San Francisco has long been a food city, once having had the highest restaurant density in the country. The pandemic upended the industry, and combined with the rising costs of Bay Area living, many beloved restaurants closed or moved to cheaper neighboring cities. However, the SF food scene is still kicking – even optimistic – and new restaurants are opening all the time.

With no shortage of SF classics like seasonal, sweet Dungeness crab and flaky morning buns, the local food landscape has welcomed new Bay Area classics like Singaporean food pop-ups, coffee from even more parts of the world and the emergence of third-culture cooking, which combines food elements of a chef’s upbringing. Look increasingly to residential neighborhoods for some of the best local bites in the city.

Here's our guide to San Francisco's best dining, meal by meal

L: Sourdough sandwich; R: Sourdough pancakes from Rosalind Bakery
Slow-smoked brisket and pickles on sesame rye bread and Sourdough pancakes at Rosalind Bakery © Rosalind Bakery

Breakfast

Chinese-Filipino restaurant Super Star in the southeast residential Excelsior neighborhood serves up giant, cheap silogs (Filipino breakfasts with protein, garlic rice, egg and usually tomato). Try the popular breaded-and-fried Hong Kong pork chop, which isn’t common at other Filipino restaurants. Super Star is cash only and budget friendly at $5.50–8.75 per plate. Call in ahead of time if you can, or wait up to 15 minutes. It’s takeout, so eat in your car (if you have one), or walk 1.5 blocks southeast to the beautiful tiled Kenny Alley Stairs to eat.

Walk two minutes south on Mission Street for the fresh farmers cheese, black beans and fried plantains that accompany many of Cafe Guatemalteco's eggy breakfasts. There are cozy tables where you can sit and enjoy a filling start to the day. For an SF breakfast classic, try the coiled, cinnamon-flecked, flaky morning buns at one of Tartine’s or Ariscault’s locations. Or just drive 15 minutes south to the beach town of Pacifica for Rosalind Bakery’s version of the pastry, plus a smashing Coastside Sourdough. If you have time, take the ferry to Treasure Island for a garden brunch at Aracely Cafe, which was, for a time, the only restaurant on the quickly developing artificial island.

L: Iced coffee topped with honeycomb. R: A croissant topped with cream and banana
Treat your sweet tooth to toffee latte with house-made honeycomb at Jina Bakes and a croissant with cream and caramelised banana © Jina Bakes

Coffee 

The Yemeni coffee scene in SF is booming, with warm cardamom and ginger flavors found at Delah Coffee and Sana’a Cafe in SoMa, and Haraz Coffee House in Cathedral Hill. Don’t pass up the pastries, which are often laden with pistachio or honey. Jina Bakes in Japantown has a small, but interesting coffee menu, including an orange foam latte and a toffee latte topped with chunks of house-made honeycomb to complement the line-worthy Korean-Japanese-French pastries, like the croissant served with rich kalbijjim (Korean short rib beef stew), which is made by restaurant neighbor Daeho.

Unapologetic about its social justice principles with a biker edge, Excelsior Coffee in the Excelsior also offers Filipino ube (purple yam) everything, from espresso drinks to pastries like an ube “Pop Tart.”

L: Plate of eggs and fried potatoes. R: French toast with raspberries
Plow's farm-to-table breakfasts will fill you up for the day. Try their honey nut squash soup, fried egg sandwich or French toast with creamy mascarpone and berries © Plow

Brunch

I love the filling East-West Hong Kong diner (cha chaan teng) food at Cafe Bakery & Restaurant on Noriega St in the Sunset. If pancakes are more your speed, try the cereal pancakes topped with cereal milk-infused whipped cream and colorful sprinkles of Fruity Pebbles and Corn Pops cereals at Glen Park Cafe, or fluffy lemon-ricotta pancakes at Plow.

