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  • Readers' Poll

    Best Restaurant Delfina Best New Restaurant Dogzilla Cafe Best Hidden Restaurant Catalyst Cocktails Best Vegetarian Restaurant Greens Best Seafood Restaurant Pacific Cafe Best Thai Restaurant King of Thai Noodle House Best Fast Food In-N-Out Burger Best Burrito Pancho Villa Taqueria Best Coffeehouse Cafe Flore Best Late-Night Eats Sparky's Best Romantic Restaurant Bix Best Italian Restaurant Incanto Best Greasy Spoon Sparky's Best Bakery Arizmendi Best Ethiopian Restaurant Axum Best Middle Eastern Restaurant La Méditerranée Best Burger BurgerMeister Best Desserts Citizen Cake... More >>

  • Best Steakhouse

    C&L 1250 Jones (at Clay), 771-5400, www.cl-steak.com The menu here is a little tricky (starters, steaks, vegetables, and desserts each inspired by one of eight cities), but what inspires us in a steakhouse is its meat, and C&L serves some of the best we've ever had: pure cornfed beef from Painted Hills Natural Beef in Fossil, Ore. It's so delicious that we ask to have the sauces (such as the campfire bean that comes with the Denver rib-eye, or... More >>

  • Best Vegetarian (Expensive)

    Fleur de Lys 777 Sutter (at Taylor), 673-7779, www.fleurdelyssf.com San Francisco offers many delights for the vegetarian epicure, but none is more beguiling than the welcome given at the starry French temple de cuisine Fleur de Lys, whose Web site proudly states, "Vegetarians will be pleased to know that Chef Keller is more inspired than ever regarding his non-meat dishes." (That's Hubert Keller, veteran of the famous kitchens of Auberge de L'Ill, Gaston Lenôtre, Paul Bocuse, and Roger Verge:... More >>

  • Best Vegetarian (Inexpensive)

    Herbivore 983 Valencia (at 21st Street), 826-5657, and 531 Divisadero (at Fell), 885-7133, www.herbivore-restaurant.com Everything on Herbivore's extensive menu is vegan, but run-of-the-mill vegetarians and carnivores eat here happily, side by side with their more abstemious brethren. What's not to like about a roasted red beet salad, the sturdy batons of beet coated in grassy herbs, bedded on fresh greens, and topped with a tasty balsamic dressing? Or a refreshing seviche salad made of diced tofu and minced oyster... More >>

  • Best Classic San Francisco Lunch

    Swan Oyster Depot 1517 Polk (at California), 673-1101 Decades before some overpaid restaurant consultant coined the term "raw bar," this unpretentious landmark was serving up fresh seafood to a clientele of working-class regulars. Located in the same Polk Street storefront since 1912, Swan now attracts devotees from every niche of the social strata (although the Pacific Heights elitists prefer delivery service to eating elbow to elbow with the hoi polloi). The lunch line winds out the door year-round as... More >>

  • Best Mixed Drinks

    Levende Lounge 1710 Mission (at Duboce), 864-5585, www.levendesf.com Many places claim to have created their own mixed-drink recipes, but most of those concoctions taste suspiciously like a mai tai or a Cosmopolitan under a different name. Levende, however, has invented some truly cool ones. Try the Effen Cherry Bomb (black cherry vodka and crushed brandied cherries) or the Green My Eyes (sake with cucumber and "sweetness") or one of the other drinks that infuse ginger, mango, and peach into... More >>

  • Best Tea

    Samovar 498 Sanchez (at 18th Street), 626-4700, www.samovartea.com Drinking tea is a ritual that's been around for 5,000 years, and doing it in style makes all the difference, as the folks at Samovar will tell you. This Castro tea lounge is more of a modern Zen oasis than the stuffy china-closet digs the term "high tea" usually recalls. Grass floors, burnished woods, bronze Buddhas, and plump cushions strewn every which way take customers back to the way original tea... More >>

  • Best Foodie Web Site

    www.chowhound.com As Thackeray once said, "Next to eating good dinners, a healthy man with a benevolent turn of mind must like, I think, to read about them," and we're with him, especially when the reading can introduce us to more of those good dinners to eat. Chowhound.com is a longtime favorite, and its local message boards are essential reading for food-obsessed San Franciscans. Despite the site's difficult-to-navigate, long-loading threads, we love to read its impassioned contributors, who are quick... More >>

  • Best Cheap Meal

    Saigon Sandwiches 560 Larkin (at Eddy), 474-5698 For gourmands, slumming is a $6 burrito at Taqueria Can-Cun. For the rest of us, it's a $2.25 roast pork sandwich at Saigon Sandwiches, easily the best bargain in the city. The clerks start with a crusty roll, fill it with various meats, then add shaved carrots, cilantro, sauce, and lots of mayo. Where's the profit? Who knows? It's simple, hearty food, and one is enough, so get used to spending pocket... More >>

  • Best New Bar

    Madrone Lounge 500 Divisadero (at Fell), 241-0202, www.madronelounge.com While it may seem like San Francisco needs a new bar as much as a canary needs a cat, the mid-Haight/Western Addition neighborhood is surprisingly lacking in decent watering holes. Thankfully, in October of last year Leila Fakouri opened Madrone Lounge on Divisadero Street. The space is far more than just another cocktail saloon; in fact, Fakouri prefers to call it an "art lounge." Similar in spirit to 111 Minna (on... More >>

  • Best Unsung Restaurant

    RNM 598 Haight (at Steiner), 551-7900, www.rnmrestaurant.com This small, bilevel, urbane restaurant, a little out of place in its Lower Haight neighborhood, consistently offers fresh, interesting, and well-cooked food that speaks of the skill and passion of its young chef/owner, Justine Miner. Its Web site says it serves "small plates of American food with French and Italian influences," but it delivers plenty of "large plates," too, which match meat and fish with wonderful seasonal vegetables, such as lavender-scented grilled... More >>

