Would You Eat This 3-Pound Chicken Nugget?
Nominated for best new restaurant this year by the James Beard Foundation, Liholiho Yacht Club has been making waves ever since it opened, and consistently wows diners with its Hawaiian-influenced menu. Take on the Ohana Table to access their 10- to 12-course tasting menu, with dishes like duck liver toast with pickled pineapple, and fried oysters with beef carpaccio. As Stitch told us, "ohana" means family, and you'll definitely need them to tackle Liholiho's large portion sizes for this family-style meal. It'll run you about $55 per person, and you’ll need eight people minimum to get a reservation, with a max of 12. There’s only two seatings per night, so keep your Liholiho radar up. Also, if the poke or game hen isn’t part of your tasting menu, request that you add it. Trust us, you need these things.
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Taking home the title of Bon Appetit's best new restaurant in 2015, this laid-back, one-Michelin-star Mission eatery offers one of the most affordable tasting menus in the city. Clocking in at $60 (with an optional $40 wine pairing), this seafood-and-vegetable-heavy restaurant will get you pretty stuffed with its family-style tasting menu. Surprisingly, the French fries are on the list of dishes that you really shouldn't miss. Brined for four days and double-fried (once more right before coming to your table), and served with a smoked apple barbecue sauce, they're maybe worth a trip unto themselves. The food here can be deceptively simple -- a baby lettuce dish, for instance, served with crushed avocado and pistachio crumbles, may not sound like a lot, but it’s simple, clean, light, and delicious. And don't forget the drinks. They're tasty... and named after Reservoir Dogs characters, so that's an added bonus.
One of San Francisco's only Guamanian restaurants, Prubechu's tasting menu is unique on this list. Adding a modern twist to classic Chamorro dishes, you'll taste items like homemade, sous vide spam (yup) served with a fried egg, as well as shrimp ceviche and chicken ceviche (don’t worry, the chicken is lightly grilled and perfectly safe to eat -- it’s inspired by a Chamorro dish called kelaguen). You'll get five savory courses plus one dessert for $65. These folks bring lots of goodies from their native Guam, so make sure to check out their drink selection -- you'll find a lot of spirits on the list here that you'd be hard-pressed to find anywhere else in the city.
The Progress takes the choose-your-own-adventure route with its tasting menu. For $58 dollars, you choose four dishes among dozens of excellent options. But don't let your FOMO get the best of you -- other small, accompanying dishes will come out, and if you're really jonesing for a fifth (or sixth…) course, you can add more plates for 10 bucks a pop. The menu includes dishes like Spanish octopus, and boquerones, but it's also totally vegetarian-friendly -- there's a great dish involving beautiful spring potatoes and porcini, and another that pairs fresh ricotta with nectarines.
At Commonwealth's $80 six-course tasting selection (an additional $50 for the wine pairing), you can eat great food, and feel good about going out for a nice dinner, too. This spot donates part of its proceeds to a different local charity every two weeks. Right now, dinners are benefiting the Cooperative Food Empowerment Directive -- and a total of over $222,000 has been raised to help dozens of worthwhile causes. Among them are the San Francisco Food Bank; SF SPCA; and the St. Anthony Foundation, which helps to provide support, shelter, food, and clothing to the homeless. The food here is layered and complex, but approachable and largely familiar: the diver scallop dish, for instance, includes white miso, corn, tarragon, and fennel.
Known for its porcini doughnuts and sardine chips (which are worth the hype -- go ahead and order them if they happen to not be on your tasting menu), Rich Table's 12-course $89 chef-choice tasting menu includes dishes like foie gras torchon and Maine lobster. It's a good thing it's super-casual... you may be able to squeak by with wearing a much-needed elastic waistband. Reservations at Rich Table can be tough to come by, but there are about a dozen bar seats for walk-ins. If you're going that route, then get there early, and if you want to bring a bottle of something-something, the corkage fee will add another $30 to your bill, or you can pay the extra $50 for the wine pairing.
The Michelin-starred restaurant is small and cozy, with less than 30 seats, and you’ll usually find it littered with cuddly couples celebrating something special. Your only option here at Sons & Daughters is the seven-course tasting menu, at $115, with an additional $79 for the drink pairing. Spoiler alert: you'll get treated to some extra amuse bouche and bread courses along the way, including appetizer dishes before each main course. While $115 may be pushing the upper limits a bit, knowing that all of the ingredients on your plate are locally sourced in the Sons & Daughters Farm in Santa Cruz helps make the price tag a bit easier to swallow... plus the fact that the dishes are consistently remarkable and pair unusual flavors, like the rabbit with white peach and black garlic. Since seating is relatively limited, it's a good idea to keep an eye on reservations to snag a free table when they're available.
