The 50 Best Restaurants in San Francisco

From creative sushi to Sardinian pasta, consider this your dining bucket list
September 13, 2016
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by Zagat Staff

Your votes have been counted: presenting San Francisco's 50 best restaurants. High-end tasting menus coexist with burritos on this list, and you'll find a Moroccan-Californian trailblazer along with the kitchen that taught San Francisco about Sardinian specialties. Read on for reviews and recommended dishes, and be sure to check out the results of our just-released Dining Trends Survey

Acquerello
Italian · Polk Gulch · $$$$
Food 4.9 · Decor 4.7 · Service 4.8

"The total package" for "a special night out" , this "world-class" Polk Gulch Italian combines chef Suzette Gresham’s "divinely inspired" , "decadent" prix fixe menus with a "top-notch wine list" , all presented by an "impeccable" staff displaying "unmatched professionalism" ; despite the "substantial checks" , it's an "excellent value" , with a "beautifully serene" , "intimate" setting "in what was once a chapel" adding to the "sophisticated treat."
Gary Danko
American · Fisherman's Wharf · $$$$
Food 4.8 · Decor 4.7 · Service 4.9

An "oasis of excellence" that "never loses its luster" , Gary Danko’s "stellar" Fisherman’s Wharf namesake manages to "mystically balance" "world-class" New American cuisine on a "brilliantly executed" prix fixe menu ( "don't skip the cheese cart" ) with a "superior wine list" and "synchronized service" , leading to a "warm, customer-centric" experience that manages to be "indulgent without a trace of pretension" ; it comes "at a price" , but for "a celebratory experience" in a "gorgeous" setting, you "get what you pay for."
Kokkari Estiatorio
Greek · Downtown · $$$$
Food 4.8 · Decor 4.7 · Service 4.7

A Downtown "star for many years" , this "sublime" Greek "continues to shine" with "lamb shanks from the gods" , "flawlessly" spit-roasted meats and other "fabulous" specialties served by an "exceptional" crew in an "inviting" , "rustic-chic" space favored by "fashionable" crowds; the "memorable experience" requires a "difficult rezzie" and deep pockets to meet the "high-class" cost, but it’s widely hailed as a "must-go" "for a good reason."
La Ciccia
Italian · Noe Valley · $$$
Food 4.8 · Decor 4.0 · Service 4.6

A "Sardinian wonder" , this Noe Valley "neighborhood treasure" is "well worth getting to" for its "incredible" , "honest" cooking (notably "sublime" seafood), matched with an "outstanding" wine list in a "pared-down" but "congenial" setting overseen by "charming" husband-and-wife owners; the "Downtown prices" are eased by the "reasonable" vinos, but the "tight quarters" "fill up quickly" so be sure to reserve.
Kusakabe
Japanese · Downtown · $$$$
Food 4.8 · Decor 4.6 · Service 4.7

Chef Mitsunori Kusakabe "takes you on a culinary adventure" with his "incredible kaiseki-style" dinners at this "intimate" Downtown Japanese, a destination for "premium sushi" featuring "beautiful cuts of fish" prepared with a "precision" that's "inspiring" to watch; rounded out with "caring service" and a "vast" sake list, the experience may put a "dent in your wallet" , but all agree it's "splurge-worthy."
b. patisserie
Bakery · Lower Pacific Heights · $
Food 4.8 · Decor 4.1 · Service 4.2

"Even when compared with Paris standards" , this "charming" Lower Pacific patisserie/cafe is an "awe-inspiring" showcase for baker Belinda Leong’s "world-class" "array" of "decadent pastries" (the "buttery" "kouign amann reigns supreme" ); the space sports an "appealing" "European feel" , and while "the line can be daunting" , "dessert addicts" "pretty much can't go wrong."
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."
Benu
New American · SoMa · $$$$
Food 4.8 · Decor 4.6 · Service 4.8

"You’ll be overwhelmed by the creativity and imagination" put into each "breathtaking" dish at this "stylish" SoMa "food temple" , a "Zen-like" venue where chef-owner Corey Lee’s New American tasting menus showcase an "incredible" "melding of Asian and Californian flavors" ; staffed by a "superb" team that ensures you "feel very much pampered" , it’s an "experience that won’t soon be forgotten" – and that includes the "super-expensive" cost.
Tony's Pizza Napoletana
Pizza · North Beach · $$
Food 4.7 · Decor 3.8 · Service 4.0

