Best Restaurants in Hayes Valley

April 3, 2018
by Zagat Staff

There are a lot of great restaurants in Hayes Valley - here are the ones that should be at the top of your list.

Rich Table
New American · Hayes Valley · $$$
Food 4.6 · Decor 4.0 · Service 4.4

"Inventive" yet "approachable" , this Hayes Valley "destination" by Evan and Sarah Rich "wows" with its "unique" , "delectable" Californian dishes matched by a "killer wine list" and "warm" service in a minimalist (and "loud" ) space adorned with salvaged barn wood; it's "hard to get into" (though walk-ins can sit at the bar or the communal table) and the "pricey" , "locally sourced" menu "changes" often, but "if the stars align, you will leave sockless."
Pläj Restaurant
Scandinavian · Hayes Valley · $$$
Food 4.6 · Decor 4.3 · Service 4.2

"Savory" "modern" Scandinavian fare and "unusual, delicious" cocktails provide a "real taste treat" at this "quiet" , "cozy" and somewhat "hidden" Hayes Valley "gem" at the Inn at the Opera; "artistic preparations" and a "knowledgeable" staff round out an "upscale" experience that "brings it all home."
Zuni Café
French · Hayes Valley · $$$
Food 4.6 · Decor 4.2 · Service 4.3

"Emblematic" of San Francisco, this "always-true" Hayes Valley Mediterranean is "still at the top of its game" with an "incredibly well-executed" menu of "delectable" , locally, sustainably sourced seasonal dishes, "fab oysters" and "must-haves" like the "succulent" brick-oven chicken for two; with "expertly mixed cocktails" and "pro" service enhancing a "lively" late-night scene in "stylish" yet "comfortable" duplex digs, it's a "culinary legend" that's perennially "hip and unique."
Fatted Calf
Hayes Valley · $
Food 4.6 · Decor 3.7 · Service 4.4

Expect a "specialty deli" and a "high-end butcher shop" at this "Valhalla of cured meats" that sells "artisanal sandwiches" stuffed with "sublime" charcuterie, "to-die-for" meatloaf and more; "friendly" staffers are "extremely knowledgeable" about the "sustainably raised" fare, and added appeal comes from Butcher Happy Hours Wednesdays in Hayes Valley and the first Thursday of the month in Napa.
French · Hayes Valley · $$$$
Food 4.5 · Decor 4.6 · Service 4.5

Pre-theater dinners are "so much a ritual" that chef Traci Des Jardins’ "fantastic" , California-inspired French fare "ought to be included in the Civic Center ticket prices" say followers of this Hayes Valley "triumph" , a "classy" , "long-running hit" boasting "wonderful wine" and servers who "treat you like royals" ; the "supper-club vibe" signals "pricey" tabs, but it’s "always hopping" , and seating upstairs provides an elevated "people-watching" perch.
German · Hayes Valley · $$
Food 4.4 · Decor 3.9 · Service 4.0

"From the pretzel to the schnitzel" , this Hayes Valley hofbräuhaus supplies "large portions" of some of the "the best German food around" backed by an "incredible beer selection" , and it's all "excellently priced" ; "shoulder-to-shoulder crowds" mean it's "noisy as a rock concert" and sometimes "hard to get good service" , but "das Boot" (a glass boot full of brew) has fans saying "sehr gut!"
Hayes Street Grill
Seafood · Hayes Valley · $$$
Food 4.4 · Decor 3.9 · Service 4.3

A "go-to" near the Civic Center, this seafood "institution" earns praise for "perfectly prepared, responsibly caught" fish served by "attentive" staffers who make sure you’ll "always be on time for the curtain" ; it’s somewhat "expensive" and the "decor could be improved" , but the overall feel is "reminiscent of gentler, classier" times.
Absinthe Brasserie & Bar
French · Hayes Valley · $$$
Food 4.4 · Decor 4.3 · Service 4.3

Experience "Paris in San Francisco" at this Hayes Valley French-Med brasserie where the "charming" dining room serves as a "romantic" backdrop for "varied, flavorful" fare "prepared to perfection" ; "standout" cocktails, an "impressive" wine list and "expert" service draw a crowd ranging from "young hipsters" to "Civic Center" attendees.
Greek · Hayes Valley · $
Food 4.4 · Decor 3.9 · Service 4.0

"Succulent" rotisserie meats are the main attraction at these "simple" Greek sandwich specialists in Hayes Valley and NoPa, where the "short menu" also features salads, Mediterranean wines and frozen Greek yogurt for "a unique sweet" finish; the "vibrant flavors" and "value" ensure the all-day counter-serves are often "packed" , but getting it to go is also "an easy option."
Monsieur Benjamin
French · Hayes Valley · $$$
Food 4.4 · Decor 4.2 · Service 4.3

