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Dining Out: Restaurants in San Francisco That You Must Check Out

written by ParoChak September 16, 2015

San Francisco’s dining scene is ever expanding and 5-6 new restaurants open up every month. Despite this heavy influx of newcomers, there are a few small gems that hold out on their own. Here is a list of some of those local favorites which have either singlhandedly made their neighborhood very famous or have been quietly operating to bring quality food to our tables for quite some time. Here, in no particular order are these tried and tested San Francisco dining options.

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San Francisco dining option # 1 Anar

The first restaurant is Anar (translates to Pomegranate in Farsi), the latest entrant in the San Francisco dining scene in the city serving Persian cuisine. San Francisco has a few decent to good Persian places and having had dined in a few of them, Anar definitely seems like a winner! Its slightly off-kilter, tucked away in the neighborhood of SOMA and is run by a very friendly Persian family who greet you with a huge smile. The restaurant, mainly because of its location, seems to be a little empty during lunch hours but every time we go there, lunch goers flock in after us and they are all local Persians. So this place has to be the real deal!

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The menu has a decent balance of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes in  appetizers and some entrees can be prepared vegetarian upon request. The Persian mint yogurt drink Doogh is a must have coolant to start with followed by their Kashke Bademjan( sinfully rich roasted eggplant spread, my favorite) and their Gormeh Sabzi which can be made vegetarian upon request. Although they are mainly known for their meat kababs, they do have a vegetarian option listed there as well. The food is very budget friendly, service is impeccable and the decor is simple, yet friendly. Highly recommended for lunch for all kinds of dietary choices if you are in the city. Fuss free, home cooked Persian meal at its best! Decadent saffron rice, the tangy aroma of preserved lemons and the creamy sauces-what’s not to love?

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San Francisco dining option # 2 Out The Door

The second restaurant is Out the Door, the low-key cousin and lower pacific heights outpost of San Francisco’s insanely famous restaurant Slanted Door in the Ferry Building, courtesy renowned Chef Charles Phan. Both restaurants serve the same Vietnamese street food with a Californian twist (the menu is near identical), but while it is next to impossible to get a seat at the Slanted Door (owing to its location in the tourist mecca Ferry Building plus the fact that it provides great views of the Bay Bridge) at any given time (reservations are a must), Out the Door takes it way more easy when it comes to dining (open for lunch, brunch and dinner). Although reservations are accepted, walk-ins are more than welcome with ample seating at the ledge running along the window or at the communal table. The decor is very SF chic and the menu is again a good balance of meat and plant based dishes. Slightly more hefty in price than Anar, OTD has equally great food to boast for and has a very modern take on Vietnamese food (forget your pho here). Our favorites are the daikon rice cakes (featured in the 100 big vegetarian eats in SF) and Hodo Soy Beanery Tofu, which is a spicy and tangy explosion of flavors in your mouth and best enjoyed with rice (white /brown-pick your poison). They have a decent wine menu for those interested. Finally, lots of dessert options as well; do not under any circumstance give the buttermilk pannacotta a miss. One more place highly recommended by the bay monkey to eat and have a good time, without the drama when in San Francisco.

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San Francisco dining option # 3 Minas Brazilian Restaurant

Tucked away in one corner of the city, between Mid-market and Hayes Valley is Minas, this is a gem of a restaurant which serves lip-smacking Brazilian fare and is pretty low on the San Francisco dining radar. The decor is simple yet pleasing with the canary yellow walls, a few art pieces and some very interesting pottery on the mantle. To add to the atmosphere, there is live music every weekend (yay!) that makes your dining even more entertaining! Nothing better than sipping a glass of wine or chowing down on food with strains of Portuguese songs in the background on a Sunday afternoon. The servers are very friendly and attentive, brought our food and drinks promptly and often check on you from time to time.

As is expected of Brazilian cuisine, the food is meat and fish heavy but there are quite a few vegetarian (which were also vegan) choices in appetizers and as one of the entrees. Since we visited during brunch time, there was a brunch section as well (meat and egg focused). I had a rich, fruity wine from Argentina accompanied with a fish (Salmon) stew with bell peppers in coconut milk and it was full of flavor and silky smooth on the tongue! The stew came with rice and a bed of crunchy greens on the side for balance. S had the vegetarian entree with rice, roasted veggies, yucca fries and beans and it was equally delicious! If that food coma wasn’t enough, I had to get some yummy guava flan topped with guava sauce since it seemed so yum. The sauce was redundant and a bit on the sweeter side, but the flan absolutely made up for it with its subtle guava flavor and smooth texture. A delight for all the senses! Minas Brazilian restaurant is a must visit for lunch specially on weekends. Although reservation was not necessary (it was about half full when we went there with quite a few empty tables that did get filled up), you can make one for a larger dining party.

