There are plenty of good eats in San Francisco. There is such a diverse set of delicious options too... regardless of the cuisine... regardless if you're after the cheap hole in the wall or the Michelin star... there's something for everyone. With that said... everyone always has their favorites. And year after year, these remain my absolute favorites in San Francisco.
(1) Salt & Pepper Crab @ R&G Lounge
(2) Super Burrito @ Taqueria El Farolito
(3) Oysters @ Hog Island Oyster Co (Ferry Building)
(4) Roast Chicken @ Zuni Cafe
(5) Coconut Cream Pie / Morning Bun / Tres Leche Cake / Anything @ Tartine
Salt & Pepper Crab @ R&G Lounge
You can't visit San Francisco and not eat Chinese food or dungeness crab. So why not put those two together?! R&G Lounge is one of my favorites as well as many others' top choice. R&G Lounge in San Francisco is unanimously agreed upon as one of the top Chinese restaurants in the Bay Area. Even before Anthony Bourdain featured the crab dish in his San Francisco episode of "No Reservations," this was a popular place amongst locals (with lines out the door every day).
The salt and pepper crab here is a MUST. Deep fried with loads of fried garlic... the crab is tasty, juicy... and simply among the best crab dishes of ALL TIME! Don't stop at the crab though... try their R&G special beef (super tender and juicy beef with a slightly sweet glaze), roast squab (roasted to golden brown crispy skin, served with seasoning salt on the side), and steamed clam with beaten egg (silky steamed egg with clams). If you can't get reservations or want a more modern dining spot - head to Harborview. It's run by ex-members of the R&G Lounge crew, located inside Embarcadero 4, and has nice views of the Ferry building, Bay Bridge, and the Bay. The menu is pretty much the same, the dishes just as tasty... and the meal experience might actually be better!
Super Burrito @ Taqueria El Farolito
El Farolito is a classic SF experience... especially if you go with friends after a night of drinking in the Mission (I recommend The Beehive, Trick Dog, and ABV). But even if you just want a burrito for lunch or dinner... there's no better place than El Farolito. Here you can have the most perfect original Mission-style burrito. These burritos are HUGE. They are grilled to perfection with rice, beans, and meat. And you have to get it "super" - i.e., with avocado, sour cream, and cheese. Most people go with the carnitas or al pastor... I always get the shrimp and meat (with carne asada). One burrito is good enough to last you for a day... but if you want to go above and beyond... get the super nachos. You won't regret it! There are several Bay Area locations, but the Mission Street location is the favorite. Bring cash.
[credit: serious eats, mad meat genius]
Oysters at Hog Islands Oyster Co (Ferry Building)
If you don't like oysters, you should probably skip this section.
[credit: hog island]
Hog Island’s are the freshest, sweetest, most famous... basically the best oysters in San Francisco. Hog Island has a farm up in Tomales Bay, about two hours from SF (highly recommend visiting the farm as well if you have time... nothing like spending a day out in the sun, shucking oysters, having a picnic, and drinking wine)! They offer a variety of rare oysters (the Capitol are my favorite, but kumamotos are probably the most popular). If you prefer your oysters cooked - try their grilled oysters. The toppings and seasonings changes from time to time - the last time I went, it was bourbon, butter and bacon. How bad can that be?! I actually take back my earlier warning... even if you don't like oysters, this is worth a visit for the spectacular view - of the Bay Bridge, Treasure Island, and the Bay. There's an outdoor patio for nice days - although you can see the view just as clearly from the inside (given all the floor to ceiling windows). Try the grilled cheese or the clam chowder as well. You won't regret it.
Roast Chicken @ Zuni Cafe
Zuni Cafe has remained one of San Francisco’s most notable dining establishments. Since its birth in 1979, it has grown into the blueprint for a timeless Californian restaurant. Whether you enter the restaurant or walk by it on the street, you can’t help but notice the lengthy and gorgeous copper bar where you can wait for a table or just simply “be.”
[credit: sfgate, zuni]
Regardless of how perfect the rest of Zuni is... there's one, and one thing only, that people think about: The Roast Chicken with Bread Salad. The beautiful, plump chicken is cooked up with crispy skin and tender meat in a wood-fired oven. It’s so simple, so iconic - it's the definition of what the perfect roast chicken should be. I kid you not... I plan my life around this chicken! This chicken is prepared only when ordered and may take some time, but use this as a chance to try the generous piles of shoestring fries and a perfectly dressed Caesar salad (with tableside cracked black pepper), as well as to soak in the atmosphere.
Coconut Cream Pie / Morning Bun / Tres Leche Cake / Anything @ Tartine
I could write about Tartine... or I can just show you picture after picture of delicious pastry. The perfectly flaky croissant. The morning bun made from heaven - with it's swirls and swirls of cinnamon, sugar, and orange zest. The coconut cream pie that can turn any horrible day into the best day of your life. Tartine is arguably one of the best bakeries in the U.S. I must warn you... everyone in SF knows about Tartine and is willing to put up with the lines to get the perfect pastry. They've now opened up a few more shops - Tartine Manufactory and Tartine in the Sunset. However... they really have done nothing for the lines. So be prepared to wait 30-40 mins. And definitely prepare to over-order when it's finally your turn at the counter (happens every time).