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  • Best Vegetarian (Expensive)

    Fleur De Lys

    Fleur de Lys 777 Sutter (at Taylor), 673-7779, San Francisco offers many delights for the vegetarian epicure, but none is more beguiling than the welcome given at the starry French temple de cuisine Fleur de Lys, whose Web site proudly states, "Vegetarians will be pleased to know that Chef Keller is more inspired than ever regarding his non-meat dishes." (That's Hubert Keller, veteran of the famous kitchens of Auberge de L'Ill, Gaston Lenôtre, Paul Bocuse, and Roger Verge:... More >>

  • Best Vegetarian (Inexpensive)

    Herbivore-The Earthly Grill

    Herbivore 983 Valencia (at 21st Street), 826-5657, and 531 Divisadero (at Fell), 885-7133, Everything on Herbivore's extensive menu is vegan, but run-of-the-mill vegetarians and carnivores eat here happily, side by side with their more abstemious brethren. What's not to like about a roasted red beet salad, the sturdy batons of beet coated in grassy herbs, bedded on fresh greens, and topped with a tasty balsamic dressing? Or a refreshing seviche salad made of diced tofu and minced oyster... More >>

  • Best Classic San Francisco Lunch

    Swan Oyster Depot

    Decades before some overpaid restaurant consultant coined the term "raw bar," this unpretentious landmark was serving up fresh seafood to a clientele of working-class regulars. Located in the same Polk Street storefront since 1912, Swan now attracts devotees from every niche of the social strata (although the Pacific Heights elitists prefer delivery service to eating elbow to elbow with the hoi polloi). The lunch line winds out the door year-round as folks patiently wait for one of the 15... More >>

  • Best Tea

    Samovar Tea Lounge

    Samovar 498 Sanchez (at 18th Street), 626-4700, Drinking tea is a ritual that's been around for 5,000 years, and doing it in style makes all the difference, as the folks at Samovar will tell you. This Castro tea lounge is more of a modern Zen oasis than the stuffy china-closet digs the term "high tea" usually recalls. Grass floors, burnished woods, bronze Buddhas, and plump cushions strewn every which way take customers back to the way original tea... More >>

  • Best Cheap Meal

    Saigon Sandwich

    For gourmands, slumming is a $6 burrito at Taqueria Can-Cun. For the rest of us, it's a $2.25 roast pork sandwich at Saigon Sandwiches, easily the best bargain in the city. The clerks start with a crusty roll, fill it with various meats, then add shaved carrots, cilantro, sauce, and lots of mayo. Where's the profit? Who knows? It's simple, hearty food, and one is enough, so get used to spending pocket change. The place also has a vegetarian... More >>

  • Best New Bar

    Madrone Art Bar

    While it may seem like San Francisco needs a new bar as much as a canary needs a cat, the mid-Haight/Western Addition neighborhood is surprisingly lacking in decent watering holes. Thankfully, in October of last year Leila Fakouri opened Madrone Lounge on Divisadero Street. The space is far more than just another cocktail saloon; in fact, Fakouri prefers to call it an "art lounge." Similar in spirit to 111 Minna (on a smaller scale), Madrone hosts bimonthly art exhibits,... More >>

  • Best Unsung Restaurant

    RNM Restaurant

    RNM 598 Haight (at Steiner), 551-7900, This small, bilevel, urbane restaurant, a little out of place in its Lower Haight neighborhood, consistently offers fresh, interesting, and well-cooked food that speaks of the skill and passion of its young chef/owner, Justine Miner. Its Web site says it serves "small plates of American food with French and Italian influences," but it delivers plenty of "large plates," too, which match meat and fish with wonderful seasonal vegetables, such as lavender-scented grilled... More >>

  • Best Breakfast

    Mama's On Washington Square

    1701 Stockton (at Filbert), 362-6421 Every great breakfast spot has a line out the door, and Mama's is no different. Outside it's brutal, but once you get the nod from the server/bouncer, you're ushered into the second line, which hugs the counter. This line is easier. You're now inches from pastries of all sorts, made fresh daily. Locals chat up the cooks as they flip thick omelets and French toast, a house favorite. If you get lucky and someone... More >>

  • Best Italian


    Everything is top-notch at this 15-year-old Italian restaurant: the serene setting (a spacious, calm, and grown-up room with a striking vaulted wood ceiling); the professional, knowledgeable, and caring service; and the exciting cooking, high-style Italian food created from the best seasonal ingredients. Begin with a simple, exquisite Parmesan budino topped with a tangle of julienned zucchini and sauced with puréed spinach, or a chunk of Hawaiian butterfish in tomato-fennel sauce and seafood stew; move on to an amazing pasta... More >>

