Get SF Weekly Newsletters

Food & Drink

  • Best Restaurant

    Fifth Floor

    George Morrone's departure from the Fifth Floor last year raised concerns about the venue's culinary future, but under new Executive Chef Laurent Gras the food is better than ever. The menu is arranged into categories (Farm, Ocean, Field & Forest) that exemplify Gras' respect for fresh, natural flavors and textures, and his culinary inclinations are wonderfully creative as well. Examples from his spring menu include wild halibut braised with watercress, trumpet mushrooms, and champagne; roasted Muscovy duck with blood orange,... More >>

  • Best New Restaurant

    Aziza

    For the past few years, naming the best new restaurant in San Francisco has been difficult. High-end projects popped up faster than we could review them -- Fifth Floor! Gary Danko! Elisabeth Daniel! Azie! Now, in these leaner times, the newcomers have become a lot less ambitious. Even the names (Grub, Bloo, Night Monkey?) aren't as catchy. Still, don't let that detract from our praise of Aziza. After closing their highly rated Kasbah in San Rafael, brother act Mourad and... More >>

  • Best Hot Bar Street

    Polk

    The Mission bar scene is thriving, SOMA still has it going on, and the Lower Haight continues to be the city's premier bohemian drinking enclave. But if you want to know where it's fucking happening, man, get your ass down Polk. From the Civic Center to Russian Hill, Polk offers something for every type of drinker: yuppie bars, dive bars, rocker bars, a piano bar, and the most hopping gay scene outside the Castro. From the "gulch" section, you can... More >>

  • Best Dessert Menu

    Citizen Cake

    Dessert is almost always the best part of the meal, any meal, but at Citizen Cake, the bakery-cum-restaurant in Hayes Valley, the sweet stuff is especially magnificent. Executive Pastry Chef Elizabeth Falkner and pastry chefs Shuna Lydon and Sara Cameron not only make fantastic tarts, pastries, cookies, and cakes for the patisserie side of the operation, they create phenomenal menu desserts as well: a crème brûlée scented with rose petals; an orange-marmalade pudding with Earl Grey ice cream; a tarte... More >>

  • Best Dive Bar

    The Sand Bar

    You've gotta like a bar with a slogan. In the case of outer Taraval's Sand Bar, the place has actually earned two. There's the one printed on the façade: "At the edge of the Western World." Then there's the informal slogan we've heard on numerous occasions: "Where the debris meets the sea." Both are accurate. The Sand Bar is so far off the beaten track -- call the neighborhood the Outer Outer Outer Sunset, or perhaps the Almost Ocean --... More >>

  • Best New Italian Restaurant

    Sociale

    With the exception of sushi houses, Italian restaurants are probably the most common venture for restaurateurs in this city. Sometimes they're good; often, they're not; and then, every once and again, we encounter a true gem like Sacramento Street's Sociale. Located in a quiet courtyard in the tony Laurel Heights district, this cozy trattoria/wine bar offers an unbeatable combination of friendly service, fine wines, and new-school Italian fare that could turn a person off Bolognese sauce forever. The olive fritte... More >>

  • Best Monday Night Make-Out Bar

    Hush Hush Lounge

    First dates can be awkward rituals. Do you do coffee? Have dinner? Take a walk in the park? Or, maybe you prefer to get acquainted the old-fashioned way, by getting drunk, making out, then sorting out the details later. If the last method sounds good, drop by the Hush Hush Lounge on a Monday. We did it: The place was nearly empty, allowing us to sidle into the cozy, secluded "Love Booth" (just to the right as you enter). We... More >>

  • Best Chinese Restaurant

    Koi Palace

    We could tell you about simple meals we've had at Koi Palace -- exquisite dim sum, coconut-sauced beef and taro in a clay pot, egg noodles braised with lobster until they took on a richness that could make God himself drop to his knees. We could tell you about meals we'd like to have (the menu's so deep it would take 30 visits to try everything), but instead, let's recount the time we ordered the $399 banquet for 10. It... More >>

  • Best Peruvian Restaurant

    Fresca

    Though we've had some fine Peruvian meals in the Mission, the best have all been at the West Portal district's Fresca. The recipes aren't always traditional here -- a classic papas a la huancaina (chilled potatoes with cream sauce) comes with olives and feta, and mulas de salmon (salmon tacos) are California fare if such a thing ever existed. But who cares? The food tends to be awesome. Enjoy rack of lamb with grilled prawns, a signature rotisserie chicken, and... More >>

  • Best Small Plates

    Isa

    This award would have been a tie, except for one factor: Chez Nous (Mediterranean small plates on Fillmore) is hella freaking loud. Thus, let's travel to the Marina District's Isa, a narrow slip of a restaurant that opens onto a quiet, spacious, heated outdoor patio. Having made his bones at some of the city's top restaurants, chef/owner Luke Sung puts a refined, California/classic French spin on the trendy small plate: goat cheese with pine nuts, tomato, and basil; potato-leek soup... More >>

  • Best Persian Excursion

    Maykadeh

    Few experiences compare to dropping by North Beach's Maykadeh on a Saturday. It may seem like every Persian in the Bay Area has shown up, and the wait can be prohibitively daunting. Our advice: Make a reservation, go on a weeknight, or, if you must plunge into the fray, know that an hour spent twiddling your thumbs is a small price to pay for magnificent, saffron-marinated lamb kebabs and intensely flavored stews such as khoresht fesenjoon (chicken in a razor-sharp... More >>

  • Best Japanese Restaurant

    Maki

    The thing about eating Japanese food in San Francisco is that you can't say you're serious about it until you've been to Japantown's Maki. The place serves sushi (including the best unagi roll we've ever had), but the specialty is steamed dishes: chawan mushi (steamed egg custard) and wappa meshi (salmon, eel, beef, or vegetables steamed in a wood basket over rice). With barely more than a dozen seats, Maki is all about attention to detail. The dashi stock is... More >>

  • Best Taqueria

    Pancho Villa

    Enough has been written about which taqueria makes the best burrito in San Francisco, so we won't bother with that this year. OK, we can't resist -- it's Can-Cun, damn it! Now that that's out of our system, we have to admit that we prefer a trip to Pancho Villa. The burritos here aren't as refined as Can-Cun's, but you can get a wider range of fillings (from tofu ranchero to the fabulously smoky steak with prawns), plus fish tacos,... More >>

  • Best Dim Sum

    Yank Sing

    The debate continues over who serves the freshest, tastiest, most inventive dim sum in San Francisco: Ton Kiang in the Richmond or Yank Sing downtown. Both serve an astonishing variety of brightly flavored tidbits hot from the kitchen. Both boast lively, attractive, upscale surroundings ideal for every sort of occasion. Both uphold dim sum's immediate-gratification traditions via fragrant steam carts wheeled right to your table. Yank Sing's only real edge, in fact, is the magnificent Ramos Fizz it proffers from... More >>

  • Best Burger

    Balboa Cafe

    The excellent hamburger prepared and served at the Balboa Cafe is unlike any other in the city. Instead of a sesame seed bun or a slice of focaccia or a sourdough roll, the starch of choice is a crisp, slender, hollowed-out baguette that serves as a delicate crust for the thick and juicy slab of grilled beef. The result is a hamburger at once hearty, elegant, and absolutely appropriate to the restaurant's clubby ambience of crisp napery, dark woods, brass... More >>

  • Best Pizza

    Pizzetta 211

    Pizza's come a long way since the old pepperoni-and-Ragú renditions of our vanished youth; nowadays we have before us a quasi-Sicilian smorgasbord of stuffed pizzas, deep-dish pizzas, pizzas with tripe and cilantro, even fluffy pizza soufflés. Amid all of this pizza effluvia are the dazzling wood-fired creations of Pizzetta 211, a modest little hideaway on one of the Richmond's quieter side streets. Here masterminds Tamar Peltz and Ria Ramsey craft individual pizzas out of organic grains, produce, and dairy products,... More >>

  • Best African Restaurant

    Cafe Eritrea D'Afrique

    Sometimes the restaurants with the most memorable food are the ones you are least likely to walk into off the streets. Cafe Eritrea is a perfect example. The atmosphere here -- from the obviously plastic flowers to the crowd of boisterous regulars who never seem to be there to actually eat -- makes clear that no one on staff has given any thought to the word "ambience." But you'll soon realize it's all a part of the cafe's charm --... More >>

  • Best Vegetarian Restaurant

    Golden Era

    Vegetarians often joke that their meatless lifestyle has made them poor decision-makers. After all, herbivores rarely need to decide what to eat when they dine out: It's either the chef salad (minus the ham) or the ravioli (minus the Bolognese sauce). Which is why this well-run, unpretentious, and friendly Pan-Asian establishment has become, for many vegetarians, a little piece of heaven. Not only are there more than 70 vegan dishes to choose from, but they're all affordable and absolutely delicious.... More >>

