outdoor space maintains a few decorative nods to the bar’s tropical past, but leans bright and light, evoking early evening hours in France, Italy, and Spain.
The food: Drink-friendly small plates are the name of the game, with seasonal fritto misto, a Brussels sprouts Caesar, and dangerously craveable crispy potatoes that go just as well with a sherry-forward Coastal Martini or a glass of stellar natural wine, and a selection of cheese, charcuterie, and tinned fish. Get tins and baguette sandwiches for grab-and-go Saturday lunch, available to eat on the terrace or an easy walk to Dolores Park.
The cost: Dishes range from $9 for seasonal appetizers to $39 for imported tinned octopus with accompaniments.
How to book: Reservations via the website.

Le Fantastique
Photo by Kelly Puleio Photography, courtesy of Le Fantastique

Le Fantastique

Hayes Valley

The gist: Our wine bar dreams have come true in the form of Le Fantastique, where sustainable French wine, raw seafood, and records are the stars of the show. Courtesy of chefs Robbie Wilson and Emily Perry Wilson, of Palo Alto’s acclaimed Bird Dog, Le Fantastique was designed to complement the couple’s idea of a perfect night out. The high touch (but lowkey) space has been designed for optimal acoustics, with a custom-built Macintosh sound system built around a 1970s turntable in a golden, glowing space, centered around a curving sushi bar emblazoned with a distinctive, street art-inspired mural.
The food: Creative raw fish offerings showcase French-inspired flavors and Japanese techniques—mini eclairs are topped with caviar, fresh sourdough shokupan is served with house-cultured butter (and must-add supplements include local seaweed or spicy crab fat), and seafood can be sampled raw, smoked, or grilled. Large plates include chicken breast poached in creme fraiche, and a Wagyu ribeye.
The cost: Sushi is $9-$14, starters are $15-$22, mains are $28-$78.
How to book: Reservations via Tock.

The Vault Steakhouse
Photo by Hardy Wilson, courtesy of The Vault Steakhouse

The Vault Steakhouse

Financial District

The gist: Fewer pandemic pivots were as splashy and successful as Hi Neighbor Hospitality Group’s The Vault Garden. Now, the team has seized the opportunity to reopen their stunning indoor space at 555 California as a classic yet modern steakhouse, perfect for special occasion outings, date nights, and satisfying the most carnivorous of tendencies. Housed in a literal former bank vault, the space taps into comfort and decadence with sleek black surfaces, leather banquettes, velvet details, a slatted wood ceiling, and repurposed safe deposit boxes behind the bar.
The food: Decadent comfort reigns supreme at this new school steakhouse, with starters such as pigs in a blanket featuring house-made sausage and fancy tater tots topped with caviar, an on-point Caesar salad prepared tableside, and a raw bar that’s basically begging to be paired with a martini. Of course, steak is the main event, with five cuts of Black Angus steak from Kansas, along with a whole lobster and truffle-stuffed chicken.
The cost: Starters and salads are $14-$27, steaks are $39-$120 for a tomahawk for two.
How to book: Reservations online.

Available for Reservations
Chisai Sushi Club
Photo by Darren Samuelson, courtesy of Chisai Sushi Club

Chisai Sushi Club

Bernal Heights

The gist: Few neighborhood restaurants were as universally loved as ICHI Sushi, which closed permanently in June 2020. Fortunately, local sushi star chef Eric Aplin has taken over the pocket-sized space and reopened it as a new destination for approachable, thoughtful omakase. Chef Aplin, who, in addition to spending time behind the sushi bar at ICHI, has worked at lauded establishments including Akiko’s and Robin as opening chef de cuisine, and is bringing a playful, American-Japanese aesthetic to the menu.
The food: Currently, there are three omakase options available, one of which is entirely vegetarian. Dishes include traditional preparations alongside a Dungeness Crab Louie made with little gems and topped with miso-cured egg yolk, a BLTA hand roll, and an udon uni carbonara.
The cost: Omnivorous omakase menus are 13 courses for $80 or 17 courses for $110. The 12-course vegetarian tasting menu is $65.
How to book: Reservations online.

Available for Reservations
Queens
Photo courtesy of Queens

Queens

Inner Sunset

The gist: This sweet little Korean superette in the Sunset quickly gained a citywide following for house-made gochujang, a stellar selection of Korean snacks and natural wine, and seasonal banchan and kimbap, available to go. Now Queens has a new menu of well-executed Korean fare to enjoy at a few tables in their sunny backroom (or to take home), with a glass of wine, of course.
The food: The menu is anchored by classic, shareable dishes like rice cakes with fish cakes and boiled egg in a sweet, spicy sauce; garlic, chive-rich seafood pancakes; and tender, boiled pork served with kimchi. Keep an eye out for specials like omurice, and definitely sample their off-menu (but always available) gil geori toast.
The cost: Small plates are $8-$9, larger dishes are $13-$27.
How to book: Online ordering available on Clover.

