The 7 Best Places to Eat in San Francisco From a Local

There are many reasons to leave your heart in San Francisco. The city’s culinary offerings are one of them. The world is literally your taste bud’s oyster in the City by the Bay. However, the very best places to eat in San Francisco serve up dishes packed with flavor and style set in colorful neighborhoods.

Flatlay of a black table with three large bowls of seafood stew
The best places to eat in San Francisco give you powerful flavor in beautiful settings. Photo credit: Cloris Ying

So, we hiked the seven hills within this jewel of a city and found seven of San Francisco’s culinary treasures. These eateries include distinctive Californian and Mexican flavors unique to the city and savory tastes of Africa, Asia, and Europe. Read on for our local’s list of the seven best places to eat in San Francisco.

Scoma’s Restaurant 

Seafood doesn’t get fresher or more San Francisco than this. Located on the edge of Pier 47 at Fisherman’s Wharf, for nearly 60 years fishermen have pulled up daily to Scoma’s to deliver the morning’s fresh catch courtesy of the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean.  

Scoma’s chefs transform the catch into flavorful Italian-styled seafood dishes and house classics like the “lazy man’s” cioppino and the whole West Coast Dungeness crab served “chilled” or “whole roasted.” 

Once a humble coffee shop frequented by fishermen, Scoma’s was transformed in 1965 into the legendary pier-to-plate restaurant it is today. Beloved by locals and visitors alike, this family-owned hidden gem (located down a narrow path behind the touristy storefronts near Ghirardelli Square) is easy to miss, but it shouldn’t be. 

Reservations are strongly recommended, but not necessary. Forgot to make a reservation? Decided to go at the last minute? Scoma’s welcomes walk-ins. The wait is worth it. 

Close up of a plate filled with boiled crab, lemon wedges, and a container of clear oil
Scoma’s Restaurant serves up the best San Francisco seafood right on the water. Photo credit: winny lucas

Yank Sing 

People quickly pluck plump dumplings from the carts that dart around the tables from the kitchen at Yank Sing. The restaurant is renowned for its assortment of more than 100 mouth-watering dumplings and dishes from the cart. Some of our favorite dumplings are the scallop balls, steamed BBQ pork buns, and crab claws. 

Yank Sing is one of San Francisco’s institutions. It has been around for more than 70 years, dominating the city’s dumpling scene. When locals need to satisfy their dumpling needs, Yank Sing is the place to go. 

This third-generation family-owned dim sum spot has two locations, one in SoMa on the border of the Financial District and another at the Rincon Center. Reservations are a must at this popular dim sum restaurant. 

close up of dumplings in a bamboo steam basket
Satisfy your dumpling needs alongside San Francisco locals at Yank Sing. Photo credit: Jun Seita

Taqueria Los Mayas 

Taste a different side of Mexican cuisine in the Inner Richmond at Taqueria Los Mayas. Not your typical taqueria, this walk-in eatery brought the taste of the Yucatan to the neighborhood in 2017. Taqueria Los Mayas’s arrival diversified Clement Street’s Asian and European flavor profile and complemented it in the best possible way.  

Taqueria Los Mayas serves ancestral recipes from the Yucatan. This Gulf of Mexico region is culinarily influenced by the Mayas, Europeans, and Lebanese. 

The Yucatan is known for its Mayan pyramids, depicted in the colorful murals inside the restaurant, and its panuchos. The small crispy corn tortillas are topped with a choice of beans for the bed, meats (pork, turkey, and beef) bursting with flavor from the citrus marinade, and topped with cabbage, avocado, and pickled onions. Our mouths water just thinking about Taqueria Los Mayas’s burritos and panuchos.

close up of a plate with three panuchos, flat fried tortillas with toppics of tomato, cabbage, avocado, and red onion
Yucatán Panuchos are a must-try if you get the chance. Photo credit: Dion Hinchcliffe

Octavia 

Octavia exudes sophistication and romance in the simplest way. Octavia doesn’t put on airs though. It is graceful from its modern rustic décor to its expertly executed experimental dishes that take new American cuisine to new levels. 

We fell in love with Octavia immediately and so did Michelin. The restaurant rater almost instantly bestowed stars on the Lower Pacific Heights restaurant the day it opened in 2015. It’s not the first time. Octavia’s older sibling restaurant, Frances, which serves innovative California cuisine, was haled just as instantly by Michelin after it opened in 2010. 

Chef Melissa Perello elevates seasonal ingredients fresh from local farms and the sea presenting them as beautiful artworks on the plate. The dishes are flavorful and refreshing on the palate. 

Reservations are hard to get, and the menu changes regularly. We suggest going hungry, especially if you decide to try everything with the tasting menu.

Pakwan Restaurant 

Craving Indian food? Our Indian friends swear by this popular San Francisco Bay Area mini-chain–with three locations (Tenderloin, Mission District, and Oceanview) in San Francisco alone. Pakwan has become our go-to Indian spot for good reason. The Northern Indian-Pakistani food is good and inexpensive. 

Bonus Tip: Pakwan has many easily accessible locations within San Francisco, and also in Fremont and Hayward all with a vibrant décor that gives a nod to Indian culture. 

close up of a neon sign in a restaurant window. Yellow letters read "Pakwan" and read letters underneath read "Pakistani Indian"
When on Ocean Avenue, keep an eye out for Pakwan’s neon sign for authentic Indian-Pakistani food. Photo credit: Jeremy Brooks

Zuni Café

Zuni Café (1658 Market Street) is a San Francisco institution. The two-level corner restaurant located at the point where Market and Rose streets meet has attracted celebrities, couples on dates, and friends out on the town since 1979. Zuni exudes California vibes and French countryside warmth in the city. 

Zuni Café presents a lively atmosphere for the senses. The City’s vibrancy is brought inside through the floor-to-ceiling pane windows. Inside the restaurant, the aromatic smells of pizzas cooking in the wood-burning oven and California and French-inspired dishes waft out from the kitchen. Take a seat at the café-style sidewalk tables open to walk-ins for a European feel in America. 

Ultimately, Zuni’s naturally good California and French-inspired eats, such as its renowned wood-fire roasted chicken for two, have brought diners of all stripes back time and time again to this Hayes Valley neighborhood restaurant. 

Zuni Café takes reservations and walk-ins. Make a reservation to get prime seating on the second level. The first floor and sidewalk seating are open for walk-in seating. 

close up of a plate of spaghetti with fresh tomatoes
Don’t worry if you skip the reservation: enjoy walk-up outdoor seating at Zuni Café. Photo credit: Jurriaan Persin

Alegrias 

If tapas and paella is what you are craving, head to Alegrias in the Marina. 

Alegrias serves up joy (the Spanish translation of the restaurant’s namesake) with its savory bites and Spanish rice dishes paired with its house-made sangria and imported Spanish wines. This homey family-owned restaurant has cooked up amazing food from its pulpo a la gallega or the croquetas de jamon iberico y gamba to its paella a la valenciana con chorizo espanol for nearly a quarter-century. 

Alegrias is perfect for a date, friends out on the town, or after-work gatherings. The restaurant is small, reservations are encouraged.