Where to Eat: East Bay and San Francisco
It’s ambitious to attempt to fit the East Bay and San Francisco into a nutshell, but we’ll give it a try. Suffice it to say that the Bay Area has no shortage of phenomenal dining options, from street food, diners, ethnic eateries, family-style, celebrity chef and Michelin starred restaurants. The biggest challenge is finding the time, budget, and amenable waistline to check it all out.
Arguello | August 1 Five | Benu | Black Cat | Boulettes Larder + Boulibar | Bun Mee | Capo’s Chicago | Cliff House | Commonwealth | Craftsman and Wolves | Dabba | Epic Steak | Espetus Churrascaria | Farmhouse Kitchen Thai Cuisine | Frances | Freds | Gather | Hakkasan | Hopscotch | Hotel Mac Restaurant | Kin Khao | La Folie | Lolo | Lord Stanley | Maybeck’s | Merchant Roots | Mersea | Michael Mina | Namu Gaji | Nopa | Niku Steakhouse | Palio | Perry’s | Pikanhas Brazilian Steakhouse | Pizzaiolo | Presidio Social Club | The Commissary | The Pressed Cafe | Rich Table | Salt House | Serpentine | Sessions at the Presidio | State Bird Provisions | The Brew Coop | The Progress | Town Hall
Mexican, 50 Moraga Ave, 415.561.3650
Opened inside the Presidio’s Officers’ Club by Traci Des Jardins, the restaurant serves California-inspired Mexican food and drinks. Here, Chef de Cuisine Jose Alvarez works closely with Des Jardins’ and the two draw inspiration from travels to Mexico to build the food program. International wine is served but it’s the over 120 agave spirits that are truly worth checking out.
Indian, 524 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco, (415) 771-5900
A seasonal menu inspired by the regional cooking of northern and central India breaks away from staples like curry. The interior makes an inviting atmosphere for modern interpretations of Indian cuisine.
Asian, 22 Hawthorne St, San Francisco, (415) 685-4860
American, 400 Eddy St, San Francisco, (415) 358-1999
Grit meets glam at this jazzy Tenderloin supper club. Executive Chef Tu David Phu and Chef de Cuisine Robert Hurtado have designed a unique menu fusing American and international classics. Saigon bouillabaisse, California curry, and Mayan ceviche tostada are some of the choices, along with timeless cocktails and live music in the downstairs lounge. Happy hour 5:30 to 7 p.m.
Mediterranean, 1 Ferry Building, San Francisco, (415) 399-1155
Head to the Embarcadero for savory flavors of lamb, feta, and mint or the bittersweetness of barberry, bulgur, and pomegranate salad. By day, have a cozy breakfast or lunch on the patio or by the open kitchen; days and evenings, the wood-oven dining room is also open and can be booked for small private parties. Bay Bridge views punctuate an unmistakably San Francisco setting.
Vietnamese, 2015 Fillmore St, San Francisco, (415) 800-7696
Italian, 641 Vallejo St, San Francisco, (415) 986-8998
If you’re craving classic Chicago-style Italian and a venue to match, the endless pizza choices and flavorful pasta and meat selections here will more than satisfy your appetite and take you back in time to the mobster days of the 1920s.
California, 1090 Point Lobos, San Francisco, (415) 386-3330
Great food, beautiful view and lots of history — what else could you want? An award-winning wine list? They have that too. Besides the popular Sunday buffet brunch, Cliff House features local, organic, sustainable ingredients and seafood on its everyday menu.
American, 2224 Mission St, San Francisco, (415) 355-1500
This progressive American restaurant is touted as one of the most creative dining experiences in the Bay Area. Chef Jason Fox’s concepts are always evolving, and he aims to give guests something they don’t expect, taking a common ingredient and changing it to give the dish an element of surprise that’s rooted in familiarity. Go soon: Commonwealth closes its doors for good on August 26.
American, 746 Valencia St, San Francisco, (415) 913-7713
Indian, 71 Stevenson St, San Francisco, (415) 236-3984
Inspired by the Indian-Mexican restaurant Avatar’s in Sausalito, this concept comes from tech entrepreneur Andy Mercy and former French Laundry and Spruce chef Walter Abrams. Applying Abrams’ precision, palate and creativity to global culinary traditions, Dabba offers worldly flavors “wrapped in a California state of mind.”
American, 369 Embarcadero, San Francisco, (415) 369-9955
An upscale meat lover’s mecca with a sophisticated atmosphere, Epic Steak’s bayside eatery delivers on all fronts. Professional service, choice cuts of prime rib and bittersweet chocolate fudge cake are among the things that keep patrons coming back. An upstairs bar is also a happy hour favorite.