  • Best Street Food

    Mission Taco Trucks El Tonayense, 22nd Street & Harrison, 550-9192, and Doña Tere, 21st Street & Alabama There are two local eateries within blocks of each other that are not only unequaled in the areas of gustatory satisfaction and affordability, but they also serve their specialties from the side of a truck. At Doña Tere's friendly, rustic establishment you can get one of the city's finest snacks, sweet corn drenched in mayo, queso cotijo, and cayenne, as well as... More >>

  • Best Breakfast

    Mama's on Washington Square 1701 Stockton (at Filbert), 362-6421 Every great breakfast spot has a line out the door, and Mama's is no different. Outside it's brutal, but once you get the nod from the server/bouncer, you're ushered into the second line, which hugs the counter. This line is easier. You're now inches from pastries of all sorts, made fresh daily. Locals chat up the cooks as they flip thick omelets and French toast, a house favorite. If you... More >>

  • Best Italian

    Acquerello 1722 Sacramento (at Polk), 567-5432, www.acquerello.com Everything is top-notch at this 15-year-old Italian restaurant: the serene setting (a spacious, calm, and grown-up room with a striking vaulted wood ceiling); the professional, knowledgeable, and caring service; and the exciting cooking, high-style Italian food created from the best seasonal ingredients. Begin with a simple, exquisite Parmesan budino topped with a tangle of julienned zucchini and sauced with puréed spinach, or a chunk of Hawaiian butterfish in tomato-fennel sauce and seafood... More >>

  • Best Thai

    Thai House Express 901 Larkin (at Geary), 441-2248 The beautifully conceived dishes that come out of the open kitchen here at blinding speed (hence "Express") would do honor to much fancier surroundings -- and prices. The setting does have its charms (the metal-topped tables, blond wood banquette, and abstract paintings read urban bistro rather than inexpensive ethnic dive), but the real draw at this brightly lit corner spot is the food: wonderful salads of shredded green papaya or bamboo... More >>

  • Best Late-Night Eats

    Yuet Lee 1300 Stockton (at Broadway), 982-6020 The good news is that you can feast on wonderful fresh seafood (fried squid, steamed whole flounder, pepper and salt roasted prawns in the shell) until all hours -- well, 3 a.m., which is late indeed in our fair city -- in this underdecorated but picturesque corner spot in North Beach, where you might even be able to find parking in the wee hours. The bad news: It's cash only (so remember... More >>

  • Best Sausages

    World Sausage Grill 2073 Market (at Church), 621-7488 World sources its artisanal sausages locally (no preservatives, no nitrites, and no artificial flavorings of any kind are used), offering at least two dozen varieties including several vegetarian options, from the familiar (Polish sausage, weisswurst) to the unusual (Thai chicken and turkey flavored with lemongrass and cilantro, Hawaiian-Portuguese made with bacon fat). The organic rolls are baked fresh daily, and there's a dizzying array of condiments, including artichoke mayonnaise and hot... More >>

  • Best Sweets Shop

    XOX Truffles 754 Columbus (at Filbert), 421-4814, www.xoxtruffles.com The mystery surrounding European chocolatiers always seemed a bit like hokum until we wandered into XOX Truffles. The shop is a funky little slice of lower Columbus Avenue charm, its windows plastered over with accolades, including a few that are handwritten ("Rated Ultimate by Food Network's Dave Rosengarten" screams one in blue marker). But step into the shop, heady with chocolate aroma, and you know you've done something right. Chef Jean-Marc... More >>

  • Best Cheeseburger

    Rosamunde Sausage Grill 545 Haight (at Fillmore), 437-6851 It's only available once a week, on Tuesday from 11:30 a.m. "until the meat runs out," but maybe that's one of the reasons we find ourselves dreaming of this burger on other days. And we're not alone: On that one day, the line at this popular sausage shack runs out the door, and nearly everybody orders the burger, often taking it next door to the Toronado pub, where you can wash it... More >>

  • Best New Restaurant (Inexpensive)

    Blue Jay Cafe 919 Divisadero (at McAllister), 447-6066 We wish we lived near this friendly neighborhood spot, which offers generous portions of Southern-accented home cooking for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at gentle prices, in a funky setting with a large U-shaped counter and a row of tables. For breakfast you can get inventive scrambles or omelets, as well as buttermilk griddlecakes, French toast with bananas, and superb biscuits (which you must not miss), on their own or in the... More >>

  • Best New Restaurant (Expensive)

    Jack Falstaff 598 Second St. (at Brannan), 836-9239, www.plumpjack.com Chef James Ormsby is cooking wonderful organic comfort food in a modern setting at this newest member of the PlumpJack family, located just two blocks from SBC Park. His "slow food" approach includes milling his own flour, creating an array of exotic bar snacks that can be packaged to take with you to the game, and sourcing the best ingredients from myriad local and international purveyors. Ormsby matches his braised... More >>

  • Best New Restaurant (Very Expensive)

    Michael Mina Westin St. Francis, 335 Powell (at Geary), 397-9222, www.westinstfrancis.com Michael Mina, in a lush room in the St. Francis, is the big-news opening of the year, with a tricky concept sure to intrigue and annoy foodies: A three-course seasonal menu, with many choices offered for each course, presents you with an ingredient-based variation on a theme. It's ostensibly three dishes per course, but in practice, each dish is complemented with a "garnish" so carefully conceived that you'll find... More >>

