I’ve been living in SF for quite a while now, so I figure I should list some of the restaurants that I like (the top ~45 to be exact). These are mostly places where you can get food quickly for lunch/dinner and that are walking distance from where I live.
Philz Coffee. The best coffee in SF (in my opinion); the one closest to the center is on Van Ness (good if you go to the Tenderloin for lunch). The other Philz in the city center is at the Caltrain in SOMA (all locations). I always stop by when I’m close. Protip: don’t get the coffee with sugar, because they put too much and it detracts from the taste. Tantalizing Turkish, Aromatic Arabic and Soo Good (light roast) are my favorites.
Machine Coffee at 6th/Golden Gate is also quite good as are their sandwitches.
Blue Bottle. I would describe the coffee as artsy (as in “this coffee thinks it’s better than me”) – good for the occasional cup but I’m not a huge fan.
We have Peet’s coffee beans at the office so I haven’t really tried Peet’s at a store. In any case, these are all better than Starbucks, which is utter crap unless you get one of the specialty blends of the month rather than their regular coffees.
There are basically two good noodle places in the city center:
- Ramen Underground (Union Square towards Financial District). RU is a short walk from Union Square. Their specialty is the spicy miso ramen. I recommend getting that with extra noodles and BBQ pork. Open on Saturdays as well.
- Katana-ya (between Union Square towards Tenderloin). More choices than RU, including cold ramen and the toppings are better.
If you have a car, drive to San Mateo, as there are some delicious noodle places there:
- Santa Ramen (in San Mateo). Two words: premium pork! Mind-blowingly delicious.
- Ramen Dojo (in San Mateo). Also very good. Prepare to wait in line though.
Muracci’s (Union Square towards Financial District) specializes in Japanese curry. I go there so often it’s ridiculous, only open till 6pm and only on weekdays though.
Kare-Ken (Tenderloin) is open after 5:30 till fairly late, however, their portions are smaller and the curry sauce isn’t quite as delicious as at Muracci’s.
Vietnamese sandwitches (banh mi)
These are a combination of Vietnamese -style veggies and meat in sandwitch form. Tasty and cheap.
- Saigon Sandwitch (Tenderloin). The most famous banh mi place, this is for the banh mi snob. Their sandwitches are a bit spicier than the others and a bit smaller, but also taste slightly better.
- Lee’s (Tenderloin). I like Lee’s as well, it’s across from Saigon. Their sandwitches are a bit bigger and they have more varieties, but the bread is less tasty.
- Hoang Dat (Tenderloin). A smaller shop that’s up the street about two blocks. Nice if you don’t want to walk through the Tenderloin. Specialty is a sandine banh mi.
- Little Paris (Chinatown) is the place to go if you want Vietnamese sandwitches in Chinatown. I love this place and I was happy to find that they reopened (they moved about six months ago).
- Fresh Brew Coffee (Union Square) is a small coffee shop closer to Union Square where you can get banh mi with avocado in it. It is expensive compared to the Tenderloin or Chinatown, but bacon and avocado are a winning combination.
Other kinds of sandwitches
- HRD Coffee Shop (SOMA) is awesome. They have really great sandwitches, and their specialty are the sandwitches with Korean spices. I miss living in SOMA.
- King Foot Subs (Union Square; Bush and Powell) offers similar sandwitches, though they aren’t quite as good as HRD. They are open late, however.
- Molinari’s (North Beach). Prosciutto sandwitches, need I say more?
- Morty’s Delicatessen (Tenderloin). Really delicious deli sandwitches.
- Miller’s East Coast Deli and Freddie’s Sandwiches are near each other, I like Freddie’s a lot and Miller’s has a good pastrami sandwitch.
- Cafe Venue. Next to the Westfield Mall, really big salads during lunchtime, usually enough for two meals.
There are hole-in-the-wall type places where you can get two meals worth of food for 6-8 bucks:
- Good Mong Kok Bakery. This is where all the Chinatown locals queue up, and it is good.
- Delicious Dim Sum. More accessible than Good Mong Kok, also good, very close by to Good Mong Kok.
Pho = thin noodles with a ligher soup and veggies. The vermicelli noodle salad with spring rolls is also delicious. Check out:
- Pho 2000 (Tenderloin): big portions, good stuff.
- Pho Tan Hoa (Tenderloin/Union Sq): closer to Union Square, fast service, big portions of pho.
- Miss Saigon (~6th). Sketchy neighborhood but the food is good.
- Tu Lan (~6th). Delicious, but closed down until ~2013. Tu Lan is legendary, but it was closed for repeated health code violations so I’m not sure I’ll go there very often when they reopen.
- Loving Hut (Westfield Mall but also Chinatown). One location is in the Westfield Mall and I’d guess this is healthy food. Fully vegan, but I couldn’t tell. I always get the vermicelli noodle salad with spring rolls.