Brazilian, 1686 Market St, San Francisco, (415) 552-8792
Thai, 710 Florida Street, San Francisco, (415) 814-2920
First impressions matter and this establishment makes a bold one with a staple item. The rice here is blue. Not artificially dyed, but tinged by butterfly pea flowers, which is a current trending ingredient in Thailand. Topped with a dollop of shaved ice, the Thai iced tea is also as fun to look at as it is to consume. The popular Wagyu beef rolls and fried chicken round out the menu.
California, 3870 17th St, San Francisco, (415) 621-3870,
American, 77 O’Farrell St, San Francisco, (415) 268-3550
Take a load off at Freds at Barneys New York in San Francisco. Dine on classics such as Estelle’s chicken soup, Freds chopped chicken salad, and pizza margarita, or refresh with nibbles and small plates such as posh Belgian pommes frites or a confetti of ceviche pestactora-style spooned into a martini glass. Before you know it, you will be fully recharged and ready to get back to the business of shopping.
American, 2200 Oxford St, Berkeley, (510) 809-0400
Nicknamed the “omnivore’s solution,” this gem gets its menu inspiration from local farmers, ranchers and artisan food producers, but executive chef Anthony Lee’s micro-seasonal fare attracts vegans too. Brunch here is a weekend favorite.
Chinese, 1 Kearny St, San Francisco, (415) 829-8148
The rich-flavored slow-braised lamb and the crispy duck salad are popular at this San Francisco destination. Private dining rooms are offered: the Jade Room complete with lazy Susan and the larger Dragon Room for cocktail parties or dinners.
California, 1915 San Pablo Ave, Oakland, (510) 788-6217
An upscale diner in Oakland serving regional American food with a Japanese influence. Popular items include yonsei oyster with sea urchin, salmon roe and citrus, and the First Base burger with grilled beef tongue. No time to dine in? The to-go menu features an eight-piece bucket of fried chicken. Happy hour 3 to 5 p.m. daily (Oakland).
American, 50 Washington Ave, Point Richmond, (510) 233-0576
Filled with old-world charm, this establishment has been serving American classics since 1911. Executive chef Jaime Molina’s seasonal menu features freshly prepared fish and favorites like Chicken Cordon Bleu. Weekly specials including Friday’s half-off bottles of wine keep patrons loyal, as does the live music featured nightly.
Thai, 55 Cyril Magnin St, San Francisco, (415) 362-7456
French, 2316 Polk St, San Francisco, (415) 776-5577
Chef Roland Passot serves critically acclaimed fare in this intimate, family-run restaurant. It’s located in Russian Hill, but the menu highlights ingredients from farms in Marin and Sonoma and all along the Pacific Coast and the greater Northwest.
Mexican, 974 Valencia St, San Francisco, (415) 643-5656
American, 2065 Polk St, San Francisco, (415) 872-5512
In the short time it’s been open, this eatery by husband-and-wife team Rupert and Carrie Blease has earned a Michelin star two years in a row and three-and-a-half stars from San Francisco Chronicle restaurant critic Michael Bauer. The onion petals with sherry vinegar is a favorite and not to be missed.
American, 3213 Scott St, San Francisco, (415) 939-2726
Erik Lowe and Aaron Toensing serve inventive American standards, including fried chicken and bubbly on Tuesday and resurrection of Beef Wellington on Wednesdays. The chefs explore regional culinary traditions and translate them into a Northern California lexicon, as evidenced by their playful menu and a Negroni-centered bar.
American, 1365 Fillmore St, San Francisco, (530) 574-7365
Merchant Roots serves many roles: its specialty food store and wine shop, casual eatery, and fine-dining restaurant. During the day, it offers pastries, sandwiches, salads, pasta that’s made on-site, cheese, and charcuterie, as well as gourmet pantry items. By night, the space turns into The Table at Merchant Roots, an intimate dinner experience featuring a rotating themed tasting menu.
American, 699 Avenue of the Palms, Treasure Island, San Francisco, (714) 350-3889
Executive chef and co-founder, Parke Ulrich — formerly of Lark Creek Inn, Epic Steak and Waterbar — started this exciting venture on Treasure Island. Mersea, which means “island oasis” in Old English, serves standard American comfort food like burgers, fish and chips and the like with a local-focused Bay Area twist. Also not to be missed are the curated cocktail menu and unbeatable views.
California, 252 California St, San Francisco, (415) 397-9222
Michael Mina has clearly mastered the fine line between award-winning art and Alaskan halibut. Each brilliantly crafted dish has a delicate blend of flavors that add up to a distinctive, luxurious dining experience.
Korean, 499 Dolores St, San Francisco, (415) 431-6268
Currently closed while it moves from its home in the Mission to SoMa.
