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Food & Drink

  • Best Speakeasy

    Bourbon & Branch

    Bourbon & Branch, the newish Tenderloin watering hole, is a speakeasy that's high on class and low on browbeating its demographic, despite its semi-private concept. The dark wood paneling and jazzy soundtrack make for a cool 1920s aesthetic transporting you away from the junkie wonderland out front. Make a reservation for booth seating (with its extensive, bourbon- and champagne-heavy cocktail menu and a password to get you through the front door) or sacrifice some personal space for the old-world charm... More >>

  • Best Restaurant Without a Sign (in English)

    Umami

    Unless you read Japanese, the outside of Umami in Cow Hollow gives little hint of what the inside holds. With a small, dark sign in Japanese calligraphy, Umami is a trendy new addition to the neighborhood. Step inside the Asian-fusion eatery and you will see an interior to match the mystique the owners have carefully crafted. The restaurant is lined with dark, chic wallpaper and adorned with Japanese-style lanterns and modern hanging lamps. Even though the place has virtually no... More >>

  • Best Burger

    Liverpool Lil's

    The burger at Liverpool Lil's is a big, old-fashioned beauty. Its eight ounces of Angus beef is hand-formed into a thick patty, the kind Dad grilled in the backyard in 1950s sitcoms. It comes topped with your choice of cheese (swiss, provolone, cheddar, blue, and mozzarella), and grilled onions; there's a schmear of mayonnaise on the fat, sesame-seeded bun, and on the side comes lettuce, tomato, and a haystack of thin, crisp fries, some with bits of potato skin left... More >>

  • Best Pizza

    Gialina

    This tiny, new neighborhood spot in Glen Park is named in honor of the owner's grandmother Nonni Lina, featured in huge, blown-up black-and-white photos on the claret-colored walls. The menu is short, but the irregularly shaped pizzas are long on flavor. The crisp, thin crusts are incredibly savory, and the toppings are of the best quality: Framani salumi from Berkeley's Paul Bertolli, Tutto Calabria chilies from Italy, Perlagrigia truffled cows' milk cheese from Venice, vegetables from the farmers' market. The... More >>

  • Best Burrito (S.F.-Style)

    El Tonayense Taco Truck

    People around here demand a lot from their burritos: They must be too big for a 135-pound person to eat at one sitting. They've got to have plenty of expertly grilled meat or veggies, with fragrant rice and beans. We want freshly made salsas to go with them. Somewhat bizarrely, we want them to have an amazing level of structural integrity, so that we can eat them with one hand. Luckily, the mothership of famous lunch trucks scores high on... More >>

  • Best Burrito (So-Cal Style)

    La Taqueria

    As the name implies, this, well, taqueria forgoes the frills you might find at the Mission's other Mexican hot spots to focus on the heart of the burrito, the meat. It's reminiscent of the style favored in that little border town called San Diego. Gone is the rice, and with it options like spinach tortillas and refried black beans. The meat is the star, and La Taqueria has got the meat right. The carne asada, or grilled steak, is deservedly... More >>

  • Best Shawarma

    Truly Mediterranean

    Shawarma is the great Middle Eastern fast food. Like the burrito, the piroshki, the calzone, or the hot dog, it's a self-contained meal in itself, a portable, one-handed, highly delectable solution to empty stomach and questing tastebud alike. Truly Mediterranean, a trim and tidy takeout joint next door to the Roxie, prepares an outstanding example of the genre. Generous slices of roasted lamb are cut from a traditionally enormous vertical kabob and placed upon lavash bread with strips of marinated... More >>

  • Best Rock 'n' Roll Restaurant

    Country Station Sushi

    You don't go to Country Station for the speedy service — depending on the night, your wait time for a table runs anywhere from 15 minutes to over an hour (if you want quick fish, saddle up to some cookie-cutter sushi joint). Country Station is the closest thing S.F. has to a punk-rock eatery, right down to the soundtrack. There's rarely a spoiler on the stereo here — from the Stooges to Black Flag and Fugazi, the staff at this... More >>

  • Best Seafood in an Attic

    Bar Crudo

    Wondering where to take that date who loves to vacuum seafood when you live in a city by the bay? How about the teeny-tiny oceanic endeavor, Bar Crudo? This intimate, two-story restaurant has the same basic layout as the adjacent Tunnel Top, meaning the upstairs has a cuddly, attic feel (although Crudo is much cleaner and better lit). So this is the perfect spot to nestle next to a significant something or other while slurping oysters, devouring an inventive lobster... More >>