  • Best Barbecue

    Zeitgeist

    With an enormous back patio and a diverse crowd, this "dive bar" has all the ingredients for a family picnic, but with family you would actually want to spend time around. The motto here is "Warm Beer, Cold Women, and Clean Rooms Cheap." Don't be fooled, though, the 25 beers on tap are the perfect temperature to complement the barbecued chicken, ribs, coleslaw, and corn bread. Grab a seat on the patio and wait for the grill master to yell... More >>

  • Best Microbrew

    There's something about really dark beer that feels downright nourishing. It might be its top-fermenting yeasts, or its well-roasted grains, or its totally cool, pitch-black color. In any case, a fine, full-bodied stout has the power to fill your belly and soothe your soul as it clouds your overtaxed cranium. Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout is a fine example. A blend of pale, caramel, and chocolate malted barleys, oats, and hops results in a rich, rounded brew with a creamy head,... More >>

  • Best San Francisco Beer

    Speakeasy Brewing's Prohibition Ale

    For a town that loves its beer and boasts its share of breweries and brewpubs, S.F. has city-brewed suds that are fair to middlin' at best. In fact, despite all the great breweries in Northern California, San Francisco itself has only one: Speakeasy. Five years ago, the company was a small-time outlet with a scattering of taps in the city; today its product is being poured at most local pubs and sold in six-packs at a corner store near you.... More >>

  • Best Brewpub

    E&O is a big, noisy, fun-filled Disney version of some Southeast Asian trading post, and in addition to a tasty selection of Indonesian, Malaysian, and Vietnamese tidbits there are half a dozen house-brewed beers suitable for quaffing. They include the ebony-black, velvety-smooth King's Stout; Eastern Golden, a dry, mild ale flavored with orange blossom honey; the spicy, caramel-scented Dragon's Breath; and a refreshingly bitter IPA crafted from East Kent Golding full-flower hops. The Cecil Wells-Jimmy Williams Jazz Duo performs every... More >>

  • Best Guacamole

    Cafe Marimba

    We would be perfectly happy to live out the rest of our days sitting at one of Cafe Marimba's window-side tables, sipping margaritas, listening to Beny Moré on the stereo, and eating bowl after bowl of the marvelous house guacamoles. Making good guacamole seems simple enough -- mash up an avocado, squirt in some lime juice, and voilà -- but Marimba's variations are something special. There are two of them, each one distinct in flavor and character. The Tomatillo is... More >>

  • Best Mixology

    Gold Dust Lounge

    There are two kinds of bartenders in this world: Those who pour drinks, and those who elevate their profession to a level that approaches art. At the Gold Dust Lounge, you find the latter breed. Phil the bartender makes a mean Flaming Lamborghini (it's not quite as potent as the version we've had on the Greek island of Ios, but a lot less likely to result in dancing atop the bar). As for Chuck the bartender, he's the author of... More >>

  • Best Place to Sip Single Malt

    Edinburgh Castle

    Single malt whiskey, that rich, mellow distillation of barley, peat smoke, and Scots Highlands branch water, stands alongside cognac, grappa, and that relative upstart single-barrel bourbon as one of the world's great restoratives. Each single malt (and there are many) has its own set of characteristics based on the landscape, weather, and location of its distillery, a laudable result of the tightest appellation laws this side of Bordeaux. The ideal place to sip them (neat with no ice, soda, or... More >>

  • Best Bar for an Illicit Rendezvous

    Big Four Restaurant at the Huntington Hotel

    Deep-pocketed tourists with a yen for a view go to the Top of the Mark, while thirsty visitors of marginally lesser incomes gravitate to the Fairmont bar. That leaves the classy, low-key den in the foyer of the Big Four Restaurant at the Huntington Hotel, a short block away, for us locals. The dimly lit, oak-laden cubbyhole is cozy, adult, and quiet, although obnoxious yuppies occasionally break the spell. But then, they're not paying you any notice, are they, as... More >>

  • Best Ice Cream

    Joe's Ice Cream

    There is reason to rejoice in these difficult times. As topsy-turvy as the world may be, one thing is certain: You can count on the ice cream at Joe's to comfort the taste buds and soothe the soul. The recipes and homemade blending techniques have gone unchanged for the better part of half a century. And it will continue to be so, despite the recent threat that Joe's would lose its lease. Some last-ditch negotiation and a souring economy saved... More >>

  • Best Shack

    Emmy's Spaghetti Shack

    Technically, Emmy's Spaghetti Shack is not an actual shack (the place shares half of the ground floor in a regular building with the El Amigo bar). Still, this homespun bohemian joint feels shantylike at the very least thanks to a corrugated steel ceiling and aprons strung like laundry across the interior of the restaurant. Whether you're looking for a $6.50 plate of spaghetti and a 40-ounce Bud or more sophisticated fare such as pan-roasted halibut or white bean soup with... More >>

  • Best Beverages for Adults

    Windows, Beverages for Adults

    Whether you're looking to escape the roar of Lombard Street traffic or the drunken, obnoxious, white-bread goobers who make up so much of the Marina bar scene, Pierce Street's Windows is an oasis of civility amid San Francisco's yuppie ghetto. As the name implies, the place draws an older crowd. Small reading lamps line the bar, the music tends toward easy listening, and sweeping, namesake windows mark a very distinct boundary -- Banana Republic-loving youngsters on the outside, a quieter,... More >>

  • Best Corner

    Red's Corner

    San Francisco has plenty of fine corners -- Capp's Corner, an old-school Italian place in North Beach; 26's Corner, a new-school sushi house in the Richmond; Cotter's Corner, a neighborhood bar in the Excelsior -- but our favorite corner would have to be Red's. Located in the buffer zone between Union Square and the Tenderloin, Red's is one of those bars we seem to end up at once every few years. The great thing about the place is that you... More >>

  • Best Hot Bowl of Soup

    Grand Isle Crawfish Bisque at Alcatraces

    "Of soup and love," goes the old Spanish proverb, "the first is best." While the latter is an unending roller coaster of ecstasy and despair, the consommés, chowders, gumbos, gazpachos, borschts, and mulligatawnys that enrich our planet are dependably soothing, satisfying, and invigorating: perpetual bliss served with a spoon. In fact the very first restaurant on Earth, an 18th-century bistro in Boulanger, served nothing but soup. Its Latin motto: "Come to me all of you whose stomachs cry out and... More >>

  • Best Focaccia

    Liguria Bakery

    Most focaccia bread is so heavy and greasy, its olive oil soaks through the paper it's wrapped in. The focaccia baked at Liguria, a bare-bones storefront across the street from Washington Square, is soft, slightly spongy, and absolutely greaseless -- a light and lovely snack. The bakery's mastery of this centuries-old Italian hearth bread derives from a certain singularity of purpose: Aside from the occasional Easter panettone, focaccia is the only thing produced on the premises. There are five varieties:... More >>

  • Best Outdoor Market

    Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market

    One of the great pleasures of living in San Francisco is heading down to the Embarcadero on a sunny Saturday morning and shopping, schmoozing, and noshing your way through the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market. It's California's cornucopia in microcosmic form: Delta asparagus and Pescadero chervil in the spring; Brentwood corn and Sonoma blackberries in the summer; Watsonville artichokes and Sebastopol apples in the fall. There's more to the market than incredibly flavorful, just-plucked produce, though. Condiments, sausages, baked goods, artisanal... More >>

  • Best Mojito

    Luna Park

    Although the Mojito cocktail is new to many of us locals, it's not new to the world at large. The first was muddled together after World War I, probably at La Bodeguita del Medio bar in Havana (home of many a Hemingway-approved tropical cocktail), and since then it has traveled north and westward to San Francisco's hipster-approved lounges, leaving its share of teetering yuppies in its wake. A Caribbean variation on the julep, in which mint, sugar, and cracked ice... More >>

  • Best Gemütlichkeit

    Schnitzelhaus

    If you get a group of friends together and share stories and laugh and drink beer and play music and snack on lots of hearty, tasty food, you've got yourself some gemütlichkeit, an evocative German noun that roughly translated means "warm congeniality." Some of the most gemütlich gemütlichkeit in the city can be found at Schnitzelhaus, a happy little Austrian-German restaurant South of Market. A trio of accordion players squeezes out the oompah, while a friendly mix of neighborhood types... More >>

  • Best Korean Barbecue

    Brother's

    Korean barbecue is one of those great communal experiences that bring people together and make dining fun as well as tasty, and Brother's, an unprepossessing restaurant in the Inner Richmond, does it up right. After your table's personal barbecue pit has been filled with red-hot coals, a waitress arrives with a dozen condiments and a platter of marinated beef, pork, chicken, or seafood. Then everyone picks up his chopsticks and the fun begins. The aromas of garlic, scallions, chilies, sesame... More >>

  • Best Tea and Scones

    Rotunda at Neiman Marcus

    At least half of the high tea experience has to do with the surrounding mood and milieu, and you can't get much more white-glove proper than the Rotunda atop the Neiman Marcus department store. Starched linens and polished silver gleam in the afternoon sunshine. The dazzling stained-glass dome above the dining room was installed in 1909 when the building was erected; in 1981 its 26,000 panes were dismantled, cleaned, and meticulously restored. Seated in one of the luxurious booths or... More >>

