How to Eat and Drink Your Way Through SF’s NoPa Neighborhood
Here’s where to go when you find yourself in the Divisadero Corridor or North of the Panhandle.
NoPa describes the Western Addition neighborhood that runs from Masonic to Divisadero west to east, and Turk to Fell north to south, but usually just refers to the stretch of bars, restaurants, and shops that dot both sides of Divisadero. There are a lot of reasons why it’s called NoPa (you can read all of them here), but the obvious fact is that NoPa stands for North of the Panhandle, even though the main drag is actually two blocks east of it.
The neighborhood is full of excellent bars, restaurants, and shops, all within a four-block stretch (plus one of SF’s best music venues and a gorgeous old movie theater-turned-old school arcade), and we especially appreciate the prevalence of parklets that popped up during the pandemic. Pre-2020, much of the area’s congregating was happening indoors out of sight, but now the sidewalks feel festive and alive, especially on the weekends, and that is all thanks to these bars and restaurants, a mix of casual and not-so-casual spots where you’ll find everything from fancy burgers to stiff drinks to omakase menus to Saturday night dance parties.
Automat, a restaurant and bakeshop from the Lazy Bear folks, is the one spot on this list that is not on the Divisadero Corridor proper, but the “from the Lazy Bear” folks part alone should give you all the info you need to convince you it’s worth the walk two blocks west to Baker Street (where you can also snag a donut from Bob’s on Baker Street until 9 pm, seven days a week). Automat is a casual coffee, pastries, sandwiches, beer, and wine spot during the day (8 am to 3:30 pm) that transforms into a slightly less casual dinner destination in the evenings, with grown-up dishes like a Grilled Pork Chop, Crispy Sourdough Pancake, and Seared Duck Breast, plus a menu for “big and little kids” with $4 crispy beef tacos, a $7 grilled cheese, and a $16 double smashburger ($21 with fries).
How to book: Walk-ins only during the day. Make dinner reservations but note that some tables are saved for walk-ins.
If you’re in the mood for fresh, vibrant seafood, head to Bar Crudo, a modern raw bar where you can procure platters of oysters and shellfish, creative crudo, seafood tacos with handmade heirloom corn tortillas, and one of the best seafood chowders in town. Go during the very popular happy hour (5 pm to 6:30 pm, Monday–Saturday) for $2 oysters and mussels, $7 glasses of wine, and $3 beers. Bar Crudo is almost always packed with diners, and it can get a little loud inside, so ask for a table upstairs if you prefer to be away from the noise or in the heated parklet.
Beretta was one of the hottest drinking and dining destinations when it opened in the Mission in 2008 and has evolved into a go-to for anyone craving creative cocktails and solid thin-crust pies at fairly affordable (for SF) prices. During the pandemic, the Back of the House restaurant group opened a pop-up location on Divis that we hope sticks around. It’s proven to be successful thus far—expect to wait for a table on the weekends despite ample seating indoors and out. Beretta used to be known for being a great late-night option; that’s not the case at the moment, but we’re hopeful the hours will get extended as things go back to normal.
How to book: Make reservations online.
One of the best parts of Southern food is the sides, and Brenda’s capitalizes on that by bringing the tradition of “a meat and three”—you choose a meat and three sides—to hungry SF diners. During supper, you can choose from meats like fried chicken, fried or blackened catfish, and barbecue spare ribs with sides like fried okra, glazed yams, fried green tomatoes, cheese grits, cornbread, mac and cheese… the list really goes on and on. Not much of a meat eater? Get yourself “four sides only.” We love Brenda’s for brunch and lunch as well. Lunch because where else in this town are you going to find a Fried Bologna Sandwich with pimento cheese on a toasted bun and brunch because Biscuits and Gravy. Best of all, the sweet and savory beignets are available whenever you go.
How to book: Reservations are highly recommended.
Che Fico (pronounced “kay-feeco”) translates literally to “What a fig” in Italian, but colloquially means “That’s so cool!” which is exactly what one thinks when they step inside of the industrial second-story space that was once home to an auto body shop and is now full of colorful, Echer-like tiles and wallpaper, vaulted exposed-beam ceilings, rich woods, and red leather banquettes. The space is impressive and timeless, which is an important part of the experience, but it’s the food that really takes this self-proclaimed “Italian Taverna” to the next level. Think: rustic Italian meets Northern California, which means handmade pastas and pizzas, plus dishes from the Jewish-Italian heritage known as “Cucina Ebraica,” all denoted on the menu with a Star of David.
Downstairs from the bustling and cavernous Che Fico is its sister restaurant, a smaller, moodier (read: darker), and much more intimate affair where you’ll find classic Italian pastas, like Cacio e Pepe and Pappardelle al Ragu, a couple of pizzas (the pineapple with calabrian chili and red onion is a must-order), as well as an impressive selection of Italian wines. Alimentari is Italian for “grocer,” so it only makes sense that you can also buy high-end pantry items, like olive oil, cans of tomato, and of course wine.
How to book: Shop online or walk in to purchase pantry items.