This Hayes Valley "hot spot" from Benu’s Corey Lee shows "huge attention to detail" in its "exceptional" updates of French bistro dishes, complemented by an "excellent wine list" and "wonderful service" in a "modern" , open-kitchen setting; true, it can be "pricey" , "packed" and "noisy" , but it's "perfect before the symphony, ballet or opera" – as long as you "book ahead."
Sushi · Hayes Valley · $$
Food 4.4 · Decor 4.0 · Service 4.0

This "tiny" Hayes Valley Japanese lets you "watch the chefs at work" as they prepare "exquisitely crafted sushi" and "put their own spin on things" with "surprising" specialty rolls; the "fabulous" cuts set a "new standard" say fervent locals, who also appreciate the "friendly staff" and "reasonable prices."
20th Century Cafe
Cafe · Hayes Valley · $
Food 4.4 · Decor 4.4 · Service 4.3

Conceived by "charming-as-can-be" "pastry genius Michelle Polzine" , this "super-cute" Hayes Valley corner bakery beckons with "exceptional" Viennoiserie "gems" such as a "to-die-for" Sachertorte and "many-layered Russian honeycake" (a "must-try" ), plus "outstanding" savory items like pierogi, knishes and bagels; "prices are a bit high" , but the "adorable" "Eastern European" –inspired setting offers a rare "vintage-immersive cafe experience" that's ideal "for slowing down and enjoying" the day.
Lers Ros Thai
Thai · Hayes Valley · $$
Food 4.3 · Decor 3.7 · Service 3.9

The "some-like-it-hot crowd" is drawn to these "authentic" Thai spots offering both "familiar" dishes and options for "adventurous palates" – many with a "spicy kick" ; the modern, minimalist interiors can be "noisy when busy" , but "affordable" tabs are another reason to "return again and again."
Nojo Ramen Tavern
Japanese · Hayes Valley · $$
Food 4.3 · Decor 3.9 · Service 4.0

The first US eatery from a Japan-based outfit, this Hayes Valley Japanese renders a creative variety of ramen bowls based on chicken paitan broth, complemented by gyoza, salads and small plates with thoughtfully sourced ingredients. Simple digs make it an easy option before the Jazz Center, Symphony Hall and other area performance venues.
RT Rotisserie
Chicken · Hayes Valley · $$

Evan and Sarah Rich dropped their Rich Table follow-up a block from the Hayes Valley original, creating a casual, counter-serve destination for midpriced roasted meats, New American sides, beer and wine. The clean, contemporary space has a hip look complete with custom-crafted dishes, wood banquettes, big windows and tile accents.
Fig & Thistle
Wine Bar · Hayes Valley · $$$

This date-friendly Hayes Valley wine bar is headed up by an Alembic alum who helped craft a vino and beer list that emphasizes local purveyors (as do the meat and cheese plates); the diminutive space is decked out with dark wood floors, vintage furniture and rustic decorations, putting a contemporary spin on a cozy living room.
Petit Crenn
French · Hayes Valley · $$$$

Chef Dominique Crenn has "a real gem" with this Hayes Valley bistro, a "refreshing" , more affordable offshoot of Atelier Crenn furnishing "wonderful" French cooking (inspired by the food of her home in Brittany) via à la carte menus and two nightly seatings for prix fixe meals that feature family-inspired preparations of seafood and vegetables; the open-kitchen space sports a modern look and a vibe that’s "not too pretentious."
a Mano
Italian · Hayes Valley · $$

Adriano Paganini’s Back of the House team (Super Duper, Belga, Delarosa) brings this chic Italian bistro to Hayes Valley, with handmade pastas, a few pizzas and nightly specials headlining the midpriced menu. Expect cocktails and Italian wines, plus communal, two-top and bar seating, in the breezy, no-reservations locale.
Sushi · Fillmore District/Western Addition · $$$

Adam Tortosa (formerly of 1760 and Akiko’s) chose Hayes Valley for his hyper-seasonal sushi spot offering locally sourced fish available omakase- or a la carte-style in the main dining room and on an omakase menu at the bar. There’s also wine, beer and sake by the bottle or the glass in the stylish, intimate dinner space that’s outfitted with the work of Bay Area artists – from Jered’s Pottery tableware, to FireClay Tiles behind the bar, to custom wooden tables and rose gold resin dripping down the walls.
Spanish · Hayes Valley · $$

The Absinthe Group (Bellota, Absinthe, Comstock) brings Catalan cuisine to Hayes Valley with this bustling dinner spot that presents sharable tapas, oysters and desserts, plus beer, cava and cocktails (including a selection of Spanish vermouths). Big windows, high ceilings, heavy beams and lush plants surround stylish banquette, bar and table seats.