  • Best Milkshake

    Falooda at Bombay Ice Cream and Chaat 552 Valencia (at 16th Street), 861-3995 Wonderful on its own or as a cooling counterpart to the crunchy, spicy snacks served here, Bombay's falooda is created with your choice of several homemade ice creams (we loved a version with saffron pistachio, cardamom, and mango, when we asked for the server's favorites), layered with translucent chewy noodles, crunchy basil seeds, and fragrant rose syrup. It's far beyond your standard diner vanilla.... More >>

  • Best Beverages

    Mint Lemonade, Jalab, Tamarind at Zatar 1981 Shattuck (at University), Berkeley, (510) 841-1981, www.zatarrestaurant.com We are very fond of this snug, eccentric East Bay eatery, which purveys its own brand of "eclectic Mediterranean cuisine" using organic ingredients, including many fruits and vegetables from its own gardens. But we dream about Zatar's distinctive and delicious fruit beverages, including a special frothy mint lemonade, the best we've ever had; the sensual jalab, flavored with date syrup and rose water; and a... More >>

  • Best Place to Get a Quiet Drink Downtown

    Hotel Rex Bar 562 Sutter (between Powell and Mason), 433-4434, www.thehotelrex.com Downtown hotels are generally to be avoided. Busy, noisy, and full of people in suits, they're usually the last place you'd go to get away from the crowds. The unnamed lobby bar at Hotel Rex is different. Inspired by the San Francisco art and literary salons of the 1920s and '30s, it features distinctive period furnishings, walls of antiquarian books, and an eclectic collection of artwork that helps create... More >>

  • Best Cheese Shop

    Cowgirl Creamery Cheese Shop 1 Ferry Building, No. 17, Market & Embarcadero, 362-9354, www.cowgirlcreamery.com Walking into Cowgirl Creamery is like slamming into an olfactory brick wall. "Heady" doesn't quite describe it. This is living, breathing, ripening cheese, releasing dripping molecules of scent into the Ferry Building's cavernous hall like an animal attracting mates. No wonder Cowgirl was mentioned on Will & Grace. Similar to the famed Cheeseboard in Berkeley, Cowgirl is run by staffers armed with cheese slicers, and... More >>

  • Best Taco

    Nick's Crispy Tacos 1500 Broadway (at Polk), 409-8226 If you've never ordered a taco from Nick's, you're probably going to make a mistake, so listen up: After you say, "Carnitas taco, please" (the place sells other meat, but it's your money), follow it up with, "Nick's way." It takes people months to get this routine down, satisfied as they are with a simple taco. But for an extra 75 cents, Nick's tucks cheese, guacamole, and a hard shell into... More >>

  • Best Hot Chocolate

    Giacomo Coffee Bar 120 Stockton (at O'Farrell), 296-4907 "Charlie put the mug to his lips, and as the rich warm creamy chocolate ran down his throat into his empty tummy, his whole body from head to toe began to tingle with pleasure, and a feeling of intense happiness spread over him." If the desire for a cup of cocoa hits you at a time when you don't happen to be drifting down Willy Wonka's chocolate river, head to Union... More >>

  • Best Pub Grub

    The Pig and Whistle 2801 Geary (at Wood), 885-4779, www.pig-and-whistle.com The classic plowman's lunch of fresh bread, a wedge of cheddar, pickled onions, and a pint of ale is considerably supplemented at the Pig and Whistle, a bona fide English pub repotted in Laurel Heights, where hunting bugles decorate the walls, the barkeep knows how to pour a proper Guinness, and the Cornish pasties are just like Mum used to make. Start the day with a delicious, rib-sticking English... More >>

  • Best Cafe

    Cafe Hurghada 457 Hyde (at Eddy), 614-2420 If a cafe is a place where people from the neighborhood catch up and read the paper and watch the world stroll by over the sweet and savory snacks that go with a good cup of coffee, Cafe Hurghada is the genuine article. When you walk in, you become part of a loving, wisecracking extended family in which everyone knows one another -- and how much he despises his landlord and what... More >>

  • Best Fish and Chips

    Piccadilly 1348 Polk (at Pine), 771-6477 There are tons of fish-and-chip places in London exactly like the Piccadilly: tiny bare-bones establishments with the interior design of a fast-food joint and the Empire's most positive contribution to global cuisine on the menu. The similarity to the real thing doesn't end at the aesthetic, though. Cod specially flown in from Ireland is fried twice (the second time immediately before serving) to ensure a perfectly crunchy exterior, then paired with thick-cut fried... More >>

  • Best Takeout

    Mistral Rotisserie Provençale 1 Ferry Building, No. 41, Market & Embarcadero, 399-9751 Mistral serves the sort of rich, hearty, soul-warming food that goes well with a good local cabernet and a hunk of sourdough, the perfect restorative feast after a long, hard day of work. Among Fabrice and Betty Marcon's rustic Mediterranean specialties are their signature stew of fork-tender lamb, carrots, garbanzos, and couscous; a lush, thick cassoulet brimming with pork, white beans, and sausage; organically raised chicken, lamb,... More >>

  • Best Prix Fixe

    Sociale 3665 Sacramento (at Spruce), 921-3200 The tasting menu here, which changes frequently, is four courses (two choices per course) priced at a reasonable $35. (Starters on the regular menu run from $5.50 to $10, pastas from $12 to $18, and main courses from $16 to $24.) We have happy memories of a feast that began with our pick of two salads (fresh asparagus on a bed of mâche or a "Caesar" made with Gorgonzola), followed by oysters or... More >>

  • Best Hawaiian Restaurant

    Hukilau 5 Masonic (at Geary), 921-6242, www.dahukilau.com The Hawaiian Islands have tantalized San Franciscans ever since Union correspondent Mark Twain paid a visit in 1865, King Kalakaua repaid the favor a few years later, and Matson Lines steamships departed Pier 35 for Honolulu on a regular basis. Hukilau keeps the connection thriving and fragrant with its menu of traditional plate lunches and dinners: big wooden platters of panko-crusted chicken, broiled mahi-mahi, or the island specialty of your choice served... More >>