  • Best Seafood Shack

    Woodhouse Fish Company

    We love everything about this little crab shack, magically transferred from the tranquil New England seacoast to an urban corner of busy Market Street: Its snug clean white-walled and tiled room, the tasty food that comes from its open kitchen, and the reasonable prices, whether you're ordering a bowl of creamy clam chowder or a big, beautiful whole Maine lobster. The fish and chips are excellent, featuring Icelandic cod in a crisp batter made with Anchor Steam beer and french... More >>

  • Best Tandoori Fish

    Lahore Karahi

    In a neighborhood flush with Indian/Pakistani restaurants, it's hard to stand out, but Lahore Karahi does. And it's not for the entertaining Bollywood flicks on the TV, or the nondescript, '70s basement rec-room type ambience. It's for how good the Tandoori fish is. Served fresh and prepared per order from scratch, it is hands-down the best in the city. Owner/chef/waiter/host Zulfiqar "Guddu" Haider opened Lahore Karahi in 2003, and he runs pretty much a one-man show. On crowded nights, be... More >>

  • Best Place to Get a 40 oz. During a Classy Date

    Emmy's Spaghetti Shack

    Yes, they serve 40s (Mickey's or Chimay), but Emmy's also has decadent Italian fare (see the eponymous spaghetti and meatballs), and a nice wine list. It's everything you could ask out of a first-date restaurant — intimate, dark, and fun, imbued with an unassuming, cozily hip vibe — but it's too perfectly "first date" to actually go on one here. A first date should be awkward and goofy, and there's no reason to waste Emmy's perfect atmospherics on such a... More >>

  • Best Happy-Hour Martini Bar

    Olive

    Located on the frayed fringes of the Tenderloin, Olive offers some of the biggest and best martinis in S.F. Enter through the thick wooden door, leave the savage workday behind, belly up to the unusual concrete bar, and order one of the sizable $5 happy-hour martinis. After a couple of sips, the copper-colored glow of a well-made martini will fill your psyche and have you declaring your sloppy love for just about everyone and everything in your vicinity. But, this... More >>

  • Best Piano Bar

    Martuni's

    Nothing goes together like karaoke and Flaming Dr. Peppers — that is, except for crooning and martinis. So if you're ready to trade in the Journey for some Sinatra, head down to the Mission/Hayes Valley border joint, Martuni's. Seven nights a week, the back room of the bar features a professional piano player and mike for any patron who'd like to play Bing Crosby for a night. The feel of the place, however, is more sing-along than American Idol audition.... More >>

  • Best Laid-Back Bar

    Wild Side West

    How does the Wild Side do it? A lesbian bar that's friendly to all? Bartenders who gladly serve up generous pours? A place where straight guys from the neighborhood comfortably watch 49ers games with local dykes? What the hell's going on here? Why is everyone so laid-back? Simply step out into the backyard garden and the answer hits you like the aroma of a Ziggy Marley concert: Amid the bric-a-brac and wooden benches, there's usually a mist wafting about the... More >>

  • Best Outdoor Drinking Spot

    Zeitgeist

    This is the spot to drink beer outside with pals on a warm night or afternoon. A Mission destination, it has a great selection of beers, including some Belgian brews, which are mighty tasty. Bikers' two-wheeled steeds give the exterior a tough look, but the beer garden is mellow and pretty friendly. Porta Pottis along the edge serve the not-so-faint-of-heart. Numerous outdoor benches make it a great place to hang out with friends and/or cool coworkers. It's also a great... More >>

  • Best Hole-in-the-Wall Deli

    Rossi's Delicatessen

    There was a time when every city neighborhood boasted a couple of these places — stores offering cold cases stuffed with good-quality meats, cheeses, and prepared foods, places devoid of seating but where you could take out anything from a freshly-made sandwich to a multi-course feast, at reasonable prices. Such spots seem to be going the way of the independent bookstore, record store, or dinosaur. We treasure the few that are left. A favorite is Rossi's, which offers an amazing... More >>

  • Best Sandwiches, Delivered

    Wichcraft

    For a supposedly cosmopolitan city, San Francisco has relatively few (read almost zero) eateries that deliver their own food. Using such services as Waiters on Wheels adds time and money to the equation. But the local outpost of 'wichcraft, the sandwich emporium of telegenic and award-winning chef Tom Colicchio, does deliver — possibly because the parent company is located in New York, where you can get everything delivered 24/7. And delivery is free, within a downtown area bounded by Fifth... More >>

  • Best Egg Salad Sandwich

    Happy Donuts

    There are many, many Happy Donuts shops in San Francisco. But for our five bucks, the store at 3rd and King streets delivers the most savory egg salad sandwich of 'em all — or of any other eatery in the city, for that matter. Most places err by overloading their egg salad with veggies, assaulting taste buds with a fusillade of onions, celery, and green peppers. Too many other eateries use eggs and mayo that taste like they've been extruded... More >>

