My foodie guide to San Francisco

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I love San Francisco. I have been there so many times and I discover new food trends and places to eat on every single trip. It’s such a multi cultural city and has that unique Californian take on food, leaning heavily on their Pacific Rim influences.

On my most recent trip where I spent a month traipsing around town, I found quite a few local food places to add to my list. This is by no means a comprehensive list but it is of the newer places I have found.  If you are planning a trip to SF, you might find this a useful guide.

This is not the comprehensive list and the reviews on this post is just a quick summary. There will be another one with another list of the places I didn’t fit onto this map. I will be adding more detailed reviews in separate individual posts.


San-Francisco-Foodie-Map-Eat Cook Explore-Virgin Atlantic

Map courtesy of Virgin Atlantic. You can read their city guide for San Francisco here.

1. House of pancakes
937 Taraval St
San Francisco, CA 94116
This is not IHOP but a newish Chinese Restaurant in Outer Sunset serving Northern Chinese food even though the owner is Cantonese. Going by their name, they serve a savoury Chinese pancake filled with a variety of meats. The hand pulled noodles had a great texture, springy and just enough chewiness and Wok Hei. Loved the lamb skewers, fish in chilli oil, garlic string beans, fish sauce egg plant. Everything was good and very reasonably priced.

House of Pancakes on Urbanspoon

2. Hong Kong Lounge  
5322 Geary Blvd
San Francisco, CA 94121
Around the  other Chinatown in the Richmond area of San Francisco there are quite a few authentic Cantonese restaurants. The Hong Kong Lounge is a really popular local dim sum restaurant. Testament to this is that we got there early (before noon) for a mid week lunch and there was a queue. The only conversations we heard around us were in Cantonese, a good sign. They had quite a wide selection of dim sum on the . The American sized portions again are big so don’t order like you were in London. Loads to eat, very authentic and very reasonably priced.

Hong Kong Lounge on Urbanspoon

3. The Stinking Rose: A Garlic Restaurant  
325 Columbus Ave
San Francisco, CA 94133
The Stinking Rose in the North Beach area is an institution in SF. The Italian food is a bit hit and miss but must be tried, at least once. From the name, garlic features in everything. Our taste buds were singed from the raw garlic in olive oil dip on the tables. The mains were decent but not that memorable and the garlic ice cream was a vanilla ice cream with a hint of garlic. Not the most innovative or best Italian in the area and definitely not a date restaurant but great fun.

Turtle Tower Restaurant on Urbanspoon

4. Z & Y Restaurant  
655 Jackson St
San Francisco, CA 94133
The Z&Y Restaurant is an authentic Szechuan restaurant in Chinatown. We ended up here one evening when most other places in Chinatown had closed. It was actually a favourite of our Taiwanese friend who highly recommended it. It is open later than most so it gets a stream of people after 9pm. We had the mouth numbing cold noodles and Dan Dan noodles which were both good. A few other dishes were good too.

Z&Y Restaurant on Urbanspoon

5. El Salvador  
2278 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94110
One of the things I wanted to do on this trip was to try more South American restaurants in SF since we don’t have much authenticity or choice in London. One of the finds is El Salvador which was recommended by some Latino friends who live in the Mission. It is a small dining room run by a lady who has been running this place for years. It seems to be like a clubhouse for the Salvadorian community. They make really good pupusas (have the cheese stuffed ones), 2 for $5 served with jars of spicy salsa which you smother on as you prefer. You will find some very friendly ladies serving you. Before you leave, take a peek in the kitchen to see them making the pupusas.

El Salvador on Urbanspoon

6. Jayakarta Restaurant  
2026 University Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94704
This is an Indonesian restaurant that relocated to Berkeley from another part of town. It seems to attract a lot of students and South East Asian clientele from around the Bay Area. They have an enormous menu, lots of choices. I went with a group of Malaysian friends who were missing the spicy dishes of home. We went especially for the weekend special “nasi bungkus” or translated rather unglamourlessly as packet rice. It’s quite a large serving with good beef rendang but not too keen on the nangka side dish. The spicy eggplant dish was too sweet and tomatoey.The lumpia they served had gone bad but they did apologise. I would go back to try the other dishes if I were in that part of town but it’s probably not worth the trek to Berkeley if you are in the middle of town.

