So you’re visiting San Francisco, or you have out-of-town guests staying in the city and want to point them in the right direction for food. We’ve compiled a rough guide of San Francisco bites in the downtown area — since that’s where the vast majority of tourists stay and explore. Some of these are classic San Francisco (oysters on the bay, hipster bars, hole-in-the-wall burritos) and some are lesser-known spots that are must-visits because of their tasty food or unique meals. Try some; try all. We’re just keeping you on your toes.
The guide is primarily aimed at downtown San Francisco and divided into quicker eats for lunch, sit-down places for dinner (or a big lunch), coffee and tea spots, and bars. If you want to venture further afield and ride BART a few stops, we’ve also suggested a few places that you may have heard of or that would make any list of places to visit in the city on the Bay. Use the Google Map at the bottom to find locations and to plan your eating foray.
Let us know what you think after you try some of these. Or, tell us what we missed that our visitors simply have to eat while they’re here.
FOOD – Lunch, Snacks, Quick Hits
Ferry Building Farmers Market
Farmers Market, $$
Ferry Building Plaza
Tues, Thurs, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Sat, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Why? Local farmers sell produce, meat, and cheeses. Be sure to get a Rueben sandwich from the Wise Sons booth on Tuesday or Thursday – though be warned that there may be a line. And check out the sandwiches from 4505 Meats on Thursday.
Hog Island Oyster Co.
San Francisco Ferry Building
Mon-Thurs, 11:30 a.m. – 9 p.m. Fri, 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m. Sat, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m., Sun, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m
Why? Sit next to the water and enjoy fresh oysters from nearby Tomales Bay. Inside the Ferry Building Marketplace.
Cheese, Sandwiches, $$
San Francisco Ferry Building
Café: Mon-Sat, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. Sun, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Why? Buy the local cheeses at their store or visit the Sidekick Café and Milk Bar for sandwiches and snacks. Inside the Ferry Building Marketplace.
Dim Sum, $$$
49 Stevenson St
101 Spear St (at One Rincon Center)
Both locations open: Mon-Fri, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Why? For some of the best dim sum in the city. Try the soup dumplings and pork buns. Make reservations or take to-go.
Italian, Pizza, $$
826 Folsom St.
Sun-Thurs, 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m., Fri, Sat, 11:30 a.m. – 11 p.m. (Mon- Fri, closed 2:30 – 4 p.m.)
Why? For the pizza (try the Fillmore) and the salted ice cream.
Japanese, Ramen, $$
430 Geary St.
Everyday, 11:30 a.m. – 2 a.m.
Why? Go to try the extra spicy ramen (or any of the ramen).
Mexican (burritos), $
10 Mason St.
Mon-Sat, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Why? You can’t visit San Francisco without visiting a hole-in-the-wall taqueria that secretly has amazing food. Get the super burrito and you’ll have leftovers. Cash only.
721 Market St.
Mon-Wed, 8 a.m. – 10 p.m. Thurs, Fri, 8 a.m. – 11 p.m. Sat, 10:30 a.m. – 11 p.m. Sun, 10:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.
783 Mission St.
Mon-Sat, 10:30 a.m. – 11 p.m. Sun, 10:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.
98 Mission St.
Mon-Fri, 7 a.m. – 9 p.m. Sat, Sun, 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Why? The motto is: fast food burgers, slow food values. Yes, it’s a chain, but it’s a San Francisco chain. Small burgers made from Niman Ranch beef, and be sure to get a shake with that.
FOOD – Sit-down/Fine Dining
Soul Food, $$
25 Mason St.
Tues-Thurs, Sun, 5:30 – 10 p.m., Fri, Sat, 5 – 11 p.m. (Weekend brunch: 10 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.)
Why? San Franciscans brunch at a higher-than-average rate; join them. If you can’t make it for weekend brunch, you can still try the fried chicken and waffles, and the jalapeno cornbread.
San Francisco Ferry Building
Mon-Sat, lunch 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. Sun, lunch 11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.; everyday, afternoon tea 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m., dinner 5:30 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Why? Modern Vietnamese with views of the Bay. Call to make a reservation. Inside the Ferry Building Marketplace. Bonus: The Slanted Door just won the 2014 James Beard award for Outstanding Restaurant in the country.
252 California St.
Lunch: Mon-Fri, 11:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. Dinner: Sun-Thurs, 5:30 – 10 p.m., Fri, Sat, 5:30 – 10:30 p.m. (Lounge opens 11:30 a.m. Mon-Fri)
Why? Michael Mina is known for his high-quality American-style food, with five restaurants around San Francisco. Try the one that is his namesake. The tasting menu will give you a range of plates and you’ll leave having earned the title of “foodie.”
