My 22 Favorite Restaurants in San Francisco

 
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I’ve been (officially!) back in New York for about a month now, settling in at my magical new job, putting the final touches on my new home, loving life like never before, etc.

So I figured it was about time for some reflections on San Francisco. Whaddya say?

(If you’re new around here: I spent a whirlwind five months living in SF this fall, finishing up two equally whirlwind-ish years of sort-of self-employment. As with all stories involving cross-country moves, there is a bit more to this one. But those are the basics as they pertain to blog-related THINGS.)

So, here’s the scoop: I loved SF. I loved the change of pace (Pacific Time!), the change of weather (goodbye forever, sun!), the style (year-round light jacket weather!), the hills to climb and restaurants to try and beach sunsets to gawk at.

Yes, there were some not-so-awesome things, as there are anywhere. For starters…holy TRASH, you guys. It’s everywhere. *shudders.* Also, one can really only feel lovely and romantic toward a blanket of un-liftable fog for so long (~2.5 days). And let’s be honest: When you begin to miss the NYC subway system—I mean, when you really yearn for it… that’s generally a sign that something is terribly wrong.

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Looking back now, though, my time in SF really was exactly what I’d signed up for: simply somewhere else. For an East Coast girl who’d legitimately never left this side of the country for more than, like, a week-and-a-half, I couldn’t have asked for a more magical, bewildering, beautiful, slapdash introduction to “life elsewhere.” And that would’ve been worth all the trash and fog and never-ending Uber rides in the world.

Besides, to be fair, whenever I’d emerge from one of those never-ending rides, I’d find myself in yet another little slice of paradise. I’d roll down the window at Stinson Beach and witness one of the most glorious pink sunsets I’ve ever seen. Or I’d pull up to the Outer Sunset just in time to marvel at the zillions of tiny bonfires dotting the horizon. In my not-my-car, I went hiking, I ate Burmese food, I visited a pumpkin festival, I meditated, I yoga-ed, I swam, I sang, and…well, you get the picture. I pretended to be a California person and did many California things.

Which is the main reason I’m sharing my favorite spots below (besides the fact that they may one day actually prove useful to you, whoever you are). Just the mention of any one of these places really does bring me back to those few peculiar, spectacular months. They’re like time capsules of that mini-era of my life, and I don’t want to forget about the evenings and mornings and afternoons I spent at each one of them.

So! Without further ado:

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Zazie

Hands down, my favorite restaurant in SF and the most adorable, ultra-romantic date spot. It’s got a heated (!) and covered outdoor patio, a dessert called “Baked Hot Chocolate” that lives up to its name, and the kindest, sweetest staff. Feels like a little piece of Paris in SF. I’m such a fan.

Pearl 6101

I only went here for brunch, but I just loved it for its stunning natural light, fresh California fare (it’s even on California Street!), and the cocktails, which featured the most beautiful garnishes EVER.

Burma Love

My bestie Leah and I would come here once a month for dinner and it was heaven. We lived for the platha and dip (in fact, we would often regret having ordered anything but platha and dip), the crispy chicken, and the spicy noodles, but the tea leaf salad is the go-to, traditional dish here.

Marines' Memorial Club

Jordan (my boyfriend) is a Marine, and this place is really meaningful to him and to us. The bar on the top floor has a gorgeous view, and there are also some really touching memorials within the hotel. I highly recommend you make it a part of your visit if you can!

20th Century Cafe

If you need a change of scenery / era, head to 20th Century Cafe for a slice of Russian honey cake and a cup of red tea. It’s the loveliest corner bakery there ever was and also quite possibly the most Instagrammable place in the universe. Don’t forget your favorite notebook—in my opinion, this is one of the best cafés in SF to get some writing done.

Jane on Fillmore

Not to be confused with Jane the Bakery, Jane on Fillmore has…pretty much everything Jane the Bakery has. It’s just in a different spot. My favorite menu items: the Oreo cookie (to DIE for), the Asian Chicken salad (everything you’ve ever wanted a salad to be), and the iced chai latte (as a non-coffee drinker, a chai is my go-to daily order; theirs is perfection).

The Riddler

Super cute champagne bar with a serve-yourself popcorn machine and tater tot waffles. The best spot for drinks with girlfriends (if you can get a seat—it’s small!).

The Japanese Tea Garden

Recipe for a magical Sunday afternoon in SF: Take a very long stroll through Golden Gate Park, end up at the Japanese garden (one of the oldest in the U.S.), and finish the day with some tea and mochi.

Clement Street Farmer’s Market & Ferry Building Farmer’s Market

My ideal SF day involves wandering through one of these two farmer’s markets, picking out the most delicious things, and then heading to Ocean Beach for a picnic. (Slightly more practical if you’re coming from Clement Street, but either way, you're probably going to have to take a car). Best saved for October, when the weather’s nicest.

A few other favorites, in no particular order…

  • Wayfare Tavern

  • Don Pistos

  • Tartine

  • Mercury Café (for a tuna sandwich!)

  • La Mar Cebicheria Peruana

  • Trestle

  • Chubby Noodle

  • Causwells

  • Starbelly

  • Smitten (ice cream!!!!!)

  • Sorrel

  • Papito Hayes

  • Nopa