Lower Pacific Heights
If you're looking for dinner and a show, reserve a spot at SPQR's chef's counter. You'll sit right in front of the open kitchen, and watch the magic happen while you eat. It offers a five-course pasta tasting menu -- all served in miniature portions, for about $50. It's a great option if you just can't choose among all the excellent pastas that SPQR offers. The uni fettuccine, abalone pasta, and Meyer lemon pasta should be requested, if you don’t see them as part of your five (or just live a little and order them after the tasting menu’s over). And if you happen to arrive a little early for your reservation, take advantage of the excellent wine bar.
Sister restaurant to the Michelin-starred Aziza, the Financial District's Mourad offers a nine-course Moroccan tasting menu. At $120, with an optional $85 pairing, its tasting menu gives you a great sampling of the unique dishes offered a la carte. This place is on the pricier side, but Mourad has the market cornered when it comes to a Moroccan tasting, and it definitely delivers. The tasting menu will give you lots of strong flavors, opening with a harissa seafood course, moving onto a salmon and kumquat course with zhug (a Middle Eastern hot sauce), and hen egg with baharat (an earthy Middle Eastern spice blend). You may want to also try the cocktails, which are just as delicious as the food. Though it's on the larger side for a San Francisco restaurant, reservations are still encouraged, but this place is definitely more walk-in-friendly than others on the list.
Bar Tartine in the Mission District is heavy on local produce and local sourcing, putting in every effort that it can to make its ingredients in-house -- and that includes the cheeses, spices, and even koji (a fungus used to ferment soybeans for soy sauce and bean paste, among other tasty things). With all that manpower, the $78 tasting menu feels well worth it. The plates are well-composed, and dishes feel light and won't weigh you down, even after indulging in the dozen-course family-style feast. Because everything is locally sourced, much of the menu rotates and depends on seasonality and availability. Right now, you’ll find dishes like pork loin with peas and carrots, as well as fava bean croquettes with eggplant sauce and yogurt. While meat is usually the star at many restaurants, the vegetable-heavy dishes at Bar Tartine tend to steal the show.
Don't let the name fool you: Mr. Pollo serves up one hell of a tasting menu. It's one of the cheapest in the city, at just $30 for a four-course tasting menu. Everything is cooked by one chef, and his partner serves: it's intimate, no-frills, and delicious. The menu rotates regularly and is always chef’s choice, so it’s a bit of Russian roulette with what you’ll get. Recently, we experienced asparagus soup, and shrimp & bok choy with garlic-cilantro corn. The one mainstay most people rave about is the chicken arepa, which is consistently one of your four courses. With only about a dozen seats and three seatings a night, getting a reservation can be a little tricky. There's no website, or social media presence, just a phone number you text to reserve a seat.
A recent addition to the San Francisco dining scene, Oro offers risk-taking diners a fun option with its $75 blind tasting menu. Chef Jason Fox (also of Commonwealth) chooses five courses for you, including a shared plate for the table. If you want to splurge on something, go for the amazingly crispy pig ears or the squid. The wine pairing will tack on another $50, but is well worth it, given that wine director Kelly Evans (formerly of Saison) is behind the selection. Offering over 100 wines, Evans is on-hand to provide you and your dinner guests with a thorough education on what wines you’ll be drinking and why.
Rounding out the list is the Outer Richmond darling, Cassava. While brunch may be what most people go to Cassava for, its super-affordable $42 four-course tasting menu deserves more attention than it gets. You'll be treated to a salad course, two mains, and a dessert course… and since the wine pairing is just another $28, it's hard to say no. Cassava's menu has some Asian influences, giving diners dishes like an heirloom tomato salad with shiso, guac, crème fraîche, and brown rice. Just make sure you save room for dessert -- the panna cottas are exceptional. An added bonus: if you're feeling like you need to walk off your meal, the ocean is a short trek away… and so's a movie theater, if you just want to veg out.
1. Al's Place1499 Valencia St, San Francisco
2. Liholiho Yacht Club871 Sutter St, San Francisco
3. Prubechu2847 Mission St, San Francisco
4. The Progress1525 Fillmore St, San Francisco
5. Commonwealth2224 Mission St, San Francisco
6. Rich Table199 Gough St, San Francisco
7. Sons & Daughters780 Bush St, San Francisco
8. SPQR1911 Fillmore St, San Francisco
9. Mourad140 New Montgomery St, San Francisco
10. Bar Tartine561 Valencia St, San Francisco
11. Mr. Pollo2823 Mission St, San Francisco
12. Oro8 Mint Plz, San Francisco
13. Cassava3519 Balboa St, San Francisco
Aaron London proves that meat doesn't have to be the main event at his vegetarian- and pescatarian-centric restaurant in the Mission. Al's Place won a Michelin star a year after opening for its menu of truly inventive dishes, like cured trout with potato and smashed turnip and the best poached egg you'll probably ever eat. That the restaurant is reasonably priced -- most dishes hover below $20 -- is all the more reason it's garnered fans from all over San Francisco.
