Food & Drink

The 11 Best Value Michelin-Starred Restaurants in San Francisco

Published On 05/11/2015 Published On 05/11/2015

One of the best things about living in San Francisco is the fact that we have 21 restaurants with Michelin stars. One of the worst things? The fact that you can't afford to eat at... any of them. OR CAN YOU? We sat down and did the kind-of-hard math to figure it out and ended up with this list of 11 Michelin-starred restaurants that offer the best bang for your buck.

Ame Restaurant

ONE STAR

There are 15 single-star Michelin restaurants in San Francisco. Considering the average prices for entrees and the fact that some of them only have set prix fixe menus, here are the places with the best value:
 

Ame

SOMA
Located in the St. Regis Hotel, Ame is all about New American food using local ingredients. The good news for you is that the menu is a la carte, which means if you skip the appetizer (average price $17) and the sake, you can get in and out for under sixty bucks (including tip and tax). Your best bet is probably the Taste of Ame Sashimi Bar, which includes crudo, poke, Lissa’s (she’s one of the owners) Staff Meal, ceviche, and kaisen salad for $44.
Average entrée: $40
 

Aziza

Outer Richmond
Aziza’s reinventions of traditional Moroccan dishes are actually all incredibly affordable, so if you want to go crazy at a Michelin-starred restaurant, this is where you should do it. Starters range in price from $7 (olives) to $22 (duck confit basteeya), but you can get the couscous entrée for 19 bucks.
Average entrée: $26.50
 

Boulevard

Embarcadero
The key to eating “cheap” at Boulevard is to go there for lunch and to order the $10 soup of the day or the $13 roasted beet salad. Seriously though (okay, fine, we kind of were being serious), dinner entrees at Boulevard will set you back anywhere from $34 (for the local Petrale sole) to $48 (for the filet mignon). So skip that and instead go at lunchtime and order the $14.75 American Wagyu beef burger, which isn’t even on the dinner menu but definitely is delicious. Only bummer? It’s gonna cost you $6 to add fries and obviously you’re adding fries.
Average lunch entrée: $22.50
Average dinner entrée: $37.50
 

Campton Place

Union Square
The nine-course Degustation Menu in the main restaurant at Campton Place is $125. Skip that and grab a seat in the Bar & Bistro, where you can order an aged New York steak (with French fries and mixed greens) for $36 or a chicken club sandwich for $19. If you really want to try the Chef’s Tasting Menu though, go to the restaurant at lunch time where five courses are just $85.
Average entrée at the Bar & Bistro: $23.25

Flickr/toddmundt

Luce

SOMA
Chef de Cuisine Daniel Corey's tasting menu is $95 and dinner entrees are about $40, but lunch is very reasonable with a $17 burger and a $26 salmon dish that’s the most expensive thing on the menu during that time.
Average lunch entrée: $21
Average dinner entrée: $35
 

Michael Mina

Financial District
The Chef’s Tasting Menu is $165 per person and the four-course dinner menu is $95. Ignore that and instead grab a seat in the bar where the food is still pricey (salads start at $20), but not as pricey. Like, you can have the butter poached Maine lobster ($37) and a cocktail ($15) and only walk out $65 poorer (after tip and tax).
Average bar entrée: $40
 

SPQR

Lower Pacific Heights
Sure, SPQR seems expensive when you consider you’re paying around $27 for pasta, but ohmygod, the pasta. Worth every penny. Even if you literally have to smash open your piggy bank and pick them off of the ground.
Average pasta entrée: $26.50
Average second course: $46 (the $70 Waygu beef is to blame, since all of the other meat and fish dishes are $38)

Spruce

Spruce

Laurel Heights
Dinner in the dining room at Spruce is expensive. The cheapest entrée is $29 and that’s a roasted chicken and who orders chicken when they go out to dinner? But why would you even want to eat in the dining room anyway? Their famous $18 burger is only served in the bar and lounge so find a seat in there and order that. Or, go at lunchtime when the menu is decidedly more affordable. But the burger still isn't on the menu during the day unless you go for brunch on Sunday.
Average bar & lounge entrée: $17
Average dining room entrée: $38.50
 

State Bird Provisions

Western Addition
State Bird Provisions is legit affordable. The trick to dining at this spot is getting in. Once that happens, you can feast on appetizers ($3-12) and small shared plates ($9-20).

Acquerello

TWO STARS

Now that there's another star in the mix, it's time to say bye bye to a la carte options and hello to prix fixe tasting menus. San Francisco has four two-starred Michelin restaurants and though the meal we had at Atelier Crenn was, fittingly enough, pure poetry, there's no way to justify a $220 tasting menu as a good deal. Same thing with Quince and its $198 nine-course tasting menu and Coi and its $195 one. The fourth restaurant, though? A little more reasonable. Just barely.
 

Acquerello

Nob Hill
You're going to have to pay if you want to eat at this 25-year-old restaurant that serves both classic and contemporary Italian dishes. But if you want to pay a little less, leave the $185 seasonal tasting menu alone and do three courses for $95. Just know, that averages out to about $32 a course, meaning your best bet deal-wise, weirdly enough, is to actually go for four ($120; $30/course) or five ($140; $28/course).

Courtesy of Benu

THREE STARS

SF has exactly two three-starred Michelin restaurants. And they're both really expensive. The "cheaper" of the two?...
 