  • Best Thai

    Thai House Express

    Thai House Express 901 Larkin (at Geary), 441-2248 The beautifully conceived dishes that come out of the open kitchen here at blinding speed (hence "Express") would do honor to much fancier surroundings -- and prices. The setting does have its charms (the metal-topped tables, blond wood banquette, and abstract paintings read urban bistro rather than inexpensive ethnic dive), but the real draw at this brightly lit corner spot is the food: wonderful salads of shredded green papaya or bamboo... More >>

  • Best Late-Night Eats

    Yuet Lee

    The good news is that you can feast on wonderful fresh seafood (fried squid, steamed whole flounder, pepper and salt roasted prawns in the shell) until all hours -- well, 3 a.m., which is late indeed in our fair city -- in this underdecorated but picturesque corner spot in North Beach, where you might even be able to find parking in the wee hours. The bad news: It's cash only (so remember to bring some, because there's nothing worse... More >>

  • Best Cheeseburger

    Rosamunde Sausage Grill

    It's only available once a week, on Tuesday from 11:30 a.m. "until the meat runs out," but maybe that's one of the reasons we find ourselves dreaming of this burger on other days. And we're not alone: On that one day, the line at this popular sausage shack runs out the door, and nearly everybody orders the burger, often taking it next door to the Toronado pub, where you can wash it down with a beer. Rosamunde's is a... More >>

  • Best New Restaurant (Inexpensive)

    Blue Jay Cafe

    We wish we lived near this friendly neighborhood spot, which offers generous portions of Southern-accented home cooking for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at gentle prices, in a funky setting with a large U-shaped counter and a row of tables. For breakfast you can get inventive scrambles or omelets, as well as buttermilk griddlecakes, French toast with bananas, and superb biscuits (which you must not miss), on their own or in the Blue Jay biscuit sandwich, with eggs, cheese, and bacon.... More >>

  • Best New Restaurant (Expensive)

    Jack Falstaff

    Chef James Ormsby is cooking wonderful organic comfort food in a modern setting at this newest member of the PlumpJack family, located just two blocks from SBC Park. His "slow food" approach includes milling his own flour, creating an array of exotic bar snacks that can be packaged to take with you to the game, and sourcing the best ingredients from myriad local and international purveyors. Ormsby matches his braised and roasted meats and lightly cooked seafood with complementary... More >>

  • Best New Restaurant (Very Expensive)

    The Westin St. Francis

    Michael Mina, in a lush room in the St. Francis, is the big-news opening of the year, with a tricky concept sure to intrigue and annoy foodies: A three-course seasonal menu, with many choices offered for each course, presents you with an ingredient-based variation on a theme. It's ostensibly three dishes per course, but in practice, each dish is complemented with a "garnish" so carefully conceived that you'll find six different constructions vying for your attention. An example: a... More >>

  • Best Milkshake

    Bombay Bazar and Ice Cream

    Wonderful on its own or as a cooling counterpart to the crunchy, spicy snacks served here, Bombay's falooda is created with your choice of several homemade ice creams (we loved a version with saffron pistachio, cardamom, and mango, when we asked for the server's favorites), layered with translucent chewy noodles, crunchy basil seeds, and fragrant rose syrup. It's far beyond your standard diner vanilla.... More >>

  • Best Beverages


    We are very fond of this snug, eccentric East Bay eatery, which purveys its own brand of "eclectic Mediterranean cuisine" using organic ingredients, including many fruits and vegetables from its own gardens. But we dream about Zatar's distinctive and delicious fruit beverages, including a special frothy mint lemonade, the best we've ever had; the sensual jalab, flavored with date syrup and rose water; and a lemony tamarind drink also perfumed with rose water. In an ideal world, pitchers of... More >>

  • Best Place to Get a Quiet Drink Downtown

    Hotel Rex

    Downtown hotels are generally to be avoided. Busy, noisy, and full of people in suits, they're usually the last place you'd go to get away from the crowds. The unnamed lobby bar at Hotel Rex is different. Inspired by the San Francisco art and literary salons of the 1920s and '30s, it features distinctive period furnishings, walls of antiquarian books, and an eclectic collection of artwork that helps create an intimate, clubby atmosphere for a quiet evening drink. The... More >>

  • Best Cheese Shop

    Cowgirl Creamery

    Walking into Cowgirl Creamery is like slamming into an olfactory brick wall. "Heady" doesn't quite describe it. This is living, breathing, ripening cheese, releasing dripping molecules of scent into the Ferry Building's cavernous hall like an animal attracting mates. No wonder Cowgirl was mentioned on Will & Grace. Similar to the famed Cheeseboard in Berkeley, Cowgirl is run by staffers armed with cheese slicers, and they're quick to make recommendations. Along with a wide selection of foreign and domestic... More >>

