San Francisco bites
In our opinion, San Francisco is one of the greatest cities in the world for food. So how on earth do you choose how to spend a few dinners? This should help...
Swan Oyster Depot
1517 Polk St, San Francisco, CA 94109 ++1 415-673-2757 Open Monday-Saturday 10.30am - 5.30pm. Closed Sundays.
The queue permanently out the door tells you all you need to know about this place – it's bloody great. These guys have been shucking up oysters and shelling seafood since 1912, so it's fair to say they know their way around the creatures of the deep. We had an hour-long wait to sit at the 20-seater bar (pretty good timings, by all accounts) but is totally worth it as you're buying into some San Francisco dining history here. We had a dozen oysters (the small but deep and sweet Miyagi oysters were the best here), half a cracked crab dipped in their signature Louie sauce, giant prawns and one of the most flavoursome bowls of clam chowder, ever. All mopped up with some sourdough bread and washed down with some Pinot Gris, this is a meal truly worth writing home about – or Instagramming at the very least. sfswanoysterdepot.com
600 Guerrero St, San Francisco, CA 94110 +1 415-487-2600 Open Mon 8am-7pm, Tues and Wed 7.30-7pm Thurs and Fri 7.30-8pm, Sat 8-8pm and Sun 9-8pm
This is another place with the queue out the door – San Franciscoites really don't have a problem waiting in line when they know it's going to be excellent food. This is probably the most famous bakery in the city and is sort of a taste of Paris with a Cali twist. On our visit, we decided to go all out and have a three-course breakfast of an excellent croissant, a dreamy asparagus open croque monsiuer on sourdough and a little cup of their super-sweet brioche bread pudding with strawberries for dessert – see? Even breakfast can be a real foodie event in San Fran. Their weekend brunch is super-popular and their sister restaurant Bar Tartine is definitely worth stopping by for dinner, too. tartinebakery.com
State Bird Provisions
1529 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94115 +1 415-795-1272. Open Sun-Thurs 5.30pm-10pm, Fri and Sat 5.30-11pm
When Guardian food critic Marina O'Loughlin rhapsodised that her food here was “among the best meals I've eaten in years”, we knew we had to get a table. It does take a little pre-planning (books open for reservations 60 days in advance) but we can't stress enough: if you're in San Francisco, you need to eat here. It's a modern Cali venue with sharing plates that you order from the "commandables" menu, then there's also the ingenious “provisions” trolley that rolls round, offering you little bites to take off it, at a few dollars each. On the night we visited, the staples for us were the State Bird signature dish (deep fried quail with lemon-stewed onion jam at $9), kimchi noodles with egg bottarga and the asparagus toast. From the travelling trolley we had the most incredible duck liver pate with almond biscuits ($6), Miyagi oysters topped with sesame and Togarashi Japanese chilli powder ($5 for 2), crispy pork belly with jalapenos, octopus with fried beans and for dessert, 'World Peace" peanut muscavado shots ($2) with cocoa nib crème brulee, Maderia fudge and matcha. It's an absolutely breathtaking display of inventive and playful dishes and an incredibly social way to dine – it's especially handy if if you suffer from food envy as you get to take a good peer at most dishes before you commit to them. The staff are all super-friendly and it's such a fun experience – and so San Francisco. statebirdsf.com
1270 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110 +1 415-285-1200. Open Mon-Thurs 6pm-10pm, Fri and Sat 6pm-11pm, closed Sundays.
David Lynch owns a wine bar and restaurant in the Mission? Well, not the David Lynch as it turns out, but the esteemed sommelier David Lynch instead. It's a cosy, independent restaurant with a stellar wine list (as you'd expect) and lively little sharing plates of inventive modern San Fran cooking. We enjoyed the halibut ceviche with pomelo and grapefruit ($16), chargrilled broccoli and cauliflower with crispy wild rice and grain mustard cider ($14) and duck rillette ($6) to start, then shared the tangy lime chicken wings ($15). The potato gnocchi ($23) was one of the best ways to serve up this usually quite plain dish – the chef grilled the little squares and paired them with asparagus, creamed rocket and loads of shavings of pecorino. stvincentsf.com
3621 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110 +1 415-552-4055. Open Mon 5pm-10pm, Tues- Thurs 11.30am-10pm, Fri 11.30am-11.30pm and Sat and Sun midday- 11pm.
Pizzeria Delfina sits next door to Delfina, and is home to some of the best pizzas in the Bay area. Stonebaked in their huge pizza oven, these beauties are crispy on the outside, soft in the middle and topped with some seriously great ingredients. We loved the 4 Formaggi ($14.5) with big, juicy hunks of mozzarella, fontal, provolone and Pecorino on the pie and the Napoletana ($10) – tangy goodness with anchovies, capers and olives. There's also some exceptional starters influenced by the mother restaurant next door – we had a sensational butternut squash “spaghetti” with pinenuts and bacon. delfinasf.com
2288 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110 +1 415-252-9560. Open Mon-Thurs 10am-1am, Fri 10am-2am, Sat and Sun 10am-2am.
There's nothing particularly fancy about this cantina, but the proof of it being the best Mexican in Mission is in the food. Tostadas de ceviche ($2) and the burritos ($4.8) are the favourites here, but the tacos ($3) can't be beaten either. If you're up for a challenge (or just have a very big appetite) the Alhambra ($6.25) is the dish for you – huge chunks of beef, peppers and onions with refried beans, tomato rice and a load of tortillas to mop it up with. Everything is perfectly spiced and you leave with that lovely lip-tingling sensation that comes from their expert dosing of chilli. taqueriacancunsf.com
Other honourable mentions:
Alembic – The best cocktail bar in the city, hands down. Their bar snacks menu is absolutely banging too – the jerk duck hearts with pickled pineapple was one of the the best dishes we ate in the city, while their beef chicharrones with Vietnamese herbs were like pork scratchings on steroids. alembicbar.com
Dolores Park Cafe - Right on the corner of the hipster's favourite park (very similar to London Fields in our Hackney hometown) is this great cafe with organic juices, coffees, sandwiches and good breakfast fare, too. doloresparkcafe.com
Trick Dog – You'll see why this bar was voted one of the World's 50 Best Bars when you sup on one of their innovative cocktails. Order the drinks from this Chinese style saloon according to the number on the menu – the number 10 was our favourite. trickdogbar.com
The Beauty Bar – Cheap cocktails and rock 'n' roll DJs in this bar that looks like something Frenchie from Grease dreamed up. We loved it and also wins points for being opposite Taqueria Cancun for a double shot of tacos and booze. thebeautybar.com/home-san-francisco
Bi-rite Creamery – Two words: banana split. There wasn't a word uttered while we hoovered up bowls of delicious ice-cream with a bruleed banana straddling the sweet treat. A must-visit for anyone for a love of retro desserts. biritecreamery.com