"It's hard to find a better pie" than those among the "great variety" of "incredible" pizzas (Neapolitan-style, "Sicilian, Californian, Roman" , even "gluten-free" ) that famed chef-owner Tony Gemignani tosses and cooks to a crisp in seven types of ovens at his "lively" "North Beach gem" ; a "brutal" wait for a table is part of the package, but a "motivated" staff keeps things humming.
The House
Asian · North Beach · $$
Food 4.7 · Decor 3.6 · Service 4.2

Some of the city's "top" Asian-fusion fare can surprisingly be found in North Beach at this "small" but "mighty good" "eclectic" stalwart that "continues to impress" with its "phenomenal" "high-caliber" dishes ( "especially the melt-in-your-mouth sea bass" ), presented along with an "amazing" sake and wine list by an "accommodating" team; the "cramped, noisy" setting is "maybe not the best romantic date-night choice" , but fans attest it offers some of the best "food and value" in the city.
Tony’s Coal Fired Pizza & Slice House
Pizza · North Beach · $
Food 4.7 · Decor 3.7 · Service 4.1

Coal-fired NY- and New Haven–style pies are the main attractions at this "takeaway" North Beach pizza parlor via namesake chef Tony Gemignani that adjoins his Napoletana outpost next door; there’s no seating, but usually "no wait" , so many consume their orders across the street in Washington Square Park.
La Folie
French · Russian Hill · $$$$
Food 4.7 · Decor 4.6 · Service 4.8

Each "work-of-art" course "feels like an event" at this "first-class" French "cornerstone" in Russian Hill, an "epicurean delight" where ever-present chef Roland Passot’s "magnifique" prix fixe dinners are "crafted to perfection" and accompanied by "fine wines" and "stellar" service in a setting of "intimate" "elegance" ; it's "pricey indeed but worth it" , and the adjoining lounge offers a "comfy" alternative for a less formal bite.
Frances
American · The Castro · $$$$
Food 4.7 · Decor 4.1 · Service 4.6

"A neighborhood gem in the Castro" , Melissa Perello’s "exceptional" Californian reliably "rocks" thanks to "luscious" dishes that "change with what's fresh and available locally" , served with "pay-per-ounce" house wines ( "best idea ever" ); the "incredible" staff makes you feel "well taken care of" in the "small" , "homey" space, but being a "popular" draw with "limited seating" , it remains "a hard reservation to score" (though walk-in spots are available at the bar).
State Bird Provisions
American · Fillmore District/Western Addition · $$$$
Food 4.7 · Decor 4.1 · Service 4.6

Ever "a game-changer" , this "totally hip" Fillmore District American from husband-and-wife team Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski will "blow you away" with the "bold flavors" of its "spectacular" seasonal small plates served by "engaged" staffers from "roving carts" (think "dim sum for the foodiest" ); given a "cutting-edge" "vibe as exciting as the food" , reservations remain "ridiculously tough" , though walk-ins can "stand in line" before opening time "and hope."
Tartine Bakery
Bakery · The Mission · $
Food 4.7 · Decor 3.6 · Service 3.7

"In a class by itself" for "sumptuous, buttery" specialties "fresh out of the oven" , this famed Mission bakery produces "last meal requests" including "spectacular pastries" ( "especially the morning buns" ), "the perfect croissant" , "spot-on delicious" hot-pressed sandwiches and "unmatched" country bread that quickly sells out; the cafe section’s "totally overcrowded" , "the wait can be grueling" and the "staff could be friendlier" , but "you’ll be amply rewarded."
Seven Hills
Italian · Nob Hill · $$$
Food 4.7 · Decor 4.2 · Service 4.5

This "delightful" Nob Hill Italian enjoys "neighborhood-gem" status thanks to "incredible pasta dishes" paired with a "well-selected" wine list and "warm" service; though what’s "intimate" to some is "tight" to others, locals say this "best-kept-not-so-secret" trattoria might just be "too popular."
Quince
French · Downtown · $$$$
Food 4.7 · Decor 4.8 · Service 4.7

"Hard to top" for "fancy dining" "at its best" , this "refined" Downtown Californian from "passionate" husband-and-wife team Michael and Lindsay Tusk "sparkles" thanks to his "superbly executed" cuisine showcasing Italian accents and a "fresh, local food ethos" , complemented by a "fabulous wine list" in "dreamy" surroundings run by a "stellar" staff; you’ll "shell out some big bucks" , but for a "special occasion" that’s "absolutely over the moon" , it’s "well worth it."
Lazy Bear
New American · The Mission · $$$$
Food 4.7 · Decor 4.4 · Service 4.6