  • Best Free Lunch

    Gino & Carlo 548 Green (at Columbus), 421-0896 Although it's true that there's no such thing as a free lunch, at one time in our gilded past the saloons of San Francisco would lay out bountiful noontime feasts of oysters, caviar, baked ham, and other salty, thirst-whetting treats, all for the price of a nickel beer. One of the few modern-day exponents of this sorely missed tradition is Gino & Carlo, where on a given 49ers, Warriors, or Giants... More >>

  • Best Free Drink Tour

    Anchor Brewing 1705 Mariposa (at De Haro), 863-8350, www.anchorbrewing.com Anchor Brewing, which makes seven beers and ales (including the popular Anchor Steam, since 1896), offers a free, weekly, yeasty-smelling public tour of its handsome and immaculate all-copper brewhouse, by reservation only, for parties of up to 10. The guided walking tour lasts about 45 minutes and includes a brief history of the brewery and a look at all three floors of the building. A tasting session follows, and is... More >>

  • Five Best Historical Bars

    San Francisco has been a city of taverns, pubs, saloons, and watering holes for a century and a half, and in all that time these pinnacles of interactive vice, gin-fueled activism, popular culture, and political discourse were bound to absorb their fair share of the local history. Here are some of the most phantom-friendly, genealogically abundant saloons in town. San Francisco Brewing Co. 155 Columbus (at Pacific), 434-3344, www.sfbrewing.com Like Li-Po, the Saloon, and Specs, its equally venerable neighbors,... More >>

  • Best Food Court

    Belden Place Between Pine and Bush, Kearny and Montgomery Anchored on one end by the venerable Sam's Grill and Seafood Restaurant (open since 1866) and on the other by Brindisi Cucina di Mare (since last year), this narrow alley, jampacked with side-by-side restaurants fronted with alfresco tables under strings of lights, offers a distinctive and delightful dining opportunity. (Sam's forgoes the outside tables, but inside you'll find impeccable sand dabs, sweetbreads, and such old-fashioned preparations as poached salmon with... More >>

  • Best Wine Bar

    VinoVenue 686 Mission (at Third Street), 341-1930, www.vinovenue.net This spot, more of a wine store that offers a fun tasting experience than a wine bar, blends modern technology (temperature-controlled machines that dispense 1-ounce pours of more than 100 different wines) with ancient (the winemaker's art). On entering the spacious premises, you buy a plastic card loaded with a dollar value amount between $10 and $50; insert this card into a slot on one of the half-dozen or so machines... More >>

  • Best American

    The Blue Plate 3218 Mission (at Valencia), 282-6777, www.blueplatesf.com The very appealing menu of the Blue Plate, self-described as a "new American restaurant," reveals just how globally influenced and sophisticated today's square meals are: Alongside the excellent meatloaf (with mashed potatoes and a fresh seasonal vegetable), a standard on the frequently changing lineup, you might find a hunky Niman Ranch pork porterhouse sided with herbed spaetzle, English peas, pancetta, and Meyer lemon jus, or duck confit with a rainbow... More >>

  • Best Restaurant Décor

    Le Colonial 20 Cosmo (at Post), 931-3600, www.lecolonialsf.com Once you enter Le Colonial's encompassing atmosphere of drowsy tropical elegance, jangling, frenetic downtown San Francisco ceases to exist. This urban oasis, tucked away in the inner courtyard that once housed Trader Vic's and accessed via a fronded open-air atrium, is rich with polished wood, crisp napery, carved rattan, and the gentle glow of candlelight. Two floors and multiple nooks and enclaves feature intricate tile flooring, vintage pressed-tin ceilings in deep... More >>

  • Best Ice Cream (East Bay)

    Sketch Ice Cream 1809 Fourth St. (at Hearst), Berkeley, (510) 665-5650, www.sketchicecream.com There are more than a dozen flavors of dense, creamy gelato and deeply flavored sorbet and granita available daily at this tiny, immaculate shop in the highly walkable Fourth Street shopping neighborhood. The server will scoop your roasted strawberry or peach gelato atop crepes, freshly baked waffles, or tiny loaves of barely sweet brioche. Sketch also bakes macaroons and spice cookies, which can be purchased as is... More >>

  • Best Soufflés

    Café Jacqueline 1454 Grant (at Green), 981-5565 The two major ingredients of soufflés -- eggs and air -- are inexpensive and in great supply, but the skill involved in combining them is apparently not, so soufflés have largely disappeared from the dining scene. Luckily we have an eccentric and cozy spot on upper Grant that not only specializes in soufflés, but also does so to the exclusion of all else: The eatery offers a couple of starter salads and... More >>

  • Best Fancy Vietnamese

    The Slanted Door 1 Ferry Building, No. 3, Market & Embarcadero, 861-8032, www.slanteddoor.com Once the myriad fans of the Slanted Door's extraordinary high-style Vietnamese cuisine had gotten over the restaurant's two moves to increasingly upscale locations (from the Mission to Brannan Street to the Ferry Building) and braved the tedious reservation lines (complete with seven-digit confirmation numbers), they looked around and realized that the new airy, modern digs were pretty swell, the bay views were beautiful, and the food... More >>

  • Best Sushi

    Ino Miyako Mall, No. 510, 1620 Webster (at Post), 922-3121 Nigiri sushi stars at this immaculate, tiny establishment, a narrow room in the Miyako Mall with a blond-wood sushi bar and matching walls. Nine or 10 people can sit at the bar, and a similar number at the five tables that line the wall. The specialty of this small, spare place is the classic: the freshest fish, laid on carefully cooked rice, with a spare smear of wasabi between... More >>