5A5 Steak Lounge
244 Jackson St.
Mon-Thurs, 5 – 10 p.m. Fri, Sat, 5 – 10:30 p.m. Sun, 5 – 9 p.m.
Why? For one of the best steakhouses in the city. Get the truffle fries and Hamachi shooters with your meat.
Colibri Mexican Bistro
438 Geary St.
Mon, 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m., Tues-Thurs, 11:30 a.m. – 11 p.m., Fri, 11:30 – midnight Sat, 10:30 a.m. – midnight, Sun, 10:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Why? For sit-down Mexican food, Colibri is the place to go. The most popular dish is the chicken mole and on the weekends try the bottomless mimosa brunch.
66 Mint St.
San Francisco Ferry Building
Both locations: Mon-Fri, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. Sat, Sun, 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Why? Blue Bottle coffee is micro-roasted and hand-made. This is not the place to go for a quickly rushed cup of caffeine. The Mint Plaza location also serves breakfast.
Samovar Tea Lounge
730 Howard St. (Yerba Buena Gardens, upper terrace)
Sun-Wed, 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. Thurs-Sat, 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Why? Sit overlooking the park and enjoy a cup of tea with light food.
Bourbon & Branch
501 Jones St.
Everyday, 6 p.m. – 2 a.m.
Why? The speakeasy-style bar may seem over-the-top and hipster (and sooo San Francisco), but the atmosphere is something you have to experience and the drinks are delicious. Try the cucumber gimlet. Call ahead for reservations and the “secret” password. And, yes, that hidden door you walked right past is the front entrance.
Wine bar, $$$
20 Yerba Buena Lane
Mon-Thurs, 4 – 11 p.m. Fri, Sat, 2 – 11 p.m. Sun, 2 – 8 p.m.
Why? When you visit the Bay Area, you have to drink some wine. It’s a rule. Enjoy the variety offered at Press Club in their lounge. Check that a private event hasn’t blocked out the place first.
Cellarmaker Brewing Co.
1150 Howard St.
Tues-Fri, 3 – 11 p.m. Sat, noon – 11 p.m. Sun 2 – 8 p.m.
Why? If beer is your thing. Do a sampling of all their local brews.
(looking for San Francisco adventure)
Dessert, Ice cream, $
3692 18th St.
Sun-Thurs, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Fri, Sat, 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Why? For the small-batch ice cream, made from local ingredients. Be sure to try the salted caramel flavor.
600 Guerrero St.
Mon, 8 a.m. – 7 p.m., Tues, Wed, 7:30 a.m. – 7 p.m., Thurs, Fri, 7:30 a.m. – 8 p.m. Sat, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. Sun, 9 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Why? Tartine may be the most well-known bakery in San Francisco. Get fresh warm bread after 4:30 p.m. or sweets anytime. Expect a line – a long line.
Trouble Coffee Co.
Toast, coffee, $$
4033 Judah St.
Everyday, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Why? You heard of $4 artisan toast? This is where it started. Trouble Coffee is small; it’s hip; and it serves very few things: coconuts, cinnamon toast, coffee. But, what it serves it serves well. Cash only.
ICHI Sushi + NI Bar
3282 Mission St.
Mon-Thurs, 5:30 – 10 p.m. Fri, Sat, 5:30 – 11 p.m.
Why? ICHI just opened its new, bigger location and the popular spot has been packed with sushi-lovers. Make a reservation and just do omakase – the chef will bring you a series of tasty dishes.
State Bird Provisions
American, tapas, $$$
1529 Fillmore St.
Sun-Thurs, 5:30 – 10 p.m. Fri, Sat, 5:30 – 11 p.m.
Why? Because it just tastes so good – and you can judge for yourself if it’s worth the hype. Make reservations if you can get them, or stand in line before it opens.
Mexican, burritos, $
2889 Mission St.
Mon-Sat, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. Sun, 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Why? It is a fact universally recognized that the highest concentration of the best burritos is in the Mission. If you venture to the neighborhood on BART, then you’ll want to check out a classic taqueria and La Taqueria is the worst-kept secret in the area. Get the carne asada burrito and the carnitas taco with everything on it.
Use the Google Map below to find the different places in our list or sort by category. Let us know in the comments if we forgot your favorite downtown San Francisco spot or places you always take out-of-towners.
Want some more options? Check out the Union Square Checklist from Check, Please! Bay Area! If you are looking for great eateries in San Francisco’s Union Square the producers of the show selected 10 of the best restaurants from past seasons near the iconic landmark.