Dining in San Francisco

Arthur Mejia and William N. Bonds, December 2001

For the past several decades, residents of the San Francisco Bay area have been fortunate to have a remarkable variety of extraordinary restaurants. Except for Antarctica and possibly Australia, every continent is well represented; in its recent list of the 50 best restaurants in the United States, Gourmet ranked Chez Panisse (Berkeley) first, the French Laundry (Yountville) third, and included several others in San Francisco. This is good news for those of you who want to strike out on your own to discover a hidden treasure: they do exist here. For those of you who prefer a guided tour, we’ve assembled a list of restaurants that serve excellent food and are considered worth the cost, even when it is high.

The first 24 restaurants are a sample of those that are reasonably close to the hotels hosting the AHA meeting. Many are within walking distance; none is further than two BART or Muni Metro stops from the Powell and Market Street station. They are ordered alphabetically by neighborhood. The price is what you should expect to pay for a main course. Other courses, beverages, taxes, and tip are not included—which could double that price. Reservations are recommended. All telephone numbers are in the 415 area code. In most of these restaurants you may wear casual or formal attire, as you wish; but in some (noted as “dressy”), more formal attire is expected.

Union Square and North of Market

Aqua. Seafood. Imaginative presentations, handsome interior, dressy. 252 California (near Battery). 956-9662. $30–40.

Elisabeth Daniel. French/Californian. Innovative food, formal setting, dressy. 550 Washington (near Montgomery). 397-6129. Fixed-price menu at about $75.

Farallon. Seafood. Creative dishes, fanciful setting, dressy. 450 Post (near Powell). 956-6969. $25–40.

Fleur de Lys. French/Californian. Complex dishes, elegant interior, dressy. 777 Sutter (near Taylor). 673-7779. $35–40.

Postrio. Californian/Mediterranean. Contemporary dishes, dramatic setting, dressy. 545 Post (at Mason). 776-7825. $30–35.

Yerba Buena and South of Market

Azie. Asian/European. Fusion dishes, unusual setting. 826 Folsom (near Fourth St) 538-0918. $25–35.

Fifth Floor. French/Californian. Complex dishes, handsome setting, dressy. Hotel Palomar. 12 Fourth St (at Market). 348-1555. $30–40.

Fringale. French. Classic food, intimate bistro. 570 Fourth St (near Brannan). 543-0573. $15–20.

Hawthorne Lane. Californian. Creative dishes, handsome setting. 22 Hawthorne (off Howard). 777-9779. $25–35.

Kyo-Ya. Japanese. Fresh food, serene atmosphere. 2 New Montgomery (in the Palace Hotel). 512-1111. $15–25.

LuLu. Provençal. Rustic dishes, festive atmosphere. 816 Folsom (near Fourth St). 495-5775. $15–25.

Shanghai 1930. Chinese. Classic food, stylish setting. 133 Steuart (near Mission). 896-5600. $10–30.

Thirsty Bear. Spanish. Wide selection of tapas, brewery-pub. 661 Howard (near Third St). 947-0905. $15–20.

Yank Sing. Chinese/dim sum. Lunch only, wide selection. 101 Spear (near Mission) 957-9300 or 49 Stevenson (at Ecker) 541-4949. $10–15.

Civic Center and Hayes Valley

Absinthe. Provençal. Flavorful food, elegant brasserie setting. 398 Hayes (at Gough). 551-5127. $20–25.

Hayes Street Grill. American seafood. Classic preparation, bistro atmosphere. 324 Hayes (near Franklin). 863-5545. $15–20.

Jardinière. French/Californian. Innovative dishes, handsome interior. 300 Grove (at Franklin). 861-5555. $25–30.

Millenium. Vegetarian. Imaginative preparation, intimate interior. 246 McAllister (near Larkin). 487-9800 $15–20.

Suppenküche. German. Traditional dishes, festive. 525 Laguna (at Hayes). 252-9289. $10–15.

Terra Brazilis. Brazilian. Small, flavorful dishes, modern interior. 602 Hayes (at Laguna). 241-1900. $10–15.

Zuni Café. Mediterranean/Californian. Rustic/refined food, relaxed setting. 1658 Market (near Franklin). 552-2522. $15–20.

Inner Mission

Delfina. Italian. Intimate setting, seasonal dishes. 3621 Eighteenth Street (near Guerrero). 552-4055. $15–20.

Slanted Door. Vietnamese. Light and innovative food, modern setting. 584 Valencia (near Seventeenth St). 861-8032. $15–20.

Ti Couz. Breton crêpes. Specialized menu, rustic atmosphere. 3108 Sixteenth St (near Valencia). 252-7373. $10–15.

A little further away, but in neighborhoods still easily accessed by public transportation, are many other fine restaurants that are more moderately priced. Among them are ten that are especially well regarded.

Lower Fillmore/Haight and Duboce

Indian Oven. Indian. Varied menu, simple interior. 237 Fillmore (near Haight). 626-1628. $10–15.

Thep Phanom. Thai. Traditional food, intimate space. 400 Waller (at Fillmore). 431-2526. $10–15.

Upper Fillmore

Chez Nous. French/Mediterranean. Flavorful small plates, intimate space. 1911 Fillmore (near Bush). 441-8044. $10–15.

Florio Cafe. French/Italian. Hearty dishes, bistro setting. 1915 Fillmore (near Pine). 775-4300. $15–20.

Takara. Japanese. Unusual rice dishes, simple setting. 22 Peace Plaza in Japantown (near Post and Webster). 921-2000. $15–20 for complete dinner.

Richmond/Presidio Heights

Eliza’s. Chinese/Californian. Imaginative dishes, modern interior. 2877 California (near Broderick). 621-4819. $10–15.

Kabuto Sushi. Japanese. Seafood specialties, simple setting. 5116 Geary (near Fifteenth Ave.). 752-5652. $10–20.

Ton Kiang. Chinese/dim sum. Extensive menu, simple interior. 5821 Geary (near Twenty-Second Ave). 752-4440. $10–20.

Inner Sunset

Ebisu. Japanese. Seafood specialties, simple interior. 1283 Ninth Ave (near Irving). 566-1770. $10–15.

Masala. Indian. Traditional menu, intimate setting. 1220 Ninth Ave (near Lincoln). 566-6976. $10–15.