  • Best Panna Cotta

    Antica Trattoria

    Panna cotta is one of the simplest and most transcendent of desserts. Although its name means "cooked cream" in Italian, this rich, feathery union of sugar, vanilla, gelatin, and (lots of) cream is barely simmered, and only for a couple of minutes. Its flavor is purely, wonderfully lacteal -- the dessert originated in the dairy lands of the Piedmont -- and when properly prepared its texture is smooth as satin. At Antica, a simply furnished trattoria dedicated to the earthy,... More >>

  • Best Pick-Me-Up

    The Ginger Rogers at Absinthe

    Although hangover as lifestyle is a career choice best avoided, there are those occasional mornings when even the best of us pay the piper for the previous night's revels. While we don't advise the hair of the dog on a regular basis (you might learn to rely on it too much), we must at this point quote from Dashiell Hammett's The Thin Man, in which the perpetually soused Nick Charles greets Nora and a new morning with, "How about a... More >>

  • Best Kitsch Cocktail Hour

    The Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar

    When early summer's fog and wind get you down -- or even when they don't -- step into the tacky tropical Tonga Room for an instant dose of vacation spirit. It's plastic Polynesia for sure, but surrounded by tikis, tourists, and $6 all-you-can-eat plates of greasy grub (weekdays from 5 to 7 p.m.), you can't help but get into the umbrella-drink groove. Linger long enough for the thundering rain shower, or seriously go the distance and hang until 8 p.m.... More >>

  • Best Bar With Bottomless Snacks

    Seasons Bar

    Yeah, you'll have to pay $4 for each 20 minutes to park at the seductive, moody, men's-club-masculine Seasons Bar. But order a drink and sink into your leather lounger long enough, and you can make up your losses by scarfing down as many addictive wasabi-coated peanuts and kalamata olives as you wish. The attentive staff never lets the snack bowls run dry. In fact, on one occasion when the bar's stash ran frightfully low, a shipment was sent overnight from... More >>

  • Best Cocktail Lounge for Getting Frisky

    Le Colonial

    Hard to say whether it's the mood lighting, the couches that encourage guests to settle in for another drink, or the young professional crowd that makes Le Colonial's French-Vietnamese lounge an excellent spot for flirtation. But whatever it is, it works. Drop in for a glass of wine and some spicy crab cakes and you're bound to catch someone exchanging spit behind a banana plant or bamboo room divider. If you're lucky, one of the people doing the swapping will... More >>

  • Best Tea House

    Imperial Tea Court

    The Imperial Tea Court is an oasis amid the cacophonous electronic crickets and elbowing crowds of Chinatown. Its calm grace envelops you as soon as you step through the door and survey the polished wood chairs, ornate bird cages, and red lanterns that adorn the room. The extraordinarily friendly waitstaff will hold your hand as you choose from a dizzying variety of over 60 teas -- green, white, black, oolong, puerh, and herbal infusions -- which are described on the... More >>

  • Best Neighborhood Restaurant

    Street

    Whether it's Sunday night's signature dish of buttermilk fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and sumptuous corn bread, or the sirloin house burger with apple-smoked bacon, or the grilled ahi with roasted red pepper-caper aioli, you simply can't go wrong at Russian Hill's Street. Thank God, comfort food reigns supreme here. The menu changes daily, which lends a nice variety for neighborhood regulars. The restaurant is dimly lit and cozy, with an especially friendly staff (bartenders Laura and Jennifer are veterans of... More >>

  • Best Irish Coffee

    The Buena Vista

    A step into the Buena Vista is a step back in time. The bartenders are formally attired and dutiful, pouring one magnificent Irish coffee after another, lining them up on the bar so that a patron at this extremely popular (and yes, touristy) establishment will never have to wait for the Buena Vista's signature drink. Originally conceived by Joe Sheridan at Ireland's Shannon Airport, Irish coffee was discovered there by travel writer Stanton Delaplane and, with the help of then-Buena... More >>

  • Best Glimpse of Old San Francisco, Sans Tourists and Yuppies

    Original Joe's

    A throwback to San Francisco of the '50s -- down to the aloof, jacket-clad male waiters -- Original Joe's maintains its tradition of no-frills Italian-American cooking smack in the middle of the Tenderloin's squalor and destitution. The décor is closer to that of an upscale coffee shop than a homey restaurant, which suits the long-standing clientele of cops, lawyers, pensioners, and theatergoers. Whether you sit at the counter to watch the pros deftly work the grill or stake out an... More >>

  • Best Place to Pretend You're in a Prague Square

    Cafe Prague

    Are you nostalgic for the bone-chilling mists wafting around Charles Bridge in fairy-tale Prague, the land of Kafka and Havel? Pining for a Pilsner Urquell, downed in a watering hole in Josefov, the Old Jewish Quarter? Hungry for those ubiquitous Czech dumplings? Four-year-old Cafe Prague, on the border of North Beach and Jackson Square, does its best to satisfy your cravings for home sweet Eastern European home. Expats swear by the atmosphere, which, says Prague native Alena Kucera, who co-owns... More >>

  • Best Soju Cocktails

    RoHan Lounge

    Tucked unassumingly between a convenience store and an auto body shop on Geary Boulevard, RoHan, a stylish Richmond restaurant-bar, has concocted the perfect drink: the soju cocktail. Soju, a liquor distilled from rice, barley, and sweet potato, is the Korean cousin of sake rice wine and is usually drunk straight up in small porcelain cups. But the innovative folks at RoHan have turned soju on its head, serving up cocktail options like the Tao Drop (a Lemon Drop-esque beverage that... More >>

  • Best Tourist-Free Place to Take a Tourist for Lunch

    Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe

    One of the pleasures of living in a beautiful city like San Francisco is a never-ending parade of out-of-towners to show around. And while tourists have to eat while they're here, there's no reason you should have to elbow through Fisherman's Wharf with them. We recommend Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe for its hot focaccia sandwiches (the best in town), its views of Coit Tower and Washington Square Park, and the locals-only feel it miraculously maintains.... More >>

  • Best Attempt at a Bagel

    Noe Bagels

    Just so we understand each other: There are no good bagels in San Francisco. Every attempt at a traditional variety -- sesame, poppy, plain, cinnamon-raisin -- deserves all the scorn it engenders. Local bakeries have more success when they stop trying to be authentic and ad-lib what they do best: sourdough. Hence, the best attempt at a bagel in San Francisco is the outstanding sourdough round-bread-with-a-whole-in-the-middle at Noe Bagels. When they're hot -- and accompanied by a bottomless cup of... More >>

  • Best Breakfast Counter

    Herb's Fine Foods

    Lonesome curmudgeons have to eat breakfast, too. And if they want to be left alone while they scarf up a stack of moist pancakes or a pair of eggs cooked exactly as ordered over the Sunday New York Times, they'd be wise to check out the breakfast counter at Herb's Fine Foods in Noe Valley. For starters, the huge wraparound counter takes up so much of the cozy diner that there's no stigma attached to eating alone (there's barely enough... More >>

  • Best Way to Get Your Date to Wear a Plastic Bib

    Order Roast Crab at Thanh Long

    Though conventional wisdom says there are no good places to eat in the Sunset, insiders know better. Thanh Long's outstanding Eurasian/French colonial cooking draws a local crowd every night to its corner spot at Judah and 46th Avenue. The elegantly appointed eatery specializes in roast crab, as evidenced by the elegant silver crab cracker and pick at each place setting. Order the dish and you'll find yourself draped in a plastic bib, tied behind your neck whether you want it... More >>

  • Best Lunch

    The Cheese Steak Shop

    San Franciscans may have branded the burrito as the city's cheap-eats favorite, but even the most dedicated taqueria habitué knows you can only scarf carne asada six days a week. On the seventh, consider Philadelphia's ode to lunchtime bliss: the cheesesteak sandwich. It's a basic formula: thin-sliced beef grilled on a flattop, smothered in cheese, and slapped into a bun with grilled onions and pickled peppers. The aptly named Cheese Steak Shop, Divisadero's most popular eatery, is dedicated to the... More >>

  • Best Coffee

    Martha & Brothers Coffee Co.