  • Best Brewpub

    21st Amendment 563 Second St. (at Brannan), 369-0900, www.21st-amendment.com Following a San Francisco tradition of masterful brewing that stretches back to the Gold Rush, the 21st cooks up a distinctive array of beers that range from the light and crisp to the rich and yeasty. The 21A IPA, for instance, employs three hops in the fermenting process to especially lusty effect, while the Oyster Point Stout is made with honest-to-God Hog Island oyster shells for a surprisingly tasty hint of... More >>

  • Best Beer Bar

    Magnolia Pub & Brewery 1398 Haight (at Masonic), 864-PINT, www.magnoliapub.com There are always 10 to 12 house-made beers on tap here (as well as another three to five on the hand pumps), including the award-winning Blue Bell Bitter and Proving Ground IPA and such original creations as Sara's Ruby Mild ("with a hint of black cherries"), Cole Porter ("just a hair shy of being a stout"), and the hearty, chewy oatmeal Stout of Circumstance. (Seasonal offerings include Jubilee Pale... More >>

  • Best Biscuits

    Pao de Queijo at Mangarosa 1548 Stockton (at Union), 956-3211, www.mangarosasf.com There are lots of reasons to like this North Beach Brazilian-Italian eatery: its stylish and comfortable setting, tasty food (especially the homemade pastas and grilled meats), and affordable prices (its steaks are big enough for two), to name just three. But every time we've dined here, we haven't been able to resist getting at least one order of the pao de queijo, tiny, puffy, hot cheese biscuits listed... More >>

  • Best Dive

    Gyro King 25 Grove (at Larkin), 621-8313 The unprepossessing room -- dominated by an open grill and a glass-fronted refrigerated case containing salads -- belies the fresh and exciting Middle Eastern fare on offer here. You order at the counter, grab a drink and silverware, and find a seat at one of the 10 not very comfy tables, where a server will bring you your delicious food. We love the appetizer combo plate, which includes excellent hummus, baba ghanouj,... More >>

  • Best Wine List

    Rubicon 558 Sacramento (at Montgomery), 434-4100, www.sfrubicon.com Some say that Rubicon's wine list, which runs to 70 densely printed pages in a hefty tooled leather binder, is not only the best in San Francisco, but also the best in the United States. Under Master Sommelier Larry Stone (one of the most honored men in the wine trade; the first page of the list is devoted to his awards and those of the half-dozen sommeliers who work with him), the... More >>

  • Best Chinese

    Jai Yun 923 Pacific (at Powell), 981-7438 When you walk into this tiny, unlisted, six-table hole in the wall, there's no menu to peruse or decision to make except to settle in, put yourself in chef Nei Chia Ji's hands, and spend the next couple of hours eating a fabulous, often unusual multicourse meal. Every morning Nei visits the Chinatown fish markets, greengrocers, and butchers and decides what he'll whip up for his roomful of guests that evening: a warm... More >>

  • Best Pre-Giants Game Eats

    MoMo's San Francisco Grill 760 Second St. (at King), 227-8660, www.eatatmomos.com The gourmet eats at MoMo's can be a bit pricey, but the creative and artfully arranged American fare -- particularly the ahi tuna tartare with caviar and the grilled skirt steak smothered with portobello mushrooms and braised bourbon onions -- justifies the cost. Located right across the street from SBC Park, it's the perfect spot for a delicious snack or a dry martini before the first pitch, whether... More >>

  • Best Pastries

    Tartine Bakery 600 Guerrero (at 18th Street), 487-2600, www.tartinebakery.com Consider, if you will, a light-as-air citrus-edged genoise layered with a delicate grapefruit mousse and topped with torched peaks of meringue; or a crisp, flaky tart lined with bittersweet chocolate and billowing with coconut cream; or a custardlike brioche pudding crowned with macerated peaches; or a dense, dark, fudgelike brownie of crisp whole walnuts and premium Scharffen Berger chocolate. The patissiers at Tartine create some of the most toothsome, ethereal... More >>

  • Best Kitchen Aid

    Boulette's Larder 1 Ferry Building, No. 48, Market & Embarcadero, 399-1155, www.bouletteslarder.com Cooks in search of an idea for dinner and noncooks in search of dinner will both find what they need in the well-stocked haven of Boulette's Larder. The cooks will be pleased to find preparations to ease their travail, such as bouquets garnis, homemade stocks, prepped and chopped organic vegetables, house-made sauerkraut, and a wide range of hard-to-find spices, herbs, preserves, and other ingredients. The noncooks will... More >>

  • Best Only-in-the-Bay-Area Pastry

    La Farine 6323 College (at Alcatraz), Oakland, (510) 654-0338, www.lafarine.com Tartine Bakery 600 Guerrero (at 18th Street), 487-2600, www.tartinebakery.com Until Tartine came up with its own spin on the morning bun (its kitchen adds a touch of grated orange rind to the mix), the only place you could buy one of these legendary pastries (as the store itself modestly states) was at La Farine, a delightful French bakery in Oakland's foodie-friendly Rockridge District. Deceptively simple in appearance, the morning bun... More >>

  • Best Free Tasting

    Yum 1750 Market (at Gough), 626-9866, www.yumfoods.com Tastes vary widely in our gastronomic metropolis, but most refrigerators have something in common: They tend to have overcrowded top shelves, home to those various ingenious accents that can turn a plain cut of meat or a raw vegetable into something spectacular. This affliction ensures that even if the rest of the fridge doesn't contain a lot of food, it still holds jars of sun-dried tomato walnut pesto and cucumber lime marinade.... More >>

