A 5-day tour of San Francisco and the best restaurants the city has to offer. San Francisco is truly a global city, with some of the best cuisine from around the world. Enjoy the original authentic Mission style burrito, Brittany inspired cuisine from a 3-Michelin starred chef, and a restaurant specializing in reinterpreting famous dishes from places around the globe. There is always something new and exciting to try in the city by the Bay.
1. Transported to Italy at Cotogna | 12 p.m.
490 Pacific Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133
Start the trip off with an Italian meal at Cotogna in Jackson Square. The more laid-back sister restaurant of next door 3-Michelin starred Quince, Cotogna still offers refined food in a cozy relaxed atmosphere. The pasta here is not to be missed, as well as anything from the large spit-fire grill at the back of the dining room. It's a perfect way to start off a trip in San Francisco.
2. Exploring Jackson Square, North Beach, & Chinatown | 1:30 p.m.
After lunch, walk down to Jackson Street where there are a few San Francisco-esque combination of retail stores including A.P.C., Fjallraven, and Allbirds. Then head a few blocks over to North Beach, which is the Italian neighborhood of San Francisco and is lined with restaurants and coffee shops.
Also nearby is Chinatown, which is one of the largest in the U.S. There are a lot of shops selling trinkets and small souvenirs. However, much more exciting is the abundance Asian food options here. Golden Gate Bakery (Yelp) is famous for having the best Hong Kong style egg tarts in the city. With its flaky crust and luscious filling, they are especially tasty when freshly baked out of the oven. For something more sweet, head to Matcha Cafe Maiko (Yelp) and enjoy their soft-serve matcha or hojicha sundaes.
3. Museums and Tea Gardens in Golden Gate Park | 2:30 p.m.
Public transportation is very limited and slow in San Francisco, especially in the northern part of the city. Take an Uber or Lyft, or rent a car as parking is generally more accessible than places like New York City. Head over to the west side of the city to Golden Gate Park, which is the largest green space in the city. Visit the Academy of Sciences, which focuses on natural history and includes an aquarium and planetarium. If you prefer more traditional art, the deYoung Museum is right across the plaza. There is an outlook at the top of the brown structure that is free to enter to get a clear unobstructed look of the city.
After the museums, head over to the Japanese Tea Garden which is right next door. You are instantly transported to a place of peace and serenity to quietly observe nature. There is also a small tea house in the garden that serves green tea and some small snacks, and can be a great break in the day from all the commotions of the city.
4. Mission Style Mexican Food at La Tacqueria | 7 p.m.
2889 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110
Drive over to the Mission district, which is now one of the most popular areas of the town with bars and restaurants lining the streets. While the neighborhood has changed quite a bit in the past decade, it still retains some of its tradition and is still the home to many great Mexican restaurants and the origins of the Mission style burrito that has made Chipotle famous.
There are tons of taco and burrito shops, but ask most San Franciscans and they will tell you that the best one is La Tacqueria. While definitely on the pricier side, with one fully loaded taco costing over $7, it hasn't stopped the lines from going out the door with locals and tourists. The meat is cooked in front of you and the ingredients are super fresh. Get the carne asada or the lengua if you're more adventurous. It's a no-frills place where you may have to share a table and won't want to stay long, but it's well worth going there for the amazing food.
5. SF Nightlife in the Mission | 8 p.m.
Stay in the Mission to check out the San Francisco nightlife and to go to the many bars that are around. ABV (Yelp) is a favorite of many, with great music and cocktails that are creative and taste incredible. The Beehive (Yelp) is another popular lounge that takes you back with the retro vibes and mirrors in the back room. The Mission neighborhood offers a lot of bars and late-night grub so definitely walk around and check out all the spots.
6. Brunch and Bread at Tartine Manufactory | 11 a.m.
595 Alabama St, San Francisco, CA 94110
Start the 2nd day right with brunch at the premier bakery in the Bay Area. The original spot was a small shop on a corner in the Mission, but they've now expanded throughout the city. Tartine Manufactory in the Dogpatch is their largest store and offers the most comfortable seating in a large and airy restored warehouse. The restaurant is famous for its bakery items, especially its morning bun, as well as its assortment of fresh baked bread. Here, they offer a number of sandwiches, tartines, and burgers on their signature country loaf.
