Best Women-Owned Restaurants in San Francisco

A toast to the female leaders of SF's top tables
February 25, 2018
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by Zagat Staff

In honor of International Women's Day on March 8, we're toasting to the many talented women restaurant owners in the Bay Area. Some are nationally known names (Alice Waters, Dominique Crenn) and others are influential figures just emerging on the Bay Area scene. Together, they're incredible leaders at the forefront of Northern California's dining culture.

Atelier Crenn
French · Cow Hollow · $$$$
Food 4.6 · Decor 4.5 · Service 4.8

Dominique Crenn "stretches the boundaries" of French cooking at this Cow Hollow "treat" , where the "spectacular" tasting menu and "elegantly orchestrated" service are like "a piece of performance art" that makes foodies "swear they’ve died and gone to culinary heaven" ; with only a "low-key, natural" setting and a chef-penned poem to introduce the "enchanted evening" , it’s a "memorable" way "to be surprised at every course" – even at "once-in-a-lifetime" prices.
Boulevard Restaurant
Gastropub · Embarcadero · $$$$
Food 4.8 · Decor 4.6 · Service 4.6

This "top-end" Embarcadero "landmark" showcasing the "culinary vision" of Nancy Oakes "continues to excel" thanks to the "robust flavors" of its "mindblowing" , "market-driven" American cuisine, paired with a "terrific wine list" and served with "the ultimate in professionalism" ; set amid "vibrant" belle epoque "elegance" with "spectacular" Bay Bridge views and a "delightfully fun" counter "to watch the chefs in action" , it’s "always busy" with admirers who find it "well worth the hefty price tag."
Chez Panisse
Californian · $$$$
Food 4.8 · Decor 4.6 · Service 4.7

Alice Waters is "still doing it right" at this Berkeley "high temple" of "sustainable methods" , where the "inspirational" , seasonal Cal-Med set menus feature "superior" , "locally sourced" ingredients "prepared to perfection" and served up by a "classy" staff in a "beautifully appointed" "Craftsman-style" setting; the "lively" upstairs cafe is a "more affordable" "delight" with a daily à la carte menu, rounding out a "truly exceptional" destination that’s high "on every foodie's bucket list."
Octavia
New American · Lower Pacific Heights · $$$$
Food 4.7 · Decor 4.4 · Service 4.5

"Amazing chef" Melissa Perello’s "distinctive" follow-up to Frances in Pacific Heights supplies "sublime" New American–Californian cuisine highlighting "wonderfully realized" use of local and seasonal ingredients; with "skillful" service from an "informative" staff in a "beautiful, rustic" space, it’s unsurprisingly a "challenging reservation to secure."
Kin Khao
Thai · Tenderloin · $$$
Food 4.5 · Decor 3.8 · Service 4.1

It’s a bit "hard to find" in the Tenderloin's Parc 55 hotel, but the "modern, fresh take on Thai food" "rocks" with "distinctive flavors" and "local ingredients" at this "fantastic" spot from culinary blogger Pim Techamuanvivit; the cooking outshines the setting, but with "delicious" , "inventive" cocktails also in the mix, it beckons for a "return trip."
Jardinière
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.
Brown Sugar Kitchen
Soul Food · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 3.9 · Service 4.2

"Amazing" fried chicken and a cornmeal waffle so "ethereal" you almost "have to hold it down so it won't float away" are among the "down-home" dishes served with "nouveau flair" at "charismatic" chef Tanya Holland's soul food "paradise" in Oakland; the "wait is insane but well worth it" , thanks not least to servers that do "amazingly well" "considering the obstacles" of the "small" space – though the 3 PM closing time leaves fans wishing for "longer hours."
Nightbird
American · Hayes Valley · $$$

Former Coi and Plum chef Kim Alter makes her solo debut in Hayes Valley, serving an elevated Californian tasting menu that changes regularly and features regional flavors. The cozy dining area blends high-style whimsy, with clean lines and vintage accents, and an adjacent seven-seat cocktail lounge channels the art deco era.
Navi Kitchen
Indian · $$

Preeti Mistry’s Juhu Beach Club follow-up features her signature Cal-Indian flavors in a counter-serve format, offering breakfast items, chai and coffee early in the day followed by salads, pizzas and creative comfort fare. Bright jewel tones, rich wood and a wall of windows give it a welcoming feel, plus there’s a sunny outdoor patio.
Cala
Seafood · Hayes Valley · $

After founding popular Mexico City spots, Gabriela Camara makes her US debut with this upscale Mexican on the Mid-Market/Hayes Valley border, serving a "seafood-centric" menu that offers "interesting takes on traditional" dishes; the skylights, high ceiling and whitewashed walls give the space an airy feel to accommodate the buzzy crowd.