  • Best Ice Cream Shop

    Swenson's 1999 Hyde (at Union), 775-6818 Buying ice cream should be a nostalgic event, so stop kidding yourself that Cherry Garcia helps the environment and go to a real shop: the original Swenson's at Union and Hyde. Opened in 1948 by Earle Swenson himself, this place has catered to the Russian Hill community for years, and lines of loyal customers frequently spill out the door. Although the décor is proudly retro, with its ancient sign and ice cream machine... More >>

  • Best Cheap French

    Baker Street Bistro 2953 Baker (at Lombard), 931-1475, www.bakerstbistro.citysearch.com San Franciscans have enjoyed the pleasures of French cuisine ever since the Poodle Dog opened at Grant and Washington in 1849, offering five courses of Gallic comestibles for 15 cents, but few of the Poodle's successors have followed its wallet-friendly example. The Baker Street Bistro, a cozy boîte at the edge of the Presidio, is a throwback to those palate-pleasing, low-overhead glory days. Chef Jacques Manuara cooks delicious examples of... More >>

  • Best Homegrown San Francisco Treat

    Blackberry Bushes Fort Mason, Marina & Buchanan, 771-3738, www.fortmason.org Lake Merced, Sunset & Lake Merced, www.lakemerced.org Starting in late summer, the city is liberally dotted with blackberry bushes loaded with tempting, juicy fruit. But since many of these bushes grow in areas where they're constantly dirtied by car exhaust, their fruit is often unfit for eating (it seems obvious to recommend that you avoid the bushes growing along the Great Highway, for instance). Intrepid city trekkers, however, know that... More >>

  • Best Turkish

    A La Turca 869 Geary (at Larkin), 345-1011 In addition to the familiar, expertly prepared mezes (such as hummus, baba ghanouj, and dolmas) and kebabs (lamb, chicken, and kofte) available in this pleasant place, which is lined with a wide wooden banquette and dominated by an open grill, you'll find such unusual dishes as pides, irresistible, long, thin, stuffed meat pies made with ground beef, chicken with mushrooms, or chicken with pineapple; alexander kebap, aka iskender, a homey dish... More >>

  • Best Fried Chicken

    Our opinion of fried chicken is monotonous: We like it. Big juicy chickens, small tender chickens, thick crunchy coating, thin crisp coating, spicy, bland -- lots of choices, lots of styles, lots of price ranges. And we like proper fried chicken sides, too, with points for real mashed potatoes and for biscuits or corn bread. These places serve the best in the city. Jack Falstaff 598 Second St. (at Brannan), 836-9239, www.plumpjack.com It's not always available (the seasonal menu... More >>

  • Best Cake

    DeLessio Market & Bakery 1695 Market (near Gough), 552-5559, www.delessiomarket.com Yes, Citizen Cake does make some nice cakes. Hell, it's right there in the place's name. And if you want to pay as much for a cake as for a small foreign car, go right ahead. But if you want a more reasonable price -- for a cake that's just as insanely exotic and tasty -- go to DeLessio. The Market Street restaurant and bakery's Chocolate Tower Cake is... More >>

  • Best Caesar Salad

    Oola 860 Folsom (at Fifth Street), 995-2061, www.oola-sf.com Too many salads served under the proud name of Caesar don't fulfill the mandate of this dish: The lettuce is neither romaine nor served in whole leaves, the eggless dressing is watery, there's a timid hand with the garlic, and all too often the anchovies have gone entirely missing. Not so at Oola, where you'll find a sublime Caesar salad, a stack of crisp romaine leaves drenched in a brave dressing,... More >>

  • Best After-Opera Meal

    Absinthe 398 Hayes (at Gough), 551-1590, www.absinthe.com Whether it's Wagner or Offenbach (or even the ballet or the symphony or City Arts & Lectures), our favorite act is always the last one, which takes place at Absinthe, a thoroughly professional restaurant that's well aware of the responsibility conferred on it by its location adjacent to Civic Center. Reservations are imperative for the before-event meal, but we prefer arriving after: The kitchen is open until midnight Tuesday through Saturday (and... More >>

  • Best Turkey Sandwich

    Lee's Deli Twelve locations, including: 322 Kearny (at Bush), 986-1052; 475 Sansome (at Clay), 391-4740; 222 Front (at California), 433-3222; and 648 Market (between Montgomery and Kearny), 421-0648 They're down-market in so many ways, but the multiple Lee's Deli locations still make one of the best turkey sandwiches to be found in San Francisco. The company roasts its own turkey -- real bird, not pressed or processed -- and you can get thick slices of nice, moist dark meat,... More >>

  • Best Dim Sum

    Yank Sing Rincon Center, 101 Spear (at Mission), 957-9300, www.yanksing.com This large, efficient eatery in the middle of the large, efficient Rincon Center is less charming than the old, rickety Yank Sing of memory, but the dim sum on the rolling carts are still as fresh and appealing as ever. The carts appear at your table with blinding speed after you're seated, and it's tempting just to say yes to everything that's on them. But hold out for some... More >>

  • A Decade of the Best Burritos

    For many San Franciscans, making a declaratory statement about burritos is a good way to start an argument, since everyone who shovels one down more than once a week has an allegiance to his favorite shop. While trying to sort out 10 years' worth of Best Burrito winners, we've discovered much about those lumpy tubes of rice, beans, meat, and salsa -- but most of all we've learned that when it comes to burritos, this town suffers from an... More >>

