Bay Area Bites’ Downtown San Francisco Restaurant Guide for Visitors

| May 9, 2014 | 2 Comments
Hundreds of thousands of people visit San Francisco every year. But, where do they all eat? Photo: Trey Ratcliff/Flickr

Hundreds of thousands of people visit San Francisco every year. But, where do they all eat? Photo: Trey Ratcliff/Flickr

So you’re visiting San Francisco, or you have out-of-town guests staying in the city and want to point them in the right direction for food. We’ve compiled a rough guide of San Francisco bites in the downtown area — since that’s where the vast majority of tourists stay and explore. Some of these are classic San Francisco (oysters on the bay, hipster bars, hole-in-the-wall burritos) and some are lesser-known spots that are must-visits because of their tasty food or unique meals. Try some; try all. We’re just keeping you on your toes.

The guide is primarily aimed at downtown San Francisco and divided into quicker eats for lunch, sit-down places for dinner (or a big lunch), coffee and tea spots, and bars. If you want to venture further afield and ride BART a few stops, we’ve also suggested a few places that you may have heard of or that would make any list of places to visit in the city on the Bay. Use the Google Map at the bottom to find locations and to plan your eating foray.

Let us know what you think after you try some of these. Or, tell us what we missed that our visitors simply have to eat while they’re here.

FOOD – Lunch, Snacks, Quick Hits

Ferry Building Farmers Market
Farmers Market, $$
Ferry Building Plaza
(415) 291-3276
Tues, Thurs, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Sat, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Why? Local farmers sell produce, meat, and cheeses. Be sure to get a Rueben sandwich from the Wise Sons booth on Tuesday or Thursday – though be warned that there may be a line. And check out the sandwiches from 4505 Meats on Thursday.

Hog Island Oyster Co.
Oysters, $$
San Francisco Ferry Building
(415) 391-7117
Mon-Thurs, 11:30 a.m. – 9 p.m. Fri, 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m. Sat, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m., Sun, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m
Why? Sit next to the water and enjoy fresh oysters from nearby Tomales Bay. Inside the Ferry Building Marketplace.

Cowgirl Creamery
Cheese, Sandwiches, $$
San Francisco Ferry Building
(415) 392-4000
Café: Mon-Sat, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. Sun, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Why? Buy the local cheeses at their store or visit the Sidekick Café and Milk Bar for sandwiches and snacks. Inside the Ferry Building Marketplace.

Yank Sing
Dim Sum, $$$
49 Stevenson St
(415) 541-4949
101 Spear St (at One Rincon Center)
(415) 781-1111
Both locations open: Mon-Fri, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Why? For some of the best dim sum in the city. Try the soup dumplings and pork buns. Make reservations or take to-go.

Zero Zero
Italian, Pizza, $$
826 Folsom St.
(415) 348-8800
Sun-Thurs, 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m., Fri, Sat, 11:30 a.m. – 11 p.m. (Mon- Fri, closed 2:30 – 4 p.m.)
Why? For the pizza (try the Fillmore) and the salted ice cream.

Japanese, Ramen, $$
430 Geary St.
(415) 771-1280
Everyday, 11:30 a.m. – 2 a.m.
Why? Go to try the extra spicy ramen (or any of the ramen).

Taqueria Castillo
Mexican (burritos), $
10 Mason St.
(415) 986-0426
Mon-Sat, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Why? You can’t visit San Francisco without visiting a hole-in-the-wall taqueria that secretly has amazing food. Get the super burrito and you’ll have leftovers. Cash only.

Super Duper
Burgers, $
721 Market St.
(415) 538-3437
Mon-Wed, 8 a.m. – 10 p.m. Thurs, Fri, 8 a.m. – 11 p.m. Sat, 10:30 a.m. – 11 p.m. Sun, 10:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.
783 Mission St.
(415) 882-1750
Mon-Sat, 10:30 a.m. – 11 p.m. Sun, 10:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.
98 Mission St.
(415) 974-1200
Mon-Fri, 7 a.m. – 9 p.m. Sat, Sun, 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Why? The motto is: fast food burgers, slow food values. Yes, it’s a chain, but it’s a San Francisco chain. Small burgers made from Niman Ranch beef, and be sure to get a shake with that.

FOOD – Sit-down/Fine Dining

Soul Food, $$
25 Mason St.
(415) 409-3276
Tues-Thurs, Sun, 5:30 – 10 p.m., Fri, Sat, 5 – 11 p.m. (Weekend brunch: 10 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.)
Why? San Franciscans brunch at a higher-than-average rate; join them. If you can’t make it for weekend brunch, you can still try the fried chicken and waffles, and the jalapeno cornbread.

Slanted Door
Vietnamese, $$$
San Francisco Ferry Building
(415) 861-8032
Mon-Sat, lunch 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. Sun, lunch 11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.; everyday, afternoon tea 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m., dinner 5:30 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Why? Modern Vietnamese with views of the Bay. Call to make a reservation. Inside the Ferry Building Marketplace. Bonus: The Slanted Door just won the 2014 James Beard award for Outstanding Restaurant in the country.

Photo: Courtesy of Michael Mina SF/Instagram

Photo: Courtesy of Michael Mina SF/Instagra

Michael Mina
California, $$$$
252 California St.
(415) 397-9222
Lunch: Mon-Fri, 11:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. Dinner: Sun-Thurs, 5:30 – 10 p.m., Fri, Sat, 5:30 – 10:30 p.m. (Lounge opens 11:30 a.m. Mon-Fri)
Why? Michael Mina is known for his high-quality American-style food, with five restaurants around San Francisco. Try the one that is his namesake. The tasting menu will give you a range of plates and you’ll leave having earned the title of “foodie.”

