12 Must Visit Restaurant in San Francisco By Kaitlin Orr + bonus suggestions from a local..
1. The Mill – OMG this toast is TRULY LIFE CHANGING!!! I don’t know what Josey puts in his bread (magic, probably) but this is the best damn toast I’ve ever had in my life. I tried three of their bestsellers (Cinnamon Sugar, Avocado Lemon, Almond Butter + Honey) and am proud (embarrassed?) to say that I finished all three by myself. That good. Added bonus: the fantastic latte by Four Barrel Coffee was just what I needed after a 6am flight.
2. Souvla – Everyone kept telling me I had to try this trendy, “fine-casual” Greek spot in San Francisco, and, after one bite, I understood why. All their meat is rotisserie-roasted in-house, which means it’s super tender and has really awesome flavor. I was blown away by how much I enjoyed the Chicken Salad (when do I ever rave about salads?), I loved the Lamb Gyro served Greek style (stuffed with French fries!), but my favorite thing had to be their frozen Greek yogurt soft serve. This inventive (and fairly healthy!) dessert is creamy and delicious and it comes with your choice of toppings: honey, baklava, sour cherry, or olive oil and sea salt.
3. Flour + Water – Whoa. This restaurant in San Francisco is rad. Some of THE best hand-rolled pasta I’ve ever had, served in a really chill, fun setting in the Mission district. I got to taste a few of their apps (the prettiest green beans ever, as well as a delicious halibut crudo served with stone fruit), their delicious Pomodoro pizza with fresh heirloom tomatoes, and two of their summer pastas (Raviolini stuffed with corn and smoked ricotta and Agnolotti stuffed with goat and finished with baby leeks and oregano breadcrumbs). Each dish was served with a fantastic wine pairing. The Cheesecake in a Jar dessert ended our evening on the sweetest note.
4. Mission Pie – Slice, slice baby! This adorable shop in the Mission is serving up some of the tastiest slices of pie to ever grace my tastebuds. We tried three different pies (oh my!) – Mixed Berry topped with fresh whipped cream, Peach Blueberry topped with vanilla ice cream, and Banana Cream (my personal favorite). What’s the secret to the best pie in town? Each one of their seasonal pies is made with super fresh, local ingredients, resulting in flavors that can’t be beat. They’re most famous for their pie (it’s in their name, of course!) but don’t miss out on their real food – it’s absolutely delicious too. I especially loved their summer soup special, the Curried Corn Chowder.
5. Petit Crenn – Whether you’re as obsessed with Chef Dominique Crenn as I am, or you just want the best French pastries in town, you need to try Petit Crenn. Don’t be confused, it’s not a pastry shop – those are only served at brunch on Saturday and Sunday. We tried the Kouign Amman (one of the best I’ve had), the fresh Peach Tart, and the Baked Brioche topped with housemade whipped cream and berries. We also loved the Buckwheat Crepe with ricotta and zucchini, and the decadent Paris Brest, which we shared for dessert. The cherry on top of a perfect meal was meeting the queen of the kitchen, Dominique, herself! Next time, I want to try the family-style dinner tasting menu.
6. El Castillito – Asking a San Franciscan which burrito is the best in town is like asking a New Yorker which pizza is the best in the city; a ferocious debate is inevitable. One name that kept popping up was El Castillito, a low-key, no-frills taqueria with several outposts in SF. Many famous chefs like David Chang have argued that this is the best burrito in the Bay, so we had to try it for ourselves. We ordered the “Super Burrito” with al pastor, rice, refried beans, sour cream, avocado, and (the kicker!) melted cheese. I have yet to try every taqueria in the Bay, so I can’t say for sure this is THE best burrito, but it’s definitely one of the best I’ve ever had, and a must-hit in San Fran.
7. Devil’s Teeth Baking Co. – A little out-of-the-way in the Sunset District, this adorable bakery is worth a trip all its own. The two must-gets here are the Special Breakfast Sandwich, served on a house-made biscuit with scrambled eggs, applewood-smoked bacon, cheese, avocado, and lemon-garlic aioli, as well as their Cinnamon Roll – it’s definitely larger than your face and also extremely gooey. We heard good things about their Lemon Tarts, too, but, alas, they were sold out by the time we got there. A good excuse for a return visit…
8. Una Pizza Napoletana – I lived in New York for four years, but this might be the best pizza I’ve ever had. It makes sense – owner Anthony first opened his shop in New Jersey, then moved it to the East Village in NYC, before finally settling down in San Francisco. The Bay Area is oh-so-lucky to be graced with his presence. We devoured three personal pies, each more delicious than the last. We loved the Margherita and the Filetti (with garlic and fresh cherry tomatoes), but the most impressive, perhaps, was the cheese-less Marinara. The dough stands alone at this SF gem.
9. Tartine Bakery – It’s famous for a reason. Don’t let the line scare you away; these pastries are worth the wait. Get there early enough to snag a Morning Bun (they sell out daily!), be sure to try a Lemon Tart, and, if you get there when fresh bread is coming out of the oven (early in the morning or around 4pm in the afternoon), then you’ve truly mastered the Tartine experience.
10. Farmhouse Thai – I’ve been very picky with my Thai food after a recent trip to Bangkok, and this super fun spot in the Mission did not disappoint. We started off our night with a tasty fishbowl cocktail made with rice wine- it was served with disco lights inside the drink. We took our waiter’s recommendation and tried the Neua Nom Tok Rolls (wagyu beef wraps) and Ahi Tuna Scoops as appetizers, and shared the Pad Thai, the Hat Yai Fried Chicken with yellow curry dipping sauce, and the Panang Neua Short Rib dish for our entrees. Everything was served with blue butterfly pea rice – such a vibrant color, and such a tasty flavor. All of the dishes were absolutely incredible. If you’re feeling brave, try a roasted grasshopper (it was actually pretty tasty!) and be sure to save room for Mango Sticky Rice.
11. Salt & Straw – If you follow my Instagram, you’re probably familiar with the purple ice cream cone adorned with rainbow sprinkles… I post a pic of it about once a week. It’s my favorite ice cream in the world: Salt & Straw’s Honey Lavender! This delicious scoop shop, which has locations in Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, serves up extremely inventive flavors made with seasonal, local ingredients. I can’t resist getting a cone anytime I’m near a Salt & Straw!
12. Saison – Okay, so after being dubbed California’s “most expensive” restaurant, this is probably not a place you can hit every time you’re in the city. However, Saison is a culinary experience you need to indulge in at least once in your life. This restaurant is ranked the 37th best restaurant in the world, and it was awarded three Michelin stars, which is pretty much the highest honor you can receive in the food world. So, seize the day! It’s at its peak right now. With 22 courses of culinary bliss from genius Chef Joshua Skenes, this unforgettable journey for your tastebuds is worth the hefty price tag.
Bonus: curated Account Director, Alyssa Rowatt who lived in San Francisco for 10 years and just moved back to Los Angeles gave us some of her local favs.