6. Shopping at Union Square | 1 p.m.
Take the car and head over to Union Square, which is the heart of the shopping district of San Francisco. Flagship stores of all the major international brands line the streets around the central plaza from the most high-end luxury brands to the everyday retail stores. All the large department stores, such as Macy's, Saks, and Nordstrom are in the area, as well as the Westfield Shopping Center and San Francisco Shopping Center.
7. Afternoon Tea with a View at The Rotunda | 4 p.m.
150 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 94108
Take a break from shopping to stop by the Neiman Marcus at the corners of Union Square and go up to the top level. Here, you'll find the restaurant Rotunda, which offers an expansive view overlooking all of Union Square, all while under an intricately designed glass dome. The decor is very refined and elegant, but also comfortable with plush banquettes. Order the afternoon tea with champagne and a selection of finger sandwiches and scones as you relax and people-watch from above.
8. Michelin Starred Copycat Dinner | 7 p.m.
151 3rd St, San Francisco, CA 94103
Walk a few blocks over to the Museum of Modern Art, where you will find its signature restaurant, In Situ. Opened by Corey Lee, the chef of 3 Michelin starred Benu, In Situ itself has also garnered 1 star. However, the restaurant is not stuffy at all, and actually has one of the most creative concepts that is befitting of its place in the MoMa. The menu is comprised of Corey Lee's interpretation of famous dishes from the most famous restaurants around the world. This includes dishes from places like Noma in Denmark and Tickets in Barcelona, and is a great way to either revisit the restaurants or to try them for the 1st time without the 10 hour flight. The dishes usually add a creative spin or reinterpretation of it to make it truly unique to In Situ.
9. Food Galore at Ferry Building | 10 a.m.
1 Ferry Bldg, San Francisco, CA 94111
Wake up and go over to the Ferry Building along the Embarcadero, which is one of the best places for foodies in the city. On the weekends, the building hosts a large farmers market both in front and behind the building with over 50 stalls dedicated to selling fresh produce and prepared foods. Inside the building, there are also permanent stalls opened everyday that fulfill all your culinary needs.
There are sit-down places like the Slanted Door specializing in Vietnamese cuisine or Hog Island, which sources local oysters from the North Bay. There are stores like Acme Bread for fresh baked goods, Cowgirl Creamery for cheese, and Dandelion Chocolate which is a local brand. Lastly, there is also a Blue Bottle for coffee and Humphrey Slocombe which offers local ice cream including its signature Secret Breakfast flavor. It's a great place to try a few items from each store to create your own meal.
10. Checking out Fillmore and Japantown | 1 p.m.
Head over to Fillmore Street, which has a number of retail stores with a bit more of a boutique feel to it with shops like Frame, rag & bone, and Joie. It is a good way to spend some time in the afternoon to explore a different side of SF.
Keep walking south along Fillmore St. and you'll eventually reach Japantown, which is a two-building shopping mall as well as a plaza across the street. The mall has tons of restaurants dedicated to Japanese cuisine like sushi, ramen, udon etc., as well as shops selling Japanese books, stationery, and confections. If you're in need of an afternoon pick-me-up, stop by Mochill (Yelp) inside the mall, which serves mochi donuts which are chewy and delicious. There is also a branch of Uji Time (Yelp), which serves taiyaki (fish-shaped pastry filled with red bean) topped with matcha or sesame soft serve ice cream.
11. Local Californian Cuisine at The Progress | 7 p.m.
1525 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94115
Continuing walking south across the overhang bridge to the other side of Fillmore street and head to The Progress for dinner. Next door to, and opened by the same team behind Statebird Provisions, the menu is similar in having elevated local Californian cuisine but served in a relaxed and down-to-earth atmosphere. Get the signature half barbecue duck, as you order a number of dishes to share with your table family style. It is a signature San Francisco dining experience.
12. Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge for a Sushi Lunch | 12 p.m.