  • Best Taco

    Nick's Crispy Tacos

    Nick's Crispy Tacos 1500 Broadway (at Polk), 409-8226 If you've never ordered a taco from Nick's, you're probably going to make a mistake, so listen up: After you say, "Carnitas taco, please" (the place sells other meat, but it's your money), follow it up with, "Nick's way." It takes people months to get this routine down, satisfied as they are with a simple taco. But for an extra 75 cents, Nick's tucks cheese, guacamole, and a hard shell into... More >>

  • Best Pub Grub

    The Pig and Whistle

    The classic plowman's lunch of fresh bread, a wedge of cheddar, pickled onions, and a pint of ale is considerably supplemented at the Pig and Whistle, a bona fide English pub repotted in Laurel Heights, where hunting bugles decorate the walls, the barkeep knows how to pour a proper Guinness, and the Cornish pasties are just like Mum used to make. Start the day with a delicious, rib-sticking English breakfast of Irish bacon, baked beans, scrambled eggs, crumpets, and... More >>

  • Best Cafe

    Cafe Hurghada

    If a cafe is a place where people from the neighborhood catch up and read the paper and watch the world stroll by over the sweet and savory snacks that go with a good cup of coffee, Cafe Hurghada is the genuine article. When you walk in, you become part of a loving, wisecracking extended family in which everyone knows one another -- and how much he despises his landlord and what she was supposed to have done last... More >>

  • Best Fish and Chips

    Piccadilly Fish & Chips

    There are tons of fish-and-chip places in London exactly like the Piccadilly: tiny bare-bones establishments with the interior design of a fast-food joint and the Empire's most positive contribution to global cuisine on the menu. The similarity to the real thing doesn't end at the aesthetic, though. Cod specially flown in from Ireland is fried twice (the second time immediately before serving) to ensure a perfectly crunchy exterior, then paired with thick-cut fried potatoes soft and limp enough to... More >>

  • Best Takeout

    Mistral Rotisserie Provençale

    Mistral Rotisserie Provençale 1 Ferry Building, No. 41, Market & Embarcadero, 399-9751 Mistral serves the sort of rich, hearty, soul-warming food that goes well with a good local cabernet and a hunk of sourdough, the perfect restorative feast after a long, hard day of work. Among Fabrice and Betty Marcon's rustic Mediterranean specialties are their signature stew of fork-tender lamb, carrots, garbanzos, and couscous; a lush, thick cassoulet brimming with pork, white beans, and sausage; organically raised chicken, lamb,... More >>

  • Best Prix Fixe


    The tasting menu here, which changes frequently, is four courses (two choices per course) priced at a reasonable $35. (Starters on the regular menu run from $5.50 to $10, pastas from $12 to $18, and main courses from $16 to $24.) We have happy memories of a feast that began with our pick of two salads (fresh asparagus on a bed of mâche or a "Caesar" made with Gorgonzola), followed by oysters or house-made sausage-stuffed pasta, then arctic char... More >>

  • Best Hawaiian Restaurant


    The Hawaiian Islands have tantalized San Franciscans ever since Union correspondent Mark Twain paid a visit in 1865, King Kalakaua repaid the favor a few years later, and Matson Lines steamships departed Pier 35 for Honolulu on a regular basis. Hukilau keeps the connection thriving and fragrant with its menu of traditional plate lunches and dinners: big wooden platters of panko-crusted chicken, broiled mahi-mahi, or the island specialty of your choice served with two scoops of rice and a... More >>

  • Best Free Lunch

    Gino & Carlo Cocktail Lounge

    Although it's true that there's no such thing as a free lunch, at one time in our gilded past the saloons of San Francisco would lay out bountiful noontime feasts of oysters, caviar, baked ham, and other salty, thirst-whetting treats, all for the price of a nickel beer. One of the few modern-day exponents of this sorely missed tradition is Gino & Carlo, where on a given 49ers, Warriors, or Giants Sunday the staff will lay a tablecloth across... More >>

  • Best Free Drink Tour

    Anchor Brewing Company

    Anchor Brewing, which makes seven beers and ales (including the popular Anchor Steam, since 1896), offers a free, weekly, yeasty-smelling public tour of its handsome and immaculate all-copper brewhouse, by reservation only, for parties of up to 10. The guided walking tour lasts about 45 minutes and includes a brief history of the brewery and a look at all three floors of the building. A tasting session follows, and is only available to tour members. (The tour and tasting... More >>

  • Best American Food

    The Blue Plate

    The very appealing menu of the Blue Plate, self-described as a "new American restaurant," reveals just how globally influenced and sophisticated today's square meals are: Alongside the excellent meatloaf (with mashed potatoes and a fresh seasonal vegetable), a standard on the frequently changing lineup, you might find a hunky Niman Ranch pork porterhouse sided with herbed spaetzle, English peas, pancetta, and Meyer lemon jus, or duck confit with a rainbow assortment of vegetables and watercress in a snappy cardamom... More >>