Fans roar with approval for this "revolutionary" Mission "experience" , a "can’t-miss" "dinner party with strangers" that "stuns" with "divine" American set menus matched with "world-class" drinks in a communal setting that boasts an open kitchen and "lots character" ; a "humorous and engaged staff" "takes the stuffiness out of fine dining" and helps you forget you’ll need "another student loan" to settle the tab; P.S. tickets for the two nightly seatings are sold a month in advance.
Mourad
Moroccan · SoMa · $$$$
Food 4.7 · Decor 4.6 · Service 4.5

"A beautiful place for a splurge" , this "hot" Moroccan from chef Mourad Lahlou (Aziza) "delights" with "nuanced" contemporary cuisine, "elegant" presentations and "polished" service in a "dreamy" SoMa setting with a "high-style" bar mixing "awesome cocktails" ; the soaring "downstairs is where the liveliness is" , especially if you go for the "mind-blowing" "family-style" experience.
Saru Sushi Bar
Japanese · Noe Valley · $$$
Food 4.7 · Decor 4.1 · Service 4.4

"Look no further" than this Noe Valley storefront serving "superb" Japanese cuisine highlighted by some of the "most succulent" sushi from around the globe and "divine" appetizers that fans simply "cannot get enough" of; the "teeny" , art-adorned space is a "well-known secret" , so "show up early" to score a seat – "you won’t be disappointed."
Swan Oyster Depot
Seafood · Polk Gulch · $$
Food 4.7 · Decor 3.3 · Service 4.2

For over 100 years, this "no-frills" lunch counter and fish market in Polk Gulch has been a "San Francisco treasure" , serving up "oysters galore" , "phenomenal clam chowder" and other "forms of perfection from the sea" alongside "Anchor Steam on draft" ; it might be "hard to believe a place so decrepit" and "so expensive" still draws "lines out the door" , but "nostalgics" insist the lively "banter with the owners behind the counter" is the extra sauce sealing its deal as "the Valhalla of seafood" ; P.S. open till 5:30 PM.
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."
House of Prime Rib
English · Polk Gulch · $$$
Food 4.6 · Decor 4.2 · Service 4.5

"When you want a hunk o’ beef" , this Polk Gulch "institution" remains a go-to for a "classic" American meal of prime rib "cooked to perfection" and "carved at your table" , plus "all the fixin’s" ; with its "showy" service (behold the "spinning salad" ), "cold martinis" and "big, old-fashioned booths" , it’s a true "throwback" that rewards the "expense" – you can even "ask for seconds" – and while "nothing ever changes" here, fans say that's "part of the charm."
La Taqueria
Mexican · The Mission · $
Food 4.6 · Decor 3.2 · Service 3.9

For over 40 years, this "true original" in the Mission has been churning out affordable, "delicious" Mexican meals including "awesome tacos" and burritos (they're "traditional" , so "they don't have rice" ); "seating is scarce" in the "no-frills" space, so prepare for "constant lines" – though the "speedy" counter staff keeps them moving.
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.
Alexander's Steakhouse
Steakhouse · China Basin · $$$$
Food 4.6 · Decor 4.5 · Service 4.6

"How do you say 'wow' in Japanese?" wonder "discriminating" diners smitten by these "luxe" steakhouses with "creative Asian" touches, where beef that "melts in your mouth" and the signature hamachi shots ( "a must" ) are presented alongside "fantastic" wines and "rare" spirits; if you're not a "software mogul" , you're looking at a "splurge" , but "everything is top-drawer" , right down to the "spectacular service" and complimentary "cotton candy upon departure."
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."
Zushi Puzzle
Japanese · Marina District · $$$$
Food 4.6 · Decor 3.2 · Service 4.2

Some of the "most unique and uniquely prepared seafood in the city" – including "killer" sushi, sashimi and hand rolls – "beckons" fans to this "funky little" Japanese joint in the Marina; granted, it lacks "the decor of some of the hipper" spots, but if your budget can withstand it, "sit at the bar" overseen by the "fantastic" Roger Chong and "ask for the chef recommendations" "you won’t be disappointed."
Delfina
Italian · The Mission · $$
Food 4.6 · Decor 4.0 · Service 4.4