    Those who mourn the demise of old San Francisco often blame chains like Starbucks as the harbingers of the new era. But chains aren't all bad. After all, Martha Guerrero Monroy started her own mini-coffee empire in a Noe Valley storefront nearly 15 years ago, expanding it since then to five locations run by her brothers and sisters throughout the city. Importing coffee from around the globe, Martha & Brothers roasts beans daily at a SOMA warehouse. The beans --... More >>

  • Best 1 A.M. Sugar Fix

    Bob's Donuts and Pastries

    Maybe you're a night owl. Maybe you're a huge fan of doughnuts. Maybe you're really, really drunk. Whatever the reason, should you feel compelled to stuff your face with sugar and chocolate after midnight, Bob's Donuts is open late. Boasting strong coffee and a full selection of all the standard favorites -- bear claws, old-fashioneds, glazeds, and eclairs -- this Polk Street staple has offered constant refuge for anyone who doesn't think about his arteries too much. Coming around after... More >>

  • Best Food for Chicago Expatriates

    Moishe's Pippic

    If Saturday Night Live's Superfans (the portly chaps who worshipped "da Bears," Ditka, and Italian beef) died and went to heaven, it's a safe bet the pearly gates would look an awful lot like this Hayes Valley delicatessen. The walls are a proud, working-class shrine to the Second City, immortalized ceiling to floor in posters of the skyline, faded sports jerseys, and century-spanning advertisements for Chicago festivals, concerts, and art exhibits. It's the food, however, that will truly transport you... More >>

  • Best Hot-and-Sour Soup in Chinatown

    Great Eastern Restaurant

    Seafood is the main draw at this better-than-average Chinese restaurant, a vast, classy, and family-friendly establishment in the heart of Chinatown. At the rear of the dining room, giant tanks house several varieties of seafood: Dungeness crabs, lobsters, fish-of-the-day, and large prawns. But the rest of the menu is excellent as well, especially the hot-and-sour soup ($7). Not too hot and not too sour, the soup arrives thick, spicy, and just tart enough, in a gigantic bowl ideal for dishing... More >>

  • Best Place, Other Than Your Kitchen, to Eat Homemade Cookie Dough

    De Lessio Market and Bakery

    This Hayes Valley bistro with an air of European sophistication offers top-notch coffee, sandwiches, and baked goods in a vibrant yellow-and-red interior that hums with warmth and a personable staff. But let's face it: We don't want sophistication or warmth -- we want cookie dough. And we don't want to make it ourselves. So beeline past De Lessio's sandwiches, coffee bar, and muffins and head straight for the refrigerated glass case with its homemade rolls of cookie dough, just like... More >>

  • Coolest Joint With the Best Fried Chicken

    Eastside West

    What do all those people lined up in front of the new bar MatrixFillmore think they're going to see when they get in? Yes, the bar is the newest über-cool offering by San Francisco supervisor and businessman/entrepreneur Gavin Newsom, and it does have a futuristic-looking fireplace, overpriced drinks, and a fancy little snack menu. But is it worth the hourlong wait in the cold and rain? Hardly. Why not go next door to the equally hip and cool (but much... More >>

  • Best Biscuits

    Rock Soup

    A good biscuit is hard to find. As with chocolate chip cookies, no two recipes are the same, and there are plenty of ways to screw it up. So hats off to Rock Soup for finally getting it right. Its biscuits are flaky, not too buttery or heavy. Yet there is heft -- and most important, height. You can split one in two by hand and have enough doughy cushion in each piece to satisfy. Unfortunately, it's a love/hate relationship... More >>

  • Best Off-Shore Dining

    Forbes Island

    We initially visited Forbes Island for the novelty: a houseboat-cum-restaurant fashioned into a mini-island, complete with palm trees and lighthouse above, fine dining below (and we do mean below -- some of the portholes are underwater, so you occasionally catch sight of fish swimming by). But we returned for the wonderful ambience and even more wonderful food. At Pier 39's "H" Dock, you board the Island Queen, an excursion vessel captained by owner Forbes Kiddoo himself. You are ferried past... More >>

  • Best Retro Dining Without Irony

    Joe's of Westlake

    There are plenty of things about this place to love -- from the fish tanks to the leatherette -- but what truly warms our hearts is that Joe's is the real deal, serving diners since 1959. And in a city of retro posers, being the real deal is enough to earn our undying respect and regular business. Many of the waiters and patrons have been coming in the door for decades (virtually every West Side politician in San Francisco has... More >>

  • Best Name for a Bar

    Would You Believe?

    For almost a year, we didn't believe a bar could survive with a name like Would You Believe? Driving down Geary, we'd spy the sign and wonder: Is it a freak show-themed bar? One of those on-its-last-leg dives where cobwebs cover the door to the women's room and at least one customer will be physically dead? Eventually we broke down and checked it out. The name -- dreamed up by a previous owner, who apparently had a thing for that... More >>

  • Best Smoking Patio

    Hemlock Tavern

    Technically, smoking is illegal in San Francisco bars, so if we did know of a place -- or even 50 of them -- that allowed customers to indulge their filthy habit, we sure as hell wouldn't mention it in print. But what we can say is that Hemlock Tavern offers a perfectly legal, just-short-of-indoor alcove. Latticework screens you from the street, heat lamps keep you warm, and, surgeon general's warning be damned, you can suck down butts until you develop... More >>

  • Best Reason to Wait in Line

    Swan Oyster Depot

    This popular hole in the wall, home to the freshest seafood around, has become an S.F. institution. Throngs of food enthusiasts pour onto the sidewalk as they wait to sit on one of the 20 stools at the narrow counter packed with oyster crackers, sliced lemon, and Tabasco. This family-run establishment opened in 1912 and has been operated by the current owners since the '40s. The owners/staff take pride in making wisecracks, being extremely efficient, and knowing both their fish... More >>

  • Best Yuca

    La Santaneca

    If you've never had yuca (aka cassava, a root vegetable native to South America), it's about time you made a trip to La Santaneca. Located at the base of Bernal Heights, this homey Salvadoran joint makes a mean pupusa, one of the best chiles rellenos in town, and a spectacular yuca frita served with chicharrón (deep-fried pork) and curtido (pickled cabbage). Deep-fried to a golden crispness, with a texture a bit fluffier and sweeter than potato, this yuca will put... More >>

  • Best Restaurant Policy

    Portico

    If you're among those who were starting to wonder if San Francisco was devolving into a place with a bottom line and little else, here's a story of redemption that comes from, of all places, the Financial District. On the corner of First and Mission, on any given evening, a line of 20 or 30 homeless people gathers calmly, the crowd smiling and making conversation among themselves, all but unnoticed by the traffic of pedestrians heading home after a long... More >>

  • Best Bloody Marys

    We've been sampling Bloody Marys around town for the past two years -- talk about dedication -- and have come to a few conclusions. First, a good Bloody Mary requires labor, so tip accordingly. A house-made mix is often the secret to a superior Bloody, as is a complex yet balanced mosaic of flavors. Garnishes are essential, and beyond that, we've found the finest of all daytime cocktails to be an infinitely variable drink. We've had Bloodies with balsamic vinegar,... More >>

  • Four Best Bakeries

    Bakeries, like delicatessens, come in all shapes, sizes, and ethnic backgrounds, especially in San Francisco, where the sourdough shares basket space with baguettes, focaccia, baklava, and fubiki. Among this fragrant cornucopia of carbohydrates are four of our favorites. Arizmendi 1331 Ninth Ave. (near Irving), 566-3117, www.arizmendibakery.org This worker-owned cooperative earned raves for its artisan breads when it opened its doors late last year, but Arizmendi's other creations are equally enticing: big, gooey pecan rolls; plain, ginger, and hazelnut shortbread; a... More >>

  • Five Best Places to Grab a Post-Midnight Snack

    Once upon a time San Francisco was the most pleasure-loving city on Earth; nowadays it's hard to find a restaurant open after 10 p.m., let alone midnight. Nevertheless, a handful of restaurateurs out there are willing to cater to us night owls -- at least until 1 a.m. Among them: Brazen Head 3166 Buchanan (at Greenwich), 921-7600 The ideally clubby, comfortable, off-the-beaten-track hideaway (its entrance is both dark and nondescript), the Brazen Head serves hearty American food until 1 a.m.... More >>

  • Five Best Comfort Foods

    Warm, soft, simple foods have been pleasing the paunches of humankind for millennia, but only a few salubrious victuals are as satisfying to the soul as they are soothing to the stomach. Pale, creamy, and tepid are important culinary adjectives here, but there's another more intangible ingredient. The five comfort foods that follow have at least one thing in common: They make you feel relaxed, restored, and renewed from head to toe. Matzo Ball Soup at East Coast West Delicatessen... More >>

  • Food & Drink Readers' Poll

    Best New Restaurant Street Best Restaurant Boulevard Best Chef John Lamkin, Street Most Romantic Restaurant Fleur de Lys Best First-Date Restaurant Street Best Weekend Brunch (tie) Miss Millie’s; Mama’s on Washington Square Best California Cuisine Firefly Best American Restaurant Mel's Drive-In Best Italian Restaurant Ristorante Ideale Best French Restaurant Ti Couz Best Bistro Jeanty at Jack’s Best Spanish RestaurantZarzuela Best Greek Restaurant Kokkari Estiatorio Best Middle Eastern RestaurantLa Mediterranée Best Sushi Ebisu Best Japanese Restaurant Ebisu Best Thai Restaurant Thep... More >>