  • Best Restaurant Décor

    Le Colonial

    Once you enter Le Colonial's encompassing atmosphere of drowsy tropical elegance, jangling, frenetic downtown San Francisco ceases to exist. This urban oasis, tucked away in the inner courtyard that once housed Trader Vic's and accessed via a fronded open-air atrium, is rich with polished wood, crisp napery, carved rattan, and the gentle glow of candlelight. Two floors and multiple nooks and enclaves feature intricate tile flooring, vintage pressed-tin ceilings in deep red, antique Oriental rugs, richly upholstered forest-green wicker... More >>

  • Best Ice Cream (East Bay)

    Sketch Ice Cream

    There are more than a dozen flavors of dense, creamy gelato and deeply flavored sorbet and granita available daily at this tiny, immaculate shop in the highly walkable Fourth Street shopping neighborhood. The server will scoop your roasted strawberry or peach gelato atop crepes, freshly baked waffles, or tiny loaves of barely sweet brioche. Sketch also bakes macaroons and spice cookies, which can be purchased as is or combined with your choice of fillings to create small but luxe... More >>

  • Best Soufflés

    Cafe Jacqueline

    Café Jacqueline 1454 Grant (at Green), 981-5565 The two major ingredients of soufflés -- eggs and air -- are inexpensive and in great supply, but the skill involved in combining them is apparently not, so soufflés have largely disappeared from the dining scene. Luckily we have an eccentric and cozy spot on upper Grant that not only specializes in soufflés, but also does so to the exclusion of all else: The eatery offers a couple of starter salads and... More >>

  • Best Fancy Vietnamese

    The Slanted Door

    Once the myriad fans of the Slanted Door's extraordinary high-style Vietnamese cuisine had gotten over the restaurant's two moves to increasingly upscale locations (from the Mission to Brannan Street to the Ferry Building) and braved the tedious reservation lines (complete with seven-digit confirmation numbers), they looked around and realized that the new airy, modern digs were pretty swell, the bay views were beautiful, and the food was as delicious as ever. Longtime favorites include the garlicky, spicy shaking beef... More >>

  • Best Sushi

    Ino Sushi

    Nigiri sushi stars at this immaculate, tiny establishment, a narrow room in the Miyako Mall with a blond-wood sushi bar and matching walls. Nine or 10 people can sit at the bar, and a similar number at the five tables that line the wall. The specialty of this small, spare place is the classic: the freshest fish, laid on carefully cooked rice, with a spare smear of wasabi between the two. No Thunder Mountain Screaming Dragon Rolls here -- just... More >>

  • Best Brewpub

    21st Amendment

    Following a San Francisco tradition of masterful brewing that stretches back to the Gold Rush, the 21st cooks up a distinctive array of beers that range from the light and crisp to the rich and yeasty. The 21A IPA, for instance, employs three hops in the fermenting process to especially lusty effect, while the Oyster Point Stout is made with honest-to-God Hog Island oyster shells for a surprisingly tasty hint of errant sea spray. (For their next trick, the brewmasters... More >>

  • Best Beer Bar

    Magnolia Gastropub & Brewery

    There are always 10 to 12 house-made beers on tap here (as well as another three to five on the hand pumps), including the award-winning Blue Bell Bitter and Proving Ground IPA and such original creations as Sara's Ruby Mild ("with a hint of black cherries"), Cole Porter ("just a hair shy of being a stout"), and the hearty, chewy oatmeal Stout of Circumstance. (Seasonal offerings include Jubilee Pale Ale, to celebrate the Haight Street Fair and the start... More >>

  • Best Biscuits


    There are lots of reasons to like this North Beach Brazilian-Italian eatery: its stylish and comfortable setting, tasty food (especially the homemade pastas and grilled meats), and affordable prices (its steaks are big enough for two), to name just three. But every time we've dined here, we haven't been able to resist getting at least one order of the pao de queijo, tiny, puffy, hot cheese biscuits listed under appetizers. They are appetizing indeed.... More >>

  • Best Dive

    Gyro King

    The unprepossessing room -- dominated by an open grill and a glass-fronted refrigerated case containing salads -- belies the fresh and exciting Middle Eastern fare on offer here. You order at the counter, grab a drink and silverware, and find a seat at one of the 10 not very comfy tables, where a server will bring you your delicious food. We love the appetizer combo plate, which includes excellent hummus, baba ghanouj, chunky eggplant salad, and the fiery ezme... More >>

  • Best Chinese

    Jai Yun

    When you walk into this tiny, unlisted, six-table hole in the wall, there's no menu to peruse or decision to make except to settle in, put yourself in chef Nei Chia Ji's hands, and spend the next couple of hours eating a fabulous, often unusual multicourse meal. Every morning Nei visits the Chinatown fish markets, greengrocers, and butchers and decides what he'll whip up for his roomful of guests that evening: a warm morel-asparagus salad, perhaps, followed by al... More >>