Benu

SOMA
Benu's Korean and Chinese-influenced food makes up some of the best bites you'll ever eat -- and the “shark fin soup” with Dungeness crab and Jinhua ham custard is one of those dishes you'll be dreaming about for years to come. Best of all, it's $228/person -- a full $170 cheaper than Saison for the same amount of Michelin-ness and 17 courses, which comes out to just $13.41 a course. What a steal!

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Daisy Barringer is Thrillist's SF Editor and the truffle course at Saison (which costs extra, of course) actually made her cry. It was that good. Follow her on Twitter @daisy to see what else makes her cry. Spoiler: it's mostly powder days, 49ers football, and Grey's Anatomy.

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1. Ame 689 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94105 (Soma)

Aside from being BFFs with Hootie, blowfish are also responsible for an extremely deadly neurotoxin that causes numbness of the lips, lightheadedness, and intoxication. So, of course, Ame in the St. Regis decided, "Hey, why not make a drink with this?" Seafood, in all its myriad forms of fins, is what's on the menu. Complemented by an extensive offering of limited edition sakes and a raw bar, Ame leaves your zen balanced.

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2. Aziza 5800 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94121 (The Richmond)

Michelin star food at only-kind-of-expensive prices. Aziza’s reinventions of traditional Moroccan dishes are actually all incredibly affordable, so if you want to go crazy at a Michelin-starred restaurant, this is where you should do it. Starters range in price from $7 (olives) to $22 (duck confit basteeya), but you can get the couscous entrée for 19 bucks.

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3. Boulevard 1 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94105 (Financial District)

Located within walking distance of the Embarcadero and the twinkling Bay Bridge lights, Boulevard is owned by Executive Chef Nancy Oakes and was a recipient of Zagat’s San Francisco Bay Area’s 'Most Popular Restaurant' award. Boulevard is upscale yet relaxed -- a perfect spot to take out-of-town relatives or host a celebration -- with a well-curated wine list and daily cheese selections. There are plenty of options for vegetarians, but the filet mignon and Kurobota pork chop are standouts.

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4. The Campton Place Restaurant, Bistro & Bar 340 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 94108 (Financial District)

The two Michelin star Campton Place, located in lower Nob Hill for more than two decades, has been reinvigorated with California-Indian cuisine under the helm of Chef Srijith Gopinathan. French classical cooking techniques, seasonal ingredients and flavors from South Asia are integrated into on several different prix fixe menus. Entrees such as Guinea hen with chestnut kitchdi and Mt. Lassen trout with edamame and grapefruit are fantastically presented. The separate Bar and Bistro has its own Cal-Indian menu that features curries and tandoori, as well as a handful of desserts.

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5. Luce 888 Howard St., San Francisco, CA 94103 (Soma)

Luce, located inside SOMA's InterContinental, is fine, fine dining. The Michelin-starred restaurant has all-day Ă  la carte dining, but the tasting menu, available with wine pairings, showcases the best of chef Daniel Corey's handiwork. It changes seasonally but know that there will be foie gras.

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6. Michael Mina 252 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111 (Financial District)

Renowned chef Michael Mina’s Michelin-starred namesake restaurant in the Financial District has an elegant, mirrored candlelit dining room befitting the artfully prepared cuisine. As you'd expect of a place that offers caviar service, this is not a budget bet, but when it comes to special occasions you could do much worse than the trios prix fixe menu, which features an ingredient in a progression of three variations, usually prepared with Japanese and French influences.

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7. SPQR 1911 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94115 (Pacific Heights)

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).

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8. Spruce 3650 Sacramento St, San Francisco, CA 94118 (Presidio Heights)

Not only did Spruce and Chef Mark Sullivan receive a Michelin Star, but WIne & Spirits Director Andrew Green’s wine program received the Grand Award from Wine Spectator — their highest honor. From a charcuterie plate unlike any other and House Made Wild Nettle Spaghetti to Liberty farms Duck Breast and Beignets rolled in vanilla sugar, Spruce is the type of place you come in to and want to Instagram every single dish. And if you aren't in the mood to throw down on a Michelin-level meal, their burger (available in the bar only) happens to be one of SF's best.

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9. State Bird Provisions 1529 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94115 (Fillmore)

State Bird Provisions opened in the Fillmore in 2013, won the James Beard Award for best new restaurant, earned a Michelin star, and has been one of city's hottest spots ever since. After you score a reservation, State Bird will likely be one of your most memorable meals ever thanks to the fact that creative Northern California small plates are served from dim sum carts. The atmosphere is fun, the food is affordable (plates range from $3 to $20), and the dining experience is anything but ordinary.

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10. Acquerello 1722 Sacramento St, San Francisco, CA 94109 (Russian Hill)

For more than two decades, Acquerello has been serving high-end Italian cuisine and wine in a converted Nob Hill chapel. Far from an old-school red sauce joint, the Michelin-starred restaurant is pure posh decadence. There are a few tasting menus available, either a three-course prix fixe or the truffle-heavy seasonal one, and both are well worth the splurge. Just make sure you save room for dessert.

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11. Benu 22 Hawthorne St, San Francisco, CA 94105 (Soma)

A meal at Benu is likely to be one of the best in your life. The SOMA restaurant, located in an alleyway across the street from a strip club, has won three Michelin stars for its Korean and Chinese-influenced tasting menu, which includes an infamous faux-shark fin soup with Dungeness crab and Jinhua ham custard. Trust us, Benu is the splurge-worthy dinner you've been dreaming of.

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