The 8 Coolest (and Most Exclusive) Ways to Dine in SF

San Francisco

The 8 Coolest (and Most Exclusive) Ways to Dine in SF
The 8 Coolest (and Most Exclusive) Ways to Dine in SF

Hardy Wilson
Hardy Wilson

San Francisco is arguably the best food town in the country, which means pretty much every meal we eat is delicious and Instagram-worthy. Still, you know who else is eating and Instagramming those same meals? Everyone. Just getting a table at SF’s best restaurants is no longer “enough” (you know what we mean) because now there are even cooler, more exclusive ways to eat. Whether you’re ordering off of a secret menu via social media or sitting at a hidden chef’s table, these privileged dining experiences are totally over-the-top and only for those in the know. Which, as of now, includes you.

One Market’s hidden Chef’s table


You’ll feel a little bit like you’re in Goodfellas when you show up for your chef’s table dinner reservation at One Market, and you (and up to six of your friends) are immediately whisked through the bustling dining room and into the expansive kitchen where you’ll be seated in a cozy leather booth with views of the Ferry Building clock tower. The menu is always changing, but may include indulgent fare like a bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin or pan-seared foie gras with seaweed, shiitake mushrooms, and duck-dashi consommé. And each of the seven dishes is served by either Chef Mark Dommen or the cook who made it. The dinner lasts about three and a half hours and is broken up by a tour of the kitchen, wine cellar, and even includes a participatory course where you’ll help prepare a dish. If you want (our group was all too full of wine and food and in no mental place to help). The price is $89 per person Monday through Thursday and $99 per person Friday and Saturday. Wine pairings are additional, but you might as well splurge, right? Call the restaurant at 415-777-5577 to make reservations.

Roka Akor San Francisco

Roka Akor’s secret limited-edition menu

Jackson Square

Chef Mike Lim of Roka Akor has a gorgeous Instagram where he shares pics of his colorful sashimi platters and high quality fish deliveries flown in from Japan. What you didn’t know -- until NOW -- is that as of March 1st, you can get a super secret off-the-menu sushi-specific Omakase tasting unlike any other in SF. Here’s the thing though: there will only be five of these offered each night and it’s only available Mondays through Wednesdays. Want in? Reservations have to be made a week in advance and you've got a good chance of getting one if you leave a comment on Mike’s Instagram and an even better chance if you comment on the Roka Akor SF account, @rokaakor_sf.

Wes Rowe

Sous Beurre Kitchen’s chef’s counter


We’re huge fans of Sous Beurre Kitchen’s regular menu, but we’re even bigger fans of the five-course tasting menu which is only offered at the six-seat chef’s counter on Friday and Saturday evenings. There are two seatings (6:30pm and 8:30pm), and you have the option to do a beverage pairing (small production French wines and vermouth-based cocktails), which, of course you’re going to do. The menu changes based on seasonality and the whim of Chef Michael Mauschbaugh, but your meal may include dishes like a savory onion tart with sweetbreads and celeriac custard, or poached goose breast with foie gras, madeira, cassoulet beans, and perigord truffles. And yes, knowing that you’re one of the only people in the restaurant indulging in such delicacies does make them taste that much better. Price: $85 per person. Beverage pairing is an additional $30 per person. Call the restaurant at 415-874-9831 to make a reservation.


PABU’s secret whisky menu

Financial District

We’ve told you about the secret Japanese whisky cocktail menu at PABU before, but it bears repeating since there’s nothing more impressive than walking into a bar with friends, pointing to a random bottle behind the bar, and saying you’d like to order off of the piece of paper hidden inside.

La Mar

La Mar’s meson del chef


Do you like your exclusive dining experiences to come with Bay views? Then La Mar’s chef’s table -- Meson del Chef -- is definitely for you. The table seats up to 22 people, but don’t worry if you don’t have that many friends; you’ll just have to share it with strangers (who will be new friends by the end of the meal). There’s not usually a menu for this table, rather Chef Victoriano Lopez just sends out what he feels like... a Peruvian Omakase if you will. The best part? A lot of times, those dishes are things that have never been served before. All the better to Instagram! Call the restaurant at 415-397-8880 to make your reservation.


1760’s secret Champagne list

Nob Hill

You can order bubbles off of the regular wine list at 1760 or you can ask for the not-so-secret-anymore (oops!) reserve Champagne list only offered to those in the know. It’s probably one of the largest champagne menus in SF (behind Acquerello and RN74) and if you go on Mondays, you can get bottles for 20% off.

