We like our restaurants the same way we like our shows: a dazzling experience from the first step into the building until savoring the final act. Luckily, the restaurants in San Francisco are just as unique and breathtaking as our shows.
Known as one of the best places to find good eats in the nation, the food scene here is a gastronomic experience unlike any other. If you're looking for things to do in San Francisco, these unique restaurants will take your taste buds on a culinary journey that's out of this world.
Financial District and Downtown
No trip to San Francisco is complete without exploring the vibrant Hayes Valley and its surrounding areas such as the Financial District and Downtown.
With rustic cable cars along steep hills and museums and attractions galore, taking the time to explore the city is often worth braving the constant hustle and bustle. We've also got some of the best restaurants in San Francisco here that stand out among the crowd.
1. Bodega SF | Northern Vietnamese Cuisine
Vietnamese restaurant Bodega SF serves a modernized take on authentic Southeast Asian cuisine. The restaurant began as a humble series of pop-ups. It then transformed into weekly lunch kits before finally becoming the restaurant it is today.
The lunch menu is more traditional, featuring dishes such as pho ga and banh cuon. As the sun sets and dinnertime rolls around, the menu dresses up for this special occasion. A curated selection of dishes features ingredients such as crab, pork belly, oyster mushrooms, and Monterey squid.
The historic Nob Hill neighborhood in San Francisco sits nestled between Chinatown, the Financial District, Russian Hill, and Fisherman's Wharf. If you get hungry while exploring some of the local parks in San Francisco, check out these amazing restaurants for a dining experience you won't soon forget.
2. Swan Oyster Depot
Swan Oyster Depot is a cultural landmark in its own right after enduring over a century of business in a single location. It offers phenomenal fresh seafood to all who set foot inside its doors.
People sometimes wait up to 2 hours in line to snag a coveted seat, but typically, waits don't exceed an hour. However, it's worth the time in line to delight in dishes such as Sicilian sashimi and fresh oysters with mignonette sauce.
It's even earned accolades from world-renowned Anthony Bourdain, helping elevate it to a must-see location. The menu may be small at this location, but what it lacks in variety, it makes up for with sheer flavor.
The entire experience at Acquerello, from an elegant dining room to equally impressive Italian cuisine, is truly exceptional. This two-star Michelin restaurant is known for its handmade pasta and house-made chocolates.
The seasonal menu changes frequently. Expect familiar Italian flavors elevated to new heights with innovative twists. You can make reservations, which are highly recommended, up to 3 months in advance.
Be sure to dress to impress when visiting, as formal attire is requested, and leave your phone in your purse or pocket to enjoy the full ambiance.
Chinatown is home to ornate pagoda-style architecture and a phenomenal place to explore in San Francisco. It's also home to one of our favorite restaurants in the city.
4. Eight Tables by George Chen
Take a culinary journey to China's historic dining style known as "Si Fang Cai" (private chateau cuisine) at Eight Tables by George Chen. Just arriving at the restaurant's doors is an experience in itself.
You'll have to traverse through a wrought-iron gate into an alley before you find the two Fee-Dog guards next to the entryway, beckoning you forward into an elegant dining room.
It's meant to evoke feelings of visiting the chef in their home, with walls adorned with Chen's family portraits throughout the atrium foyer.
As the name implies, the restaurant has just eight tables, so making reservations is a must. Meals are served in omakase format with hyper-seasonal menus that change frequently.
Mission District is a sight to behold. Murals created by local artists transform bland building sides into canvases with fantastical works of art. Amid the shopping, tree-lined streets, and historical attractions are numerous restaurants, many of which are well-versed in Mexican cuisine.
If Mexican Cuisine gets your taste buds ready to party, Californios is a must-visit. It's the first and only two-star Michelin Mexican restaurant in the United States. Here, innovative flavors pair with exquisite presentation.
Within the dining room, you'll be welcomed by dramatic, high walls painted black, tasteful lighting, and staff ready to cultivate a five-star experience. Menus change frequently due to seasonal availability, and drinks are available to complement each dish. Reservations are required at this location.
If the thought of San Francisco evokes images of cable cars and seafood, you're imagining Fisherman's Wharf. This district has some of the most famous tourist attractions in the city, including the Aquarium of the Bay and boat tours to Alcatraz. During your time in this district, stop by one of our favorite restaurants.