  • Best Pre-Giants Game Eats


    The gourmet eats at MoMo's can be a bit pricey, but the creative and artfully arranged American fare -- particularly the ahi tuna tartare with caviar and the grilled skirt steak smothered with portobello mushrooms and braised bourbon onions -- justifies the cost. Located right across the street from SBC Park, it's the perfect spot for a delicious snack or a dry martini before the first pitch, whether you're inclined to lounge at the indoor bar or bask in... More >>

  • Best Pastries

    Tartine Bakery

    Consider, if you will, a light-as-air citrus-edged genoise layered with a delicate grapefruit mousse and topped with torched peaks of meringue; or a crisp, flaky tart lined with bittersweet chocolate and billowing with coconut cream; or a custardlike brioche pudding crowned with macerated peaches; or a dense, dark, fudgelike brownie of crisp whole walnuts and premium Scharffen Berger chocolate. The patissiers at Tartine create some of the most toothsome, ethereal pastries east of the Pacific Ocean in a friendly old... More >>

  • Best Kitchen Aid

    Boulette's Larder

    Cooks in search of an idea for dinner and noncooks in search of dinner will both find what they need in the well-stocked haven of Boulette's Larder. The cooks will be pleased to find preparations to ease their travail, such as bouquets garnis, homemade stocks, prepped and chopped organic vegetables, house-made sauerkraut, and a wide range of hard-to-find spices, herbs, preserves, and other ingredients. The noncooks will be pleased to find a daily-changing array of elegant food, inspired by... More >>

  • Best Free Tasting

    Yum Foods

    Tastes vary widely in our gastronomic metropolis, but most refrigerators have something in common: They tend to have overcrowded top shelves, home to those various ingenious accents that can turn a plain cut of meat or a raw vegetable into something spectacular. This affliction ensures that even if the rest of the fridge doesn't contain a lot of food, it still holds jars of sun-dried tomato walnut pesto and cucumber lime marinade. At Yum, such condiments are properly revered.... More >>

  • Best Cheap French

    Baker Street Bistro

    San Franciscans have enjoyed the pleasures of French cuisine ever since the Poodle Dog opened at Grant and Washington in 1849, offering five courses of Gallic comestibles for 15 cents, but few of the Poodle's successors have followed its wallet-friendly example. The Baker Street Bistro, a cozy boîte at the edge of the Presidio, is a throwback to those palate-pleasing, low-overhead glory days. Chef Jacques Manuara cooks delicious examples of old-country fare remarkable for their affordability: garlicky escargots with... More >>

  • Best Turkish

    A La Turca

    A La Turca 869 Geary (at Larkin), 345-1011 In addition to the familiar, expertly prepared mezes (such as hummus, baba ghanouj, and dolmas) and kebabs (lamb, chicken, and kofte) available in this pleasant place, which is lined with a wide wooden banquette and dominated by an open grill, you'll find such unusual dishes as pides, irresistible, long, thin, stuffed meat pies made with ground beef, chicken with mushrooms, or chicken with pineapple; alexander kebap, aka iskender, a homey dish... More >>

  • Best Fried Chicken

    Jack Falstaff

    Our opinion of fried chicken is monotonous: We like it. Big juicy chickens, small tender chickens, thick crunchy coating, thin crisp coating, spicy, bland -- lots of choices, lots of styles, lots of price ranges. And we like proper fried chicken sides, too, with points for real mashed potatoes and for biscuits or corn bread. These places serve the best in the city. Jack Falstaff 598 Second St. (at Brannan), 836-9239, It's not always available (the seasonal menu... More >>

  • Best Cake

    DeLessio Market & Bakery

    Yes, Citizen Cake does make some nice cakes. Hell, it's right there in the place's name. And if you want to pay as much for a cake as for a small foreign car, go right ahead. But if you want a more reasonable price -- for a cake that's just as insanely exotic and tasty -- go to DeLessio. The Market Street restaurant and bakery's Chocolate Tower Cake is such a stunner that you might find it hard to... More >>

  • Best Caesar Salad

    Oola Restaurant & Bar

    Too many salads served under the proud name of Caesar don't fulfill the mandate of this dish: The lettuce is neither romaine nor served in whole leaves, the eggless dressing is watery, there's a timid hand with the garlic, and all too often the anchovies have gone entirely missing. Not so at Oola, where you'll find a sublime Caesar salad, a stack of crisp romaine leaves drenched in a brave dressing, pungent with garlic, sharp with anchovies, and salty... More >>

  • Best After-Opera Meal

    Absinthe Brasserie & Bar

    Whether it's Wagner or Offenbach (or even the ballet or the symphony or City Arts & Lectures), our favorite act is always the last one, which takes place at Absinthe, a thoroughly professional restaurant that's well aware of the responsibility conferred on it by its location adjacent to Civic Center. Reservations are imperative for the before-event meal, but we prefer arriving after: The kitchen is open until midnight Tuesday through Saturday (and the bar is open until 2 a.m.... More >>

