3 Not-to-Miss San Francisco Culinary Hotspots
San Francisco is more than just tacos and beer; these high-profile eateries show that the City by the Bay can innovate and excite with haute cuisine. From upscale takes on old favorites to destination dining and theme nights, these restaurateurs know how to satisfy their customers!
Presidio Social Club
Tucked away in the Presidio National Park at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge en route to Sonoma, this former military barracks has been converted into a modern eatery that is an urban oasis and a destination dining spot at the same time.
Chef Ray Tang said that some diners pop in for vintage libations and finger foods when rush hour traffic is just too much to bear, while others make Presidio their destination during the special dinners, such as Sunday night’s International Pork Roast, Monday’s Dungeness crab steams, or Wednesday’s "fowl play" night, where the chef steams then fries a whole duck. Tang said that future dinners would feature Petrale sole, a delicate fish that is a local favorite.
"The clientele trusts us, so we can have fun with the food," said Tang. "That they keep coming back shows the faith they have in us."
Tang and his talented team visit local farmers’ markets for the plethora of fresh veggies, especially the amazing greens, which are available year-round, thanks to the mild climate.
The restaurant offers ample parking -- a priceless commodity in San Francisco -- and thanks to historic preservation in the area, has no light pollution and minimal signage. It’s the perfect place for a cute brunch of South of the Border chilaquiles with pork belly or duck confit, and it’s big enough to host large receptions, perfect as the holiday season approaches.
"We also do a lot of gay weddings," said Tang. "There is a ’hamburger wedding’ that we are doing for a pair of regulars who love our burgers. They hand-picked the staff members they want to work their wedding, and even though the bartender they wanted moved away, he is flying back here just for their wedding."
If you want the kid-glove treatment of a private country club without the exorbitant dues that go with it, check out Presidio Social Club. Chef Tang and his devoted team are waiting for you.
563 Ruger Street
The Slanted Door / Out the Door
The Slanted Door/Out the Door
Culinary enthusiasts of all stripes head to San Francisco’s Ferry Building to find all of the necessary spices, tools and accoutrements for their kitchens. While there, what better way to recharge the palette than with a steaming bowl of ramen from Executive Chef Charles Phan’s restaurant, The Slanted Door? Before he adds an item to the menu, he visits the source region, studies the ingredients, flavors and techniques and then tests the recipe in his Mission District kitchen.
The result is dishes like cellophane noodles with Dungeness crab and sesame, steamed banana leaf tapioca dumplings, and Slanted Door spring rolls, with gulf shrimp, pork, mint and peanut sauce.
The prices are steep for the finer side of things, so to achieve balance, there is also Out the Door, the "fast food" version of this cuisine. Pop in to the kiosk in the Ferry Building for steamed pork buns or Hanoi beef noodle soup, lemongrass pork and stir-fry veggies or a refreshing Vietnamese iced coffee.
1 Ferry Building #3
Voted among the best restaurants in San Francisco by The Daily Meal, Trip Advisor and Scoop SF, A16 (named for the motorway that traverses South Italy) features rustic specialties from the Campania region. The establishment first garnered notice in 2004 when Chef Nate Appleman ran the show, but this successful James Beard Rising Star Chef has since moved to New York to helm the chain Chipotle. About 18 months ago, Executive Chef Christopher Thompson took over the culinary reins.
Their famous wood-fired Naples pizza still features a pliable crust, slightly charred, and the entrees include such toothsome specialties as black pepper fettuccine with a sauce of pork trotters; dandelion greens and Pecorino riserva; pansotti with ricotta cheese and roasted eggplant; and calamarata pasta braised in squid ink.
The servers are passionate about the food, but not ostentatious, and are happy to suggest a bottle from owner and Gourmet Magazine’s best sommelier winner Shelley Lindgren’s extensive wine list. Young, upscale patrons jostle to score a spot by the open kitchen, which has been called a "foodie experience" by Zagat.
A16 hosts a monthly Sunday Farm Supper, featuring items like roasted tomato soup with house made ricotta, grilled squid with ceci neri and warm walnut cake with caramel pippin apples and Nocino zabaglione.
Reservations are a coveted item at A16. New locations have opened in the East Bay, and in Tokyo.
2355 Chestnut Street