6. Palette Tea House
Savor authentic, modern Cantonese cuisine at Palette Tea House. Dishes at this restaurant are as much a feast for the eyes as they are for your taste buds. Each plate's presentation rivals the stunning interior design.
Located right on Fisherman's Wharf and minutes from the sea, it's only natural that the restaurant specializes in seafood. Other options are also available, such as char siu, Peking duck, and wok-fried wagyu steak, as well as numerous rice and noodle options. The menu brings a touch of luxury to traditional dishes, offering delicious food and a captivating ambiance.
What sets this restaurant apart from the rest isn't the exquisite dining — although it's a huge plus. The tea is bagged in-house, and the condiments are crafted in the restaurant. Reservations are recommended, but even if seating isn't available, you can still order for takeout or delivery.
This waterfront neighborhood is home to some impressive sights, such as the Sutro Baths and two of the oldest theaters in the city. It's also a prime destination for meals, including a Michelin-starred restaurant we adore.
Step away from traditional restaurants and visit Moroccan restaurant Aziza to experience cuisine delivered by acclaimed Michelin-starred chef Mourad Lahlou. Here, you'll experience the traditional spices and flavors of Morocco, playfully combined with California staples for brunch and dinner.
Braised lamb, chicken roulade, and grilled Monterey squid line the menu, whispering promises of an unforgettable culinary experience. Reservations are required, except for the bar. The high-top table is available for larger groups. (You can also choose to sit here and share the table with other guests.)
The Embarcadero faces the waterfront and was the heart of major growth in San Francisco during the California Gold Rush. It features a truly phenomenal view of the Bay Bridge and the city's sparkling skyline in the evenings, as well as numerous eateries.
Upon entering, this seafood hot spot Waterbar will blow your mind with its prime location on the waterfront, revealing panoramic views of the San Francisco Bay and Bay Bridge. Then, you'll notice the aquariums amid the decor to elevate the dining experience.
The menu is positively swimming with seafood, ready to catch your eye and satisfy your palate. Indulge in new takes on old favorites, such as swordfish schnitzel and coffee-crusted ora king salmon, or savor familiar dishes, such as shellfish fettuccini.
What we really love about this restaurant is that it's child-friendly. You'll even find a kids' menu tailored to the often particular taste buds of youngsters. Don't forget to make a reservation in advance for lunch and dinner, and dress for the weather if you opt for alfresco dining.
Various Locations in San Francisco
Countless districts make up San Francisco, and all across the city, you can find restaurants with innovative menus. Here are some of our favorites you won't want to miss.
9. The Progress (Fillmore Street)
The Progress is a second restaurant by those responsible for the State Bird Provisions restaurant next door and expands upon the menu with fresh, local ingredients. Stepping into the restaurant reveals a contemporary-rustic ambiance with a full bar for walk-ins.
Tantalizing options include guinea hen, pork schnitzel, and seaweed noodles served with oyster mushrooms and a twist on dashi made with tomato and kale. Reservations can be made up to 30 days in advance and are strongly recommended.
Polk Street's Mezcalito is one of those places where you go for the drinks and stay for the food. The menus may look strange at first glance, combining typical Mexican fare with other bar food offerings, but it adds to the charm and puts it on the list of fun restaurants to visit.
Tacos and ceviche join burgers and salads on the menu, but people usually come here for the mezcal. No reservations are required or accepted, so be prepared for a wait on the weekends.
11. Dumpling Time
If you want a taste of dim sum without the fanfare, Dumpling Time, part of the Omakase Restaurant Group, has you covered. Classic options, such as pork soup dumplings, sprinkle the menu amid more interesting takes on dishes such as seafood gyoza or shrimp toast using Chinese donuts instead of bread.
It's a no-frills restaurant, which can be a breath of fresh air when many others on the list require reservations, often weeks or months in advance. The extensive menu offers numerous appetizers, vegetarian options, and a collection of sweet buns for dessert.
If you want something quick and easy and you happen to be nearby, you'll definitely want to pay this restaurant a visit.
Dare to Be Dazzled!
Adventure awaits in San Francisco with high-energy Cirque du Soleil shows. Dive into a world of acrobatics and wonder.