Jayakarta on Urbanspoon

7. Taqueria Vallarta  
3033 24th St
San Francisco, CA 94110
Deep in Mission, somewhere I would not have dared venture a few years ago. Since Mission is now super hip and happening, these authentic local places are open to all. An authentic no frills cheap and cheerful Mexican taco bar! Great carne asado taco. The taco guy mans his hot plate by the door. The menu is on a faded board behind him. Just order a variety like the tongue tacos and smother it with your own choice of sauces. Watch out for the very hot sauces. If you have never had it before, try the horchata or tamarindo which is a popular Mexican drink made with either rice, seeds, milk, vanilla and cinnamon. The place is a bit basic and you seat yourself but it’s an experience.

Taqueria Vallarta on Urbanspoon

8. Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market  
1 Ferry Bldg
San Francisco, CA 94111
The Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market is open on Tuesday and Thursday mornings and all day Saturday. It is the biggest and most famous farmers market in San Francisco. It now spills over the front of the ferry building, all around the side and the back of the building. There are some permanent food shops and restaurants in the main building. Spend Saturday morning here and wander around tasting some of the great street food stalls, buy some of the fresh local produce from markets around the Bay Area. There are some seats at the back of the building facing the bay where you can catch some sun while you stuff yourself with all the irresistible foods for sale here.
9. Turtle Tower  
645 Larkin St
San Francisco, CA 94109
I came here with friends who say that this is their favourite pho place in SF. They serve it Northern Vietnamese style which means no bean sprouts and green stuff on top of the noodles. The broth is chicken and not beef like elsewhere. It’s a clear, clean flavoured broth and they use slightly thicker pho noodles. It’s not bad but not wow. The rice paper rolls is enormous (I forgot about the American sizing of portions), one order is enough for 4 people. Don’t think it is a starter for one unless you have an American appetite. It’s recently been renovated and is quite clean and service is friendly. Be warned, it is in the Tenderloin and if you are not driving, it’s a dodgy area to walk around. The best thing about having lunch here is the Vietnamese snack shop next door for afters. They sell Banh Mi and a variety of unusual Vietnamese sweets and snacks.

Turtle Tower Restaurant on Urbanspoon

10. In-N-Out Burger  
333 Jefferson St
San Francisco, CA 94133
Love this place. You can’t visit California and not eat at In-N-Out Burger. As it’s the only one in SF and being I the middle of a very touristy area, it is thronged with people. We picked up a friend from New York at the airport and this was his first stop before anything else. Order off the secret menu for your burgers, drinks and fries. (Hint: Animal style burgers and fries) Don’t miss the double cooked extra crispy fries. Best things ever!

In-N-Out Burger on Urbanspoon

11. Little Star Pizza  
 400 Valencia St
San Francisco, CA 94103
I am not usually surprised by restaurants and food but this place deep in the Mission was a very pleasant surprise. Their pizzas are quite unique. They come on a thick sour dough base and is topped with a highly reduced tomato sauce and various other toppings of your choice. We had the brass monkey off the secret menu (notice the trend). I am not a big fan of pizza, let alone deep dish pizzas but this was sensational. The crust was had a chewy and a slightly crunchy texture. The sauce was highly flavoured and the combination of toppings made this quite a unique combination of mouth feel and flavour. I wouldn’t call it pizza, it’s a whole new food group and it’s great. That’s saying something for someone who doesn’t really like pizzas.
There a few branches of these around town, don’t miss this one.

Little Star Pizza on Urbanspoon

12. 37 Degrees
1155 Taraval St
San Francisco, CA 94116
Places don’t open very late in San Francisco. Unless you are in the centre of town, there are not many places to hang out after 9pm. In some of the outer lying areas of town are a few of these late night Asian dessert places. We came here specifically for the snow ice. We had the mango flavoured ice with some fruit toppings. Nice texture but the flavours tasted synthetic. This didn’t seem to deter the clientele. We had a couple of drinks too. The lychee and osmansthus drink was overwhelmed by the lychee flavoured syrup. Shame. The menu looked promising.
13. Green Earth Natural Foods
860 Divisadero St
San Francisco, CA 94117

Divisadero is such a great street for shopping and eating. Lots of good neighbourhoody restaurants and fabulous food shops. This is a good place to shop locally for organic and whole foods. They sell a vast variety of grains and other goods in bulk so you can pick out what you want by weight. It is not covered with glitzy lights and high end packaging so you can get your wholefoods at decent prices

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