adventures of an american housewife in the south of france

2011 San Francisco Restaurant Guide

Last week one of my favorite San Francisco restaurant blogs, Eater SF, updated their 38 Essential San Francisco Restaurants.  Most of the places included on this list are top of the line, rather schmancy establishments, but a solid list nonetheless.  I often get asked for restaurant suggestions from friends and co-workers, so I decided to put together my list of Top Restaurants in San Francisco by category.  There are so many amazing restaurants in San Francisco that this is by no means a full, complete list.  In fact, I'm sure I'm forgetting some of my favorites.  For now, this is simply my favorite places to go in the city.  It's a living, breathing compilation that I plan to update a few times a year so that you're in the know.  What restaurants would you add?

i heart sf

Best Date SpotFirefly I love that we now live within walking distance of this cozy and intimate restaurant.  As the site of one of our first "fancy" dates, Firefly holds a lot of special memories for me.  Their menu changes seasonally with the exception of a few year round options (Shrimp & Scallop Pot Stickers, Fried Chicken of Your Dreams) and everything I've ever had there has been absolutely fantastic.  Make sure to go Sunday - Thursday when they have a can't-beat pre-fixe deal:  Appetizer, Entree & Dessert for $36/person. Best Restaurant You Can't Get IntoFrances This place is living up to the hype!  It's near impossible to get a reservation at this recent Castro establishment, even months in advance.  Your best bet is to do what The Hub and I did:  show up between 5-5:30 on a Sunday and wait for a bar seat.  We only had to wait about 10 minutes, but I think we got there at just the right time.  Our seats were very cramped, but man oh man was the food exquisite!  They have wines on tap, which is a cool novelty, and special seasonal beers and cocktails.  The Applewood Smoke Bacon Beignets are worth the wait alone.  We also got lamb 3 ways and it was the best lamb dish this mouth has ever tasted. Best Italian - A16 A16 has been packed to the gills every night practically since it was first opened and it's no surprise.  The food is fantastic and the 40+ page wine list is exhaustive.  I love the back patio and the open air kitchen where you can watch the chefs at work.  To me, there is only one way to order at A16 and it is as follows:
  • Appetizer – Burrata with olive oil, sea salt and crostini.  If you don’t get this, you are a fool.  It’s what A16 is all about.
  • Entrée – Maccaronara with ragu napoletana and house-made ricotta salata.  Soft, chewy pasta in a decadent sauce.  Amazing
  • Dessert – Chocolate Budino Tart.  This is basically a Molten Chocolate Cake drizzled with olive oil and sea salt.  It tastes like brownie batter.  Yum.
Best Italian, Honorable MentionLa Traviata Let's face it, as a city, San Francisco is not known for its Italian.  But La Traviata is a solid choice for hearty pasta dishes, just like mom used to make, at a fair price.  The small space is covered in framed photographs of Opera singers and actors giving off a bit of a mobster vibe.  The staff is friendly and the homemade bread is served fresh and hot right out of the oven.  No experience is complete without an order of lasagna and a bottle of Peachy Canyon Zinfandel. Best Taqueria: El Buen Sabor This has been my favorite to-go taqueria since I moved to SF in 2005.  I crave their Green Chicken Supreme Burrito (with black beans, no lettuce) and my Grandma is obsessed with their tamales.  And trust me, Gloria knows her tamales. Best Meatball SubGambino's Oh boy, I sure miss working so close to Gambino's,  but my waistline does not.  This Italian deli is located downtown in Embarcadero 1 and was a favorite lunch spot of mine for a long time.  Their meatball sub is worthy of East Coast status:  perfect ratio of meat-to-sauce-to-cheese and served on a crusty Italian roll.  Marvelous.  They also have a kick ass Italian Wedding Soup served daily.

