My advice is a little bit dated (circa 2008), so there have been lots of changes on the SF dining scene – but these yelp links might keep you up to speed. Fancy, I know. (I learned when I lived there that you’re not supposed to call it San Fran, but perhaps part of the reason it just really wasn’t the place for me is because it still feels a little natural to call it San Fran. Sigh.) I was able to update this list a little bit after a family vacation in August 2014 – we rented an airbnb in Noe Valley and played at being SF (ha – that one came naturally! I guess we did a good job pretending) parents for a week. It was pretty great.
Woodhouse, Zuni and La Taqueria remain amazing. My favorites and I miss them always. No words can capture.
SF Ferry Building Farmer’s Market – Saturdays and a smaller group on Tuesdays (mostly mornings). It’s a bona fideSF tourist destination, and the bounty of cool vegetables and weird SF-style among the patrons should not be missed. The best vendors are behind the building, and the Mexican breakfast stand, Hog Island oysters (freshly-shucked!), and samples! Lots of samples. You can almost make an entire breakfast out of samples. Among the samples that are not-to-be-missed are the salmon candy (down near the end of the lot) and garlic quark (up near the front.) There’s also blue bottle coffee, which people seem to love. Inside the ferry building is lots more cool shops and food vendors – definitely worth a gander. I particularly like the mushroom shop (and the truffle salt they sell, on popcorn – – although I think you can get it pretty much anywhere these days.) Also check out Cowgirl Creamery for amazing cheeses and if you feel like a sit-down restaurant, Slanted Door is terrific and fancy Vietnamese food in a beautiful location. The Shaking Beef is particularly good, and I’ve always liked the angel hair noodles with crab and lots of hot sauce.
One of my top five favorite restaurants in the world: Zuni Cafe
. Go, for lunch or for dinner. Better if you can make a reservation, but worth any amount of wait. You MUST MUST MUST order the roast chicken with bread salad. Seriously, we can’t be friends if you don’t. It’s that good. And don’t worry about it saying there’s a wait, and it’s for two, and there being other things you want to order – just order it and whatever you don’t eat that night will make amazing leftovers straight out of your hotel fridge. wonderful things happen to the bread overnight and cold chicken is more delicious than it has a right to be. and once you’re in that far, eating salad with your fingers is just fun! [Revised instruction: order the chicken and other stuff, so that you have leftovers.] They are also well known for their caesar salad – a very good iteration if you like them. And the oyster selection is superb. http://www.yelp.com/biz/zuni-cafe-san-francisco
There is also Swan Oyster depot which is quite famous, but I’ve never been because they are only open for lunch and I had an awful job while I was there. http://www.yelp.com/biz/swan-oyster-depot-san-francisco
It’s 41/2 stars on yelp, and famous enough that they can only be open at lunch. I bet it’s amazing. Okay, now I’ve been – we made it there on our August trip. It was . . . disappointing. We went right when it opened (the benefits of a baby! We walked the whole way there from Noe and still made it when there was no line) and Stella was a dream in the tiny, cramped space. They even stored our stroller in the kitchen. But, they were out of all of the things we wanted to order and everything we were especially excited about that we saw on Anthony Bourdain’s show: Dungeness Crab – period; the Dungeness Crab yellow stuff served on the half-shell; sea urchin; and I think there may have even been others. Tres disappointing. We had oysters and some shrimp salad with louie sauce. It was good, but it wasn’t what we were there for. And we had some Yank Sing dim sum about two hours later because, yeah, we weren’t satisfied.
You may also be tempted by the garlic crab places
down on Fisherman’s Wharf if you go down there. The garlic crabs are good, so I would not judge the choice. 🙂 There’s also an In-n-Out
down there too. It’s the only in-SF
-proper In-n-Out, which makes it worth the trip. http://www.yelp.com/biz/in-n-out-burger-san-francisco
TACOS and BURRITOS:
My absolute favorite mexican food is at La Taqueria on Mission and 25th. I would get the Carne Asada Taco, with everything, and that is what I strongly recommend you get. (Sometimes I would get it without sour cream.) It is two taco shells, lightly fried, with cheese, beans, guacamole and salsa in addition to the beef. And it is fantastico. (The with-everything is what makes them fry it and add guacamole and other stuff. Otherwise it’s a bit naked with just meat, beans, and salsa on the tortillas. I also highly recommend their burritos. They are not the typical Mission Burrito, because there’s no rice. I particularly like the Chicken in a burrito since they chicken is in a spicy, watery sauce. (Sounds gross to write it, is good.)
For a typical Mission burrito, you have lots of options at the corners of the 24th and Mission and 16th and Mission – and one block in any direction, essentially. Some of the better-known ones for straight-up Mission burritos are: El Farolito(mission btw 23 and 24 – closer to 24), Taqueria Cancun (Mission between 18 and 19, and Pancho Villa Taqueria(16th between Mission and Guerrero). There’s also a popular burrito spot that’s slightly more hippie/yuppie-fied that is quite good called Papalote (24th between Valencia and Poplar (towards Guerrero)).