The ferry building and farmer’s market in San Francisco. (Image credit: rramirez125 / 123RF Stock Photo)
San Francisco attracts foodies from all over the world thanks to its rich culinary culture. Thanks to a rich cosmopolitan history, San Francisco cuisine draws from various cultures fused with contemporary innovation. Foodies associate different San Francisco neighborhoods with specific culinary styles.
The city’s proximity to fresh local ingredients and imported goods add flavor and texture to the cuisine. San Francisco’s restaurant culture grew with the town thanks to historical industries such as gold mining that attracted young people from throughout the USA and the world.
Some tourists visit San Francisco specifically to sample the culinary traditions. They tour iconic neighborhoods like Chinatown, The Mission District, and North Beach to sample local culture and local cuisine. No visit is complete without dining in these neighborhoods and attractions like Fisherman’s Wharf and the Financial District.
With so many options, where do you start? The following culinary tour makes it easier for you to enjoy your taste of some of San Francisco’s neighborhoods that attract foodies from far and wide.
If you ever visited San Francisco, chances are you visited Fisherman’s Wharf. This popular tourist destination is also a great place to enjoy seafood. People flock to Fisherman’s Wharf when Dungeness crab is in season.
Popular restaurants in Fisherman’s Wharf include:
- Cioppino’s on 400 Jefferson St. This seafood restaurant is named for its famous Cioppino soup. It is also a great place to enjoy crab cakes.
- Alioto’s #8 on Fisherman’s Wharf. In 1898, Alioto first opened as a fresh fish stand, and it still draws a crowd. They specialize in Sicilian-style seafood dishes, including seafood spaghetti and Calamari Sicilian Style.
- Boudin Bistro at 160 Jefferson St. This is a favorite among tourists for the signature sourdough bread and the views of distinctive local sights like Alcatraz and Angel Island.
The Financial District is the business center of San Francisco. This bustling area keeps diners busy from lunchtime to after-work happy hours, dinner, and beyond. Some of the city’s finest and most iconic restaurants call the Financial District home.
Popular restaurants in the Financial District include:
- Bix Restaurant on 56 Gold St. This elegant jazz club offers a range of stylish appetizers and classic cocktails. Diners enjoy live piano music as they nibble on potato pillows with caviar. Some patrons describe the decor as feeling like an Art Deco cruise ship.
- Tadich Grill on 240 California St. This classic seafood restaurant is California’s oldest restaurant. Locals and tourists alike enjoy seafood cocktails and crab prepared in many ways.
- Pabu on 101 California St. Thanks to San Francisco’s vibrant Asian community, it is one of the first places in the US where sushi became popular. This “upscale izakaya” features a great saki list, a long sushi counter, gyoza, and shabu.
San Francisco’s Chinatown has the largest Chinese community in North America. It also boasts an astounding array of Chinese restaurants, from casual to upscale.
Popular restaurants in Chinatown include:
- Z & Y Restaurant on 655 Jackson St. This popular Chinese Restaurant features a spicy mix of traditional and contemporary Chinese cuisine. Popular dishes include steamed chicken soup with Chinese herbs and Chicken with Explosive Chili Peppers.
- Golden Gate Bakery on 1029 Grant St. If the spicy food at Z & Y Restaurant gives you a sweet tooth, try the Golden Gate Bakery. This bakery is renowned for its Egg Tarts.
- Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory on 56 Ross Alley. For many, dinner at a Chinese Restaurant isn’t complete without a fortune cookie. The Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Bakery makes the cookies many restaurants serve. However, visiting the bakery can try freshly made fortune cookies.
The Mission District has a rich Hispanic and Latino history. It is a popular destination for people seeking tacos, burritos, and other Latin cuisine. It is also home to hot nightspots and trendy restaurants.
- Taqueria Vallarta on 3033 24th St. This spot is known for reasonably priced tacos. If you choose right, you may enjoy a taco for less than $3. Popular restaurants in the Mission District include:
- Bar Tartine on 561 Valencia St. This sandwich place blends Asian, Eastern European, and Middle Eastern-influenced culinary influences. Their house cocktails are also a hit.
- Limón Rotisserie on 524 Valencia St. This Peruvian restaurant serves grilled octopus, chimichurri, and unexpected treats like Truffle Mac & Cheese.
North Beach is traditionally home to San Francisco’s Italian community. If you want pasta, you won’t want to miss North Beach. However, some family-style and upscale Italian restaurants go beyond the obligatory pasta. If you want to try authentic Italian food, try some of the classic family-style restaurants. North Beach is also home to bars, trendy restaurants, and night spots.
Popular restaurants in North Beach include:
- Fior d’Italia on 2237 Mason ST. Some say this restaurant may be the oldest in San Francisco. Patrons enjoy traditional northern Italian cuisine. Enjoy one of their classic Risottos or a nightly special.
- Trattoria Contadina on 1800 Mason St. This restaurant offers classic antipasto, pasta, and other dinner options. Top your meal off with their Housemaid Tiramisu.
- The Italian Homemade Company on 716 Columbus Ave. This busy restaurant attracts pasta lovers in droves with its fresh, handmade pasta, gnocchi, and other specialties. They boast that life is a combination of “magic and pasta.”
This culinary tour is a starting point since new restaurants and food trucks are constantly open. Enjoy your culinary time oinSan Francisco!