  • Best Organic Grocery

    Rainbow Grocery

    Rainbow Grocery is the kind of place that other co-ops take field trips to visit, exclaiming in wonder at this gem of a grocery store: The natural, organic food! The environmentally- and health-conscious products! The independence! Collectively run, worker owned and operated, Rainbow Grocery is a model for any aspiring co-op (most of which are owned by the customers, not by the workers). It's easy to get lost in row upon row of bright, organic produce, rainbow chard peacefully rustling... More >>

  • Best Meat Market

    Bristol Farms

    Not even in the hands of top Hollywood food stylists have cold cuts and fruits of the sea looked so alluring. Bristol Farms, a small chain of high-end grocery stores based in Southern California, opened last fall in the massive yuppeteria known as the Westfield Centre to the appreciative aahs of voyeuristic foodies who know that the eyes are indelibly connected to the stomach. The bakery is filled with visually beautiful morsels of sugar, but it's the meat and fish... More >>

  • Best Bulk Herbs

    San Francisco Herb Co.

    Nestled among the warehouses of 14th Street is everything you need to flavor a flounder, bouquet a bureau, season a stew, soothe a stomach, maybe even cure the common cold. Since 1973, the San Francisco Herb Co. has been providing freshly packaged, top-grade herbs and spices to a discerning clientele at bargain prices. Entering this tiny storefront is a musky, fragrant, eye-opening experience: One-pound cellophane bags of twigs, roots, ferns, buds, seeds, leaves, flowers, and cones line the walls, and... More >>

  • Best Ferry Building Bargain

    Golden Gate Meat Company

    Can you do the Ferry Building for $2? Sure, you can buy — what? — six olives from one of the organic grocers, or sweat the clerks at the Cowgirl Creamery for cheese samples. But there's a deal lurking in the steaming, dripping-hot case at Golden Gate Meat Company: the all-meat-and-no-bullshit sausage on a stick. No, we don't mean corn dogs (screw batter!). We're talking meat and a stick — finito! — with a line of mustard run down the... More >>

  • Best Cheese Shop

    Cheese Boutique

    Don't blink or you might walk past the Cheese Boutique. This variety food shop has survived and thrived for 20 years in the looming shadow of the Inner Sunset's mighty Andronico's. Inside, step cautiously, for two strides in any direction will walk you into a shelf full of exotic olive oils, gourmet preserves, fine sandwich condiments, fresh baguettes, local honey, English tea, dried nuts, organic Turkish figs, store-made hummus, or the small selection of wine. By the register, the glass... More >>

  • Best Neighborhood Bakery

    Patisserie Delanghe

    Everything that fills the cases at Patisserie Delanghe is baked by Dominique Delanghe, a Frenchman whose specialties include buttery croissants, brioches, and palmiers as well as jewellike fruit tarts, marzipan-draped cakes, and the creampuff towers called croquembouche. His seasonal treats include adorable decorated cookies and pastries (hearts for Valentine's Day and chicks for Easter). Try the thin almond macaroon topped with a chocolate-glazed turban full of mocha cream. The big, snail-shaped scones, dotted with tiny currants and slicked with a... More >>

  • Best Cream Puff

    Beard Papa's

    A lovely little franchised gift that originated from the tropical shores of Hawaii, Beard Papa's makes puffs that are as addictive as Krispy Kreme original glazed donuts, McDonald's fries, and, well, crack, but without the over-processed chemical haze that these other vices have been known to induce. Standard flavors like vanilla bean and chocolate are fixtures on the menu, while other specialized tastes of the week like pumpkin, caramel, and green tea really should be. The flavor of choice is... More >>

  • Best Chocolates

    Recchiuti Confections

    Some of the finest chocolates in the country are crafted here in San Francisco, but when it comes to the whole package — culinary ingenuity, artistic presentation, the endorphic bliss state that occurs when cacao meets corpus — Recchiuti is in a class by itself. Each beautifully realized bonbon is an aesthetic as well as gustatory triumph. Mood-altering milk, semisweet, bittersweet, or extra-bitter ganache is infused with a unique array of flavors — rose, jasmine, green tea, lavender, bergamot, tarragon,... More >>

  • Best Raw Food

    Alive!