Japanese, 61 Division Street, San Francisco, (415) 829-7817
This American steakhouse has a distinct Japanese influence and eschews predictable fare, offering a 10-course seasonal tasting menu in addition to an à la carte menu where vegetables get the same kind of attention as meat — kimchi and koji are made on-site. Notables dishes include Japanese wagyu from the Hyogo prefecture, in-house dry-aged domestic beef, porterhouse steak and a bone-in tomahawk steak intended for sharing.
California, 560 Divisadero St, San Francisco, (415) 864-8643
The easy California menu shows off roasted chicken and pork chops, with a bouquet of appetizers to set the mood. Although this San Francisco destination is busy almost every night (a good sign), the wait at the legendary bar is half the fun.
Italian, 640 Sacramento Street, San Francisco, (415) 395-9800
After closing down to undergo an extensive renovation, Palio d’Asti has been reimagined as Palio, and now offers a brand-new dining space, expanded bar and lounge, as well as private dining rooms. The menu features different regions of Italy while maintaining an emphasis on seasonal, sustainably sourced California ingredients. Dishes include house-made pastas, whole Mediterranean sea bass, and numerous wood-fired pizza options.
American, 1944 Union St, San Francisco, (415) 922-9022
This Union Street institution with an Embarcadero location is famous for classic American food, personable service, and a bustling bar. Signature dishes include Cobb salad, prime steaks, Eggs Blackstone and of course, the burger. Lunch and dinner daily, brunch weekends and holidays.
Brazilian, 25 W Richmond Ave, Point Richmond, (510) 237-7585
Italian, 5008 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, (510) 652-4888
An Italian gem opened in 2005 with a focus on topping his handmade pizzas with locally sourced meats and produce. The menu changes daily and includes house favorites like wild nettles and pecorino pizza and braised Marin Sun Farms pork with Tokyo turnips and apples. Breakfast is served Monday though Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon (Oakland)
American, 101 Montgomery St, 415.561.3600
Owner Ray Tang opened Presidio Social Club with the idea of providing guests the comforts of a club without the dues. Executive chef Wesley Shaw — a native Texan with a penchant for Southern tastes — plans many seasonal events including clambakes and pig roasts. Popular menu items include Sonoma lamb and gemelli pasta as well as the grilled bavette steak.
California, 199 Gough St, San Francisco, (415) 355-9085
American, 545 Mission St, San Francisco, (415) 543-8900
Owned by Mill Valley brothers Mitchell and Steven Rosenthal and Doug Washington, Salt House’s chef Evan Gotanda’s menu highlights a Japanese influence and includes seasonal dishes like roasted cauliflower with cashews, kabocha squash, and furikake, as well as housemade pastas.
American, 2495 Third St, San Francisco, (415) 252-2000
Owner/chef Tommy Halvorson, formerly of Chez Panisse, Bix, and Gary Danko, puts his own Southern spin on the menu here. Honey fried chicken is a standout for brunch and dinner, as is a reimagined cocktail selection.
American, 1 Letterman Drive, San Francisco, (415) 655-9413
Located just across the Golden Gate Bridge, this restaurant has serious ties to Marin. The fruits, vegetables, herbs and olive oil hail from our county thanks in part to the restaurant’s partnership with Skywalker Ranch. Additionally, the 100 craft beer offerings, including 24 draft options, will keep beer lovers more than satisfied.
American, 1529 Fillmore St, San Francisco, (415) 795-1272
Spanish, 101 Montgomery St, 415.561.3600
This Spanish-influenced restaurant features the country’s traditional flavors crafted with sustainable and locally sourced ingredients from the Bay Area. We’re talking really local — the restaurant uses fresh produce and herbs from six Presidio gardens for its dishes. Under the guidance of Traci Des Jardins, The Commissary offers items such ranging from shishito peppers to grilled Spanish octopus.
American, 819 Valencia St, San Francisco
At San Francisco’s first-ever self-pour taproom patrons use provided RFID cards as they select from the 26 beers, ciders and wine that are available — pours cost between 50 to 80 cents per ounce and your choices are added to your card. A robust menu of sharable bar snacks like street tacos, carne asada fries, fried chicken and wings plus seven big-screen televisions make this a prime spot to catch a game.
Italian, 3 Embarcadero Center, San Francisco, (415) 781-0302
California, 1525 Fillmore St, San Francisco, (415) 673-1294
The second venture from State Bird Provisions chef-proprietors Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski is as innovative as the first. Along with seasonal variations on favorites like roti, pierogis and meat-centric platters meant for sharing, sip on a craft cocktail or pick from general manager and wine director Jason Alexander’s expansive wine list.
American, 342 Howard St, San Francisco, (415) 908-3900
The exposed brick and warm, unconventional lighting turn Town Hall’s large space into an intimate yet elegant environment. With a more-than-adequate wine list and savory American classics like fried chicken with rosemary crushed marble potatoes, a visit here should be on everyone’s list.