  • Best Free Food Tour

    Scharffen Berger 914 Heinz (at Eighth Street), Berkeley, (510) 981-4066, www.scharffenberger.com The Bay Area boasts a holy trinity of chocolatiers (Ghirardelli, Joseph Schmidt, and Scharffen Berger), which proffer their exceptional morsels of delight to decaying teeth all over the world. Ghirardelli is an obvious tourist attraction, and you might have to know Mr. Schmidt himself to get in on one of the special private tours there, but Scharffen Berger offers free factory tours every day. On this journey through... More >>

  • Five Best 24-Hour Restaurants

    There's an eerie feeling of culinary limbo to this one-time Wickedest City on Earth once the bars close. A mere dozen establishments serve up sustenance to the insomniacs, night creatures, and graveyard shifters on a 24-hour basis. Even if you're safe at home, full of belly and snug in bed, it's comforting to know that if the need arises there are at least a few places where a San Franciscan can pull an Edward Hopper and wait out the... More >>

  • Best Oyster Bar (tie)

    Swan Oyster Depot 1517 Polk (at California), 673-1101 Hog Island Oyster Co. 1 Ferry Building, No. 11A, Market & Embarcadero, 391-7117, www.hogislandoysters.com We can't choose between these two places: one of San Francisco's oldest eateries and one of its newest. It depends on our mood. Is our mouth watering for the world's best crab Louis? Then we wait in line on Polk Street for a seat at Swan's well-worn marble counter. Do we hanker for a view of the... More >>

  • Best Dumplings

    Shanghai Dumpling Shop 3319 Balboa (at 34th Avenue), 387-2088 We happily trek to this unassuming two-room establishment way out in the Richmond District for beautifully made soup dumplings, here listed as Shanghai steamed dumplings: heaven on a plate, and only $4.95 for 10 big, plump, juicy beauties. There are lots of other dumplings on offer, as well as tasty fried treats, such as the Shanghai-style crispy salt pancake stuffed with shredded cabbage. The stir-fries and clay pot specialties are... More >>

  • Best Early Bird Special

    Bendean 1647 Solano (at Ventura), Berkeley, (510) 526-3700 It's the early bird who gets the bargain at Lance Dean Velasquez's homey Berkeley eatery. Velasquez, who cooked at San Francisco's Moose's and Home, thrills the neighborhood with a $13 three-course meal named for his son Ben (who shares the restaurant's name with his father). Ben's Supper is available between 5 and 6 p.m. and changes nightly: One such feast was an arugula salad with pine nuts and apples in a... More >>

  • Best Ice Cream (S.F.)

    Ciao Bella Café 1 Ferry Building, No. 8, Market & Embarcadero, 834-9330, www.ciaobellagelato.com More than once we've inquired if the delicious ice creams and sorbets we've enjoyed for dessert in a variety of fancy restaurants were house-made and been told that the icy treats came from Ciao Bella, whose gelato is made from a family recipe out of Torino, Italy. It contains only 12 percent butterfat, as opposed to 16 percent in typical ice cream, and the creamy mouth... More >>

  • Five Best Pizza Parlors

    A friend from North Carolina once told us that among the more popular snack items in the Raleigh area is something called California pizza. "What's that?" we asked. "Oh, you know," she said, "pizza with a lotta weird stuff on it." Although it's true that our affection for the offbeat does sometimes extend to the slice-o'-pie experience, San Francisco's finest pizza joints cannot be so easily pigeonholed. Tommasso's 1042 Kearny (at Broadway), 398-9696 The city's No. 1 pizzeria (at... More >>

  • Best Jams

    June Taylor www.junetaylorjams.com We were never big jam fanciers until we sampled the delicious hand-cut marmalades and preserves of June Taylor, and we've never been without a jar (or two or three) since. We were introduced to her wares by the serious foodie (and erstwhile San Franciscan) Dan Philips, proprietor of www.gratefulpalate.com, inventor of the Bacon of the Month Club, and purveyor of all things most delicious. Several upscale retail emporiums also stock the jams, and Miss Taylor herself... More >>

  • Best Singaporean

    Penang Garden 728 Washington (at Kearny), 296-7878, www.penanggarden.com A nice change from the numberless Chinese restaurants that surround it, Penang Garden has taken its inspiration from a Singaporean food court lined with vendors, but made all its offerings conveniently available from one menu, as you sit decorously at one table under one roof. Its huge, vividly illustrated menu presents hundreds of dishes, from humble street snacks (juicy satay served with peanut sauce, airy "roti" pancakes with curry sauce) to... More >>

  • Best Hidden Restaurant (tie)

    Sociale 3665 Sacramento (at Spruce), 921-3200 The City Club 155 Sansome (at Bush), 362-2480, www.cityclubsf.com Anybody who can find Sociale (at the end of a narrow, slanted lane that appears unexpectedly at the midway point of an ordinary retail block of Sacramento) is welcome to dine there, though reservations are recommended for the small, urbane Italian eatery, with an especially pleasant, rather magical plant-lined patio. But you have to have an in to eat in the City Club, atop... More >>

  • Best New Sandwich Concept

    "All-in-One" at Giordano Bros. 303 Columbus (at Broadway), 397-2767, www.giordanobros.com You've tried the Philly cheesesteak and the New Orleans po' boy and the Atlantic City sub and the Italian beef out of Chicago and other examples of regional American sandwich-making ingenuity; now there's a new hero/grinder/blimp/ hoagie in town. The "All-in-One" (conceived as an especially hearty example of the genre for the truck drivers of Pittsburgh, Pa.) takes the portable-meal concept one step further, cramming between the bread not... More >>

  • Best Tapas

    Bocadillos 710 Montgomery (at Washington), 982-2622, www.bocasf.com The small-plates frenzy still engulfing the San Francisco restaurant scene was inspired by the many tapas bars in Spain. Small plates can be found all over town, in dizzying variety, but our favorite spot draws its inspiration from the source. Gerald Hirigoyen's Bocadillos is named for a small sandwich (on a floury roll, stuffed with aged serrano ham, Catalan sausage, roast beef, or numberless other items) that's available, two to a plate,... More >>