Photo: Courtesy of 5A5 Steak Lounge

Photo: Courtesy of 5A5 Steak Lounge

5A5 Steak Lounge
Steak, $$$
244 Jackson St.
(415) 989-2539
Mon-Thurs, 5 – 10 p.m. Fri, Sat, 5 – 10:30 p.m. Sun, 5 – 9 p.m.
Why? For one of the best steakhouses in the city. Get the truffle fries and Hamachi shooters with your meat.

Colibri Mexican Bistro
Mexican, $$
438 Geary St.
(415) 440-2737
Mon, 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m., Tues-Thurs, 11:30 a.m. – 11 p.m., Fri, 11:30 – midnight Sat, 10:30 a.m. – midnight, Sun, 10:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Why? For sit-down Mexican food, Colibri is the place to go. The most popular dish is the chicken mole and on the weekends try the bottomless mimosa brunch.


Blue Bottle
Coffee, $$
66 Mint St.
(415) 495-3394
San Francisco Ferry Building
No phone
Both locations: Mon-Fri, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. Sat, Sun, 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Why? Blue Bottle coffee is micro-roasted and hand-made. This is not the place to go for a quickly rushed cup of caffeine. The Mint Plaza location also serves breakfast.

Samovar Tea Lounge
Tea, $$
730 Howard St. (Yerba Buena Gardens, upper terrace)
(415) 227-9400
Sun-Wed, 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. Thurs-Sat, 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Why? Sit overlooking the park and enjoy a cup of tea with light food.


Bourbon & Branch
Bar, $$$
501 Jones St.
(415) 346-1735
Everyday, 6 p.m. – 2 a.m.
Why? The speakeasy-style bar may seem over-the-top and hipster (and sooo San Francisco), but the atmosphere is something you have to experience and the drinks are delicious. Try the cucumber gimlet. Call ahead for reservations and the “secret” password. And, yes, that hidden door you walked right past is the front entrance.

Press Club
Wine bar, $$$
20 Yerba Buena Lane
(415) 744-5000
Mon-Thurs, 4 – 11 p.m. Fri, Sat, 2 – 11 p.m. Sun, 2 – 8 p.m.
Why? When you visit the Bay Area, you have to drink some wine. It’s a rule. Enjoy the variety offered at Press Club in their lounge. Check that a private event hasn’t blocked out the place first.

Cellarmaker Brewing Co.
1150 Howard St.
(415) 863-3940
Tues-Fri, 3 – 11 p.m. Sat, noon – 11 p.m. Sun 2 – 8 p.m.
Why? If beer is your thing. Do a sampling of all their local brews.


(looking for San Francisco adventure)

Bi-Rite Creamery
Dessert, Ice cream, $
3692 18th St.
(415) 626-5600
Sun-Thurs, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Fri, Sat, 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Why? For the small-batch ice cream, made from local ingredients. Be sure to try the salted caramel flavor.

Bakery, $$
600 Guerrero St.
(415) 487-2600
Mon, 8 a.m. – 7 p.m., Tues, Wed, 7:30 a.m. – 7 p.m., Thurs, Fri, 7:30 a.m. – 8 p.m. Sat, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. Sun, 9 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Why? Tartine may be the most well-known bakery in San Francisco. Get fresh warm bread after 4:30 p.m. or sweets anytime. Expect a line – a long line.

Trouble Coffee Co.
Toast, coffee, $$
4033 Judah St.
(800) 555-1212
Everyday, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Why? You heard of $4 artisan toast? This is where it started. Trouble Coffee is small; it’s hip; and it serves very few things: coconuts, cinnamon toast, coffee. But, what it serves it serves well. Cash only.

Photo: Alanna Hale

Photo: Alanna Hale

ICHI Sushi + NI Bar
Sushi, $$$
3282 Mission St.
(415) 525-4750
Mon-Thurs, 5:30 – 10 p.m. Fri, Sat, 5:30 – 11 p.m.
Why? ICHI just opened its new, bigger location and the popular spot has been packed with sushi-lovers. Make a reservation and just do omakase – the chef will bring you a series of tasty dishes.

State Bird Provisions
American, tapas, $$$
1529 Fillmore St.
(415) 795-1272
Sun-Thurs, 5:30 – 10 p.m. Fri, Sat, 5:30 – 11 p.m.
Why? Because it just tastes so good – and you can judge for yourself if it’s worth the hype. Make reservations if you can get them, or stand in line before it opens.

La Taqueria
Mexican, burritos, $
2889 Mission St.
(415) 285-7117
Mon-Sat, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. Sun, 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Why? It is a fact universally recognized that the highest concentration of the best burritos is in the Mission. If you venture to the neighborhood on BART, then you’ll want to check out a classic taqueria and La Taqueria is the worst-kept secret in the area. Get the carne asada burrito and the carnitas taco with everything on it.

Use the Google Map below to find the different places in our list or sort by category. Let us know in the comments if we forgot your favorite downtown San Francisco spot or places you always take out-of-towners.

View Full-Sized Map

Want some more options? Check out the Union Square Checklist from Check, Please! Bay Area! If you are looking for great eateries in San Francisco’s Union Square the producers of the show selected 10 of the best restaurants from past seasons near the iconic landmark.

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Category: bay area, Bay Area Bites Food + Drink, beverages, farmers markets, Guides, local food businesses, restaurants, bars, cafes, tea and coffee

About the Author ()

Kelly O'Mara is a writer and reporter in the San Francisco Bay Area. She writes about food, health, sports, travel, business and California news. Her work has appeared on KQED, online for Outside Magazine and in Competitor Magazine, among others.
  • Sylvan Selig

    Original Joe’s?!?!?

  • Jean

    Kokkari, Perbacco, Gaspar and Aquitaine over the overrated Michael Mina restaurants (all of them!) and the whitebread Slanted Door.