A few weeks ago, I shared my five top picks for places to drink in San Francisco. And because a woman cannot survive on drink alone, I figured it was high time to list my favorite San Fran eateries. Ranging from special occasion places down to hole-in-the-wall nooks, these are five of the many fantastic places I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing during my time here.
Full disclosure: speaking as a vegetarian for nearly 20 years, you’ll need to look elsewhere if you want to learn about where to get the best steak in town. But if you’re looking for veggie-friendly places or just somewhere with a great view, I hope you enjoy my list below!
With an unparalleled view of the bay under the Golden Gate Bridge and vegetarian fare sourced from farms in Marin, Greens is the quintessential San Francisco experience. Where else can you watch seals play beneath you while you munch on beans and tomatoes that were growing across the bay only the day before? Special enough for an occasion dinner yet relaxed enough to casually stop by, Greens never fails to deliver a fantastic meal that’s gourmet yet refreshingly unpretentious.
Why settle for one restaurant when you can sample food from dozens? Off the Grid is one of several food truck parties that happens in several locations throughout the city. I love the Fort Mason edition for its spectacular backdrop (it’s next door to Greens) and how well the sea air compliments the varied fare. Popular trucks Chairman Bao and Curry Up Now always draw crowds, but you’ll also find some little-known gems serving everything from Peruvian cuisine to cupcakes with flavors like green tea tiramisu.
I’ve mentioned before that I don’t do lines. No, it’s not that I think I’m too special for lines; I just have the patience of a sleepy two-year-old and would rather try somewhere new instead of waiting around on the sidewalk. But despite its intimidating line, House of Nanking is worth the wait. Perched on the three-way border of Chinatown, North Beach, and the Financial District, it’s the perfect place to go before a night out on the town. I love the Green Lettuce Wraps with sauteed zucchini, tofu, and peas flavored with the most decadent peppery sauce known to humankind.
Sunflower is the type of restaurant that’s easy to miss. Perched on the corner of Valencia and 16th in the Mission District, it’s surrounded by dozens of trendy restaurants and bars with flashier signs and fancier menus. But for those in the know, Sunflower delivers fantastic Vietnamese food in a no-fuss atmosphere at prices that leave room for an after-dinner martini at Blondie’s next door. It’s one of the only places in the city that boasts a flavorful vegetarian noodle soup that’s truly vegetarian, and I swear that their garlic noodles are not of this earth. You also can’t beat a giant glass of house wine for $4.
I’ll say it- I generally don’t like Italian food. I was turned off it by the red-sauce-and-heavy-mozzarella dishes that dominate midwestern Italian menus, but my view completely shifted after visiting the Jackson Fillmore. It’s been open in the same location since before I was born, and the cozy interior boasts no more than a dozen tables that are always packed full. The food is simple but nuanced and authentic, and the chefs are always happy to whip up something special. It feels like you’ve been transported somewhere quieter and slightly more glamorous, where the wine flows freely and you’re never in a rush. It’s one of the pricier picks on my list, but it’s my go-to for a special occasion or guests in town.
I hope you enjoyed my picks! Did I name any of your favorites? Which should I have included? Let me know in the comments below@!