Best Fancy Sushi: Tokyo GoGo

Tokyo GoGo is the place where I take SF visitors who want a modern sushi experience.  The decor is hip, the cocktails are fab (the Cucumber Gimlet is my jam) and the rolls are incredibly creative and unique.  Some of my favorites are:  Tuna & Salmon Tartare, Fish Tacos, Azteca and Golden Gate.  This restaurant is also one of the only sushi places that you can make a reservation for a large group. Best Fancy Sushi, Honorable MentionZushi Puzzle The main reason why Zushi Puzzle was not awarded first place is because their service sucks and the ambiance leaves much to be desired.  But their rolls are almost like art.  They are so unique and appetizing that I just keep coming back even though the whole experience tends to take several hours.  So I usually order take out.  My go-tos are Supa Dylan, Jackie Roll, Beth's Best and I Love Salmon. Best Hole in the Wall SushiWarakubune I would put a place like Kabuto or Sushi Zone on this list, but the problem with those places is, I don't particularly like having to rush to a sushi restaurant at 4:45 to get in line and still wait 45+ minutes for a table.  Warakabune can also be a wait, but they have a large sushi boat in the middle of the restaurant which usually makes the seats turn a lot faster.  Their sushi is just solid, fresh fish, prepared simply. Best TapasAndalu Andalu is a quintessential San Francisco restaurant.  Hip, stylish and creative, I like to take visitors here because it offers a great local experience and there is something that everyone will like. For sharing purposes, it's best to come here with a group of 3 or 6.  My must-order list includes Ahi Tartare Tacos, Crispy Mac & Cheese, Sliders, Coca-cola Braised Short Ribs, and Wild Boar and Bacon Meatballs. Best BrunchZazie This quaint little French bistro is so scrumptious it's no wonder the wait list for brunch is 20 people deep by 10am.  But it's worth it, I promise.  They have a fantastic mimosa menu and their scrambles are a delight.  I am a savory breakfast person, so my choice is usually a Croque Madame, which is a Croque Monsieur with an egg on top.  However, when I am in the mood for sweet, nothing beats their Gingerbread Pancakes with Bosc Pears and Lemon Curd. Best Breakfast To-GoPeasant Pies There a few Peasant Pies locations throughout the city and I just love them all.  These little handheld hot pockets of goodness are made with all natural, simple ingredients and some are even vegan.  I usually get 1 for breakfast or 2 if I'm really hungry.  They have sweet and savory, but as you can probably guess I always go for savory.  My favorites are Eggs Veggie & Cheese, Curried Potato, Spinach & Feta, and Moroccan Lentil.  Each month they have a "Pie of the Month" which I always find very exciting. Best Downtown Lunch SpotMixt Greens I love the philosophy of this eco-conscious lunch spot.  All of their containers and utensils are compostable, their food is organic, sustainable, and locally sourced when possible.  The result?  A damn good salad.  DAMN GOOD.  They are a little pricey but worth it for the fresh ingredients that you know are good for your body.  Make your own or choose from their menu of mouth-watering options. Best DeliveryRin's Thai This is supposedly a Thai restaurant, but to me it's more of Pan-Asian.  Their food is fantastic, comfortable ambiance, and they deliver!  I like to get their Tom Yum soup when I'm sick and The Hub loves the Stuffed Chicken Wings.  Other top choices are Taro Pot Stickers, Spicy Steak Salad, Mama's Chicken and Green Beans, BBQ Chicken and Garlic Egg Noodles and Dungeness Crab Cellophane Noodles. Best GermanWalzwerk This cozy hole in the wall is actually a really nice date spot with some amazing, authentic German food to boot.  Their potato pancakes are among the best I've ever had, and I'm a total sucker for their Jäger Schnitzel.  I always make sure to get an order of their Cheese Spätzle - it's light, creamy and decadent.  They have a relatively lengthy German beer list and always give you a digestif after you finish your meal. Restaurants Good for Large GroupsKhan Toke Thai House, Shimo, Great India, La Traviata It seems that every restaurant and bar in San Francisco is a long, narrow room, which can make it really difficult to find a spot for a large group.  I recommend trying any of the places I listed above for your next birthday party or celebration.  All of these options take reservations, have solid food, and can easily seat groups of 10 or more in a comfortable setting.  Plus, you can usually call the day of and they'll be able to accommodate you. And last, by certainly not least.... Top Restaurant OverallRange I really can't say enough about Range.  In the simplest terms:  it is the best restaurant I have ever been to.  On Earth.  Period.  End of story.  It's absolutely fantastic.  It is haute dining at its finest with a cocktail menu and dinner menu that change seasonally.  They always have really delicious vegetarian options too.

4 Responses to “2011 San Francisco Restaurant Guide”

  1. Alicia says:

    LOVED Range when I went!!! Great list!

  2. nate says:

    Great list — I’m with you on many of these recommendations. However, I really couldn’t allow a “best taqueria” category recommnendation stand without at least mentioning Papalote. Their salsa is worthy of a cross-country flight.

  3. Jess says:

    Couldn’t agree more about Firefly, Zazie, Andalu, A16, Rin’s, and Khan Toke. All the others I have yet to try! I think El Buen Sabor is first on my list due to Fab Grandma’s endorsement :)

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