  • Best Dim Sum

    Yank Sing

    This large, efficient eatery in the middle of the large, efficient Rincon Center is less charming than the old, rickety Yank Sing of memory, but the dim sum on the rolling carts are still as fresh and appealing as ever. The carts appear at your table with blinding speed after you're seated, and it's tempting just to say yes to everything that's on them. But hold out for some specialties: not just bao, siu mai, and pot stickers, good... More >>

  • Best Oyster Bar (tie)

    Swan Oyster Depot

    Swan Oyster Depot 1517 Polk (at California), 673-1101 Hog Island Oyster Co. 1 Ferry Building, No. 11A, Market & Embarcadero, 391-7117, We can't choose between these two places: one of San Francisco's oldest eateries and one of its newest. It depends on our mood. Is our mouth watering for the world's best crab Louis? Then we wait in line on Polk Street for a seat at Swan's well-worn marble counter. Do we hanker for a view of the... More >>

  • Best Dumplings

    Shanghai Dumpling King

    We happily trek to this unassuming two-room establishment way out in the Richmond District for beautifully made soup dumplings, here listed as Shanghai steamed dumplings: heaven on a plate, and only $4.95 for 10 big, plump, juicy beauties. There are lots of other dumplings on offer, as well as tasty fried treats, such as the Shanghai-style crispy salt pancake stuffed with shredded cabbage. The stir-fries and clay pot specialties are also fresh and well made, but the dumplings and... More >>

  • Best Ice Cream (S.F.)

    Ciao Bella Gelato

    More than once we've inquired if the delicious ice creams and sorbets we've enjoyed for dessert in a variety of fancy restaurants were house-made and been told that the icy treats came from Ciao Bella, whose gelato is made from a family recipe out of Torino, Italy. It contains only 12 percent butterfat, as opposed to 16 percent in typical ice cream, and the creamy mouth feel results from its 20 percent air by volume, versus 60 percent in... More >>

  • Best Singaporean

    Penang Garden

    Penang Garden 728 Washington (at Kearny), 296-7878, A nice change from the numberless Chinese restaurants that surround it, Penang Garden has taken its inspiration from a Singaporean food court lined with vendors, but made all its offerings conveniently available from one menu, as you sit decorously at one table under one roof. Its huge, vividly illustrated menu presents hundreds of dishes, from humble street snacks (juicy satay served with peanut sauce, airy "roti" pancakes with curry sauce) to... More >>

  • Best Hidden Restaurant (tie)


    Sociale 3665 Sacramento (at Spruce), 921-3200 The City Club 155 Sansome (at Bush), 362-2480, Anybody who can find Sociale (at the end of a narrow, slanted lane that appears unexpectedly at the midway point of an ordinary retail block of Sacramento) is welcome to dine there, though reservations are recommended for the small, urbane Italian eatery, with an especially pleasant, rather magical plant-lined patio. But you have to have an in to eat in the City Club, atop... More >>

  • Best New Sandwich Concept

    Giordano Brothers

    You've tried the Philly cheesesteak and the New Orleans po' boy and the Atlantic City sub and the Italian beef out of Chicago and other examples of regional American sandwich-making ingenuity; now there's a new hero/grinder/blimp/ hoagie in town. The "All-in-One" (conceived as an especially hearty example of the genre for the truck drivers of Pittsburgh, Pa.) takes the portable-meal concept one step further, cramming between the bread not only meat and cheese but also the stuff one usually... More >>

  • Best Tapas


    Bocadillos 710 Montgomery (at Washington), 982-2622, The small-plates frenzy still engulfing the San Francisco restaurant scene was inspired by the many tapas bars in Spain. Small plates can be found all over town, in dizzying variety, but our favorite spot draws its inspiration from the source. Gerald Hirigoyen's Bocadillos is named for a small sandwich (on a floury roll, stuffed with aged serrano ham, Catalan sausage, roast beef, or numberless other items) that's available, two to a plate,... More >>

  • Best Local Coffee Blend

    Philz Coffee

    "It's my life's masterpiece," says Phil Jaber, leaning across the counter of his shop in his snap-brim fedora, expectantly holding the bag, waiting for us to take a whiff. "I call it," he says, pausing, "Tesora." The name of his signature blend of coffee rolls off his tongue like the password to a forbidden city, where men have stolen a recipe for a mysterious concoction of the gods. Jaber has been working on the blend for the past few... More >>

  • Best No-Frills Vietnamese

    Tu Lan

    Ignore the uninspiring, grungy surroundings (we choose the cramped upstairs over the tables tucked behind the open grill that dominates the downstairs room, but many in the long lunchtime line prefer grabbing their food to go) and concentrate on the wonderful (and wonderfully cheap) food. The noodle soups come in huge bowls, and the shrimp spring rolls wrapped in stretchy rice noodle dough and the fried pork summer rolls are deservedly popular. There are interesting stir-fries, too, served family style... More >>

