Where to Eat in San Francisco

San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge.
Bowman's burger stop: the bar at Spruce.
An olive-oil-poached albacore salad from Noba.

Eat Like a Local

Notable residents share their favorite San Francisco spots.


By Anna Roth
Photography by Erin Kunkel (Spruce, Noba, and Bar Tartine)

Roth’s Picks | SF Weekly food editor and restaurant critic, author of West Coast Road Eats: The Best Road Food from San Diego to the Canadian Border:
  • Rich Table: It’s only a little more than a year old, but this cozy Hayes Valley restaurant already feels like it’s been part of the city for years. I love the decadent pasta (the lasagnas especially), the porcini-powder-dusted doughnuts, and Sarah Rich’s wild fennel levain bread spread with butter. 199 Gough Street; 415/355-9085
  • Bar Tartine: With its wood-paneled walls and rustic-chic food, this stylish restaurant feels a little like an Instagram filter—in a good way. No matter how out there a dish on its Hungarian-Japanese-NorCal menu seems, I trust the chefs will serve something surprising and delicious. I’ve never had a bad meal here. 561 Valencia Street; 415/487-1600
  • Nopa: Its two-story dining room is buzzing from 5PM until past midnight, but you can usually snag a stool at the bar. I meet friends here for an expertly mixed cocktail and a burger, but brunch is my favorite: It’s hard to resist the city’s best French toast—a custardy masterpiece—and a spicy bloody Mary made with mezcal and topped with pickled beets. 560 Divisadero Street; 415/864-8643
Gayle Pire’s Picks | Chef and owner, Foreign Cinema in the Mission District:
  • Hog Island Oyster Bar: Pirie’s must-haves at this Ferry Building outpost of the popular Tomales Bay oyster farm are “great wines by the glass; bracingly cold, expertly shucked oysters on the half shell; as well as my favorite oysters Rockefeller.” She’s also a fan of its steamed clams and grilled sandwiches. One Ferry Building; 415/391-7117
  • Coi: Pirie is a devotee of chef Daniel Patterson’s Financial District restaurant. “Daniel Patterson is a genius,” she says. “When I eat at Coi, it’s like a sabbatical. The food is thoughtful, playful, delicious. The service is attentive, caring. The peace in the room speaks volumes on relaxation.” 373 Broadway; 415/393-9000
  • Cotogna: Pirie hits this North Beach Italian gem, known for wood-fired dishes, on her nights off. “It’s casual, finely detailed dining at its finest,” she says. “[They serve] pristine pies, tender mozzarella, fabulous salads, fritti—all sublime.” 490 Pacific Avenue; 415/775-8508
Donald Bowman’s Picks | General manager, Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco:
  • Spruce: At Bowman’s neighborhood restaurant, he enjoys impeccable service and high-quality California farm-to-table cuisine. “They have the city’s second-best burger—but its number-one martinis,” he says. (For the best burger in the city, Bowman of course recommends his hotel’s Brasserie S&P.) 3640 Sacramento Street; 415/931-5100
  • Seven Hills: This Russian Hill Italian spot helmed by a former French Laundry chef is one of Bowman’s favorite small local restaurants. “It’s cozy, family-owned, and they serve the freshest pasta dishes,” he explains. 1550 Hyde Street; 415/775-1550
  • OZUMO: A Japanese restaurant on the Embarcadero a few blocks from the Mandarin Oriental, this is “one of the most innovative restaurants in San Francisco, serving the best sashimi and sushi,” says Bowman, who also enjoys its bay views. 161 Steuart Street; 415/882-1333
Stephen Sutro's Picks | Principal of boutique firm Sutro Architects:
  • Swan Oyster Depot: This no-nonsense Nob Hill fish house is one of the city’s oldest restaurants for a reason. “A bowl of clam chowder, a crab salad with Louie [dressing] on the side, and a skinny glass of Anchor Steam beer is the perfect lunch,” Sutro says. His family has been going to Swan for generations. “It is truly a San Francisco institution.” 1517 Polk Street; 415/673-2757
  • Zuni CafĂ©: “It’s a San Francisco staple, but it doesn’t get stale,” Sutro says of Judy Rodgers’ restaurant, which, along with Chez Panisse, was one of the first champions of California cuisine. “The environment is crisp, clean, and comfortable. You go there for oysters, the brick-oven roasted chicken for two, and good drinks.” 1658 Market Street; 415/552-2522
  • Waiheke Island Yacht Club: Sutro’s firm designed this pop-up dining room for New Zealand restaurateur Tony Stewart, just for the America’s Cup (it comes down December 21). “The dishes are really balanced and complementary,” he says. 1256 The Embarcadero, Pier 29; 415/956-1048
Originally appeared in Virtuoso Life magazine, November 2013.

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Le menu at Bar Tartine.