San Francisco dining option # 4 Piccino

The eastern waterfront neighborhood of Dogpatch is one of my favorites for its awesome restaurant and quirky boutiques featuring SF made products (Rickshaw Bagworks, chocolatiers such as Pocco Dolce and Recchiuti, Artisan initiative). It is also a relatively quiet neighborhood next to one of the Caltrain stations in the city, so every time I have out of towers/guests who are full of trepidation of driving into the chaos of San Francisco (and for good reason, please do not be an idiot and attempt to drive here if you are new to town), I always bring them to this serene spot to grab a bite to eat at Piccino, one of the best Californian-Italian restaurants in town.

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Every neighborhood of SF has an iconic restaurant which is its cornerstone, i.e. which brought folks of the hood together and drove business and attention to that area. For Dogpatch, Piccino can singlehandedly claim the honor of reviving the once derelict neighborhood and putting the spotlight on it. This beautiful restaurant, nested in an equally charming canary yellow building, serves delectable Californian Italian fare (think Italian which is light yet bursting with flavors and made with local, seasonal and sustainable Californian ingredients) and is open for brunch on weekends and dinners in evenings. Plus there is ample outdoor seating which allows dogs and is therefore pet friendly. brunch reservations are relatively easy to snag and recommended cause this is a very popular neighborhood spot. We got our table within five minutes of arrival, with quick and prompt service thereafter. The inside decor is minimalist yet pleasing with plenty of natural night pouring in through the tall, glass windows of the Victorian house. If you ever happen to have lunch/dinner there, the most fun seat is at the bar cause you can see the chefs in action!

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For my last outing, we started off with a light salad of melon,avocados, fennel, greens and pickled onion with a light ginger-lime vinaigrette followed by a thin-crust margarita pizza (can never go wrong with that). Although brunch, we had to wash stuff down with wine because when in San Francisco, wine runs through your veins, hehe. Finally, I could not resist the Zeppoles mentioned in the menu which are little Italian beignets with a side of lemon curd and berries and so ordered some. What followed was sugary heaven exploding in our mouth. Piccino did not disappoint yet again! Portions here are very Californian (not mountains of food as in the Mid-west), i.e. on the smaller side so its better to order two dishes per person if you are famished.

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San Francisco dining option #5 Coqueta

Pier 5, on the San Francisco water front or as we fondly say Embarcadero (the last BART stop in the city as one heads to Oakland), is home to Coqueta, the stylish and insanely popular Spanish restaurant by Michael Chiarello, the famous chef of Napa Valley’s Bottega (where yours truly has dined as well). if Bottega was awesome with its rustic Italian fare, Coqueta is that flirtatious lass who gives you a peek into the lip-smacking world of Spanish cuisine (trivia: Coqueta = flirt /infatuation in Spanish) as translated via Northern Californian fare. Chef Chiarello and his team use seasonal and local Bay area bounty to create a menu comprising mainly of hot and cold tapas (small plates) but also some family style entrees. Albeit a little hefty on the wallet, this is as authentic as it gets outside of Spain (been there, eaten that and thus can vouch for this claim) and is a great place for either lunch or dinner (reservations recommended for dinner). Another plus is the heated, enclosed patio with fantastic views of the bay.They also have an extensive wine and cocktail pairing list, their mojito being sinfully smooth! As is the nature of Spanish cuisine, the menu is pretty much centered around meat and egg, but there are quite a few vegetarian tapas and entree selections (vegan, not so much). So yes, you again don’t need to resort to wilted salad at Coqueta and can have your pick as well. Highly recommended for all food lovers, this is a guaranteed gastronomic trip to Spain (especially Madrid).

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Thank you so much for reading this post. For more San Francisco dining related posts, click on these links to read my SF budget dining post, SF cafes, SF ethnic brunch spots, SF pop-ups,  SF brunch and this post for delicious finds in the East Bay.

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