Mini guide to eating in San Francisco
The Slanted Door at San Francisco’s Ferry Building offers Vietnamese cuisine as well as afternoon tea. (Lonely Planet/Getty)
You will need to build up an appetite to visit San Francisco: it has more restaurants per capita than any other US city, covering every possible option from taco food trucks to organic, sustainable high-end restaurants.
Daniel Patterson’s wild tasting menu, featuring foraged morels, wildflowers and Pacific seafood, is like licking the Californian coastline. Coi has just one 11-course set menu, which includes dishes such as black and green noodles made from clams and Pacific seaweed (373 Broadway; dinner Tue–Sat; set menu £110 per person).
Chef and owner Melissa Perello earned a Michelin star for fine dining, then ditched downtown to start the market-inspired neighbourhood bistro Frances in The Castro. Daily menus showcase bright, seasonal flavours, such as cloud-like sheep’s milk ricotta gnocchi with crunchy breadcrumbs and broccolini. Wine is served by the ounce, direct from Wine Country (3870 17th St; dinner Tue–Sun; mains from £12).
Drift into beach-shack-style Outerlands for organic comfort food: lunch could mean a £4 grilled artisan cheese sandwich combo with homemade soup or mixed green salad, while dinner can bring slow-cooked pork shoulder slouching into green-garlic risotto. Arrive early – no bookings taken – and sip wine outside until seats open up indoors (4001 Judah St; Tue-Sat, Sun brunch 10am– 3pm; lunch dishes from £4).
Mourad Lahlou’s inspiration is Moroccan, his produce organic Californian and his flavours worthy of their Michelin star. Aziza serves up Sonoma duck confit that melts into caramelised onion in flaky pastry, and sour cherries rousing slow-cooked local lamb shank from its barley bed (5800 Geary Blvd; dinner Wed–Mon; mains from £13).
SF has refined fusion cuisine over 150 years but no-one rocks it quite like double-Michelin-starred chef Corey Lee, who remixes local fine-dining staples and Pacific Rim flavours with finesse. Benu’s £120 tasting menu includes flashes of inspiration such as a faux-shark’s fin soup – Dungeness crab, Jinhua ham and black truffle custard – while the à la carte menu is only available Tuesday to Thursday (22 Hawthorne St; dinner Tue–Sat; mains from £17).
Korean-inspired soul food is the basis of Namu Gaji in The Mission, which offers menus guided by the weekly harvest from its own farm. For lunch there are American and Asian street-cart- style dishes such as kimchee fried rice with hot dog, and barbecued beef sandwiches; while dinner brings shiitake mushroom dumplings, and vegetables, steak and egg served in a sizzling stone pot (499 Dolores St; lunch Wed–Sun, dinner Tue–Sun; lunch dishes from £4).
Swan Oyster Depot, a century-old fish store located in Nob’s Hill, has a counter for just 18 stools. There’s always a long queue but if you order to go, you can jump to the front, browse nearby shops, then pick up a superior picnic of crab salad and oysters (00 1 415 673 2757; 1517 Polk St; 8am–5.30pm Mon–Sat; dishes from £6.50; cash only, no reservations).
Some 30 food trucks gather at Off the Grid, SF’s largest mobile-gourmet hootenanny in the Marina (other locations attract fewer trucks – see the website). Dig into Chairman Bao’s clamshell buns stuffed with duck and mango, roast duck taco from Kung Fu Tacos or dessert from the Crème Brûlée Cart (Fort Mason parking lot; 5pm–10pm Fri, Mar–Nov; pork bun £2.50; cash only).
No-one’s in a hurry to leave at the Ferry Building, the transport hub turned gourmet emporium, with everything from bread and cheese shops, to Vietnamese take out and Italian gelato. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and (largest of all) Saturdays the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market sets out its stalls in front of the 1890s-era building (The Embarcadero; open daily; cheese salad from £3).