    Chef/owner Leland Jung first nurtured a love of cooking while watching his father make dim sum dumplings at his Chinese restaurant. For his own venture, however, Jung eschews not only all meat, but all animal products, dairy, honey, wheat, and grains. Oh, and cooking. Raw cuisine is often accused of lacking in actual substance what it offers in visual style, but Jung's creations have both to spare. With his artisanal approach, some of the dishes on the menu take up... More >>

  • Best Fish and Chips

    Piccadilly Fish & Chips

    Piccadilly is a top choice of local British ex-pats looking for their favorite homeland fix outside of late-night curries and Guinness. You know Piccadilly means business right when you walk in the door and get a peep at the deep fryer. Massive and curiously adorned with a lovely stained-glass inlay recalling its native Wales, it's like the Cadillac of crispers, offering up beautifully gilded fish and chips on plastic platters and paper. The rest of the joint is very no-frills... More >>

  • Best Weekend Restaurant

    Cajun Pacific

    Thanks to global warming and a small crop of interesting food choices from the relatively young establishments that now line the last few blocks of Judah Street, visiting the Sunset District side of Ocean Beach is a lot more pleasant these days for natives and transplanted locals, and it's a worthwhile area to bring guests. Stumbling distance from the beach is Cajun Pacific, an intimate spot open for dinner from Thursday to Sunday. It is a reduction from its former... More >>

  • Best Cuban Food

    Los Flamingos

    Some swear by the Arroz Imperial, a titanic pot of sauce-smothered, cheesy chicken goodness. But one of the can't-miss pieces of the Los Flamingos arsenal is something a lot less elaborate that almost anyone, regardless of most major dietary restrictions, can enjoy. In a palette of standouts, it's the plantains, so often rendered to be the more lifeless cousin of the banana, that highlight most every plate. The menu offers just about as many Mexican standards (enchiladas, quesadillas, burritos). This... More >>

  • Best Mole

    Zazil

    The most important discovery the conquistadors made when they arrived at the court of Moctezuma 500 years ago wasn't gold, silver, or precious stones; it was all the weird and wonderful stuff the Aztec king enjoyed for dinner. Most impressively there was mole, an elaborate concoction made almost entirely from ingredients never encountered in the Old World — chocolate, peppers, tomatoes, corn, a wide variety of nuts and seeds. Zazil, a casually upscale Westfield Centre dining spot specializing in dishes... More >>

  • Best Brew Pub

    Magnolia Gastropub & Brewery

    There are many brew pubs in the U.S. (particularly on the West Coast), but most of them look like atmosphere-challenged sports bars and serve Miller and Bud knock-offs to match. Magnolia brewmaster and propietor Dave McLean does things differently. Instead of swamping customers' conversations with wall-to-wall flat plasma TV screens blaring college football games across a converted warehouse, Magnolia — a converted early-20th-century pharmacy — is all dark wood, Grateful Dead-inspired friezes, and intimate booths. The pub boasts a wide,... More >>

  • Best Ramos Fizz

    Campton Place Restaurant

    The Ramos Fizz was invented a century ago in New Orleans, where one saloon, the Imperial Cabinet, employed 35 men to do nothing but shake up Ramoses during a particularly festive pre-Osterizer Mardi Gras. Sinatra, among others, swore by the cocktail's morning-after curative properties, and over the years this subtly fragrant, irresistibly creamy concoction has evolved into the cognoscenti's brunch tipple of choice. Since Campton Place serves the best brunch in town (spinach-brie-cipollini frittata, anyone?), it's entirely reasonable that its... More >>

  • Best 6 a.m. Bar

    Vesuvio Cafe

    For a town notorious for its liquor consumption and overall decadence, San Francisco offers very few options for break-of-dawn, rev-your-motor imbibing. Two of them happen to be located a mere two blocks apart in, appropriately enough, the city's onetime Barbary Coast. Gino & Carlo, on Green between Grant and Columbus, features a nice neighborhood vibe and a terrific jukebox as well as those rise-and-shine boilermakers, while Vesuvio looks pretty much like it has since it opened for business 59 years... More >>

  • Best Gnocchi

    Antica Trattoria

    Gnocchi is one of those seemingly simple dishes that only a maestro's light touch can pull off. Without proper care and attention, these delectable dumplings, a glory of Roman cuisine since ancient times, can be doughy, dry, and heavy as a bowl of bocce balls. Antica, a lively little trattoria on the western slopes of Russian Hill, is adept at the preparation of elementally satisfying comfort food like risotto and tiramisu, and the house gnocchi is superb. It's feathery in... More >>

  • Best Crème Brûlée

    Plouf

    We've had it with the rosewater infusions, the lavender infusions, the chai infusions, the f'Chrissake blood orange infusions. Crème brûlée should be pure and simple. It should involve nothing more than cream, egg yolks, and sugar. It should have a texture distinct in its exponential creaminess from the eggy flabbiness of flan. Most of all it should be cool and luscious underneath and sweet and crisp on top. There are several nationalistic claims for the custard's parentage, including England (burnt... More >>