  • Best Restaurant

    Fifth Floor

    George Morrone's departure from the Fifth Floor last year raised concerns about the venue's culinary future, but under new Executive Chef Laurent Gras the food is better than ever. The menu is arranged into categories (Farm, Ocean, Field & Forest) that exemplify Gras' respect for fresh, natural flavors and textures, and his culinary inclinations are wonderfully creative as well. Examples from his spring menu include wild halibut braised with watercress, trumpet mushrooms, and champagne; roasted Muscovy duck with blood orange,... More >>

  • Best New Restaurant

    Aziza

    For the past few years, naming the best new restaurant in San Francisco has been difficult. High-end projects popped up faster than we could review them -- Fifth Floor! Gary Danko! Elisabeth Daniel! Azie! Now, in these leaner times, the newcomers have become a lot less ambitious. Even the names (Grub, Bloo, Night Monkey?) aren't as catchy. Still, don't let that detract from our praise of Aziza. After closing their highly rated Kasbah in San Rafael, brother act Mourad and... More >>

  • Best Hot Bar Street

    Polk

    The Mission bar scene is thriving, SOMA still has it going on, and the Lower Haight continues to be the city's premier bohemian drinking enclave. But if you want to know where it's fucking happening, man, get your ass down Polk. From the Civic Center to Russian Hill, Polk offers something for every type of drinker: yuppie bars, dive bars, rocker bars, a piano bar, and the most hopping gay scene outside the Castro. From the "gulch" section, you can... More >>

  • Best Dessert Menu

    Elizabeth Falkner's Citizen Cake Ice Cream Parlor and Eats

    Dessert is almost always the best part of the meal, any meal, but at Citizen Cake, the bakery-cum-restaurant in Hayes Valley, the sweet stuff is especially magnificent. Executive Pastry Chef Elizabeth Falkner and pastry chefs Shuna Lydon and Sara Cameron not only make fantastic tarts, pastries, cookies, and cakes for the patisserie side of the operation, they create phenomenal menu desserts as well: a crème brûlée scented with rose petals; an orange-marmalade pudding with Earl Grey ice cream; a tarte... More >>

  • Best Dive Bar

    The Sand Bar

    You've gotta like a bar with a slogan. In the case of outer Taraval's Sand Bar, the place has actually earned two. There's the one printed on the façade: "At the edge of the Western World." Then there's the informal slogan we've heard on numerous occasions: "Where the debris meets the sea." Both are accurate. The Sand Bar is so far off the beaten track -- call the neighborhood the Outer Outer Outer Sunset, or perhaps the Almost Ocean --... More >>

  • Best New Italian Restaurant

    Sociale

    With the exception of sushi houses, Italian restaurants are probably the most common venture for restaurateurs in this city. Sometimes they're good; often, they're not; and then, every once and again, we encounter a true gem like Sacramento Street's Sociale. Located in a quiet courtyard in the tony Laurel Heights district, this cozy trattoria/wine bar offers an unbeatable combination of friendly service, fine wines, and new-school Italian fare that could turn a person off Bolognese sauce forever. The olive fritte... More >>

  • Best Monday Night Make-Out Bar

    Hush Hush Lounge

    First dates can be awkward rituals. Do you do coffee? Have dinner? Take a walk in the park? Or, maybe you prefer to get acquainted the old-fashioned way, by getting drunk, making out, then sorting out the details later. If the last method sounds good, drop by the Hush Hush Lounge on a Monday. We did it: The place was nearly empty, allowing us to sidle into the cozy, secluded "Love Booth" (just to the right as you enter). We... More >>

  • Best Chinese Restaurant

    Koi Palace

    We could tell you about simple meals we've had at Koi Palace -- exquisite dim sum, coconut-sauced beef and taro in a clay pot, egg noodles braised with lobster until they took on a richness that could make God himself drop to his knees. We could tell you about meals we'd like to have (the menu's so deep it would take 30 visits to try everything), but instead, let's recount the time we ordered the $399 banquet for 10. It... More >>

  • Best Peruvian Restaurant

    Fresca

    Though we've had some fine Peruvian meals in the Mission, the best have all been at the West Portal district's Fresca. The recipes aren't always traditional here -- a classic papas a la huancaina (chilled potatoes with cream sauce) comes with olives and feta, and mulas de salmon (salmon tacos) are California fare if such a thing ever existed. But who cares? The food tends to be awesome. Enjoy rack of lamb with grilled prawns, a signature rotisserie chicken, and... More >>

  • Best Small Plates

    Isa Restaurant

    This award would have been a tie, except for one factor: Chez Nous (Mediterranean small plates on Fillmore) is hella freaking loud. Thus, let's travel to the Marina District's Isa, a narrow slip of a restaurant that opens onto a quiet, spacious, heated outdoor patio. Having made his bones at some of the city's top restaurants, chef/owner Luke Sung puts a refined, California/classic French spin on the trendy small plate: goat cheese with pine nuts, tomato, and basil; potato-leek soup... More >>

  • Best Persian Excursion

    Maykadeh

    Few experiences compare to dropping by North Beach's Maykadeh on a Saturday. It may seem like every Persian in the Bay Area has shown up, and the wait can be prohibitively daunting. Our advice: Make a reservation, go on a weeknight, or, if you must plunge into the fray, know that an hour spent twiddling your thumbs is a small price to pay for magnificent, saffron-marinated lamb kebabs and intensely flavored stews such as khoresht fesenjoon (chicken in a razor-sharp... More >>

  • Best Japanese Restaurant

    Maki

    The thing about eating Japanese food in San Francisco is that you can't say you're serious about it until you've been to Japantown's Maki. The place serves sushi (including the best unagi roll we've ever had), but the specialty is steamed dishes: chawan mushi (steamed egg custard) and wappa meshi (salmon, eel, beef, or vegetables steamed in a wood basket over rice). With barely more than a dozen seats, Maki is all about attention to detail. The dashi stock is... More >>

  • Best Taqueria

    Pancho Villa Taqueria

    Enough has been written about which taqueria makes the best burrito in San Francisco, so we won't bother with that this year. OK, we can't resist -- it's Can-Cun, damn it! Now that that's out of our system, we have to admit that we prefer a trip to Pancho Villa. The burritos here aren't as refined as Can-Cun's, but you can get a wider range of fillings (from tofu ranchero to the fabulously smoky steak with prawns), plus fish tacos,... More >>

  • Best Dim Sum

    Yank Sing

    The debate continues over who serves the freshest, tastiest, most inventive dim sum in San Francisco: Ton Kiang in the Richmond or Yank Sing downtown. Both serve an astonishing variety of brightly flavored tidbits hot from the kitchen. Both boast lively, attractive, upscale surroundings ideal for every sort of occasion. Both uphold dim sum's immediate-gratification traditions via fragrant steam carts wheeled right to your table. Yank Sing's only real edge, in fact, is the magnificent Ramos Fizz it proffers from... More >>

  • Best Burger

    Balboa Cafe

    The excellent hamburger prepared and served at the Balboa Cafe is unlike any other in the city. Instead of a sesame seed bun or a slice of focaccia or a sourdough roll, the starch of choice is a crisp, slender, hollowed-out baguette that serves as a delicate crust for the thick and juicy slab of grilled beef. The result is a hamburger at once hearty, elegant, and absolutely appropriate to the restaurant's clubby ambience of crisp napery, dark woods, brass... More >>

  • Best Pizza

    Pizzetta 211

    Pizza's come a long way since the old pepperoni-and-Ragú renditions of our vanished youth; nowadays we have before us a quasi-Sicilian smorgasbord of stuffed pizzas, deep-dish pizzas, pizzas with tripe and cilantro, even fluffy pizza soufflés. Amid all of this pizza effluvia are the dazzling wood-fired creations of Pizzetta 211, a modest little hideaway on one of the Richmond's quieter side streets. Here masterminds Tamar Peltz and Ria Ramsey craft individual pizzas out of organic grains, produce, and dairy products,... More >>

  • Best African Restaurant

    Cafe Eritrea D'Afrique

    Sometimes the restaurants with the most memorable food are the ones you are least likely to walk into off the streets. Cafe Eritrea is a perfect example. The atmosphere here -- from the obviously plastic flowers to the crowd of boisterous regulars who never seem to be there to actually eat -- makes clear that no one on staff has given any thought to the word "ambience." But you'll soon realize it's all a part of the cafe's charm --... More >>

  • Best Vegetarian Restaurant

    Golden Era

    Vegetarians often joke that their meatless lifestyle has made them poor decision-makers. After all, herbivores rarely need to decide what to eat when they dine out: It's either the chef salad (minus the ham) or the ravioli (minus the Bolognese sauce). Which is why this well-run, unpretentious, and friendly Pan-Asian establishment has become, for many vegetarians, a little piece of heaven. Not only are there more than 70 vegan dishes to choose from, but they're all affordable and absolutely delicious.... More >>