A "tried-and-true destination" , this Mission mainstay from Craig and Anne Stoll still "wows" with Northern Italian staples "done superbly well" , notably "fantastic homemade pastas" that "just melt in your mouth" ; given the "vibrant atmosphere" and a crew that makes everyone "feel at home" , fans "keep coming back for more" even though it’s a "tough reservation" ; P.S. there’s also a "casual pizza parlor next door" serving traditional pies.
Pizzetta 211
Pizza · Outer Richmond · $$
Food 4.6 · Decor 3.8 · Service 4.2

The "farm-fresh, razor-thin pizzas" served at this "quaint" "neighborhood gem" "are beyond delicious" , according to the keepers of "one of the great hidden secrets" of the Outer Richmond; to avoid the "drawback" of waiting to get into the "postage stamp-sized" space, diehards arrive "early" , when there's still room "to watch" their food being made – "you realize where your dollars go" that way.
Piqueo's
Peruvian · Bernal Heights · $$
Food 4.6 · Decor 4.0 · Service 4.2

At this Bernal Heights "neighborhood jewel" , chef Carlos Altamirano creates "amazing ceviche" and other "beautifully presented" Peruvian dishes with a "modern flair" ; the setting can be "loud, crowded" and "hard to get into" , but fans find the atmosphere "sexy" and call the "knowledgeable" service a plus.
Nopa
New American · Alamo Square · $$$
Food 4.6 · Decor 4.3 · Service 4.4

"The overall buzz has not subsided" at this Alamo Square Californian that’ll "rock your socks" with "earthy" locavore dishes to "dream about" (including "acclaimed" wood-fired burgers) delivered alongside "outstanding cocktails" in an "energizing" duplex space manned by an "efficient" crew; prices are "decent" , brunches are "fantastic" and it's a "favorite late-night spot" , so the "only disappointing thing is the wait."
Hog Island Oyster Co.
Oyster Bar · Embarcadero · $$
Food 4.6 · Decor 4.0 · Service 4.2

This "sensational" Ferry Building seafooder is a "dream come true for oyster lovers" , now boasting even "more beautiful views of the bay" courtesy of a heated patio; ok, it’s "not cheap" and there’s always a "crowd" , but somehow the staff holds it together with "wit and charm" ; P.S. there’s also a wine-country satellite in Napa’s Oxbow Market.
Kiss Seafood
Seafood · Japantown · $$$$
Food 4.6 · Decor 3.8 · Service 4.2

When it comes to "amazing" sushi and other "superb" Japanese dishes, this "high-end" Japantown "treasure" from a "mom-and-pop" duo provides an "exemplary" experience that you'll "remember for years" , especially via the "master chef's" omakase ( "dinner and a show" ); just remember the "quiet" space has only 12 seats, so be sure to "reserve early" ; P.S. closed Sunday-Tuesday.
Stones Throw
New American · Russian Hill · $$$
Food 4.6 · Decor 4.3 · Service 4.4

Right on the Hyde Street cable car line, this "neighborhoody" Russian Hill bistro from vets of Michael Mina and Fat Angel offers a "delightful" (if "limited" ) Cal-American menu accompanied by "hard-to-find" beers and wines; the "cozy-chic" setting is in keeping with the "welcoming" service and "pricey but not-over-the-top" tabs, making it "worth many return trips."
Sons & Daughters
Nob Hill · $$$$
Food 4.6 · Decor 4.2 · Service 4.4

"A delightful treat" for discerning diners, this 28-seat Nob Hill New American devises "fantastic" , "well-presented" tasting menus starring local and "very seasonal" ingredients (with sourcing from a house-owned farm) complemented by "daring" wine pairings; the "wonderful" servers "know all the details" , and though the "small" portions are "expensive" , the performance is "amazing."
Harris' The San Francisco Steakhouse
Steakhouse · Polk Gulch · $$$
Food 4.6 · Decor 4.4 · Service 4.6

Steakhouses don’t get much more "old-world" than this Polk Gulch "class act" where the chops are "serious" , the tabs are "expensive" and there’s "mahogany everywhere" ; granted, as a "throwback to another era" , it can feel "a bit old-fashioned" , but "prompt and very attentive" service helps ensure it's a "welcome experience" nevertheless.
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."
Saison
New American · China Basin · $$$$
Food 4.6 · Decor 4.6 · Service 4.5