Liholiho Yacht Club is a pop-up restaurant that found a permanent home in Nob Hill...and isn't a yacht club by any means. The kitchen serves a mash-up of Hawaiian, Californian, and Southeast Asian flavors, led by dishes like poppy seed steamed buns with beef tongue, tuna poke on a nori cracker, and twice-cooked pork belly. Aside from an à la carte menu, there's a family-style tasting dinner that's served at the Ohana Table, a communal table in the front of the restaurant.
The unassuming Prubechu storefront -- still sporting the green awning from the smoothie bar that used to occupy the space -- serves up the traditional cuisine of Guam amidst a collection of nearby Mexican restaurants on Mission St. The main menu is largely composed of vegetarian dishes, usually cooked in coconut milk as they are in Guam. But try the four- or five-course tasting menu for a more comprehensive look at what the tiny Pacific island’s cuisine has to offer.
With lines out the door every night at State Bird Provisions, it’s no wonder the team launched a follow-up to the perennial hotspot spot. If State Bird is all about small plates, The Progress emphasizes communal eating. Snag a seat at the lazy Susan-equipped Balcony Table that perches above the restaurant and get ready for a six-course, family-style feast of classic Californian food.
At this buzzy, chef-driven in the Mission, you can eat great food and feel good about it, too. Every two weeks, the folks at Commonwealth donate a portion of their proceeds earned during Chef's Tastings and night dinner service to a local charity. Menu options incorporate elements of molecular gastronomic cuisine, Japanese ingredients, and local, seasonal vegetables.
Rich Table's reclaimed-wood decor belies its menu of eclectic American dishes, which range from rainbow trout and rabbit leg to hangar steak and cured hamachi. There's also an impressive wine list, a range of beers on tap and in bottles, and handcrafted cocktails.
This Michelin starred, petite neighborhood resto in Nob Hill offers a small but impressive array of California inspired cuisine from a trio of friends-- all under 30 -- who own and operate the restaurant. Great for date night, Sons & Daughters' cozy ambiance and refined fare are sure to impress. If you're looking to go all out, try the tasting menu. The seven-course feast, peppered with ome extra amuse bouche and bread courses along the way, including appetizer dishes before each main course, may be a bit steep, price-wise (it rings in at $115 per person), but knowing that all of the ingredients on your plate are locally sourced from Sons & Daughters' farm in Santa Cruz helps make the price tag a bit easier to swallow.
In the early days, SPQR was A16’s forgotten sibling, but then Matthew Accarrino arrived and conquered the creative Italian narrative with Caesar-like gusto. Now you get a Michelin-starred tour de force of pasta artistry that has ignited a storm of followers nationwide. Bucatini “straw and hay” graces your table, as do pasta species you’ve never encountered made with cacao nib or Meyer lemon. Get the chicken liver pâté and something with pig ear, or, if you’re feeling adventurous, go for the pasta tasting menu (that’s five courses of, you guessed it, pasta).
Mourad Lahlou is one of the best chefs in the country. The Iron Chef America alum opened the Michelin-starred Aziza in 2001 and in 2015, took a step up with Mourad, which now also boasts a Michelin star. This is fine Moroccan cuisine, cross-pollinated with the best of what California has to offer. The Moroccan family-style dining dishes (La’Acha), like a 72-hour braised short rib, are a memorable experience.
Bar Tartine sports a 15,000lb bread oven that churns out delicacies like a goat cheese melt alongside smoked potato salad, eggplant & white bean hummus. And, of course, the bar itself offers a selection of house-made cocktails, wine, and beer.
What was once Lil' Pollo's grown into a full service spot in The Mission. The now a real-deal, albeit still tiny and cash-only Columbian restaurant, serves a market-driven menu featuring different riffs on traditional Latin American street fare (gourmet arepas) in addition to rotating seasonal seafood and poultry options. At just $25 for a four-course tasting menu, Mr. Pollo offers one of the cheapest tasting menus in the city. Be forewarned, though: the restaurant doesn't have much in the way of a social media presence, so instead of trying to peruse the menu online before you go, just stop in and see what's cooking.
The sleek marble bar and industrial bi-level space at this Mint Plaza spot offers a cool space to entertain clients or out of town guests, or just grab after-work drinks and bites. Meanwhile the California-Mediterranean menu, with its drink-friendly snacks, sharable plates, and made-for-one tiny bites, allows diners to taste a wide variety -- which is good because you’ll likely want to order one of everything.
We're only gonna let you in on this little secret if you promise you won’t tell too many friends about this Outer Richmond all-day superstar; the tiny space already fills regularly to capacity. Run by an adorable husband and wife team, you could easily eat all three meals a day here -- a proper Japanese breakfast to start the day followed by a killer roasted veggie rice bowl with basil pesto for lunch (with egg!), then dinner of house smoked ocean trout and porchetta paired with Daiginjo sake -- every day and be beyond content. If you're looking for underrated brunch, head here, too, where the lines would be two hours long if you dropped this spot in the Mission.