With San Francisco’s natural and architectural beauty, consistently moderate temperatures, and unbeatable culinary scene, it’s somewhat miraculous that everyone in America doesn’t pack up and head in the general direction of the Bay Area. The cost of living is a pretty penny, sure but eating well in San Francisco doesn’t mean walking down the street with empty pockets folding out of your jeans. Anyone who’s taken a walk through the Mission, where an $8 Mission-style burrito or a $10 braised pork belly at Mission Chinese can change your life, knows how far a few bucks can go.
There’s also the kinds of world-class culinary fusion and high-end dining experiences you’d expect in a historically great food city that that landed an impressive 10 restaurants in our 101 Best Restaurants in America list. So with San Francisco being a leader in culinary trends, and home to some of the best chefs and restaurants in the country, whittling our list down to 15 spots wasn’t an easy task.
One of the birthplaces of the organic and locavore movements in America, San Francisco features lots of great dining spots for folks who like to know where exactly, their meal is coming from. This includes everything from Berkeley’s groundbreaking Chez Panisse and Market Street’s Zuni Café, which have been bringing fresh, locally-sourced meals to the greater Bay Area for over 40 years, to newer, locally-sourcing hot spots like Rich Table and Coi.
San Francisco, with its large Chinese, Filipino, and Vietnamese populations, also ranks as one of the best places in the country to eat Asian-influenced food, evidenced by spots like the aforementioned Mission Chinese, Benu, Michael Mina, and Yank Sing.
And if you’re looking for sophistication and invention without too much pretension, it’s tough to beat James Beard Award nominated fusion spot Bar Tartine and James Beard award winner State Bird Provisions, where they fry up one heck of a quail.
You’ll find everything from the affordable Mission Street goods to swankier Financial District spots on our 15 Best Restaurants in San Francisco list, which reinforces what we’ve known for some time: the Bay Area is one of the greatest spots to be a food lover in the United States.
15. Rich Table
Rich Table is pretty much everything you could want from a great California food spot. Massive wine selection? Check. Cheese? Check. Local ingredients with Asian, Italian, and seafood elements? Check, check, and check. The unpretentious dining experience offered by New York and San Francisco veteran chefs Evan and Sarah Rich puts a focus on freshness, with locally-sourced flavors resulting in dishes like gnocchi with guanciale, treviso, and Meyer lemon; and asparagus with, fresh cheese, peach, and walnut. Opened in 2012, Rich Table has found a substantial fan base in a hurry, including the folks at The James Beard Foundation, who awarded them a Best New Restaurant medal in 2013.
Huey Lewis once famously sang “it’s hip to be square.” But sometimes, it’s just hip to be hip, as anyone who has ever sampled the arty, California-style comfort food at Nopa will tell you. The Panhandle neighborhood favorite’s “rustic urban” cuisine will satisfy the cool kids looking to experiment with dishes like a warm goat cheese dinner with Asian pear, fuyu persimmon, and crostini, or anyone looking to play it safe with a burger (grass fed of course — this is San Francisco, after all), or a grilled pork chop with Brussels sprouts. Dining at nopa also isn’t an especially bank-breaking endeavor: almost everything on the menu prices at $25 and under.