"Prepare to be wowed" by "genius" chef Joshua Skenes’ "extraordinary cooking" at this "consistently impressive" China Basin New American, which "redefines excellence" with "incomparable" tasting menus that "delight" even "unapologetic food snobs" ; "immaculate" servers also curate a "superb wine list" in a "beautiful" , open-kitchen setting, and while it’s "stratospherically expensive" , it’s "worth it" to "save up and go – at least once."
Piperade
Spanish · North Beach · $$$
Food 4.6 · Decor 4.4 · Service 4.4

"Consistently terrific" Basque cuisine "continues to shine" at chef-owner Gerald Hirigoyen's "sophisticated" North Beach eatery lauded for its "top-notch" , "creative" dishes that are "expertly prepared and full of flavor" ; the "intimate" dining room features a glass-paneled wall of "incredible wines" amid "rustic-yet-elegant" decor, and an "attentive but unobtrusive" staff further helps make it a "go-to place for special occasions."
Chapeau!
French · Inner Richmond · $$$
Food 4.6 · Decor 4.0 · Service 4.5

Known for emerging from the kitchen to "greet his guests" , chef Philippe Gardelle demonstrates "equal parts charm and culinary skill" at this "welcoming" Inner Richmond "date spot" , serving "classic French bistro fare" in all its "bold, savory and creamy" "perfection" alongside "wonderful regional wines" ; most consider it a "great value" (the early-bird special in particular is "a steal" ), leaving the "cramped" conditions as the sole drawback.
The Slanted Door
Vietnamese · Embarcadero · $$$
Food 4.6 · Decor 4.3 · Service 4.2

"All that it’s cracked up to be" , Charles Phan’s "vibrant" Embarcadero "icon" still draws "throngs" with its "outstanding" array of "contemporary" Vietnamese dishes fashioned from local, sustainable ingredients and an "interesting wine list" focused on German and Austrian whites; be sure to "make reservations" (or snag a seat at the bar), and don’t mind the "pricey" tabs and "deafening" din since it’s "hard to beat" the "stunning" Ferry Building berth overlooking the bay.
Perbacco
Italian · Downtown · $$$
Food 4.6 · Decor 4.3 · Service 4.4

A "high-end" Italian bistro that "keeps on delivering" , this "memorable" next-door sibling to Barbacco in FiDi/Downtown will "titillate your taste buds" with seasonal Piedmontese dishes that "marry tradition with innovation" , plus a "vast wine list" , all "served with style and civility" ; the "classy" space is "always packed" with "suits" and accordingly "loud" , though "seating upstairs is quieter."
Yank Sing (Stevenson Street)
Dim Sum · SoMa · $$
Food 4.6 · Decor 3.9 · Service 4.0

There’s always a "rolling cart" coming ’round the corner at these dim sum palaces featuring an "unrivaled" selection of "exceptional" tidbits – including some of the "best damn dumplings around" – in a white-tablecloth setting; despite weekend and lunchtime mobs, service is "wicked fast" , and though prices are rather "upscale" , you "get what you pay for" here.
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."
Lord Stanley
European · Polk Gulch · $$$$
Food 4.6 · Decor 3.8 · Service 4.4

"Innovative and beautiful" "contemporary" Californian cuisine rendered with European and Asian accents (a tasting menu is offered) matches the "modern" , minimal bi-level setting at this Russian Hill "winner" that "promises to have a long run" ; P.S. the initial tip-inclusive policy has been abandoned, and dishes remain "pricey."
SPQR
Italian · Lower Pacific Heights · $$$$
Food 4.6 · Decor 4.0 · Service 4.3

"Sensational" Italian dishes, including "outrageously good" pastas, pair with "noteworthy" wines from the Boot at this A16 sibling in Lower Pac Heights, which consistently "nails the risks it takes" in the kitchen; "truly impressive" service helps justify the "splurge" , and while the "elegant-shoebox" setting is undeniably "tight" , there’s an "amazing" chef’s counter and even "sitting at the bar" is a "joy."
Mozzeria
Pizza · The Mission · $$
Food 4.6 · Decor 4.2 · Service 4.6

The wood-fired pizza is "wonderful" at this "terrific" Mission Italian with "unique" , "engaging" service by a mostly deaf staff; visitors say they "value the challenge of communicating fully in a new way" (iPad or pen and pad are available), as well as the "quiet" environs, but the food is why they "keep going back."