  • Best Barbecue

    Zeitgeist

    With an enormous back patio and a diverse crowd, this "dive bar" has all the ingredients for a family picnic, but with family you would actually want to spend time around. The motto here is "Warm Beer, Cold Women, and Clean Rooms Cheap." Don't be fooled, though, the 25 beers on tap are the perfect temperature to complement the barbecued chicken, ribs, coleslaw, and corn bread. Grab a seat on the patio and wait for the grill master to yell... More >>

  • Best Microbrew

    There's something about really dark beer that feels downright nourishing. It might be its top-fermenting yeasts, or its well-roasted grains, or its totally cool, pitch-black color. In any case, a fine, full-bodied stout has the power to fill your belly and soothe your soul as it clouds your overtaxed cranium. Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout is a fine example. A blend of pale, caramel, and chocolate malted barleys, oats, and hops results in a rich, rounded brew with a creamy head,... More >>

  • Best San Francisco Beer

    Speakeasy Brewing's Prohibition Ale

    For a town that loves its beer and boasts its share of breweries and brewpubs, S.F. has city-brewed suds that are fair to middlin' at best. In fact, despite all the great breweries in Northern California, San Francisco itself has only one: Speakeasy. Five years ago, the company was a small-time outlet with a scattering of taps in the city; today its product is being poured at most local pubs and sold in six-packs at a corner store near you.... More >>

  • Best Brewpub

    E&O is a big, noisy, fun-filled Disney version of some Southeast Asian trading post, and in addition to a tasty selection of Indonesian, Malaysian, and Vietnamese tidbits there are half a dozen house-brewed beers suitable for quaffing. They include the ebony-black, velvety-smooth King's Stout; Eastern Golden, a dry, mild ale flavored with orange blossom honey; the spicy, caramel-scented Dragon's Breath; and a refreshingly bitter IPA crafted from East Kent Golding full-flower hops. The Cecil Wells-Jimmy Williams Jazz Duo performs every... More >>

  • Best Guacamole

    Cafe Marimba

    We would be perfectly happy to live out the rest of our days sitting at one of Cafe Marimba's window-side tables, sipping margaritas, listening to Beny Moré on the stereo, and eating bowl after bowl of the marvelous house guacamoles. Making good guacamole seems simple enough -- mash up an avocado, squirt in some lime juice, and voilà -- but Marimba's variations are something special. There are two of them, each one distinct in flavor and character. The Tomatillo is... More >>

  • Best Mixology

    Gold Dust Lounge

    There are two kinds of bartenders in this world: Those who pour drinks, and those who elevate their profession to a level that approaches art. At the Gold Dust Lounge, you find the latter breed. Phil the bartender makes a mean Flaming Lamborghini (it's not quite as potent as the version we've had on the Greek island of Ios, but a lot less likely to result in dancing atop the bar). As for Chuck the bartender, he's the author of... More >>

  • Best Place to Sip Single Malt

    Edinburgh Castle

    Single malt whiskey, that rich, mellow distillation of barley, peat smoke, and Scots Highlands branch water, stands alongside cognac, grappa, and that relative upstart single-barrel bourbon as one of the world's great restoratives. Each single malt (and there are many) has its own set of characteristics based on the landscape, weather, and location of its distillery, a laudable result of the tightest appellation laws this side of Bordeaux. The ideal place to sip them (neat with no ice, soda, or... More >>

  • Best Bar for an Illicit Rendezvous

    Big Four Restaurant at the Huntington Hotel

    Deep-pocketed tourists with a yen for a view go to the Top of the Mark, while thirsty visitors of marginally lesser incomes gravitate to the Fairmont bar. That leaves the classy, low-key den in the foyer of the Big Four Restaurant at the Huntington Hotel, a short block away, for us locals. The dimly lit, oak-laden cubbyhole is cozy, adult, and quiet, although obnoxious yuppies occasionally break the spell. But then, they're not paying you any notice, are they, as... More >>

  • Best Ice Cream

    Joe's Ice Cream

    There is reason to rejoice in these difficult times. As topsy-turvy as the world may be, one thing is certain: You can count on the ice cream at Joe's to comfort the taste buds and soothe the soul. The recipes and homemade blending techniques have gone unchanged for the better part of half a century. And it will continue to be so, despite the recent threat that Joe's would lose its lease. Some last-ditch negotiation and a souring economy saved... More >>

  • Best Shack

    Emmy's Spaghetti Shack

    Technically, Emmy's Spaghetti Shack is not an actual shack (the place shares half of the ground floor in a regular building with the El Amigo bar). Still, this homespun bohemian joint feels shantylike at the very least thanks to a corrugated steel ceiling and aprons strung like laundry across the interior of the restaurant. Whether you're looking for a $6.50 plate of spaghetti and a 40-ounce Bud or more sophisticated fare such as pan-roasted halibut or white bean soup with... More >>

  • Best Beverages for Adults

    Windows, Beverages for Adults

    Whether you're looking to escape the roar of Lombard Street traffic or the drunken, obnoxious, white-bread goobers who make up so much of the Marina bar scene, Pierce Street's Windows is an oasis of civility amid San Francisco's yuppie ghetto. As the name implies, the place draws an older crowd. Small reading lamps line the bar, the music tends toward easy listening, and sweeping, namesake windows mark a very distinct boundary -- Banana Republic-loving youngsters on the outside, a quieter,... More >>

  • Best Corner

    Red's Corner

    San Francisco has plenty of fine corners -- Capp's Corner, an old-school Italian place in North Beach; 26's Corner, a new-school sushi house in the Richmond; Cotter's Corner, a neighborhood bar in the Excelsior -- but our favorite corner would have to be Red's. Located in the buffer zone between Union Square and the Tenderloin, Red's is one of those bars we seem to end up at once every few years. The great thing about the place is that you... More >>

  • Best Hot Bowl of Soup

    Grand Isle Crawfish Bisque at Alcatraces

    "Of soup and love," goes the old Spanish proverb, "the first is best." While the latter is an unending roller coaster of ecstasy and despair, the consommés, chowders, gumbos, gazpachos, borschts, and mulligatawnys that enrich our planet are dependably soothing, satisfying, and invigorating: perpetual bliss served with a spoon. In fact the very first restaurant on Earth, an 18th-century bistro in Boulanger, served nothing but soup. Its Latin motto: "Come to me all of you whose stomachs cry out and... More >>

  • Best Focaccia

    Liguria Bakery

    Most focaccia bread is so heavy and greasy, its olive oil soaks through the paper it's wrapped in. The focaccia baked at Liguria, a bare-bones storefront across the street from Washington Square, is soft, slightly spongy, and absolutely greaseless -- a light and lovely snack. The bakery's mastery of this centuries-old Italian hearth bread derives from a certain singularity of purpose: Aside from the occasional Easter panettone, focaccia is the only thing produced on the premises. There are five varieties:... More >>

  • Best Outdoor Market

    Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market

    One of the great pleasures of living in San Francisco is heading down to the Embarcadero on a sunny Saturday morning and shopping, schmoozing, and noshing your way through the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market. It's California's cornucopia in microcosmic form: Delta asparagus and Pescadero chervil in the spring; Brentwood corn and Sonoma blackberries in the summer; Watsonville artichokes and Sebastopol apples in the fall. There's more to the market than incredibly flavorful, just-plucked produce, though. Condiments, sausages, baked goods, artisanal... More >>

  • Best Mojito

    Luna Park

    Although the Mojito cocktail is new to many of us locals, it's not new to the world at large. The first was muddled together after World War I, probably at La Bodeguita del Medio bar in Havana (home of many a Hemingway-approved tropical cocktail), and since then it has traveled north and westward to San Francisco's hipster-approved lounges, leaving its share of teetering yuppies in its wake. A Caribbean variation on the julep, in which mint, sugar, and cracked ice... More >>

  • Best Gemütlichkeit

    Schnitzelhaus

    If you get a group of friends together and share stories and laugh and drink beer and play music and snack on lots of hearty, tasty food, you've got yourself some gemütlichkeit, an evocative German noun that roughly translated means "warm congeniality." Some of the most gemütlich gemütlichkeit in the city can be found at Schnitzelhaus, a happy little Austrian-German restaurant South of Market. A trio of accordion players squeezes out the oompah, while a friendly mix of neighborhood types... More >>

  • Best Korean Barbecue

    Brother's Korean Restaurant

    Korean barbecue is one of those great communal experiences that bring people together and make dining fun as well as tasty, and Brother's, an unprepossessing restaurant in the Inner Richmond, does it up right. After your table's personal barbecue pit has been filled with red-hot coals, a waitress arrives with a dozen condiments and a platter of marinated beef, pork, chicken, or seafood. Then everyone picks up his chopsticks and the fun begins. The aromas of garlic, scallions, chilies, sesame... More >>

  • Best Tea and Scones

    Rotunda at Neiman Marcus

    At least half of the high tea experience has to do with the surrounding mood and milieu, and you can't get much more white-glove proper than the Rotunda atop the Neiman Marcus department store. Starched linens and polished silver gleam in the afternoon sunshine. The dazzling stained-glass dome above the dining room was installed in 1909 when the building was erected; in 1981 its 26,000 panes were dismantled, cleaned, and meticulously restored. Seated in one of the luxurious booths or... More >>