  • Best Mediterranean Restaurant

    Belden Taverna

    The Mediterranean Sea covers a lot of global acreage, lapping as it does at the shores of southern Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa, but most Mediterranean restaurants only dip their toes in one or two of the region's cuisines. Belden Taverna is gustatorially inclusive enough to employ the basin's wide array of flavors in dishes that are at once dazzling on the tastebuds and satisfying to the soul. Flatbreads are served with a light and vibrant hummus; bittersweet... More >>

  • Best Chowder

    Swan Oyster Depot

    Unlike most of the thick, gloppy chowders you see around town, Swan's is more in the nature of a light, revivifying bisque, a briny bowl of bivalves with soul-warming properties ideal for enduring our foggy climate. Fresh, fragrant clam broth, simmering milk, and a dollop of golden butter are the primary components of this piscine elixir, with bits of potato, onion, and clam thrown in for ballast. One heady sniff is like a relaxing stroll by the seaside. Swan's long... More >>

  • Best Vegan-Friendly Restaurant

    Cha-Ya Vegetarian Japanese Restaurant

    There's nothing bland, unsatisfying, or overtly cosmic about the food at Cha-Ya, a Mission District purveyor of vegan-friendly cookery. In fact, Cha-Ya's sushi, noodles, soups, and dumplings are so rich, flavorful, and fulfilling, the place can stand as a splendid Japanese restaurant in its own right. Pot stickers hot from the fryer burst with fresh, crisp flavors. A fragrant miso soup is ribboned with three kinds of mushroom and served in an iron pot. There are skewers of broiled asparagus,... More >>

  • Best Small Plates

    Terzo

    We'd never get tired of the small-plates fad if all small plates were as good as the ones served at sleek, modern Terzo. Chef Mark Gordon sends out dishes from his open kitchen that are full of lusty flavor and easy to share. The seasonal menu evolves from week to week. Vegetarian options have included crisp flatbread with seasonal toppings, smoky grilled asparagus topped with a fried egg and sided by a dab of peppery romesco, and delicate ravioli filled... More >>

  • Best French Bistro

    Bistro Aix

    You have your choice of two spaces at this modest, family-run spot in the Marina: a front room with a bar and simple modern wood tables, or a large homey heated patio out back, which is our preference. But in either room you'll be served simple, tasty French fare made with fresh ingredients (farmers' markets are visited thrice weekly) and well priced (starters under $10, main courses under $20, and a two-course prix-fixe for $19.95, offered Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and... More >>

  • Best Cassoulet

    Rue Saint Jacques

    Your server will start by putting down two bricks down on the snowy white tablecloth. This is obviously meant to protect both the cloth and the table below it, but it also serves as a signifier for the rustic, long-cooked stew. The impressive cast-iron casserole is filled to the brim with toothy white beans, duck confit, lamb confit, chunks of sausages and boudin blanc, and an extra treat, a flat slice of bacon draped over the whole, blessing the dish... More >>

  • Best New Neighborhood Restaurant

    Nopa

    Nopa, a hit from the day it opened, has helped to both name and define its neighborhood, the area north of the Panhandle. Throngs arrive nightly at the lofty, two-storied space, restored to its original glory (it was built as a stately bank, but in recent years had been reduced to serving as a launderette), and boasting huge windows, cartoony murals, and a long, bustling bar. One sign of its success: Reservations are taken a month in advance. Diners lucky... More >>

  • Best Wacky Dessert

    Brick Restaurant & Bar

    We've seen some lists of ingredients that struck us as unlikely, unwise, even (dare we say) unappealing. But the list of ingredients on one dessert at Brick, a small-plates place in the Tenderloin with a cutting-edge kitchen, seemed to be daring us to try the dish, or shall we say accumulation: a white chocolate mousse with mango, olive tapenade, goat cheese, sesame, and kumquat marmalade. Yikes! But, as served, the sweet turned out to be not only delicious, but sexy.... More >>

  • Best Panna Cotta

    Lark Creek Steak

    Panna cotta means cooked cream, and it differs from other custards, such as crème caramel, in that it's thickened with gelatin rather than egg. It needs a light hand with the gelatin to be successful, but it has become a very popular dessert. We've had it served with fresh fruit, slicked with a variety of sauces, flavored with a number of essences. But we've never had a panna cotta as luscious, as seductive, as diabolical as the creamy almond-flavored panna... More >>

  • Best Oyster Bar (New & Fancy)

    Farallon

    When Farallon added a dedicated oyster bar to its front bar room, it should come as no surprise that the already stunning place went all-out. The glamorous, glittering eight-seat bar, under a couple of Farallon's signature blown-glass jellyfish chandeliers, features a wide white marble counter. There you sit on high stools and can command anything from oysters or cherrystone clams, opened before your eyes, at $2.50 each, to a royal iced fruits de mer platter at $110, boasting lobster, Dungeness... More >>