12. Foreign Cinema
With good eats and a lively vibe, Foreign Cinema in the Mission District offers top-notch food without the same air of formality as many other locations on this list, although reservations are required.
The unsuspecting outdoor dining area, nestled between cement bricks, offers a unique dining experience in the Bay Area. It's heated, and strings of lights and candles at the table add to the ambiance.
Old movies are often projected onto a blank wall at the end of the dining area, lending credence to its name and completing the experience. Wines and spirits abound, with cocktails named to reference old movies and an extensive wine list.
Where the restaurant really excels, though, is its food. Upscale appetizers, such as smoked salmon served with deviled egg mousse, caviar, and dill sauce, or lavender-scented baked goat cheese, are just the start.
Enjoy the show and indulge in dishes featuring stunning entrees, such as grilled Wagyu steak, five-spice duck breast, or Thai-style coconut curry.
13. Urban Putt
Urban Putt takes dinner to the next level by integrating it into a mini golf course and bar. Reservations are necessary for dinner, while the golfing section is first come, first served.
If you have a reservation, arrive around an hour early and marvel at the artistry that went into crafting miniature models of iconic San Francisco scenery.
In the dining room upstairs, you can expect modern, luxurious twists to traditional bar foods, such as crispy calamari with chipotle aioli or pizza with fennel pork sausage, linguica, peperonata, and mushrooms.
14. The Tonga Room (Fairmont Hotel)
Setting foot in the Fairmont Hotel's Tonga Room feels like stepping onto a Hollywood set, making it one of the most unique restaurants in San Francisco.
An indoor swimming pool serves as a centralized lagoon, which sometimes hosts a band playing atop a boat. Controlled indoor storms add to the ambiance with rain and lightning.
Keep in mind that this restaurant is 21-plus after 10 p.m. and doesn't take reservations for parties under 10, meaning there's a chance you'll have a lengthy wait. Nightly, there's live entertainment at 7 p.m., and a surcharge is applied for every guest seated during the show.
Tasty Asian fusion cuisine adds to the experience, with options such as ahi tuna poke tostadas and coconut curry seafood paired with a small selection of wines and beers. Gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan items are available.
At performance-centric AsiaSF, you get a meal and a show, all in one unique dining experience in San Francisco. Dazzling performers keep everyone entertained while three-course dinners are served to small parties, featuring delectable Asian fusion dishes, such as orange lamb, filet mignon with Korean dipping sauce, and miso-glazed salmon.
Large parties, with six or more people, have family-style dishes served. The whole experience lasts about 1 hour and 45 minutes while the performers sing, dance, and act.
16. Burma Superstar
If you've never had Burmese food before, here's your chance. While Burma Superstar isn't the first of its kind in the city, it's the one that puts Burmese cuisine in the public eye and has been a beloved dining spot for over three decades.
It has two locations, plus a handful of spin-off restaurants throughout the region, and it's still constantly packed with diners preparing to dig into homestyle dishes from a menu of over 50 items.
Reservations aren't accepted here, so you may have to wait for a seat. If you're in a time pinch, you can also order your meals for takeout or visit one of the Burma Love locations, the little sister of Burma Superstar.
Osito, a go-to for fine dining, stands out for placing all its diners for a nine-course meal at one table, seating just 22 guests. One lucky half of the table will be treated to a view of the kitchen, where all the cooking is done over live flames using wood-fired ovens and hearths.
The menu changes regularly to embrace a new theme and integrate ingredients you've likely never encountered before. You may find yourself face-to-face with ranch mixed with caviar and ants or pieces of antelope with cantaloupe.
Despite the fires within the kitchen, the air is fresh and the space comes together with live plants, adding a bit of greenery to the surroundings. Reservations are required due to limited seating.
Dining for Every Occasion in San Francisco
Whether you prefer fine dining or something more casual, you can find it in San Francisco.
We love how these restaurants transform food into art, layering flavors, and styles to elevate the dishes to whole new levels. Like these restaurants, we aim to elevate our performances.
That's why we take pride in each of our performers and their dedication to creating a show everyone can appreciate. Catch one of our shows in San Francisco, filled with daring acrobatics, soul-touching acting, and works of art in motion as we tell stories meant to stay in your head rent-free for a lifetime, just like the meals you can enjoy in the city.