Food Nerd Day Trips from San Francisco

Truly a foodie destination, the Bay Area offers culinary riches well within reach of the city.

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

Why leave San Francisco when you already have great restaurants and outstanding farmers markets? Sometimes we all need a change of scenery — and a little sunlight. Enjoy the rays in Marin County, the dramatic bluffs of Point Reyes, or the Big Sur butterflies, eating splendidly all the while. The Golden Gate Bridge isn't just pretty to look at, it actually takes you places. Our food nerd’s day trips are journeys, investigations and escapes all in one.

Yountville, Napa Valley

Napa deserves more than a day, but it's close enough to spend an afternoon sipping and noshing. Charming Yountville has it all — walk-able main street, casual and upscale dining, and good shopping. Check out V Wine Cellar to taste and shop for a wide range of the area’s wines. Choose from a handful of wineries to tour or just eat to your heart’s content. If you didn’t plan ahead for reservations at French Laundry, get a more accessible taste of Thomas Keller at Bouchon Bistro or Bouchon Bakery. Get there: Approx. 1-hour and 20-minute drive

Point Reyes Station/Petaluma

Go on a double-header creamery tour offered by one the nation’s most beloved independent cheese makers, Cowgirl Creamery, which shows people around both their Petaluma creamery and also offers classes at their original Point Reyes factory. Then visit the gorgeous Point Reyes National Seashore and end the day with an early dinner at Osteria Stellina. Get there: Approx. 1-hour drive

Tomales Bay

Tomales Bay

A trip to Tomales Bay means oysters, and it seems like everybody has their favorite place to shuck ‘em. Choose one of these spots: Hog Island Oyster Co., Tomales Bay Oyster Co., or The Marshall Store, all in Marshall, and Drakes Bay Family Farm in Inverness. Get there: Approx. 1-hour and 30-minute drive (Photo: Flickr/Orin Zebest)


The crown jewel in Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto is, of course, Alice Water’s famed Chez Panisse (she’s also one of our 50 Most Powerful People in Food). In the main section of the neighborhood, other noteworthy stops are the Cheese Board Collective's Cheese Board Pizza and Masse’s Pastries. Over in what’s considered the Ghetto Gourmet West, there’s Acme Bread, Alice Water’s Café Fanny and Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant. Get there: Approx. 25-minute drive

Sonoma County

Healdsburg, Sonoma County

Another stop for powerhouse dining, Healdsburg is the perfect jumping off point for Sonoma’s wine regions, like the Russian River Valley. Restaurants that get a lot of attention include Scopa, Cyrus, The Charcuterie and Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen, but there are plenty of casual spots like Big John’s Market where you can get lunch for a picnic or Downtown Bakery & Creamery, known for their pastries and the amazing sounding Donut Muffin. Get there: Approx. 1-hour and 30-minute drive (Photo: Flickr/Larry and Linda)

Princeton-by-the-sea/Half Moon Bay

A trip to these coastal towns is usually for great seafood markets and shacks. Get stunningly fresh fish to take home at Princeton Seafood Co Restaurant and Fresh Fish Market or Half Moon Bay Fish Market, but if you aren’t cooking-inclined have lunch at Barbara’s Fishtrap or Sam’s Chowder House. The annual fall Pumpkin Festival is also a big draw. Get there: Approx. 45-minute drive


Even before it was featured on Diners, Drive-in and Dives, people traveled to Duarte’s Tavern for two things: artichoke soup and pies. Some rave about it while others have been disappointed, but you’ll just have to judge it for yourself. While you’re there, tour the grounds of the historic Pigeon Point Light Station and watch the ocean for wales. If you need to crash, the light keeper’s house has been turned into a hostel. Get there: Approx. 1-hour drive

Big Sur

Big Sur

The parks of Big Sur are known for their wildlife, from the Condors soaring to the Monarch butterfly migration and the whale sightings, but there are a few foodie reasons to go too:  brunch, lunch or dinner at Big Sur Bakery and Restaurant, and Nepenthe for drinks and the view. Get there: Approx. 3-hour drive (Photo: Flickr/meglet127)

Sunnyvale/San Jose

This day trip is the Asian food aficionado’s 12 hours in heaven. First head to Sunnyvale for Vietnamese beef soup at Pho Wagon, bahn mi sandwiches at Cam Hung, or more upscale Vietnamese food at Xanh. Then it’s time for Korean barbecue at Jang Su Jang or Palace BBQ Buffet. Hop back in the car to go further south for a tour of San Jose’s Japantown, full of great eateries and shopping like San Jose Tofu and Shuei Do Manju Shop. Get there: Approx. 1-hour drive


The word is that Oakland has really come into its own, culinary wise. Areas like the city’s Jack London Square have been regenerated, giving birth to restaurants like Commis, Pizzaiolo Oakland, and Boot and Shoe Service. Or just go for the sweets — Bake Sale Betty’s two Oakland locations delight, and you might remember Fenton’s Creamery from the movie Up. Get there: Approx. 25-minute drive