  • Best Oyster Bar (Venerable & Modest)

    Anchor Oyster Bar

    This snug spot, which seats only about two dozen people if all its tables and counter are full (which they always seem to be), offers only a few varieties of oysters — that way you're guaranteed that they're fresh and sparkling. (As is the décor, which boasts discreet olde salt touches.) But Anchor is also popular for its clam chowder (both New England and Manhattan varieties), its Caesar salad (which can be topped with shrimp, crab, or both), and most... More >>

  • Best Ice Cream

    Bi-Rite Creamery & Bakeshop

    The newest addition to 18th Street's dazzling gastronomic block between Guerrero and Valencia (Tartine Bakery, Delfina, Pizzeria Delfina, and the Bi-Rite Grocery, among others) is the irresistible Bi-Rite Creamery. The Creamery offers artisanal, seasonal ice creams, sorbets, and granitas, made in small batches from the highest-quality organic ingredients. The cups, cones, and sundaes are doled out from a freezer counter displaying that day's flavors. Samples will let you know exactly how double ginger, honey lavender, and chai-spiced milk chocolate taste... More >>

  • Best Fried Chicken (tie)

    The Front Porch

    Since we'll go anywhere for fried chicken, it's a good year in which two new contenders for San Francisco's best arrive. At farmerbrown, Jay Foster offers a wing, leg, and breast, which he's brined for 12 to 24 hours, and then soaked in buttermilk overnight. It comes out moist and tasty under a peppery flour-and-milk batter. The bird arrives with mac 'n' cheese and crunchy, well-vinegared coleslaw. The dish at the Front Porch is called Miss Ollie's chicken, and blends... More >>

  • Best Crosstown Bar

    Miraloma Club

    Sometimes you might need a final final on your way home. Or maybe you live in the Sunset and you're meeting some friends to go to a Giants day game. Or you've just taken in the sights at Twin Peaks or Ocean Beach. It's time for a beer, but there's nothing to be found in the vast residential blocks west of Twin Peaks. Enter the humble Miraloma Club, nestled in the saddle between Mt. Davidson and Forest Hill, above Glen... More >>

  • Best Beach Bar

    The Riptide

    San Francisco is not renowned for its beach culture. As if the sharks and frigid waters weren't bad enough, there's the months-long summer fog and the almost complete lack of any commercial beachfront development. But in the chilly Sunset District there's a hearty breed of weathered local denizens who gather to warm their spirits at a handful of spots like Java Beach, Kelly's Cove, and the liveliest of them all — the Riptide. With its roaring fireplace and wood-paneled walls,... More >>

  • Best Kitschy Mission Bar

    The Knockout

    The Knockout has been called a clubhouse for big kids, and that's a pretty apt description. Started by brothers and longtime Mission District bartenders DX and John Segura, the place just bleeds their love for kitsch, rockabilly, monster movies, and low-brow culture. On any given night, there might be a touring mod band tearing up the stage, or a DJ spinning metal or old funk 45s, or a drunken, raucous game of bingo going down. There's a photo booth and... More >>

  • Best Punk Rock Bar

    540 Club

    With a lineup of parties that includes a sexy, grown-up prom, a Mobsters Ball, and Catholic School Karaoke, it's pretty clear that owner Jamie Brown and his crew are having fun at their watering hole. On Sunday afternoons, look for the bikes chained up outside, as it's barbecue and people-watching on the front patio while the DJ spins classic hardcore inside. Later, there might be a lively pub quiz or a reading sponsored by nearby Green Apple Books. Check the... More >>

  • Best Vietnamese

    The Slanted Door

    If you'd ask us one of our San Francisco restaurant dreams, we'd have told you we longed for a Slanted Door that was just a touch more consumer-friendly: easier to get into, less noisy, and, while we're at it, why not cheaper? The Chans must have read our mind, because they've opened a large outpost called Out the Door, which occupies its own modern space, just off the Westfield Centre lower-level food court. An anteroom offers take-out from a counter... More >>

  • Best Chinese

    Koi Palace

    They line up on weekends here for dim sum (also available, with shorter wait times, for weekday lunch), but we much prefer dining here at night. You're greeted by a 1,500-gallon array of tanks filled with fresh fish and shellfish as you enter, but that covers only one page of the 18-page menu. Don't miss the crackling-skinned suckling pig, either a plateful or an entire roast beast (for $190). If you like the ritual of making little sandwiches out of... More >>