Penny Roma
Photo by William Rittenhouse, courtesy of Penny Roma

Penny Roma

Mission

The gist: The newest restaurant from Flour+Water Hospitality Group, Penny Roma has taken over the former Central Kitchen space (in the same complex as the Flour+Water Pasta Shop), making use of the industrial-yet-warm interior and stunning, covered outdoor patio. Penny Roma has a slightly more casual approach than its predecessor, prioritizing classic dishes from all over Italy and a cozy, neighborhood vibe. The Pasta Shop also has a new enoteca menu, with small bites meant to pair with their excellent wine selection (it's also a great warm up to a meal at Penny Roma).
The food: Fresh pasta, made daily in the Pasta Shop, is the star of the show here, with classic preparations like cacio e pepe and a soul-warming bolognese alongside seasonal fare, like a roast squash tortellini. Round out your meal with raw seafood starters, seasonal antipasti and sides, and mains including house-made pork sausage with lentils and a bone-in beef ribeye.
The cost: Starters and sides are $8-$15, pastas are $18-$25, and mains are $29 and up.
How to book: Reservations online.

Available for Reservations
Fiorella Sunset
Photo by Hardy Wilson, courtesy of Fiorella Sunset

Fiorella Sunset

Inner Sunset

IThe gist: Beloved neighborhood pizza and pasta joint Fiorella has finally opened their long-awaited Inner Sunset location, in the former Park Chow space. The two-level, indoor-outdoor restaurant is an immediate destination, thanks in no small part to the magical, string light and plant-bedecked rooftop space (the cozy interior features Fiorella’s signature wallpaper that honors Bay Area notables including Alice Waters and E-40).
The food: Similar to other Fiorella locations, top-notch wood fired pizza, fresh pasta, and antipasti, with a few new items including king salmon crudo, squid ink pasta topped with octopus ragu, a pitch-perfect, East Coast-style clam pie, and an excellent cocktail list.
The cost: Starters are $10-$17, pizzas and pastas are $16-$22.
How to book: Reservations via the website.

Estiatorio Ornos A Michael Mina Restaurant
Photo courtesy of MINA Group

The gist: 252 California Street has had an illustrious history in San Francisco’s restaurant lore—the former home of Chef Michael Mina’s Aqua, and later, his eponymous flagship restaurant, the space has now been transformed into Estiatorio Ornos, a Michael Mina Restaurant that serves as an homage to the flavors and feelings of the Greek Isles. The space, meant to evoke sun-drenched Ornos Beach, features a palate of blue and white accented with Mediterranean hues.
The food: The menu is meant to be shared, and is all about bright, fresh seafood preparations, with fish sourced both locally and from the Aegean Sea courtesy of the restaurant’s (and San Francisco’s first) “Fish Sommelier.” Fish is available in a wide variety of preparations, from grape-leaf-wrapped to salt-crusted to simply grilled with olive oil and lemon. Classic Greek flavors can be found in starters like tzatziki and saganaki, plus mains like grilled lamb chops and filet mignon souvlaki.
The cost: Starters, salads, and sides are $9-$27, mains are $34-$62. A four-course tasting menu is available for $115 per person. Happy hour dishes range from $2 oysters to a $14 trio of spreads.
How to book: Reservations via SevenRooms.

Abacá

Fisherman’s Wharf

The gist: Chef Francis Ang was born in San Francisco, but spent much of his early years in the Philippines. While earning accolades in fine dining kitchens, including Gary Danko and Fifth Floor, Ang became increasingly committed to exploring his culinary heritage, culminating in an award-winning pop-up, Pinoy Heritage, in partnership with his wife, Dian. Abacá, which opened in the Kimpton Alton Hotel in August, is the sister restaurant to that pop-up, showcasing an elevated, playful menu of Filipino-California cuisine and cocktails in a sleek, plant-filled space.
The food: Feast on a wide array of shareable small plates, including a selection of barbecue skewers featuring house-made longganisa pork sausage and seasonal vegetables, scallop pancit centered around handmade noodles and seasoned with bagoong-laced XO sauce, and lumpias served with apple ketchup and fermented mango. Craving something more substantial? Don’t skip the dry-aged rib eye, prepared bistek-style and topped with crispy alliums. Breakfast is first-come, first-served and includes a Filipino breakfast with pineapple-cured pork belly and garlic rice alongside eggs, and a seafood and shellfish rice porridge.
The cost: Prices range from $7 summer vegetable skewers to the $42 ribeye. Breakfast dishes are $10-$21.
How to book: Reservations online.

