Outside of 4 boroughs in New York City, San Francisco is the most densely populated area in the United States.
In addition, San Francisco has the 7th highest income of any county in the United States. When you combine these two facts together, you realize that there’s a lot of rich people in San Francisco living very close together. Consequently, the city has to feed all these wealthy patrons somehow, right?
San Francisco has turned into a culinary hotbed in recent years, offering tons of gourmet restaurants all over the city that will appeal to foodies and novices alike.
In this article, we discuss the 9 best restaurants in San Francisco, emphasizing diverse restaurants that represent cuisine from all around the world. Towards the end of the article, we offer our thoughts on the future of restaurants.
Beyond having one of the most interesting names on this list, Cockscomb is well-known in San Francisco for its novel take on classic American food.
The menu at Cockscomb includes a diverse range of food, including seafood, a variety of meat options, sandwiches, salads, soups, and pasta. Cockscomb also has an extensive drink menu with a number of local drafts, wines, ciders, cocktails and unique drinks made as a homage to the city.
Many customers have claimed that Cockscomb is a very versatile restaurant that can accommodate large groups or small parties. Thus, this place would be great for any kind of special event, regardless of how many people are involved.
The average price range of a meal for one person is $30-$60, making this a relatively expensive restaurant.
SPQR – Best Restaurant in San Francisco
SPQR spins a decidedly modern take on classic Italian cuisine.
You know this is one of the best restaurants in San Francisco because Chef Mathew Accarrino and on-site sommelier Shelley Lindgren have released a cookbook and wine guide celebrating some of their favorite recipes. This book can be purchased on Amazon.
Besides their foray into literature and art, SBQR is also very focused on the visual arts, as many customers claim they’ve never eaten a more gorgeously designed meal. Indeed, some customers have reported that it was a shame to even dig in.
What’s unique about SPQR is that their menu is not overwhelming but rather quite simple to understand. Their dinner menu is only a page and categorizes meals into antipasti, primi, and secondi platters.
One popular Italian dish on the menu is the kabocha squash raviolini which also features coconut milk, kaffir lime, and pumpkin seed. This is a unique take on the classic Italian ravioli dish, as it infuses it with a nutty, almost tropical set of tastes.
SBQR is also one of the most sought-after restaurants in the city because they feature a chef’s counter which is directly in front of the open kitchen. This is an opportunity to experience everything that goes on behind the scenes. On busy nights, however, this area is highly in demand, so make sure you make a reservation well in advance or get to the area early.
Millennium – Best Restaurant in San Francisco
Image by pressfoto via Freepik
As its name implies, Millenium represents the food of the future. It’s been serving only vegan food since 1994.
What’s unique about Millennium is that they offer gourmet vegan food in a relatively upscale interior. Their dishes are inspired by international vegan foods. They source their ingredients from local, organic farms as much as possible, meaning their menu changes frequently.
They offer a number of starters on their menu including a pistachio-stuffed dates dish that should have patrons drooling.
Some guests travel far and wide to experience their unique nectarine-mustard barbecue sauce which is featured on their Barbecue Maitake Mushroom dish. This dish is centered around corn-roasted garlic grits and also includes smoked shitake mushrooms, cranberry shelling bean succotash, and a side salad with nectarine and agretti. As you can tell, their palate is certainly eclectic.
Millennium is also known for their deserts, like their Peach Ravioli Dulce which features almonds, peaches, pine nuts, and apricots. This place would ideal for a date night or a family dinner.
Gracias Madre – Best Restaurant in San Francisco
Gracias Madre combines a love of plant-based cuisine with classic Mexican fare, as their cheeses and milks are made using nuts while their tortillas and tamales are made from corn.
The menu is also very seasonal, and they partially source their ingredients from their own organic farm in Pleasants Valley, California.
Gracias Madre is one of the best restaurants in San Francisco because its dishes are affordable. None of their main dishes cost more than $20, yet you can tell that lots of thought have gone into the creation of each dish.
For example, the Flautas de Camote, which costs $19, represents their take on tacos, as this dish includes two rolled crispy tacos with sweet potato and caramelized onion inside. This is also topped with guacamole, Pico de Gallo, black beans, and a delicious cashew cheese sauce.
If you love Mexican food but don’t want to eat products made from our animal brethren, then you have to try Gracias Madre.
Lazy Bear serves modern American food in a very communal and social environment.
This restaurant will appeal to you if you’re looking to experiment with the way you eat. Lazy Bear only serves one menu each night in two different iterations, specifically at 6:00 pm and 8:30 pm. Each iteration includes many courses. Also, all of the guests are served at the same time, and they all sit communally at long elm tables.
Getting a ticket to one of these culinary experiences might be hard to come by, however. Lazy Bear sells most of their tickets for the next month’s menu on a single day. The price of each ticket costs between $165-$195 depending on the menu.