  • Best Dim Sum

    Canton Dim Sum & Seafood Restaurant

    This huge, two-story restaurant that seats up to 700 people on weekends feels much like the no-frills places found in China. There are white tablecloths and small chandeliers, and the nice touch of fresh flowers on the tables — plastic elsewhere in the room — but décor is not Canton's strong suit. You go there for the excellent and very well-priced dim sum, served at lunch and brunch only. A variety of bao (buns) and other treats are only $2.35... More >>

  • Best Sushi

    Ebisu

    Lines form regularly outside Ebisu, waiting patiently for a crack at a table or a seat inside. Poking your head inside, you'd be hard-pressed to discover the place's appeal from its ordinary, rather brown, and somewhat tired dŽcor: There are about nine tables, four or five more in a little tatami room, and — hey! — 18 seats at a long dark-green sushi bar. A further hint, besides the 18-seater, can be found on the daily changing specials board on... More >>

  • Best Thai Barbecue

    San Francisco Barbecue

    Even though it's located between Texas and Missouri, the barbecue you'll find at San Francisco Barbecue isn't cooked in a pit and drenched in hot, spicy, tomatoey sauce. Instead, it's marinated in a mildly garlicky, mildly sweet brew flavored with fresh cilantro, and grilled to order in an open kitchen that's probably smaller than yours. The menu covers all manner of fish, fowl, and flesh: We like the thin-cut lamb chops, the little house-made beef meatballs, and the thick chunks... More >>

  • Best Neighborhood Japanese

    Oyaji Restaurant

    Ignore the rather ordinary sushi and pricey sashimi for the real glories of this modest, woody izakaya restaurant: its extensive menu of small plates. Specialties include ankimo, the steamed monkfish liver that is something like the foie gras of the sea; salads of jellyfish (kurage su), snow crab (kani su), and octopus (tako su) in sweet rice vinegar dressing; a variety of small grilled fish and shellfish; and lovely little clams steamed in sake. There's a wide array of kushiyaki,... More >>

  • Best New High-End Restaurant

    Coi Restaurant

    The complicated genius of chef Daniel Patterson is on display in Coi's muted, earth-toned dining room, in which you feel as if you're on a glowing spaceship eating food that's out of this world. The prix-fixe menus (either a set tasting menu, or one of four courses with several choices for each course) have been known to include Patterson's famed deep-fried coins of bone marrow topped with caviar; ravioli filled with sweetbreads buried under black truffle foam; grilled ayu, an... More >>

  • Best Cheese Plate

    Bar Tartine

    What better to accompany Bar Tartine's excellent bread (sourced from its famous parent, the Tartine bakery a few blocks away) than cheese? And cheese is treated with respect here: It's given its own separate menu, featuring about a dozen different varieties, whose careful affinage results in each one being served at its peak. (Try that at home!) They're priced at $6 each, $15 for three, $23 for five, $36 for eight. You'll receive generous portions elegantly displayed on polished wood... More >>

  • Best Bar to Score With a MILF

    Balboa Cafe

    The Balboa Cafe, situated in the Marina District, is one pillar of the neighborhood's "Triangle" of popular bars on the corners of Fillmore and Greenwich Streets. The Cafe offers upscale American grub, a pleasantly relaxed atmosphere, televised sports, and a long wooden bar with its own appetizer menu and smattering of post-work young corporate types. Beware, young male prepsters: This corner is also known to some as the "Bermuda Triangle" for its cadre of "cougars"—older ladies with a taste for... More >>

  • Best Food Court

    The Food Emporium

    At Westfield's shiny new food court, aka the Food Emporium, a real effort was made to avoid the inevitable dreary, fatty, fast-food mall food-court vendors (Chick-fil-A and Cinnabon, anyone?). This food court features small local chains offering a wide array of fresh international fare. Among the more interesting offerings are Amoura (Mediterranean and Middle Eastern, including a combo platter of hummus, tabouleh, and crunchy falafel), Andale (Mexican, with homey mole de olla — chicken stew — and pork chile verde,... More >>

  • Best Vegetable

    Presidio Social Club

    In this city, where seasonality and local produce are celebrated almost reflexively on every menu, we're a sucker for vegetable sides, whether arriving at table as part of your entree, or ordered on their own. Loretta Keller, at Coco 500, entitles hers "California dirt," and we still remember a dish of creamed corn with marjoram and smoky paprika we ate there more than a year-and-a-half ago. The latest vegetable side to enter our personal pantheon is a very vernal concoction... More >>

  • Best Candyshop Decor

    Miette Confiserie

    This new shop from the owners of the famed Miette Patisserie in the Ferry Plaza features candies sourced from all over the world, from tiny Tootsie Rolls at 10 cents each to lavish Charles Chocolate boxes made of chocolate and filled with sweets for $45. But the real draw is the art of display. The place is tender yet dazzling. There are 72 glass jars shelved behind the counter, each filled with different colorful candies. A big light-green wooden table... More >>

