12 Jun 2018

Top 17 Unique Restaurants in San Francisco

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I noticed this blog post and wanted to point it out … Eight Tables actually has a secret entrance down an alley off Columbus & Vallejo. That one is definitely on my own list of planned adventures.

San Francisco was always known for sourdough bread, clam chowder and of course Ghiradelli chocolate! These days it is one of the hottest food destinations in the world, championing new trends and trialling new concepts. I have decided to take a broad definition of the word restaurant and to include a mix of kitsch and cutting edge – I do love a silly eating experience as much as a fancy one. Here is my guide to the Unique Restaurants in San Francisco you must visit – from the classics to the latest!

  1. The Meatball Bar

The Meatball Bar formalizes meatball consumption – which means table service! It’s all about handmade meatball extravaganzas from lamb to chicken to vegetarian and sauces from truffle fondue to Korean. The first Meatball Bar opened in the Financial District in May 2017 and a new branch opens in Hayes Valley in February 2018.

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  1. The Progress

This was one of my favourite meals last year! This lovely relaxed restaurant is located on Fillimore street and specializes in doing innovative things with local ingredients. The menu changes regularly and is designed to be shared – with lovely wines! The night I went we enjoyed everything from dumplings to filet mignon. This has to be one of the best places to eat in San Francisco.

fun places to eat in san francisco
The food at Progress – so good!
  1. August 1 Five

An Indian restaurant is not particularly unique. However, Indian brunch is new to me! The menu features coconut and date pancakes, French toast with cardamom and cinnamon and chicken and waffles.

ferry building san francisco
MMM Acme Bread – choice of San Francisco’s best restaurants
  1. Mezcalito

A bar and restaurant themed around mezcal with mezcal-focused cocktails plus pork belly benedict with corn hollandaise, gouda burgers, taco Tuesday and a generally Mexican themed menu.

ferry building san francisco
How to choose??
  1. Manufactory Food Hall (San Francisco International Airport, Boarding Area A)

When have you read about a great restaurant recommendation that is at an airport? Exactly! Well, four of San Francisco’s favourite chefs  Pim Techamuanvivit of Kin Khao, Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson of Tartine, and Gabriela Cámara of Cala—have joined forces to change that! On offer will be tacos and breakfast Tortas, great Thai and morning buns and seasonal tarts from Tartine’s. Coming Soon.

san francisco food tours
Such amazing cheeses!
  1. Eight Tables by George Chen 

This new opening in Chinatown is based on Si Fang Cai or private chateau cuisine of the Chinese elite. That means a 10-course tasting menu that starts after you cross a gold-threaded welcome mat into a private elevator and are whisked up to your own private club!

food tour san francisco
Bring on the Cowgirl Creamery!
  1. Dumpling Time

For one of the most fun places to eat in San Francisco head to Dumpling Time. You can watch cooks prefer the dumplings in front of you. Make sure you order the King-Dum – the largest soup dumpling you have seen in some time that comes with a straw. Noodle ingredients included everything from roasted pork belly to peanut butter. There are also noodles on offer if you are a complete freak and don’t like dumplings  (does anyone not like dumplings??). These dumplings are a must eat in San Francisco.

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My kind of wine display!
  1. Foreign Cinema

Foreign Cinema combines amazing locally sourced food with classic films. This restaurant is very much known for its food – particularly its fried chicken. They have an art gallery and a VIP lounge.

ferry building san francisco
This is the ferry building

Who hasn’t wanted a fantastic dining experience pre or post-playing mini golf? And wouldn’t it be better if you could play mini golf to say 11pm or midnight indoor? Well, Urban Putt heard about these desires and combined food and mini golf. They have two restaurants – one for bites and one for some great California eating that goes far beyond the usual putt putt kiosk. And have a drink at the Copper Bar first featuring many exciting craft brews.

downtown san francisco
Love the streets of San Francisco
  1. Farallon Restaurant