Cesar Rubio

Parallel 37 “kitchen table” experience

Nob Hill

Parallel 37’s chef's table is tucked away in an intimate corner of the restaurant where you’ll get views of the dining room and a special tasting menu of globally inspired California cuisine created just for you by Chef Michael Rotondo. That’s pretty baller already (six courses runs $135 and eight courses is $165), but if you really want to throw down, you’ll opt for the Kitchen Table Experience ($250) where you start your night hanging in the kitchen sipping on cocktails and munching on canapés with the chef before dining on an eight-course tasting menu, complete with beverage pairings. Make a reservation by calling 415-773-6199.


Octavia’s over-the-top Chef’s table

Lower Pac Heights

You’re going to need at least $1200 for this one, but considering Octavia’s chef’s table seats up to 12 people, it’s really kind of a steal. Plus, this is truly a one-of-a-kind experience as you’ll be seated smack dab in the middle of Octavia’s working kitchen and feast on a multi-course “Chef’s Choice” menu. Wine pairings are separate, but you’d figured that out already. For more information, email

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Daisy Barringer is writer happily eating her way through SF. Follow her on Twitter @daisy.

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1. Roka Akor 801 Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA 94133 (Jackson Square)

Grab a seat in the bi-level space and watch chef Roman Petry in the open kitchen, where he works with a selection of sushi and steaks that are equally impressive. Seafood, delivered straight from Japan daily, is expertly plated in dishes like spot prawn nigiri topped with uni and caviar or a flight of Bluefin tuna, where you can taste the subtle differences between Hon Maguro, Chu Toro, and O Toro. Steaks are served with a variety of indulgent sauces and sides, including tableside shaved truffles. For a simpler taste of the menu, head to the downstairs lounge, where you can grab small plates (Salmon Avocado Roll, truffle fries) and dive into the wide shochu selection.

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2. One Market Restaurant 1 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94105 (Embarcadero)

Did you know that the $2 bill, which was discontinued from 1966-1976, is currently the least produced US bank note, accounting for just under 1% of all new billsproduced? Did you also know that if you have one of those (or, um, two $1 bills), and you order a main course at One Market, you can exchange it for a martini?? And that if you have another one of those (or, um, two more $1 bills), you can exchange those for a second martini???

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3. Sous Beurre Kitchen 2862 24th St., San Francisco, CA 94110 (Mission Bay)

The fact that “Sous Beurre” means “in butter” should be enough to convince you to check this place out. But in case you need more, the chef is *doing Provencal French cuisine starring seasonal local ingredients, like steak tartare, a bavette steak au poivre, and an $85 tasting menu that will change, but currently includes dishes like Mendocino uni and Bone marrow French onion soup.

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4. PABU 101 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111 (Financial District)

When you think of Japanese whisky bars, you think of Nihon Whisky Lounge. But Pabu is a solid surprising contender: they have a secret Japanese cocktail menu, plus traditional Japanese whisky service. Each of the 14 Japanese whiskies offered are served with a complimentary food item that's blowtorched in front of you, meant to bring out the complex flavors of the drink.

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5. La Mar Cebicheria Peruana Pier 1.5 (at Washington St), San Francisco, 94105 (Embarcadero)

La Mar's a 200+ seat Peruvian seafood shrine helmed by Le Cordon Bleu-trained Acurio, who for a dozen years has run one of Lima's premier fine dining establishments (Astrid & Gaston -- easier to pronounce, harder to get to on MUNI).

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6. 1760 1760 Polk St, San Francisco, CA 94109 (Polk)

A still-fancy-but-way-more-approachable-than-its-sister-spot eatery with pasta from the expert pasta-maker at Michelin-starred Acquerello, 1760 is a Polk fusion-ery (Italian/Japenese/Mediterranean/Spanish) plating the likes of a fried duck sandwich with slaw, pickles, and spicy aioli.

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7. Parallel 37 600 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 94108 (Nob Hill)

A restaurant inside the Ritz-Carlton is exactly as enticing as it sounds. Chef Michael Rotondo’s Parallel 37 puts a more casual spin on fine dining, and is Zagat-rated for having “one of the best tasting menus." The restaurant's focus is on “hyper-seasonal ingredients” found only in the Bay Area, so be sure to splurge on a tasting menu with a wine pairing, and marvel at the beautiful plating for each course.

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8. Octavia 1701 Octavia St, San Francisco, CA 94109

Much like The Empire Strikes Back only made you appreciate “Star Wars” that much more, Octavia, the sister restaurant to Frances, will make you appreciate Chef Melissa Perello the most. The concept is similar: refined home cooking. In this case, home cooking just means simple, without any fancy tricks, and utterly delicious. The menu changes every day, but look/plead for things like chilled squid ink pasta, Atlantic sea scallops with crispy prosciutto, and chili-doused deviled eggs.