  • Best Barbecue (Eat-In)

    Memphis Minnie's BBQ Joint

    If you want to enjoy your smoky ‘cue while sitting down in a pleasant restaurant environment, Memphis Minnie’s is almost your only choice in San Francisco. That’s why it’s a good thing that it consistently serves up some of the best ribs, beef brisket, Santa Maria tri-tip, and pulled pork around – as well as interesting, sometimes eccentric sides (stellar beans, classic potato salad, sweet potatoes, mac ‘n cheese, uniquely sweet-and-sour greens, colorful coleslaw, and tender cornbread muffins). You order... More >>

  • Best Barbecue (Take Out & Delivery)

    Big Nate's Barbeque

    This efficient, bare-bones pit stop (there are a few tables, but they're there for convenience only) will get you in and out quickly, loaded up with Memphis- and Carolina-style pork ribs, chicken, links, brisket, and pulled pork, as well as cornbread muffins, country beans, cole slaw, potato salad, Nate's own mean greens, and sweet potato pie. For additional convenience, there's an adjacent free parking lot, online ordering (from a ridiculously over-complicated Web site, alas), and Big Nate's delivers! While you... More >>

  • Best Hawaiian

    L & L Hawaiian Barbecue

    There are so many Hawaiian restaurants popping up all over the Bay Area that a full-time hobby could consist of checking them out. We do so with pleasure since becoming enamored of the classic plate lunch (protein, plus a scoop of mayonnaisey macaroni salad and "two scoops rice") on our first visit to the Hawaiian Islands. (We have even learned to like spam. In its place.) But we return frequently to L&L, a chain that started in Hawaii in 1976,... More >>

  • Best Late Night

    Cafe Maritime

    Most late-night possibilities around town are limited to bright lights and dim food, but at the small, chic Café Maritime, you're offered sparkling-fresh, exquisitely cooked seafood, in delightful surroundings, until 1 a.m. every night of the week. The shellfish bar proffers a variety of raw oysters and clams as well as chilled Maine lobster, Dungeness crab, and prawn cocktails. Hot starters include New England clam chowder, shrimp and crab fritters, and steamed mussels. The kitchen specializes in wild fish (Idaho... More >>

  • Best Moroccan

    Tajine

    Perhaps the most hotly awaited opening among bargain-minded San Francisco foodies in 2007 was that of Tajine, whose tiny spot in the raffish Tenderloin could seat maybe 10 people (if they liked each other). What those lucky 10 really liked was the tasty, sophisticated Moroccan cooking: bastilla (a phyllo dough pie stuffed with chicken, ground almonds, and eggs and dusted with powdered sugar), tajines (stews of chicken or lamb), kebabs, and couscous. And almost everything on the menu was $10... More >>

  • Best Steak

    Boboquivari's

    The location is uninspiring: a boxy two-story building next to a Travelodge on a dull block of Lombard. The décor, which strives for gaiety (red-painted walls, Venetian-inspired lanterns, large dolls based on the Italian jester who inspired the restaurant and Web site's name), is kinda tacky. In the warren of cramped spaces, there doesn't seem to be a really comfortable, good seat in the house. (Well, maybe a couple of the booths upstairs.) But, despite all that, we long to... More >>

  • Best New Dish

    The Front Porch

    Brillat-Savarin once said, "The invention of a new dish is of greater importance to the happiness of mankind than the discovery of a new star." And for us the star of the menu at the Front Porch is the Dungeness crab atop sweet white corn grits porridge. We love their deep-fried chicken livers saturated with onion gravy on brioche toast, too, but we've had deep-fried chicken livers before. We've never had the combination of textures and flavors that still haunt... More >>

  • Best Carpaccio

    Joe DiMaggio's Italian Chophouse

    We've never quite understood the appeal of carpaccio. If you want raw beef, and sometimes we do, a well-made steak tartare will highlight the delicate, steely taste of the meat with the addition of some nice aromatics and texture. But the massive portion of carpaccio as served at Joe DiMaggio's was so tasty that we were delighted: The dish really knocked it out of the park. The beef had been rubbed with ground pepper before being cut. The rosy, paper-thin... More >>

  • Best Cheap Sandwiches

    Mr. Pickle's Sandwich Shop

    This is, by far, the best place to grab a quick, high-quality sandwich for under $7. We've bought bags of chips that cost nearly that much, but the Pickle, as it's called, won't disappoint. The place is very low-key, and the owner's mother runs the shop, so you know it's good. Try the "Tony Soprano." Like its namesake, it's big, unapologetic, and smokes. Throw in the extra buck for a pickle. Or try the pastrami sandwich. Not for shrinking violets,... More >>

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