107 Caledonia St, Sausalito, CA 94965
Drive across the Golden Gate Bridge to head over to Marin County and the small town of Sausalito. There are a number of small local restaurants in the town, but one of the standouts is Sushi Ran. While the store was established over 30 years ago, it doesn't show its age at all in terms of its cooking and techniques. Serving fish delivered from Japan, the sushi and sashimi are amazingly fresh and is served in a clean zen-like decor. Lunch is quite a bit cheaper here with its lunch sets, but still top-notch food.
13. Coastal Town of Sausalito | 2 p.m.
Spend the afternoon in Sausalito, which is a waterfront town overlooking the San Francisco Bay. There are a number of small shops and art galleries that line the main street of the town. Grab an ice cream from Lapperts or just walk around the shore enjoying the view and the refreshing breeze.
14. Sunset at the Golden Gate Bridge | 5 p.m.
On the way back, take the last exit before the Golden Gate Bridge to drive up to the Golden Gate Overlook. Parking is a bit of a pain, especially on the weekends, but there are pockets of them along the drive up. When you reach the lookout, it offers gorgeous views of the San Francisco skyline and the Golden Gate Bridge. The best time to come is during sunsets to get the magnificent colored-sky view.
15. Italian Dinner at Flour + Water | 6 p.m.
2401 Harrison St, San Francisco, CA 94110
Drive back to the edge of Mission and Potrero Hill to get dinner at one of the most popular restaurants in town. Mixing Italian cuisine with Northern California ingredients and influences, this is a great place to go for a relaxed vibe with excellent food. The pastas are arguably the best in the city and are not to be missed. Just be sure to get a reservation way in advance.
16. Innovative Desserts at U: Dessert Story | 8 p.m.
3489 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94114
Before calling it a night, go over to the Castro to a small dessert shop that specializes in Asian fusion desserts. With items like mango sticky rice bingsoo, thai tea lava toast, and coconut pandan crepe cake, the shop puts a spin on traditional Asian desserts and impresses with both the visuals and the taste. Hang out in the neighborhood, which is one of the largest LGBT communities in the U.S., and has many bars open late into the night.
17. Zen Ambience at Stonemill Matcha | 11 a.m.
561 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110
Start the last day in SF with a trip to the Mission District and go to Stonemill Matcha for a light brunch. The restaurant serves Japanese food that steers away from the classics like ramen and sushi. Instead, it serves items that you may more commonly find in Japan but less so in the U.S., such as pork katsu sandwiches, salmon onigiri, and milk toast with red bean. Like its name, it also serves a number of matcha drinks such as teas, lattes, and sodas. The decor is clean and modern with a light wood grain pattern.
15. Exploring Mission District | 1 p.m.
Walk around Mission District and see how different it is during the day versus the night when we were here on Day 1. There are a number of bookstores and vintage clothing stores, and Dolores Park is also nearby and is a popular hangout spot. For those looking for more eats, check out Bi-Rite Creamery (Yelp), which was probably one of the first shops which started the artisanal ice cream craze in SF. Also stop by Craftsman and Wolves (Yelp) which serves modern and creative cakes and bakery items. The cakes look incredible and taste just as great as they look.
16. Getting Boba in Hayes Valley | 4 p.m.
The next stop is Hayes Valley, which is another small neighborhood within SF that has a similar vibe to Fillmore. With a few boutique shops along with restaurants and bars, it's a fun place to hang out for the day. For more food, make a stop at Urban Ritual (Yelp) for some unique takes on boba or bubble tea. Aside from the traditional black tea, they have combinations here including matcha, creme brulee, and strawberry. For those looking for something more traditional, there is also a Boba Guys (Yelp), which had originally started in the Bay Area, a couple blocks away.
17. Petit Crenn | 7 p.m.
609 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA 94102
For dinner, and the last stop of our 5 day trip, go to Petit Crenn, which is the more approachable sister restaurant to the 3-Michelin starred Atelier Crenn. It is a small and cozy place which serves a tasting menu that changes according to what is seasonal. The food is innovative, incredibly delicious, and also beautifully prepared. It is a great way to get a taste of Dominique Crenn's cooking, who is the only 3 starred female chef in the US. The food is inspired by the food she had growing up in Brittany, France. The meal is a great way to end the night and the tour of San Francisco.