Available for Reservations

Chinatown
The gist: This long-awaited high-end Cantonese destination opened in June after a number of pandemic-related delays in the former Empress of China space. The historic Chinatown banquet hall, known for ornate interiors and striking city views, was built in the 1960s and closed in 2014. This iteration, helmed by Malaysian-born, Michelin-starred chef Ho Chee Boon (formerly the international executive chef of Hakkasan) has preserved much of the original’s special occasion-worthy vibes spread across multiple distinctive spaces—intricate lattice work and a striking wooden pergola have been restored alongside modern touches, including brightly-hued leather booths, sleek tilework, and a marble-topped, horseshoe-shaped bar.
The food: Empress by Boon is currently offering a prix-fixe menu only, with dishes including a crispy truffle rice puff, jasmine-smoked short ribs, steamed rockfish with red chile, and a Brazilian rock lobster and mushroom stir fry. Look out for a la carte options in the future.
The cost: The prix fixe menu starts at $78 per person.
How to book: Reservations online.

Available for Reservations

Luna

Mission

The gist: This Valencia Street space has sat empty since 2015, when longtime neighborhood staple Luna Park closed up shop. Now reborn as Luna, the modern American brasserie aims to be an all-day destination for the Mission, with a menu of comfort food classics, cocktails, and a simple, warm-yet-modern space featuring wood paneling, a communal table, and eye-popping wallpaper.
The food: Creative, approachable fare from a Wayfare Tavern-alum is the name of the game here, with a menu anchored by mains like steak frites, butternut squash risotto, and naturally, a chuck and short rib burger on a brioche bun. Expect a touch of whimsical decadence, with starters like buttermilk-fried burrata topped with a sunny egg, and oysters “Hellafeller,” loaded with creamed kale, corn, pickled mushrooms, and herbed cornbread crumbs. Brunch takes a similarly hearty ethos, with French toast and benedicts alongside fried chicken and savory waffles topped with black truffle syrup, plus a serious menu of brunch-friendly drinks (including slushies, spritzes, and bottomless mimosas).
The cost: Starters are $12 to $16, and mains are $21 to $34. Brunch starters are $12 to $16, and mains are $15 to $24.
How to book: Reservations online.

Available for Reservations
Otra
@tasteofsoph

Otra

Lower Haight

The gist: Husband-and-wife team Nick Cobarruvias and Anna Sager Cobarruvias opened this follow-up to their acclaimed Mission restaurant, Son’s Addition, in May. Chef Nick, who did stints at Jardiniere and Marlowe, is channeling the comfort foods of his childhood in the form of thoughtfully sourced, carefully executed Mexican dishes and a tequila- and mezcal-centric drinks menu. The simple space is sparse yet lively thanks to family photos on the wall, a tropical mural, and festive, blue papel picado adorning the ceiling.
The food: House-made masa is the star of the show here, which Chef Nick nixtamalizes in-house for freshly made tortillas, tostadas, and more. Sample it in the form of tacos loaded with slow-cooked beef and laced with guajillo chile or roasted sweet potato; a huarache topped with avocado and maitake mushrooms; or starters including fresh salsas and aguachile. Larger dishes include hamachi collar topped with tomatillo salsa and a pork tenderloin served with a pecan-based mole. Don’t skip the charred cabbage, seasoned with chile de arbol, pecan dukkah, and smoked bone marrow.
The cost: Starters are $7-$16, tacos and tostadas are $11-$12 and mains are $18-$26
How to order: Takeout via Toast.

Sunset Squares

Various locations

The gist: Chef Dennis Lee and his daughters began experimenting with making pizza in their Outer Sunset home in the early days of shelter-in-place. Their sourdough, “Detroit-ish”-style pizzas quickly took off on Instagram, leading to a rabid following throughout the city. Now Lee, already a fixture in San Francisco food thanks to his beloved Namu restaurants, has made his entry in the pizza game permanent with an expansive restaurant, beer hall, and NFT gallery off Market Street, and a late-night slice shop on Divisadero in the former home of Namu Stonepot.
The food: SSP Beer & NFT Gallery features Lee’s delicious versions of square-shaped, crispy edged Detroit-style pizza, with toppings ranging from classic cheese and pepperoni to bulgogi and bonito flakes, not to mention the mind-blowingly good mapo tofu pie, plus round, “New England”-style pies. Also on offer: chicken wings, and a separate menu of Filipino fare called Uncle Tito’s (with pork sisig and lechon porchetta sandwich, among other things), and a selection of Namu Stonepot favorites, including Korean-style street dogs, bibimbap, and okonomiyaki. The slice shop focuses on pizza, available by the pie or by the slice.
The cost: Whole pizzas are $22 to $37, slices are $5.50-$6.50. Namu fare is $9-$12.75, and Uncle Tito’s is $8-$36.
How to book: Reservations online. Takeout and delivery via UberEats and other apps.

