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The 38 Essential Restaurants in San Francisco

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The Eater 38 is our attempt to answer any question that begins, “Can you recommend a restaurant?” It’s a curated list that covers the entire city, spanning numerous cuisines, neighborhoods, and price points. It’s a list that tells the story of San Francisco through food, documenting the blend of taquerias, dumpling shops, and tasting menu destinations that make this city one of the most interesting places to eat in America. These are the places you don’t want to miss on your first trip to the Bay Area, and the ones worth returning to even if you’ve lived here for decades.

And because we want to make sure this list reflects the ever-changing nature of San Francisco’s vibrant dining scene, we update the Eater 38 on a quarterly basis, adding restaurants that were previously overlooked, are newly eligible (Eater 38 restaurants must have been open for six months), or have stepped up their game. Sometimes a still great restaurant makes way for another one, in order to keep things new and fresh — and, importantly, to make sure that the Eater 38 is an inclusive and representative list.

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission.


Chef Francis Ang’s Abacá brings contemporary Filipino cuisine to a sunny space on the ground floor of a Fisherman’s Wharf hotel, the plant-filled restaurant further brightened by sunflower yellow banquettes and woven baskets from the southeast Asian archipelago. The dinner menu gives familiar dishes a modern California update — think, seafood pancit topped with smoked bay scallops, and longganisa pork sausage skewered on a thin stick and served with egg yolk and cane vinegar for dipping. Weekend brunch is a real treat, when you can truly appreciate Ang’s pastry skills in dishes like a chewy pandan mochi waffle and savory ensaymada French toast. 

Lucca Delicatessen

San Francisco is a city that loves a serious sandwich, and this ld-school Italian-American deli has been slicing and stacking them since 1929. The salami hangs from the ceiling, the wheels of cheese weigh down the shelves, and everyone has a favorite special, from the #1 Italian Combo with salame, ham, mortadella, and provolone, to the Pat Burrell roast beef with pepper jack and peppers. The pro move is to grab a sandwich for lunch and a box of ravioli to take home for dinner.

Sotto Mare

Locals and tourists swarm to Sotto Mare for an exemplary taste of San Francisco’s famous seafood creation: cioppino, an Italian-American stew likely adapted by Ligurian immigrants in North Beach. It’s on nearly every table at this old-school, kitschy establishment, served in heaping silver bowls for two that brim with slightly spicy tomato broth, Dungeness crab, assorted Pacific shellfish, and some penne pasta thrown in for good measure. Other seafood staples like Louie salads round out the meal.