  • Best No-Frills Sandwich

    Tommy's Joynt

    The best sandwich on Earth is the roasted dark meat turkey sandwich on LaBrea Bakery sourdough at Greenblatt's Delicatessen in West Hollywood, but a reasonable facsimile is available at Tommy's Joynt, the ornately rendered cafeteria/ bar at Geary and Van Ness. Shards of meat are sliced from a freshly roasted turkey before your eyes and nestled between the folds of a sourdough roll. That's all there is to it -- no lettuce or tomato or apricot-wasabi aioli, nothing to... More >>

  • Best Caviar Tasting

    Tsar Nicoulai Caviar

    If you don't mind the envious glances of the passing parade, sit yourself down at the U-shaped counter of this purveyor of luxury and enjoy the taste of the sea in an assortment of pricey little fish eggs, accompanied by homemade buckwheat blini and crème fraîche. We prefer the premium caviar sampler (including two grades of California Estate osetra, two types of imported sevruga, and hackleback sturgeon caviar for $46) to the slightly wacky, bargain-priced, brightly colored American sampler... More >>

  • Best Freebies (tie)

    The Old Clam House

    The Old Clam House 299 Bayshore (at Oakdale), 826-4880 The Rotunda 150 Stockton (at Geary), 362-4777, Tartare 550 Washington (at Montgomery), 434-3100, We like tradition, especially when it comes in such tasty forms as the all-you-want piping hot clam broth with shreds of potato and onion that starts off every meal at the Old Clam House (an old-fashioned touch that reminds you, more than the remodeled setting, that the place has been roosting on Bayshore since 1861);... More >>

  • Best Nepalese

    Little Nepal

    After its greeter welcomes you with a kind "Namaste," this chic, spare, and modern wood-lined room in Bernal Heights is a calm setting in which to enjoy Little Nepal's highly spiced and appetizing fare. You have to start with momos, perhaps the best-known Nepalese dish: sturdy, plump dumplings (stuffed with minced pork, chicken, or a mélange of fresh vegetables) served with a bright, slightly hot tomato sauce spiked with sesame. The chicken, lamb, and fish curries, which come with... More >>

  • Best View Bar

    Blooms Saloon

    Bloom's Saloon 1318 18th St. (at Missouri), 552-6707 As spring heats up, a young person's mind turns to ... beer, of course, preferably drunk outside. If you're tired of waiting in line at Zeitgeist with all the other sun-and-suds worshippers, head on over to this distinctively tiled Potrero Hill watering hole with stupendous views of the bay, the Bay Bridge, and downtown San Francisco decked out in sunny splendor. Potrero Hill is one of those great neighborhoods that feel... More >>

  • Best Pasta


    You eat very well indeed at Quince, a charming, small, Italianate neighborhood restaurant of high ambitions. But the pastas reign supreme. They change frequently, but if tajarin is on the menu, don't miss it. It doesn't look like much on the plate: a tiny, tangled haystack of the thinnest, most fragile tagliatelle imaginable, shining with butter and topped with a bit of fresh sage. But it's the apotheosis of flour, egg, and water. The simplest dishes are the most difficult... More >>

  • Best Butcher Shop

    Golden Gate Meat Company

    The reborn Ferry Building isn't just a fine example of architectural grace and the shining jewel of our lovely new waterfront: It's a dream come true for the many and varied food fanatics of San Francisco. Especially invaluable is the Golden Gate Meat Co. over in slot 13. This family-owned butcher shop sells an astonishing variety of natural and organic beef, pork, lamb, veal, poultry, smoked meats, sausages, and game from top-quality sources, as well as the company's own... More >>

  • Best French

    La Folie

    For the full-on, top-notch, starry French experience, try this newly redecorated temple of luxury (subdued tones of rust and burgundy replace marionettes and harlequins, and tables are bigger and fewer). Here you can command a three-course ($60), four-course ($75), or five-course ($85) menu pulled together from soups and salads, appetizers, fish and shellfish, poultry and meat, desserts and cheeses. Or abandon choice with the set vegetarian menu ($60) or an adventurous tasting menu (called, appropriately enough, Menu L'Aventure), at... More >>

  • Best Grown-Up Ice Cream Sandwiches

    Elizabeth Falkner's Citizen Cake Ice Cream Parlor and Eats

    It's not that we don't love the gummy chocolate-flavored cookies glued together with pasty artificial vanilla ice cream that you can buy in any convenience store, if only for their nostalgic appeal. But Citizen Cake's ice cream sandwiches are surely the living end of all cookies-and-cream desserts. For a well-worth-it $3.75 you can request your choice of any two freshly baked cookies -- chocolate chip, oatmeal-raisin, peanut butter, or one of the more exotic choices like ginger-molasses -- and... More >>

