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Golden Gate Grub: What to Eat in San Francisco

Whether you're craving dollar dim sum or the finest Michelin-starred experience, here are San Francisco's must-try restaurants.

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Newcomer’s Eating Tour of San Francisco

San Francisco has been a dining destination since the Gold Rush, when prospectors would spend their cash on Hangtown Fry, a decadent omelet with oysters and bacon. Today the variety of cuisines and outstanding produce available year-round (thanks to favorable climate and terrain) make it a haven for chefs and diners alike. 

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Tartine Manufactory

Standing in line at Tartine Bakery has long been a Bay Area rite of passage, but the buzz has recently shifted to the Tartine team’s latest venture, Tartine Manufactory. The cavernous space in the Mission is divided into a coffee shop, ice cream shop — called Tartine Cookies and Cream — bakery and restaurant. It’s bright and modern, with natural wood and Japanese paper lanterns to soften the space. There are pastries, liege waffles, salads and sandwiches during the day, and a full-service restaurant at night. The bread service is practically mandatory, and includes options like Smørrebrød with 'nduja and chives, stracciatella bottarga, or sea urchin and mustard.

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Photo: Shannon McLean

Liholiho Yacht Club

Still a tough reservation to get, Liholiho Yacht Club is San Francisco’s take on Hawaiian paradise. It’s soul food, using local ingredients via the Hawaiian Islands, and somehow it just works. The space buzzes around its open kitchen and is tended by servers who seem genuinely happy. The food is divided into small plates and large share plates. Asian flavors sing in dishes like marinated squid, with crispy tripe, cabbage and peanuts, and twice-cooked pork belly with pineapple, Thai basil and fennel. The signature dessert is the kitchen’s pineapple-infused take on Baked Alaska. It’s not an island vacation, but it might just be the next best thing.

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Benu

San Francisco is blessed with six three-Michelin-star restaurants, and while each is unique, Benu is perhaps the most-unusual. Though Chef Corey Lee came from The French Laundry and is well-versed in French techniques, he draws on influences beyond the typical fusion with modern Japanese cuisine. Dishes like Foie Gras Xiao Long Bao and Sea Urchin Marinated in Fermented Crab Sauce show a willingness to adapt traditional Asian dishes and ingredients in fresh new ways. The prix-fixe menu is pricey, but the food is divine. 

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