Every neighborhood needs an intimate yet low-key wine bar that works as a date spot, casual hangout with friends, or solo destination when getting out of the house and relaxing with a glass of wine and a good book is suddenly of the utmost importance. Fool’s Errand is all of these things and more. The more comes in the form of the ten beer taps (plus more in bottles, including sours and ciders) and the small menu of snacks (preserved sardines, tuna belly, mackerel fillets and more served with Acme bread, a barley salad, and a cheese and charcuterie plate). The seating consists mostly of high-tops with stools, making it less “datey” and therefore more welcoming to all, but when the sunshine makes a cameo, we prefer the parklet for prime wine-drinking and people-watching entertainment.
How to order: Walk-ins only.
If you’re going to own and run a meat-centric restaurant in SF, you’d better do so as ethically as possible, which is exactly what chef Ryan Farr, who specializes in whole animal butchery, does at this counter-service burger and barbecue joint that’s home to one of SF’s last historic wood-fired barbecue pits. Go on a sunny afternoon to maximize your enjoyment of sitting at an outdoor picnic table (there are a few seats indoors, but the heated patio is where it’s at), sipping a cold beer, and feasting on meat, meat, and more meat. Our go-tos include the ribs, pulled pork, and the burger which comes with gruyere and a Thousand Island-inspired secret sauce on a buttery, griddled bun.
How to order: Walk-ins only for dine in. Order takeout or delivery online.
This casual cocktail bar has become a neighborhood go-to for people looking for legit cocktails made with fresh ingredients and elevated bar food like Gochujang crispy wings, pulled pork tacos, double cheeseburger, poke bowl). Our favorite spot to sit is under the hanging plants in the glass-ceiling atrium (especially if we’re there before the sun goes down), but a table inside the narrow, dimly-lit dining room is perfect for a third date, and the parklet is ideal for people watching on the weekends when Divisadero comes alive.
This tiny, 12-seat sushi bar is set up so that every four guests get a personal chef to guide them through the ever-evolving 14-course $195 omakase experience. (Ju-ni means “twelve” in Japanese.) Almost all of the fish comes from the world-famous Toyosu Fish Market in Japan and is transformed by talented chefs into creative, unique, and exceptional dishes. As soon as you experience the first bite, you’ll understand why the restaurant has been awarded a Michelin star. Ju-Ni also has a heated outdoor parklet now, but the experience is the same, with one chef catering to four diners at a time.
How to book: Reservations can be made via Tock.
Madrone Art Bar
If you want to dance on Divis, this is the spot. You’ll find something different every night of the week (that includes the crowd). Go on Mondays for Motown; Saturdays for Prince vs. Michael Jackson, indie, ‘80s, disco, and more; and Tuesdays for “Phat Tuesdays” with soul, jazz, and funk. You’ll always find tons of cool art on display and great happy hour deals.
How to order: Walk-ins only.
There was a time, not so long ago, when you couldn’t read anything about SF’s food scene without coming across outrage about how $4 toast was suddenly everywhere you looked. The Mill is one of the coffee shops responsible for that trend, although today $4 will get you a Four Barrel drip coffee, but not even the least expensive toast on the menu—Cinnamon Sugar on Josey Baker country bread—which now goes for $5. Avocado toast, now less discussed but still often ordered, is $8. Show up on Monday evenings for the weekly pizza party where there are just two options on the menu—cheese and a surprise vegetarian option—available by the slice or pie.
How to order: Walk-ins only.
Snagging a last-minute reservation at this upscale, ingredient-driven eatery is almost as difficult as it was when it first opened in 2006, but the bar and communal table (both first-come, first-served) can sometimes be the best spots in the restaurant to dine, so don’t let that deter you from popping in for a first-rate cocktail and one of SF’s best burgers. (Inflation has caused it to double in price from $12 in 2006 to $24 today, but it’s still worth every penny.) If you’re smart enough to plan ahead and reserve a table, see if you can get one in the mezzanine overlooking the kitchen, where you can watch the team work their magic over dishes like Moroccan Spiced Fried Chicken and Wood-Baked Lasagna with nine-hour bolognese.
Sunset Squares was the result of a pandemic-era sourdough experiment by SF chef Dennis Lee (Namu Gaji and Namu Stonepot) that evolved into Detroit-style-inspired pizza (now dubbed “inauthentic Detroit-ish”). Originally only available via Instagram orders, you can now enjoy it at SSP Beer Hall in the Mission, to-go in Mid-Market, and at this shop which offers round and square pies by the slice as well as the entire pie. You’ll find the usual suspects, as well as a few creative options, like a Meat Lovers with bulgogi beef and a Clam Chowder Sicilian pie.
How to book: Order online for takeout.
This casual, counter-service Mediterranean restaurant is a must when a shawarma or falafel craving hits. Our faves are the Mezze Platter, the Falafel Wrap (with extra tahini), and the Shawarma Fries. Add a glass of wine or a beer and baklava for dessert, and you have everything you need for an affordable and satisfying weekday meal.
How to order: Walk in or order online for takeout and delivery.