Available for Delivery/Takeout
Available for Reservations
The Red Window
Photo by Marc Fiorito, courtesy of Red Window

The Red Window

North Beach

The gist: Holding court on Columbus, just off Washington Square Park, Red Window, the latest project from mixologist Elmer Mejicanos (Tony’s) and chef Adam Rosenblum (Causwells) is a bustling ode to Spanish tapas and Basque pintxos culture, complete with a menu of low-ABV cocktails.
The food: Pintxos, available by the piece, mix classics like ham and cheese croquettes and gilda (anchovy, pickled pepper, and olive) skewers, with playful twists on tradition (see: a chicken and chorizo-laced “paella popper”). Round out a meal with shareable tapas classics (tortilla espanola, patatas bravas) and larger-format stunners including a seafood-filled brothy rice dish and pork shank with white beans and broken herb sauce.
The cost: Pintxos are $3-$4, tapas are $6-$19, and mains are $29-$45.
How to book: Reservations via Tock.

Available for Delivery/Takeout
New Belgium Taproom & Restaurant
Photo by Taylor Humby, courtesy of New Belgium Brewing

The gist: Colorado-based New Belgium Brewing opened a massive new brewpub in Mission Bay, complete with ample outdoor seating and a view of Oracle Park. In addition to their well-known beers, try a rotating selection of locally-inspired small batch releases.
The food: Beer-friendly fare is the name of the game here, from chicken wings spiced with Calabrian chile and honey to globally-inspired tacos served on paratha. Don’t sleep on the cheese-stuffed Wagyu beef burger, or the San Francisco-inspired, bacon-wrapped Mission Dog, topped with beer onions and jalapeno slaw on a brioche bun.
The cost: Appetizers are $5-$13, tacos and tartines are $10-$14, and salads and sandwiches are $13-$18.
How to book: Reservations online.

Available for Reservations
La Cocina Municipal Marketplace
Boug Cali | Photo by Lorena Masso, courtesy of La Cocina

The gist: San Francisco-based nonprofit incubator La Cocina has long focused on supporting immigrant- and women-of-color-led food businesses. Now, their long-awaited food hall has opened, with six standout food offerings, and a bar called La Paloma. The newest addition: Fluid Coffee Cooperative Cafe, a coffee pop-up from trans activists JoJo Ty, Santana Tapia, and Shannon Amitin.
The food: Take yourself on a delicious world tour with Creole fare from Boug Cali, Salvadoran pupusas from Estrellita’s Snacks, halal North African classics from Kayma, standout Mexican fare from Los Cilantros and Mi Morena, and delicious Senegalese offerings from Teranga.
The cost: Prices range depending on the vendor, but snacks and sides start around $4, with full meals topping out at $16.
How to book: Walk on or order takeout and delivery online.

Available for Delivery/Takeout
The Tailor’s Son
Photo by Molly DeCoudreaux, courtesy of The Tailor’s Son

The Tailor’s Son

Pacific Heights

The gist: The latest opening from Back of the House Inc. restaurant group, The Tailor’s Son showcases comforting, Northern Italian fare alongside classic cocktails in the former Elite Cafe space.
The food: The menu leans heavy on the vegetables, with ample antipasti showcasing fall flavors, including chicory topped with anchovies and a boiled egg, grilled endive with pear, gorgonzola, and brown butter, and fritto misto. Other menu highlights include fresh pastas and a dedicated risotto section with four options on offer, including one made with squid ink and another with bone marrow.
The cost: Starters and snacks are $13-$16, pastas and risottos are $18-$24, and mains are $22-$56.
How to book: Reservations via the website.

Available for Reservations

Damnfine

Outer Sunset

The gist: Wood-fired pizza, wine, and coffee combine at this Outer Sunset spot, centered around a 5,000-pound wood-fired oven. In addition to leopard-spotted pizzas, find comforting antipasti, salads, and a nice selection of wine, beer, and cocktails.
The food: Three-day, cold-fermented dough forms the base for a selection of blistered wood-fired pizzas, with toppings ranging from simple cheese and pepperoni pies to more ambitious options like the Slow n’ Low, which comes topped with spicy tomato sauce, kale,
slow-braised pork shoulder, Calabrian chiles, and housemade pickled onions. Complement your pizzas with starters like meatballs and battered and fried green beans or a plate of fresh bucatini marinara.
The cost: Salads are $14, starters and pasta are $6-$14, and pizzas are $17-$24.
How to book: Order takeout via Toast.

Lauren Sloss is a San Francisco-based travel, food, and music writer who has done stints in Philadelphia, New York, London, Istanbul, and aboard a 32-foot sailboat. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.