San Francisco is considered one of the top restaurant cities in the United States. The pandemic has been particularly brutal to the Bay Area with the high cost of rent compounding with statewide shutdowns and bans on dining outdoors.
Still - most restaurants are currently offering takeout and delivery and are more than worth grabbing a meal from if you have a chance or the resources to do so. Here are my recommendations on local restaurants to support right now in San Francisco.
No. 1 – Taqueria El Farolito – The King of the Super Burrito and Mexican food in San Francisco. Don’t let anyone convince you that the other spots are superior (they aren’t). El Farolito has been in this game for decades and still serves up the best burrito in San Francisco at decent prices. The best one is located on Mission and 24th Street, but there are locations throughout the city and bay area. 2779 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110. (415) 824-7877. Multiple locations. elfarolitosf.com
No. 2 – Balompié Cafe #3 – Salvadoran food can be found around SF just as much as Mexican cuisine, but there are certainly spots that stand out from others in town. Balompié serves an authentic sit-down experience of the cuisine and is a hotspot for hungry customers. Their takeout is just as good and very much worth supporting. The signature dish is the pupusa and if you have never had one, I highly recommend trying one if you have not before. You can get different stuffings inside this cornmeal-like dish, but my favorites are beans, cheese, and mixed. Don’t be afraid to experiment. 3801 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110. (415) 647-4000
No. 3 – Hong Kong Clay Pot Restaurant – The pandemic has been remarkably cruel to San Francisco’s historic Chinatown with business draining out before the virus even started spreading due to xenophobia. There are still such great restaurants that need support though. This restaurant features clay pots soaked in water that are cooked and steamed, but most of their dishes are great and family-style. Currently open for takeout and delivery due to COVID-19. On my last visit I actually had Honey Walnut Prawns with Hot and Sour Soup and left very satisfied. 960 Grant Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94108. (415) 989-2638 hongkongclaypottogo.com
No. 4 – Tacorea– My cousin once worked at a hotel bar around the corner and I popped into Tacorea multiple times for a bulgogi burrito. Korean fusion has never been better in my opinion.The owner expanded right in the middle of the pandemic before restaurants closed down, which has put them in a difficult position, so if you can please support them. Their food is delicious and unique. Multiple locations. tacorea.com
No. 5 – Señor Sisig – What started off as a random food truck bite to eat in SF during one Christmas has become an annual mission for me to find Señor Sisig wherever they may be roaming around the San Francisco Bay Area. Their Sisig Burrito is like no other. I LOVE it. It may not be traditional, but it packs flavor and understands the complexities between Mexican and Filipino cuisine and that is truly satisfying to my palette. They have a brick-and-mortar now in the Mission District which is great. 990 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA, 94110. (855) 747- 4455 Check website for daily locations. senorsisig.com
No. 6. – Kitchen Story – This fusion restaurant is the perfect blend of Korean cuisine with brunch and American food. The mimosas do pack a punch and are totally worth buying. Outdoor seating is available, but will depend on COVID restrictions in the future. Try the Pork Belly Rancheros if you have a chance and you will not regret a thing about life. 3499 16th Street, San Francisco, CA 94114. (415) 525-4905. kitchenstorysf.com
No. 7 – I’a Poke – I wandered into here one day when a sushi restaurant I was heading towards was closed for lunch and I had one of the best sushi burritos of my life. No lie, I’a Poke uses quality ingredients and has great customer service. They have since expanded more in the city and with every bite having a heavenly taste to it, I’m not surprised. 314 Church Street San Francisco, CA, 94114. Multiple locations. iapoke.com
No. 8 – Alioto’s – Most visitors will no doubt wander into San Francisco planning to get a bowl of clam chowder from Fisherman’s Wharf and even when you’re a local watching the sunset here is an experience. An investigation a few years ago found that most restaurants in SF are actually using Campbell’s Clam Chowder soup which is disappointing to say the least, but Alioto’s is one of the ones who serves quality clam chowder and you can buy it in a bread bowl downstairs if you want to have a quick bowl and go explore the waterfront harbor. The restaurant is historic and continues to be available despite the pandemic and I'm sure they could use some more support in these times. 8 Fishermans Wharf, San Francisco, CA 94133. (415) 673-0183. aliotos.com
No. 9 – Mitchell’s Ice Cream – An ice cream staple for over 65 years in San Francisco. Mitchell’s Ice Cream has survived generations of transformation for the Bay Area and one taste of their ice cream makes it easy to see why. My favorite is their Ube ice cream which is inspired from the Philippines, but you really can’t go wrong with anything on their menu. It’s so good that you’ll even find people there on rainy days in SF waiting in line for a scoop. 688 San Jose Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94110. (415) 648-2300. mitchellsicecream.com
No. 10 – Stonemill Matcha – If you love matcha tea and a zen environment, then you will love Stonemill Matcha. One of the newer businesses to open on Valencia Street, they have more matcha dishes and drinks on their menu then you will know what to do with. Their popularity is through the roof so expect a bit of a wait if you’re going on a whim or just order ahead. I think it’s one of the most beautiful spots in town. Don’t miss their desserts. 561 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110. (415) 796-3876 stonemillmatcha.com
Photo Credit: Pixabay, Brett Sayles, Charlotte May