Ask 10 foodies to list their top five San Francisco restaurants, and you’ll very likely end up with 50 different restaurants. That’s because the Northern California city is a culinary giant that excels at nearly every kind of cuisine, rivaling the best foodie destinations of the world. Of course, to attempt to create any San Francisco restaurant list is to invariably commit the unforgivable sin of omitting any number of exceptional places that will wow your palette. Rest assured, this curated collection will have something to whet the appetite of nearly everyone in your travel party — from the gourmand to the chocoholic. The best part? They’re all just a few minutes from the Exclusive Resorts residences at Fairmont Heritage Place in Ghirardelli Square, making them easy to hit, even if you’re only in town for a day or two.
Here's how to take one of the best vacations for food lovers in The City.
The Extravagant Brunch: Gather the girls and or take out the teens to Son & Garden, where the food is as pretty as the decor. Everything here is just a little bit over the top, from the pancakes (punched up with blueberry compote and hot-pink dragon fruit slices) to the decor (dripping with lush floral arrangements and velvet) to the cocktails (topped with blue, butterfly-adorned cotton candy). The afternoon tea was made for Instagram too, served with a three-tiered tray of treats scattered with flower petals.
The Culinary Field Trip: For the foodie who wants to try a little bit of everything, a visit to the newly revamped Ferry Building Marketplace is a must. Dine on a smorgasbord of international cuisines. Among the empanadas and oysters and bakeries and breweries, restaurants like the Slanted Door and Boulettes Larder have garnered devoted followings. Then take your taste buds shopping with visits to food ateliers like Acme Bread Company and Far West Fungi, and a stop by the open-air farmer’s market, which takes place every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at the edge of the bay.
The Chinatown Lunch: One of those truly authentic only-in-San-Francisco spots, R&G Lounge is more than a meal, it’s an experience that was made famous by Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. Don’t let the unassuming facade fool you: Inside, this restaurant is bustling with action as chefs pull fresh crab straight from a tank and prepare them deep-fried with salt and pepper to order. Complete the food adventure with salmon avocado egg rolls, Peking duck, or lo mei gai, an off-the-menu chicken dish stuffed with sausage, vegetables, and rice that regulars in the know ask for.
The Date Night: The best date spots are the ones that are run by couples themselves. Chefs and partners-in-life Evan and Sarah Rich have created a charming Hayes Valley spot in Rich Table, serving Californian fare infused with international ingredients — think lobster chow mein and heirloom tomato panzanella — in a rustic-chic corner restaurant with plenty of outdoor dining. It’s elegant enough to feel pampered and indulged, but not so fancy that you won’t want to visit every time you come to town (and, trust us, you will!).
The Sweet Souvenir: A city mainstay since Domingo Ghirardelli opened his first chocolate shop in 1849, the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company may be one of the oldest businesses in town, but it’s still one of the most visited. The former chocolate factory — now a shopping square overlooking the bay — is today partially home to the Fairmont Heritage Place, making the Exclusive Resorts residences dangerously close to an endless supply of chocolate, as well as a handful of restaurants and boutiques.
Photos courtesy of Jackie Caradonio.