San Francisco’s dining scene is one of the most diverse in America, combining upscale restaurants, farm-to-table gastropubs, dumpling houses, and everything in between. Whatever the cuisine, chefs in the City by the Bay share an obsession with sourcing the best seasonal ingredients—sometimes even foraging nearby coastal areas and forests for wild delicacies. You’ll often find them combing the city’s year-round farmers markets, picking up fresh produce and inspiration for the day’s menu.
Michelin stars shine at sleek and contemporary restaurants like triple-starred Quince, Benu, and Atelier Crenn, and double-starred Coi, Californios, and Birdsong. Along with elegant decor in muted, earthy hues, these tasting-menu destinations feature exciting interpretations of Californian (Quince and Coi), Asian (Benu), French (Atelier Crenn), Mexican (Californios), and American (Birdsong) cuisine.
As a coastal city, San Francisco is also famous for its seafood. Cioppino—an Italian-American “catch-of-the-day” stew brimming with crab and other shellfish—is an absolute must. Both the family-owned Cioppino’s and Scoma’s have been serving up steaming bowls of the hearty dish for more than half a century in Fisherman’s Wharf. Another longtime favorite is Tadich Grill in the Financial District—a comfortable den of cozy booths and white-jacketed waitstaff. For the freshest seafood Louie salads and oysters, pull up a rickety stool at counter-only Swan Oyster Depot, operating in the same Polk Street storefront since 1912.
San Francisco boasts one of California’s greatest collections of Asian restaurants, offering cuisines from around the continent. Options abound in the Richmond and Sunset districts, including outstanding Burmese cuisine at lively Burma Superstar, fresh-from-the-steamer Chinese dumplings at dim sum takeout spot Wing Lee Bakery, and contemporary Korean fare at bright and beautiful Um.ma. A San Francisco visit wouldn’t be complete without a taste of Vietnamese roasted crab with buttery garlic noodles, and faux palm tree–adorned PPQ Dungeness Island is the place to get it. In Chinatown, sample modern Chinese cuisine at Michelin-starred Mr. Jiu’s, with its light and airy dining room and lotus-shaped chandeliers. Just around the corner, Empress by Boon offers contemporary Cantonese dishes prepared by a Michelin-starred chef in this stylish reinvention of the historic Empress of China banquet hall.
Visit the Mission District for overstuffed burritos at one of the neighborhood’s many casual taquerias, including no-frills El Farolito and Taqueria San Francisco. Mexican food isn’t this vibrant neighborhood’s only culinary attraction: You’ll also find pastry paradise in a casual café setting at always-busy Tartine Bakery, along with mouthwatering Cal-Italian dishes at locals’ darling Flour + Water, set in a modern space with warm wood accents.
For one-stop grazing, stroll the Ferry Building Marketplace, where permanent booths offer delicacies like crusty San Francisco sourdough at Acme Bread and savory Argentinian hand pies at El Porteño Empanadas. Also enticing are sit-down restaurants like Hog Island Oyster Company—known for its waterfront views as much as its fresh oysters—and sleek-and-shiny Gott's Roadside diner. For more multi-vendor options, track down food trucks serving nearly every kind of food imaginable at Off the Grid gatherings.