From Michelin-starred dining to globally-inspired cuisine, San Francisco's culinary scene is truly one of the best in the world. On your next trip to the Bay Area, check out these iconic dishes at five incredible restaurants.
1. Chicken and waffles at Brown Sugar Kitchen in the Ferry Building
The famous Ferry Building is home to more than 50 cafes, restaurants, retail stores, and boutiques. One of the newest additions is Brown Sugar Kitchen, a local favorite that originated across the bay in Oakland. Head chef Tanya Holland serves up scrumptious soul food, including her most well-known dish: buttermilk fried chicken and waffles. Make sure to get in early, because even when the store opens at the 9am, there will be a line out front. Throughout the rest of the Ferry Building, you’ll find every type of cuisine represented, from indulgent Cheesequakes to locally-sourced oysters and much more.
2. Dim sum at China Live
San Francisco’s Chinatown boasts the largest Chinese population in the western hemisphere, and the city’s culinary palette has been enriched by authentic Chinese cuisine for over 100 years. One of the best places to taste a blend of modern techniques and traditional Chinese recipes is at China Live. The menu at this chic marketplace-style eatery changes daily based on the freshest ingredients available. You can never go wrong with the dumplings—whether you like soupy Xiao Long Bao or crispy fried Sheng Jian Bao, these are some of the best in town. If you’re dining in, score a seat facing one of the four different kitchens to see chefs baking, frying, and glazing your dishes. Or head upstairs to Cold Drinks, a hidden bar that serves up some of San Francisco’s best cocktails.
3. Mission Burrito at Taqueria La Cumbre
The Mission District is a hub for San Francisco’s best Mexican food. It also lends its name to the Mission-style burrito, a local creation perfected by Taqueria La Cumbre. With fresh, delicious ingredients and a hearty serving of spices, these sizable Mission Burritos are perfect to take with you while you check out the neighborhood’s murals and boutiques—or before (and after) a night in the nearby bars and clubs.
4. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl at Bistro Boudin
Running along the northeast side of the city’s peninsula, Fisherman’s Wharf has been home to a city icon—Boudin Bakery— since the 1840s. Isadore Boudin established this waterfront bakery to produce sourdough, and legend has it that the salty air is the secret ingredient that makes the perfect bread. When you fill it with creamy clam chowder from local fisheries, you can’t deny the urban legend’s accuracy. If clam chowder isn’t your style, the bread bowls can be filled with chili con carne and corn bisque, or slices can be served up with crab cioppino, or as bases for prosciutto or crab and shrimp pizzas. Enjoy your favorite form of sourdough as you watch the ships coming and going in the Bay.
5. Award-winning slices at Tony’s Pizzeria Napoletana
Nestled between Chinatown and Fisherman’s Wharf, the neighborhood of North Beach has historically been home to San Francisco’s Italian community. Given this heritage, it’s no surprise that you can find some to the best pizza outside of Naples. But don’t just take our word for it: Tony Gemignani, of Tony’s Pizza Napotelana, was the first non-Italian to be awarded Pizza World Champion. Since that first crown he’s won 13 world pizza recognitions (and a Michelin guide nod) for his champion slices of Margherita, New Yorker, Cal-Italiano, Pizza Porto, and La Regina. Each is cooked in minutes in one of the restaurant’s seven (yes, seven) different types of ovens. A full service bar also serves incredible cocktails on a weekly-rotating menu.