Travel Guide to San Francisco – Best Places to Eat
If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you’ll know how much fun I’ve been having in California over the Easter break. While I was there, I checked out San Francisco and Los Angeles – two very different cities but each with plenty to offer! In this post, I’ll be sharing a selection of my favourite and best places to eat in San Francisco with you.
Hops & Hominy
After arriving in San Francisco following a flight that was just shy of 11 hours and queuing in immigration lines that seemed to go on forever, we checked into our Embarcadero-based hotel with stomachs demanding to be fed!
Not wanting to journey too far on our first evening to meet my brother who is based here, we discovered a trendy and cosy Southern food spot between Union Square and the Financial District (known to locals as “FiDi”). At the end of a small road and nestled between upmarket retail fashion stores, this is a spot that offers fantastic value for money.
In addition to serving up some delicious fried chicken accompanied by mashed potatoes smothered in garlic and buttermilk biscuits, they have a great range of organic brewed beers (the “Hops” part of their name being a bit of a clue) and cocktails to quench your thirst. Starters were ordered, but in hindsight, we could have done with less given how filling everything was!
Smitten Ice Cream
Unless you’ve been to a Heston Blumenthal restaurant, you may not have tucked into liquid nitrogen ice cream before. We didn’t plan to stop here, but stumbled upon it after a nice post-lunch stroll down Valencia Street.
We heard about Smitten Ice Cream from the two friends of ours we had caught up with for lunch. What they didn’t know however, was that it had just recently opened its second branch a few blocks away from where we were eating at!
The fact that it was just opened and few outsiders knew about it meant that there were no queues when we entered to order our ice cream. Every scoop is personally made for you out of a frosty, mist spewing machine; perfect for that Instagram/Facebook Story update. My favourite part while devouring on our cone, was watching customers’ reactions as they were wowed by the process being undertaken in creating their personalised ice cream scoop.
Mr. Holmes Bakehouse
We reached here after taking a cable car from one side of town to the other and then walking from Van Ness towards City Hall.
Having had a ‘cronut’ before, I was introduced to another merger of two different concepts. This time, it was the “cruffin”! Croissants baked like muffins, and filled with a daily rotating flavour of sweet cream.
Past options have included the likes of chocolate passionfruit, apple pie, honey lavender, and bourbon orange. While calorie heavy, their creations are devilishly tempting with each one seductively calling out to you. They are only open until they are sold out (meaning that they’re not open long!), so line up early if you want to walk away with a box of Mr Holmes’ colourful and tasty pastries.
Liho-Liho Yacht Club
This place serves up some beautifully presented and delicious Hawaiian-inspired cuisine. Beef tongue buns, poke and fried game hen come highly recommended, while their baked Hawaii dessert is made for your Instagram feed! Not the easiest reservation to snag here, but they do open up their bar seats on a first come, first served basis.
The only recent opening in the city’s Chinatown district, this upmarket Chinese eatery serves up classic dishes with a Californian twist. To give you a flavour of what this sounds like in practice, imagine some baby bok choy served with scallops and prosciutto, or sourdough scallion pancake, or even cheong fun with Dungeness crab, caviar and sprouts.
You get different perspectives of traditional dishes and while all may not be as successful in its attempt at balancing innovation with flavours that work, they’re certain to get people on your table talking.
During our time in San Francisco, the city felt like a sour dough bread mecca. Here at Tartine, housed in an industrial space, you can indulge your carb fix as you navigate their menu offering such delights as flatbread sandwiches for lunch, and for dinner, a novel selection that includes warm bread, cultured butter, buttermilk, koji salt; stracciatella and bottarga smorrebrod; and, sea urchin and mustard smorrebrod.
A couple of branches across the Bay area with often very long queues, especially when the sun is out in all its glory. This means it can often pay to be strategic, e.g. going for the branch in Haight rather than the one in The Mission next to a large public park. Having sampled a number of their flavours, we would recommend you go for a selection of the following: blue bottle coffee, crème brulee, salted caramel and brown sugar with ginger caramel.
Dragon Beaux Dim Sum
We couldn’t leave San Francisco without checking this place out. Having seen many of our friends dine here for their dim sum fix, we decided to pay this place a visit on our penultimate day in the city.
We’ve never gone for dim sum earlier than 11.30AM before but having heard that this place opens as early as 10.00AM and that queues can often be legendary in length, we made our way there just before 10.00AM.
This was to ensure we had a table secured to enjoy what became a feast of exquisite dim sum. The stand out dish was their soupy dumplings that came in 4 different colours and flavours – black mushroom and truffle, beetroot, kale and crab roe. Golden Gate Park, where the museums and Japanese Tea Garden are located, is only a short walk away and is therefore perfect for a walk afterwards to work off some of that lunch!
Hog Island Oyster Bar
This place is highly recommended. Not only can you enjoy a great range of oysters on offer, but you can do so with a beautiful waterside view overlooking the Bay Bridge. The Chelsea Sweetwater oysters were our favourites. Meaty and sweet in flavour, they were exactly what we were looking for.
If you’re unsure of what to fill your hunger however, you can easily order a mix of what’s on offer. Make sure to do as the locals do and order a clam chowder on the side as well. This was the final meal of our California trip and what a way to finish!
What are your favourite spots in San Francisco? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below 😉