This is my favorite post to do each year…it’s just so much fun to come up with my top 25 San Francisco restaurants. This year, there are several newcomers to the list, including Lazy Bear, RN74, Volta, Lord Stanley, Petit Crenn, Benu and The Progress. A few have dropped from the list as well. La Tacqueria is still awesome, but after being voted best burrito in the entire country, the lines are simply too long to tolerate. Bourbon Steak is also still outstanding, but was bumped in favor of RN74 which has undergone an unbelievable transformation (details below in #8). I still very much enjoy Yank Sing, Burma Superstar and Nopa, but frankly they didn’t make my top 25 in favor of other new and better restaurants.
I hope you’ll find this list a useful one — please feel free to share with friends and family, or other foodies you know traveling to San Francisco. Better yet, share your own favorites in the comments!
- Saison – For the second year, still my favorite restaurant in the world. As I said in last year’s list: “Fantastic food that will truly make you wonder how they made each dish, a bar program that is outstanding and a gorgeous interior. 3 Michelin stars and it deserves every one.”
- Lazy Bear – This restaurant is one of the most fun, delicious and inventive experiences I’ve ever had. The evening is set up to be a dinner party, starting with bite-sized snacks served in the upstairs loft, which is set up like a living room. Conversation with other diners is encouraged. Guests are then sat at 2 long, communal tables and dinner is served to everyone at the same time, with a different chef introducing and explaining each fabulous course. The whole thing is wonderful and delicious.
- SPQR – This one still stays near the top of my list for it’s awesome pasta. The 3-course pasta tasting with wine pairings that they offer on weekends for lunch is to die for. My husband and I take advantage of this quite often and have never had anything less than fantastic.
- Spruce – We are incredibly lucky to have Spruce as a nearby, neighborhood restaurant. The food is consistently great. Even their bar menu has a couple of standout dishes, including the famous burger and the Rueben sandwich with house-cured pastrami and fresh based sourdough rye.
- Michael Mina – Local chef Michael Mina has quite a presence here in San Francisco, including newcomer PABU (see #7 below), but this namesake restaurant is top of the line. The food is better than it’s ever been. An elegant ambiance complements the beautifully presented and delicious food.
- Gary Danko – This restaurant always makes every top list of SF restaurants and with good reason. The food is outstanding, thoughtful and delicious, and the price of the tasting menu (at just $83 for 3 courses) is a great value.
- PABU – The latest restaurant from Michael Mina, this izakaya (a Japanese gastropub) serves some great Japanese fare, including sushi, and has an astounding list of sake and Japanese whiskeys. They also have what’s known as a kikisake-shi, which is the equivalent of a master sommelier but for sake.
- RN74 – As mentioned at the beginning of this post, RN74 has undergone a complete transformation of its food. A new chef took what was decent but uninteresting food and made it some of the best food in the city. The roasted bone marrow is unbelievable.
- Petit Crenn – Chef Dominique Crenn was the first female chef in the US to receive 2 Michelin stars for her fine-dining restaurant, Atelier Crenn. Her more casual spot, Petit Crenn, is inspired by her French upbringing in Brittany. The ambiance and family-style dining is certainly more casual, but the quality of food is just as great.
- Benu – I left Benu off my list for a couple of years, but it has earned it’s way back to my list. Benu, which serves only a tasting menu, takes such care to produce beautiful, creative and delicious food that you will relish every bit.
- Terzo – Still going strong after 10 years, Chef Mark Gordon is at the top of his game. The food (Mediterranean/Italian) is just the right mix of well cooked meat, salads, pasta and vegetables, all cooked to perfection. And don’t miss their signature house-made hummus.
- Volta – This is the newly opened French Brasserie with Swedish influences from the team that own Perbacco and Barbacco (#s 15 and 19 on this list respectively). Open since early January, Volta has gotten a ton of press as having beautiful decor, a great vibe and excellent food. They have a great
- Sons & Daughters – Another restaurant that does only a tasting menu, this place is representative of the new style of SF-eating: high end food in a casual and comfortable setting. With only about 20 tables, make sure to plan in advance to visit this terrific spot.
- DOSA – This one has been on my list every year. The Indian food is authentic, delicious and appropriately spicy (I find most SF Indian restaurants dumb down the spice for Americans). The Fillmore location has a stunning dining room and a beautiful, vibrant bar with an Indian-spice inspired cocktail menu.
- Perbacco – Still some of the best Italian food you can find in San Francisco, this is the perfect place for a date night or a business dinner. The ambiance is warm and welcoming, the pasta is delicious, and the wine list incredibly impressive.
- Lord Stanley – This is a fairly new restaurant which received a Michelin star very early, and deservedly so. The bright, airy dining room is lovely, the food from the husband and wife team is great, and a nice European-inspired wine list all make for a great experience. Don’t miss the onion petals in sherry vinegar.
- The Progress – The food at this restaurant is fresh and approachable, served on beautiful and rustic dishes family style. All the food is delicious…it’s kind of like being invited into the home kitchen of a great chef.
- Stones Throw – I love this place for doing everyday food better than you can imagine. The handmade pasta is awesome, the waitstaff very friendly, and the bar a great place to meet a friend for a drink. Perfect for a friends’ night out.
- Barbacco – The casual little sister of Perbacco (#15), I love Barbacco for its small plates, in particular the brussels sprouts which are cooked in a delicious combo of red wine vinegar and anchovy paste (trust me, they are addictive).
- Out the Door/Slanted Door – The Slanted Door has been an icon of SF for more than a decade, and continues to serve delicious Vietnamese food at it’s gorgeous restaurant in the Ferry Building. It’s casual offshoot, Out the Door, serves a delicious subset of the main restaurant’s menu. I cannot resist their BBQ pork buns, and their beef pho is delicious.
- Namu Gaji – This one has also been on my list more than one year in a row. they serve delicious Korean food with a modern twist (do not ignore the KFC – Korean Fried Chicken!). Casual, fun and utterly delicious.
- Cavalier – The Cavalier is a SOMA gastropub that is worth going out of your way for. They serve some of the best fish & chips I’ve ever had….lightly breaded sole served with a malt vinegar aioli with minted peas on the side that are to die for. Marlowe is another spot owned by the same group that serves the famous Marlowe burger, is also a must-try.
- Pizzeria Delfina – This offshoot of the restaurant Delfina serves some of the best pizza in the city. They serve Neapolitan-style pizza topped lightly with fresh and delicious ingredients. My personal fave is the Salsiccia (sausage) pizza.
- Tacolicious – Now with several locations, this taco spot is just awesome. The carnitas and beer-and-a-shot-chicken tacos are my go-to items on the menu, and their fresh salsa (which contains some mint) is addictive. They now sell several of their products through Williams-Sonoma and they do taste just like the real thing, making it easy to enjoy their food at home!
- Umami Burger – My favorite burger joint in SF (although Roam comes in a close second), where I always order the Hatch burger, made with Hatch New Mexican green chiles and top it with their spicy Diablo sauce.
That rounds out the list of my top 25 San Francisco restaurants for 2016! Please share your own experiences at these great dining spots and add your favorites in the comments.