  • Best Panna Cotta

    Antica Trattoria

    Panna cotta is one of the simplest and most transcendent of desserts. Although its name means "cooked cream" in Italian, this rich, feathery union of sugar, vanilla, gelatin, and (lots of) cream is barely simmered, and only for a couple of minutes. Its flavor is purely, wonderfully lacteal -- the dessert originated in the dairy lands of the Piedmont -- and when properly prepared its texture is smooth as satin. At Antica, a simply furnished trattoria dedicated to the earthy,... More >>

  • Best Pick-Me-Up

    Absinthe Brasserie & Bar

    Although hangover as lifestyle is a career choice best avoided, there are those occasional mornings when even the best of us pay the piper for the previous night's revels. While we don't advise the hair of the dog on a regular basis (you might learn to rely on it too much), we must at this point quote from Dashiell Hammett's The Thin Man, in which the perpetually soused Nick Charles greets Nora and a new morning with, "How about a... More >>

  • Best Kitsch Cocktail Hour

    The Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar

    When early summer's fog and wind get you down -- or even when they don't -- step into the tacky tropical Tonga Room for an instant dose of vacation spirit. It's plastic Polynesia for sure, but surrounded by tikis, tourists, and $6 all-you-can-eat plates of greasy grub (weekdays from 5 to 7 p.m.), you can't help but get into the umbrella-drink groove. Linger long enough for the thundering rain shower, or seriously go the distance and hang until 8 p.m.... More >>

  • Best Bar With Bottomless Snacks

    Seasons Bar

    Yeah, you'll have to pay $4 for each 20 minutes to park at the seductive, moody, men's-club-masculine Seasons Bar. But order a drink and sink into your leather lounger long enough, and you can make up your losses by scarfing down as many addictive wasabi-coated peanuts and kalamata olives as you wish. The attentive staff never lets the snack bowls run dry. In fact, on one occasion when the bar's stash ran frightfully low, a shipment was sent overnight from... More >>

  • Best Cocktail Lounge for Getting Frisky

    Le Colonial

    Hard to say whether it's the mood lighting, the couches that encourage guests to settle in for another drink, or the young professional crowd that makes Le Colonial's French-Vietnamese lounge an excellent spot for flirtation. But whatever it is, it works. Drop in for a glass of wine and some spicy crab cakes and you're bound to catch someone exchanging spit behind a banana plant or bamboo room divider. If you're lucky, one of the people doing the swapping will... More >>

  • Best Tea House

    Imperial Tea Court

    The Imperial Tea Court is an oasis amid the cacophonous electronic crickets and elbowing crowds of Chinatown. Its calm grace envelops you as soon as you step through the door and survey the polished wood chairs, ornate bird cages, and red lanterns that adorn the room. The extraordinarily friendly waitstaff will hold your hand as you choose from a dizzying variety of over 60 teas -- green, white, black, oolong, puerh, and herbal infusions -- which are described on the... More >>

  • Best Neighborhood Restaurant

    Street

    Whether it's Sunday night's signature dish of buttermilk fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and sumptuous corn bread, or the sirloin house burger with apple-smoked bacon, or the grilled ahi with roasted red pepper-caper aioli, you simply can't go wrong at Russian Hill's Street. Thank God, comfort food reigns supreme here. The menu changes daily, which lends a nice variety for neighborhood regulars. The restaurant is dimly lit and cozy, with an especially friendly staff (bartenders Laura and Jennifer are veterans of... More >>

  • Best Irish Coffee

    Buena Vista Cafe

    A step into the Buena Vista is a step back in time. The bartenders are formally attired and dutiful, pouring one magnificent Irish coffee after another, lining them up on the bar so that a patron at this extremely popular (and yes, touristy) establishment will never have to wait for the Buena Vista's signature drink. Originally conceived by Joe Sheridan at Ireland's Shannon Airport, Irish coffee was discovered there by travel writer Stanton Delaplane and, with the help of then-Buena... More >>

  • Best Glimpse of Old San Francisco, Sans Tourists and Yuppies

    Original Joe's

    A throwback to San Francisco of the '50s -- down to the aloof, jacket-clad male waiters -- Original Joe's maintains its tradition of no-frills Italian-American cooking smack in the middle of the Tenderloin's squalor and destitution. The décor is closer to that of an upscale coffee shop than a homey restaurant, which suits the long-standing clientele of cops, lawyers, pensioners, and theatergoers. Whether you sit at the counter to watch the pros deftly work the grill or stake out an... More >>

  • Best Place to Pretend You're in a Prague Square

    Cafe Prague

    Are you nostalgic for the bone-chilling mists wafting around Charles Bridge in fairy-tale Prague, the land of Kafka and Havel? Pining for a Pilsner Urquell, downed in a watering hole in Josefov, the Old Jewish Quarter? Hungry for those ubiquitous Czech dumplings? Four-year-old Cafe Prague, on the border of North Beach and Jackson Square, does its best to satisfy your cravings for home sweet Eastern European home. Expats swear by the atmosphere, which, says Prague native Alena Kucera, who co-owns... More >>

  • Best Soju Cocktails

    RoHan Lounge

    Tucked unassumingly between a convenience store and an auto body shop on Geary Boulevard, RoHan, a stylish Richmond restaurant-bar, has concocted the perfect drink: the soju cocktail. Soju, a liquor distilled from rice, barley, and sweet potato, is the Korean cousin of sake rice wine and is usually drunk straight up in small porcelain cups. But the innovative folks at RoHan have turned soju on its head, serving up cocktail options like the Tao Drop (a Lemon Drop-esque beverage that... More >>

  • Best Tourist-Free Place to Take a Tourist for Lunch

    Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe

    One of the pleasures of living in a beautiful city like San Francisco is a never-ending parade of out-of-towners to show around. And while tourists have to eat while they're here, there's no reason you should have to elbow through Fisherman's Wharf with them. We recommend Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe for its hot focaccia sandwiches (the best in town), its views of Coit Tower and Washington Square Park, and the locals-only feel it miraculously maintains.... More >>

  • Best Attempt at a Bagel

    Noe Bagels

    Just so we understand each other: There are no good bagels in San Francisco. Every attempt at a traditional variety -- sesame, poppy, plain, cinnamon-raisin -- deserves all the scorn it engenders. Local bakeries have more success when they stop trying to be authentic and ad-lib what they do best: sourdough. Hence, the best attempt at a bagel in San Francisco is the outstanding sourdough round-bread-with-a-whole-in-the-middle at Noe Bagels. When they're hot -- and accompanied by a bottomless cup of... More >>

  • Best Breakfast Counter

    Herb's Fine Foods

    Lonesome curmudgeons have to eat breakfast, too. And if they want to be left alone while they scarf up a stack of moist pancakes or a pair of eggs cooked exactly as ordered over the Sunday New York Times, they'd be wise to check out the breakfast counter at Herb's Fine Foods in Noe Valley. For starters, the huge wraparound counter takes up so much of the cozy diner that there's no stigma attached to eating alone (there's barely enough... More >>

  • Best Way to Get Your Date to Wear a Plastic Bib

    Order Roast Crab at Thanh Long

    Though conventional wisdom says there are no good places to eat in the Sunset, insiders know better. Thanh Long's outstanding Eurasian/French colonial cooking draws a local crowd every night to its corner spot at Judah and 46th Avenue. The elegantly appointed eatery specializes in roast crab, as evidenced by the elegant silver crab cracker and pick at each place setting. Order the dish and you'll find yourself draped in a plastic bib, tied behind your neck whether you want it... More >>

  • Best Lunch

    The Cheese Steak Shop

    San Franciscans may have branded the burrito as the city's cheap-eats favorite, but even the most dedicated taqueria habitué knows you can only scarf carne asada six days a week. On the seventh, consider Philadelphia's ode to lunchtime bliss: the cheesesteak sandwich. It's a basic formula: thin-sliced beef grilled on a flattop, smothered in cheese, and slapped into a bun with grilled onions and pickled peppers. The aptly named Cheese Steak Shop, Divisadero's most popular eatery, is dedicated to the... More >>

  • Best Coffee

    Martha & Brothers Coffee Co.