This seafood restaurant with an extensive raw bar has been in Union Square for over 20 years. In addition to providing fantastic seafood cooked and raw, it is also known for its Jellyfish Bar. This bar has been themed to make you feel like, well, you are under the sea. Most fabulous are the Jellyfish chandeliers – closely followed by the octopus stools.

fun restaurants in san francisco
Colourful Outdoor Seating
  1. Straw

From under the sea to the carnival! This restaurant is themed carnival style and even has a tilt and whirl booth. Like many of the other “themed” restaurants in this article, this restaurant is also known for its food – particularly its doughnut hamburger and fried chicken waffle. Not for those looking for a lower calorie eating experience!

fun restaurants in san francisco
Check out all these colours at the Progress

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  1. Tonga room

The Tonga room features a 75m swimming pool in the middle of the restaurant. This San Francisco classic is located in the Fairmont Hotel. The menu is heavy on Asian fusion and brings in some exotic references such as Tahiti. Best of all they a “thunderstorm” occurs every 40 minutes!

restaurants downtown san francisco
Another delicious course at Progress
  1. Asia SF

If you are looking for fun places to eat in San Francisco look no further! The Asia SF restaurant is fully staffed by fabulous transgender ladies. Not only do these lovely ladies serve you food and drinks they also perform hourly on the Red Dragon Runway Bar! Dinner shows happen nightly and the food has a good reputation. When it comes to unique restaurants in San Francisco Asia SF fits the bill!

san francisco street art
San Francisco street art
  1. Burma Superstar

I visited Myanmar/Burma a few years ago and fell in love with the food. I became particularly obsessed with their salads. The dressings feature a unique mix of sour and sweet flavours that take a tomato and particularly aubergine salads to a whole new level. However, there are very few good Burmese restaurants around – they tend to be more casual.

I had to include Burma Superstar in this article as I know this is difficult to find cuisine! The menu is classic Burmese and best sampled shared.

fun restaurants in San Francisco
The streets of San Francisco
  1. Forage SF

Forage SF is both a restaurant, Wild Kitchen, and an experience. You can choose to do one of their amazing food-foraging classes and get involved in farm to table first hand – from urban sea foraging to wild food walks. If you are too hungry to forage yourself Wild Kitchen is a roving underground supper club that brings 100 diners together for an 8-course meal.

best places to eat in san francisco
Mmm Summer Rolls!
  1. Eno Wine Bar

This super cute little wine Bar was virtually next door to the Hotel G, my boutique hotel of choice on my last visit to San Francisco. It features an extensive menu of wine flights. I love wine flights! From Mission Impossible (featuring the mission grape) to Faux Bordeaux it is going to be a big night when you hit Eno. They also serve wine, cheese and chocolate from local providers that constantly varies based on what is in season – which just allowed me to classify this as a restaurant as you can have the equivalent of a meal here!

unique restaurants in san francisco
A wine flight
  1. The Ferry Building

I have saved the best to last! I completely fell in love with the Ferry Building on my last visit to San Francisco. It is artisanal food heaven – if that is such a thing! Multiple foods and wine providers are in one place – from stalls to full-on restaurants. There is a fantastic outdoor seating area as well. I went on a San Francisco food tour that covered the Ferry Building and then went back again the next day!

Everywhere here is good – from the amazing Acme bread (favourite of local restaurants) to Blue Bottle Coffee (you’ll know when you have found it from the queue). Frog Hollow Farm has fantastic local produce and does a great brunch. Fantastic Vietnamese is on offer at The Slanted Door – and I love the name of its takeaway area – Out the Door!

unique restaurants in san francisco
Sushi time

The highlight for me was the Cowgirl Creamery. Firstly – great name! Secondly wow cheese heaven!!! Then there is the menu – cheese toasties, grilled cheese of the day, Macaroni & Cheese – really it covers every cheese base! Cowgirl Creamery cheese is a must eat in San Francisco.