In San Francisco, ingredient-driven menus reign supreme. With some of the nation’s best produce at their fingertips, chefs in the City by the Bay create edible magic, often changing menus nightly to reflect what’s freshest and tastiest that day. Many chefs work closely with local farms and food purveyors to get exactly the ingredients they want. Early-morning trips to one of the city’s year-round farmers markets are part of the routine for these wizards of the kitchen. Special-occasion fine-dining restaurants, many sprinkled with Michelin stars, abound, like the smooth sophistication of triple-starred Quince, Benu, Atelier Crenn, and Saison, and the double-starred Acquerello and Lazy Bear.
Or course, Michelin stars are not a prerequisite to having a memorable dining experience. Lively, crowded, and innovative options line the streets of the Mission District, particularly along Valencia Street. At Fisherman’s Wharf, where seafood is king, a bowl of cioppino (an Italian-American “catch-of-the-day” stew made with Dungeness crab, clams, shrimp, scallops, squid, mussels and fish) is an absolute San Francisco must. Scoma’s has been serving it up on Pier 47 for over half a century. Another long-time seafood favorite is Tadich Grill, near the Embarcadero. And the Union Square area has long been a destination for both high-end eats (Campton Place and Morton’s Steakhouse come to mind) as well as numerous more inexpensive options.
Inexpensive options are easy to find, too: consider the many Asian restaurants in the Richmond neighborhood, where along Clement Street you’ll find outstanding Vietnamese at Pho Hyunh Sang, and Burmese cuisine at Burma Superstar and B Star Bar. In the same neighborhood, there’s Jijime and Han Il Kwan for Korean and Hong Kong Lounge for dim sum. Visit the Mission for their famously cheap and gargantuan burrito joints, or track down food trucks serving up nearly every kind of food imaginable at gatherings sponsored by Off the Grid. San Francisco also has more than its share of excellent places to eat where the view is as good as the food.
For one-stop you’ll-definitely-find-something grazing, walk (slowly) through the Ferry Building Marketplace, where permanent booths sell local delicacies like crusty sourdough (Acme Bread) and artisanal cheesecakes (Cheesequakes), and sit-down restaurants, like Charles Phan’s celebrated The Slanted Door offers amazing food and waterfront views. Or, if local insight is what you’re after, Avital Tours offers two culinary adventures in San Francisco. The Mission District Food Tour dives deep into that neighborhood’s rich culinary past (a must if you’re a fan of Mexican food) and the North Beach Food Tour showcases North Beach’s Italian dining scene and the history of the area’s notorious Barbary Coast waterfront district, which dates back to Gold Rush days.