The chefs also deliver the dishes to the table directly and even allow guests to observe their process in the kitchen. This transparency is belied by the sparse sample menu featured on their website, as each dish features only a few ingredients and very little description.
In this sense, Lazy Bear must be experienced in-person to be understood. From the outside, they might seem like a mysterious experiment in communal dining. Yet, from the inside, this restaurant is a loving site for people from all walks of life to unite around one table.
Thus, if you have the money to spend and are looking to switch things up, then Lazy Bear might be the best place to spend the night in the Mission District of San Francisco.
Jardinière – Best Restaurant in San Francisco
Jardiniére is a modern take on French cooking that is described as both elegant and easy.
One of their most popular main dishes is the Pork Belly, which is complemented by kimchi, kohlrabi, cantaloupe, and lentils. This is quite an innovative combination that pays homage to French cuisine.
Jardinière is well-known for their selection of cheeses, as they have an entire category on their dinner menu devoted to this perennially loved food. Customers can get a selection of all 5 of their cheeses for just $25. This includes a unique, raw cow cheese from Vermont as well as various goat and sheep cheeses from around the US.
In this sense, Jardinière infuses their French style with local or domestic ingredients whenever possible.
They also serve something they call The Impossible Burger which is only available in the bar and lounge after 7 pm. This is a plant-based burger that is made using heme, a molecule found in hemoglobin and some plants. This burger is also topped with avocado, a pickle, little gem lettuce, caramelized onion, and dijonnaise.
If you want to experience futuristic cuisine like this as well as many other novel dishes, then we recommend trying out Jardinière the next time you’re in the Hayes Valley neighborhood of San Francisco.
Liholiho Yacht Club – Best Restaurants in San Francisco
Located in downtown San Francisco, Lilohilo Yacht Club offers a fusion of Hawaiian, Chinese, and Indian foods.
This restaurant has an Ohana table which features a family-style menu for $62 a person. This is a great option for a large group of people, as 10-12 shareable dishes are offered in a fun and relaxing table at the front of the restaurant.
One of the most popular dishes off this Ohana menu is the marinated squid which also comes with cucumber, crispy tripe, red cabbage, and peanuts.
Liholiho Yacht Club also offers an extensive selection of desserts that draw from many classic Asian dishes. There are a number of interesting drink options on this dessert menu, like the ume-shu plum Sake which is inspired by similar drinks in Kyoto, Japan. There are also a number of delectable Hawaiian-inspired dessert options, like the guava mochi cake or the caramelized pineapple ice cream.
Saison – Best Restaurants in San Francisco
If you can afford it, then Saison is worth it, as their menu is constantly evolving. Their team caters each meal to the individual’s preferences, resulting in a customized experience that is truly unforgettable.
They claim that all their cooking is centered around an open wood fire. They also emphasize local foods that they source from a small group of farmers and hunters. They try to avoid imported and commercial goods, instead concentrating on local, wild foods found in unique microclimates. Each meal represents a confluence of tastes that will likely never be experienced ever again.
Saison also has one of the largest collections of Old and New World wines, making this restaurant ideal for celebrating special occasions.
This is one of the most artistic restaurants in San Francisco due to their personalized approach to each meal. You can get a sense of this creativity by perusing some photographs of their past meals. When even the photographs of your meals look stunning, you know the tastes are going to be epic.
Sons & Daughters – Best Restaurants in San Francisco
The menu at Sons & Daughters is constantly changing based on new tastes, local selections, and the changes of the seasons. For example, the current menu featured on their website includes a Kanpachi dish with seaweed that has been foraged.
This restaurant also has a sommelier on staff who offers a curated wine list with international selections.
Sons & Daughters would appeal to someone interested in a cozy restaurant that emphasizes wild foods and transparency when it comes to stating ingredients.
Best Restaurants in San Francisco: Final Thoughts
We think it’s evident from this list of restaurants that San Francisco is one of the culinary capitals of the world. We think the best restaurants in this city will emphasize local ingredients that are sourced as freshly as possible.
Additionally, we think that many of the best restaurants in San Francisco are converting their menu to a more temporary style in which dishes are constantly shifting. We think this approach to dining will be popular in the future as guests realize how important it is to eat local foods that are in season.
We think vegan restaurants will continue to pop up around the city as people began to connect the dots between diet and morality. The two vegan restaurants that we selected for this list are innovating when it comes to plant-based cuisine while still paying homage to the culinary traditions of the past.
We think future restaurants will continue to offer personalized meals. We love the idea of each customer getting a personal chef, with the eventual meal representing an artistic collaboration of sorts.
Overall, we think American restaurants are undergoing a period of transition and we can’t wait to see what the future holds.