R: Close-up of beef sandwich from Roxie Food. L: Plate of fried Dungeness crab
L: Deli sandwich from Roxie Food Center © Margot Seeto; R: Dragon Beaux is famous for its fried Dungeness crab © Dragon Beaux

Lunch

Dim sum is traditionally a Cantonese brunch meal, and some of the best places, from cash-only takeout to fancy sit-down, are found in what are considered SF’s second Chinatown (Clement St in the Richmond District), third (Sunset District) and now fourth Chinatown (along San Bruno Ave in the southeastern Portola District). If sticking to the original Chinatown, try the US’s oldest dim sum parlor at Hang Ah Tea Room for XO sauce pan-fried turnip cake and vintage Chinatown memorabilia on the walls or brave the lines at Good Mong Kok for takeout orders of delicately wrapped pork siu mai and pillowy scallion bread.

Other parts of SF will treat you to the casual Good Luck Dim Sum for expertly folded har gow, and neighbor/rival Wing Lee Bakery for juicy barbecued chicken skewers and shrimp-and-chive dumplings, Sunshine Wheatfield Dim Sum for soft steamed rice rolls and filling rice porridge, and more upscale Dragon Beaux for vibrantly rainbow-colored soup dumplings, and Yank Sing for increasingly rare cart service. If you want something very casual, Roxie's Food Center offers tasty and filling deli sandwiches in a canteen setting.

L: Plates of Vietnamese food on a table incl. pho. R: Similarly colorful plates of Vietnamese dishes
L: Bac Lieu is a high-end Vietnamese restaurant where fresh and clean cuisine is the order of the day © Margot Seeto; R: Lily's Vietnamese dishes are bursting with color and flavor like the rice bowls with lemongrass chicken and caramel shrimp © Lily

Dinner

The city’s famous Dungeness crab season has been a bit of a moving target the past few years but it usually runs winter through late June, and you can still get the sweet, succulent crab at restaurants year-round. I love Vietnamese and Chinese-style crabs, like at the iconic Thanh Long (also originator of Vietnamese American garlic noodles), PPQ Dungeness IslandGolden Crab House, and R & G Lounge (for salt-and-pepper crab). If you plan ahead, order Singaporean chilli crab from the delivery/pick-up only Dabao Singapore. You can also buy in-season crab right off the fishing boats in Fisherman’s Wharf or slightly south of SF in the scenic Half Moon Bay.

Also don’t miss out on the recent crop of other high-end Vietnamese food at places like Bodega and Lily or the more affordable Bac Lieu or Gao.

The family of mostly Italian American restaurants under the Original Joe’s umbrella is San Francisco through and through, with the newest eateries being Little Original Joe’s (that also carries the locally famous Zanze’s cheesecake) and Elena’s (an ode to some family members’ Mexican heritage), both in the cozy westside neighborhood of West Portal.

L: A female bartender pours an orange drink in Moongate Lounge; R: Close-up of a negroni
You'll find drinks with seasonal spices, fruits and flowers at Moongate Lodge, as well as natural wines and a small plates menu of Chinese-inspired dishes © Moongate Lounge / Trinity White - Star Gazers Creative

Bar

If you want to know a city, head straight for the dive bars — unassuming places that have cheap drinks, long histories, punchy clientele, and lots of character. Rite Spot, on a corner in a less crowded part of the Mission, has great happy hour specials, an unassuming food menu like burgers and pastas, local art on display, and live entertainment almost nightly, ranging from lounge tunes to The Beatles-themed karaoke. North Beach’s the Saloon is the oldest bar in SF, also with nightly, blues-leaning local music. Zeitgeist, on the northern border of the Mission, has one of the best outdoor patios, and has achieved a rare balance between its punky biker attitude and serving its expanding clientele like techies and tourists.

Natural wine and low-ABV/non-alcoholic beverages have made their mark on the bar scene recently, with the Mission’s Bar Part Time raging under a disco ball and Buddy the Bar where the food is on par with its excellent drinks menu (it allows kids). For traditional and innovative cocktails, try a Laurel Martini with a California Bay tincture at True Laurel in the Mission or the Clear and Bright with duck fat-washed rye whiskey at Moongate Lounge in Chinatown.
 

Still planning your trip to San Francisco? Check out more of our tips like:

When to visit San Francisco 
Our top picks of what to do
What to know before visiting 
Craft your budget with these 14 tips

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