  • Best Salad Bar

    Mrs T's Cafe

    One year we ate lunch at Mrs. T's every day and never got sick of it. The reason is its amazing salad bar. You probably think a salad bar is just lettuce and fixin's, right? Well, Mrs. T's has that. But it also has more: sushi, freshly baked turkey and cranberry sauce, veggie tempura, meatloaf, cheeses, and the tastiest prepared salads north of Whole Foods. We're talking seaweed salad, turkey salad, ambrosia, gingered green beans, sweet potatoes with walnuts,... More >>

  • Best Soup

    Brindisi Cucina Di Mare

    Acqua Povera at Brindisi Cucina di Mare 88 Belden (at Pine), 593-8000, The name means "poor water" (something like the legendary stone soup), but it's ironic in this instance. At Brindisi, home of many good things to eat, this compulsively edible and satisfying soup comes in a huge bowl. It's a shiny broth full of rapini, white beans, brilliant green peas, and chunks of fried bread -- and you'll feel richer for having tried it.... More >>

  • Best Post-Theater Snacks

    Grand Cafe - Brasserie and Bar

    One of the best things about an evening at ACT or the Curran or Marines Memorial is heading to a bistro afterward and deconstructing the experience over noshes and cocktails. The Grand Cafe is the ideal post-theater option -- and not simply because of its location. The snacks prepared and served in the restaurant's cocktail lounge are among the best in the city: big iced platters of oysters, clams, and mussels; artisanal cheeses from here and abroad; light, crisp... More >>

  • Best Faded High-Roller Bar

    Empress of China

    These days the Empress of China bar on Grant Avenue is run-down and underappreciated, but the gallery of celebrity photos in the lobby (along with the '70s-chic restaurant) proves that it was once a local hot spot. The bar still has swanky velvet seating, a killer view of Chinatown, and yummy coconut-milk drinks with pineapple spears and such, and there's always a spot to sit and appreciate the bustling crowds below.... More >>

  • Best Japanese


    The chic, minimal entry and bar of this Japanese restaurant are much more high-style than its rather ordinary, spare, and underdecorated rooms. But what comes out of the kitchen is Japanese food of the highest order: The simplest dish of grilled squid, for example, is carefully scored, properly smoky, kissed with ginger, and displayed to perfect advantage. Kyo-Ya's ingredients, conception, preparation, and plating are all exquisite. One of the best ways to sample its cuisine is to order the... More >>

  • Best Restaurant to Take Your Parents To

    2223 Restaurant

    A parental visit can be like a walk through a recent war zone: You just never know how many hidden land mines you'll step on. That's why picking the right restaurant during such a visit is so imperative. It's amazing how much more smoothly things can go with a little help from a top-notch staff. A stopover at 2223 is sure to prove successful. The décor is warm and inviting, with just enough classy touches to say upscale without... More >>

  • Best Crab Cakes

    Cafe Maritime

    This charming neighborhood spot, whose fresh, crisp facade speaks of the seafood delights available within, offers food and drink until 1 a.m. One of Café Maritime's best offerings is its crab cakes, fragile and thin, the kind that favor crab over filler: lump crabmeat, shreds, and flakes, barely held together with a few bread crumbs, and nicely garnished, too, depending on the whim of the chef. A sprightly, garlicky Meyer lemon aioli is a constant, with a contrasting salad... More >>

  • Best Sissy-Drink Bar

    Top of the Mark

    Top of the Mark InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel, 999 California (at Mason), 616-6916, When the Top of the Mark opened its 360-degree vistas to the public in 1939, candied violets, pomegranate juice, and lemongrass weren't in your standard bartender's bag of tricks. Times (and taste buds) change, however, and as the martini continues its devolution into a sort of alcoholic Bosco for post-pubescents, phantasmagoric, candy-coated sissy drinks (there's no other term for them) are more popular than ever.... More >>

  • Best Reuse of a Historic Whorehouse

    The Saloon

    This North Beach blues bar is perhaps the oldest drinking establishment still active in the city, having opened in 1861 as the Fresno Hotel Bar and survived several reincarnations (not to mention the 1906 earthquake and fire) since. Lore has it that a group of sailors rushed to save it from the approaching flames in '06, perhaps -- although no one can say for sure -- recalling fond nights spent at the old Fresno when it was a whorehouse.... More >>

  • Best Resurrection

    Sears Fine Foods

    When we left Sears Fine Food one morning without breakfasting there, depressed by its harsh fluorescent lighting, shabby, stained, gray industrial carpeting, and sticky plastic tablecloths, we feared it was on its last legs. But the venerable San Francisco spot (around since 1938) found a rescuer in a local restaurateur who tore up the carpet, revealing white tile; tore out the acoustical tile, revealing a high vaulted ceiling; and put in comfy chairs, homey antiques, and pleasant lighting. The... More >>

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