    Those who mourn the demise of old San Francisco often blame chains like Starbucks as the harbingers of the new era. But chains aren't all bad. After all, Martha Guerrero Monroy started her own mini-coffee empire in a Noe Valley storefront nearly 15 years ago, expanding it since then to five locations run by her brothers and sisters throughout the city. Importing coffee from around the globe, Martha & Brothers roasts beans daily at a SOMA warehouse. The beans --... More >>

  • Best 1 A.M. Sugar Fix

    Bob's Donuts & Pastry Shop

    Maybe you're a night owl. Maybe you're a huge fan of doughnuts. Maybe you're really, really drunk. Whatever the reason, should you feel compelled to stuff your face with sugar and chocolate after midnight, Bob's Donuts is open late. Boasting strong coffee and a full selection of all the standard favorites -- bear claws, old-fashioneds, glazeds, and eclairs -- this Polk Street staple has offered constant refuge for anyone who doesn't think about his arteries too much. Coming around after... More >>

  • Best Food for Chicago Expatriates

    Moishe's Pippic

    If Saturday Night Live's Superfans (the portly chaps who worshipped "da Bears," Ditka, and Italian beef) died and went to heaven, it's a safe bet the pearly gates would look an awful lot like this Hayes Valley delicatessen. The walls are a proud, working-class shrine to the Second City, immortalized ceiling to floor in posters of the skyline, faded sports jerseys, and century-spanning advertisements for Chicago festivals, concerts, and art exhibits. It's the food, however, that will truly transport you... More >>

  • Best Hot-and-Sour Soup in Chinatown

    Great Eastern Restaurant

    Seafood is the main draw at this better-than-average Chinese restaurant, a vast, classy, and family-friendly establishment in the heart of Chinatown. At the rear of the dining room, giant tanks house several varieties of seafood: Dungeness crabs, lobsters, fish-of-the-day, and large prawns. But the rest of the menu is excellent as well, especially the hot-and-sour soup ($7). Not too hot and not too sour, the soup arrives thick, spicy, and just tart enough, in a gigantic bowl ideal for dishing... More >>

  • Best Place, Other Than Your Kitchen, to Eat Homemade Cookie Dough

    De Lessio Market and Bakery

    This Hayes Valley bistro with an air of European sophistication offers top-notch coffee, sandwiches, and baked goods in a vibrant yellow-and-red interior that hums with warmth and a personable staff. But let's face it: We don't want sophistication or warmth -- we want cookie dough. And we don't want to make it ourselves. So beeline past De Lessio's sandwiches, coffee bar, and muffins and head straight for the refrigerated glass case with its homemade rolls of cookie dough, just like... More >>

  • Coolest Joint With the Best Fried Chicken

    Eastside West

    What do all those people lined up in front of the new bar MatrixFillmore think they're going to see when they get in? Yes, the bar is the newest über-cool offering by San Francisco supervisor and businessman/entrepreneur Gavin Newsom, and it does have a futuristic-looking fireplace, overpriced drinks, and a fancy little snack menu. But is it worth the hourlong wait in the cold and rain? Hardly. Why not go next door to the equally hip and cool (but much... More >>

  • Best Biscuits

    Rock Soup

    A good biscuit is hard to find. As with chocolate chip cookies, no two recipes are the same, and there are plenty of ways to screw it up. So hats off to Rock Soup for finally getting it right. Its biscuits are flaky, not too buttery or heavy. Yet there is heft -- and most important, height. You can split one in two by hand and have enough doughy cushion in each piece to satisfy. Unfortunately, it's a love/hate relationship... More >>

  • Best Off-Shore Dining

    Forbes Island

    We initially visited Forbes Island for the novelty: a houseboat-cum-restaurant fashioned into a mini-island, complete with palm trees and lighthouse above, fine dining below (and we do mean below -- some of the portholes are underwater, so you occasionally catch sight of fish swimming by). But we returned for the wonderful ambience and even more wonderful food. At Pier 39's "H" Dock, you board the Island Queen, an excursion vessel captained by owner Forbes Kiddoo himself. You are ferried past... More >>

  • Best Retro Dining Without Irony

    Joe's of Westlake

    There are plenty of things about this place to love -- from the fish tanks to the leatherette -- but what truly warms our hearts is that Joe's is the real deal, serving diners since 1959. And in a city of retro posers, being the real deal is enough to earn our undying respect and regular business. Many of the waiters and patrons have been coming in the door for decades (virtually every West Side politician in San Francisco has... More >>

  • Best Name for a Bar

    Would You Believe?

    For almost a year, we didn't believe a bar could survive with a name like Would You Believe? Driving down Geary, we'd spy the sign and wonder: Is it a freak show-themed bar? One of those on-its-last-leg dives where cobwebs cover the door to the women's room and at least one customer will be physically dead? Eventually we broke down and checked it out. The name -- dreamed up by a previous owner, who apparently had a thing for that... More >>

  • Best Smoking Patio

    Hemlock Tavern

    Technically, smoking is illegal in San Francisco bars, so if we did know of a place -- or even 50 of them -- that allowed customers to indulge their filthy habit, we sure as hell wouldn't mention it in print. But what we can say is that Hemlock Tavern offers a perfectly legal, just-short-of-indoor alcove. Latticework screens you from the street, heat lamps keep you warm, and, surgeon general's warning be damned, you can suck down butts until you develop... More >>

  • Best Reason to Wait in Line

    Swan Oyster Depot

    This popular hole in the wall, home to the freshest seafood around, has become an S.F. institution. Throngs of food enthusiasts pour onto the sidewalk as they wait to sit on one of the 20 stools at the narrow counter packed with oyster crackers, sliced lemon, and Tabasco. This family-run establishment opened in 1912 and has been operated by the current owners since the '40s. The owners/staff take pride in making wisecracks, being extremely efficient, and knowing both their fish... More >>

  • Best Yuca

    La Santaneca

    If you've never had yuca (aka cassava, a root vegetable native to South America), it's about time you made a trip to La Santaneca. Located at the base of Bernal Heights, this homey Salvadoran joint makes a mean pupusa, one of the best chiles rellenos in town, and a spectacular yuca frita served with chicharrón (deep-fried pork) and curtido (pickled cabbage). Deep-fried to a golden crispness, with a texture a bit fluffier and sweeter than potato, this yuca will put... More >>

  • Best Restaurant Policy

    Portico

    If you're among those who were starting to wonder if San Francisco was devolving into a place with a bottom line and little else, here's a story of redemption that comes from, of all places, the Financial District. On the corner of First and Mission, on any given evening, a line of 20 or 30 homeless people gathers calmly, the crowd smiling and making conversation among themselves, all but unnoticed by the traffic of pedestrians heading home after a long... More >>

  • Best Bloody Marys

    Club Deluxe

    We've been sampling Bloody Marys around town for the past two years -- talk about dedication -- and have come to a few conclusions. First, a good Bloody Mary requires labor, so tip accordingly. A house-made mix is often the secret to a superior Bloody, as is a complex yet balanced mosaic of flavors. Garnishes are essential, and beyond that, we've found the finest of all daytime cocktails to be an infinitely variable drink. We've had Bloodies with balsamic vinegar,... More >>

  • Four Best Bakeries

    Bakeries, like delicatessens, come in all shapes, sizes, and ethnic backgrounds, especially in San Francisco, where the sourdough shares basket space with baguettes, focaccia, baklava, and fubiki. Among this fragrant cornucopia of carbohydrates are four of our favorites. Arizmendi 1331 Ninth Ave. (near Irving), 566-3117, www.arizmendibakery.org This worker-owned cooperative earned raves for its artisan breads when it opened its doors late last year, but Arizmendi's other creations are equally enticing: big, gooey pecan rolls; plain, ginger, and hazelnut shortbread; a... More >>

  • Five Best Places to Grab a Post-Midnight Snack

    Once upon a time San Francisco was the most pleasure-loving city on Earth; nowadays it's hard to find a restaurant open after 10 p.m., let alone midnight. Nevertheless, a handful of restaurateurs out there are willing to cater to us night owls -- at least until 1 a.m. Among them: Brazen Head 3166 Buchanan (at Greenwich), 921-7600 The ideally clubby, comfortable, off-the-beaten-track hideaway (its entrance is both dark and nondescript), the Brazen Head serves hearty American food until 1 a.m.... More >>

  • Five Best Comfort Foods

    Warm, soft, simple foods have been pleasing the paunches of humankind for millennia, but only a few salubrious victuals are as satisfying to the soul as they are soothing to the stomach. Pale, creamy, and tepid are important culinary adjectives here, but there's another more intangible ingredient. The five comfort foods that follow have at least one thing in common: They make you feel relaxed, restored, and renewed from head to toe. Matzo Ball Soup at East Coast West Delicatessen... More >>

  • Food & Drink Readers' Poll

    Best New Restaurant Street Best Restaurant Boulevard Best Chef John Lamkin, Street Most Romantic Restaurant Fleur de Lys Best First-Date Restaurant Street Best Weekend Brunch (tie) Miss Millie’s; Mama’s on Washington Square Best California Cuisine Firefly Best American Restaurant Mel's Drive-In Best Italian Restaurant Ristorante Ideale Best French Restaurant Ti Couz Best Bistro Jeanty at Jack’s Best Spanish RestaurantZarzuela Best Greek Restaurant Kokkari Estiatorio Best Middle Eastern RestaurantLa Mediterranée Best Sushi Ebisu Best Japanese Restaurant Ebisu Best Thai Restaurant Thep... More >>

Search Best Of Awards