  • Best Local Coffee Blend

    Philz Coffee 3101 24th St. (at Folsom), 282-9155 "It's my life's masterpiece," says Phil Jaber, leaning across the counter of his shop in his snap-brim fedora, expectantly holding the bag, waiting for us to take a whiff. "I call it," he says, pausing, "Tesora." The name of his signature blend of coffee rolls off his tongue like the password to a forbidden city, where men have stolen a recipe for a mysterious concoction of the gods. Jaber has been... More >>

  • Best No-Frills Vietnamese

    Tu Lan 8 Sixth St. (at Market), 626-0927 Ignore the uninspiring, grungy surroundings (we choose the cramped upstairs over the tables tucked behind the open grill that dominates the downstairs room, but many in the long lunchtime line prefer grabbing their food to go) and concentrate on the wonderful (and wonderfully cheap) food. The noodle soups come in huge bowls, and the shrimp spring rolls wrapped in stretchy rice noodle dough and the fried pork summer rolls are deservedly... More >>

  • Best Cheap Sushi

    Yokoso Nippon (No-Name Sushi) 314 Church (at 15th Street) Reservations are nonexistent at the tiny, diner-style restaurant popularly known as No-Name Sushi -- hell, the place doesn't even have a phone. The seating space is cramped and the crowds are overwhelming, as the line of would-be patrons often spills onto Church Street. But there's a reason why informed, economical sushi fans brave the cool evening breeze for a chance to chow at Yokoso Nippon. The food is carefully prepared... More >>

  • Best No-Frills Sandwich

    Roasted Turkey at Tommy's Joynt 1101 Geary (at Van Ness), 775-4216 The best sandwich on Earth is the roasted dark meat turkey sandwich on LaBrea Bakery sourdough at Greenblatt's Delicatessen in West Hollywood, but a reasonable facsimile is available at Tommy's Joynt, the ornately rendered cafeteria/ bar at Geary and Van Ness. Shards of meat are sliced from a freshly roasted turkey before your eyes and nestled between the folds of a sourdough roll. That's all there is to... More >>

  • Best Caviar Tasting

    Tsar Nicoulai Caviar Cafe 1 Ferry Building, No. 12, Market & Embarcadero, 288-8630, www.tsarnicoulai.com If you don't mind the envious glances of the passing parade, sit yourself down at the U-shaped counter of this purveyor of luxury and enjoy the taste of the sea in an assortment of pricey little fish eggs, accompanied by homemade buckwheat blini and crème fraîche. We prefer the premium caviar sampler (including two grades of California Estate osetra, two types of imported sevruga, and... More >>

  • Best Freebies (tie)

    The Old Clam House 299 Bayshore (at Oakdale), 826-4880 The Rotunda 150 Stockton (at Geary), 362-4777, www.rotundarestaurant.com Tartare 550 Washington (at Montgomery), 434-3100, www.tartarerestaurant.com We like tradition, especially when it comes in such tasty forms as the all-you-want piping hot clam broth with shreds of potato and onion that starts off every meal at the Old Clam House (an old-fashioned touch that reminds you, more than the remodeled setting, that the place has been roosting on Bayshore since 1861);... More >>

  • Best Nepalese

    Little Nepal 925 Cortland (at Folsom), 643-3881 After its greeter welcomes you with a kind "Namaste," this chic, spare, and modern wood-lined room in Bernal Heights is a calm setting in which to enjoy Little Nepal's highly spiced and appetizing fare. You have to start with momos, perhaps the best-known Nepalese dish: sturdy, plump dumplings (stuffed with minced pork, chicken, or a mélange of fresh vegetables) served with a bright, slightly hot tomato sauce spiked with sesame. The chicken,... More >>

  • Best View Bar

    Bloom's Saloon 1318 18th St. (at Missouri), 552-6707 As spring heats up, a young person's mind turns to ... beer, of course, preferably drunk outside. If you're tired of waiting in line at Zeitgeist with all the other sun-and-suds worshippers, head on over to this distinctively tiled Potrero Hill watering hole with stupendous views of the bay, the Bay Bridge, and downtown San Francisco decked out in sunny splendor. Potrero Hill is one of those great neighborhoods that feel... More >>

  • Best Pasta

    Tajarin at Quince 1701 Octavia (at Bush), 775-8500, www.quincerestaurant.com You eat very well indeed at Quince, a charming, small, Italianate neighborhood restaurant of high ambitions. But the pastas reign supreme. They change frequently, but if tajarin is on the menu, don't miss it. It doesn't look like much on the plate: a tiny, tangled haystack of the thinnest, most fragile tagliatelle imaginable, shining with butter and topped with a bit of fresh sage. But it's the apotheosis of flour,... More >>

  • Best Butcher Shop

    Golden Gate Meat Co. 1 Ferry Building, No. 13, Market & Embarcadero, 983-7800, www.goldengatemeatcompany.com The reborn Ferry Building isn't just a fine example of architectural grace and the shining jewel of our lovely new waterfront: It's a dream come true for the many and varied food fanatics of San Francisco. Especially invaluable is the Golden Gate Meat Co. over in slot 13. This family-owned butcher shop sells an astonishing variety of natural and organic beef, pork, lamb, veal, poultry,... More >>

  • Best Fries

    Tallula 4230 18th St. (at Collingwood), 437-6722, www.tallulasf.com They call them "pommes frites" here, and they come stacked high in a tall silver cup: fresh-cut fries, crisp without, floury within, dusted with an Indian masala (spice mixture) and topped with a container of mayonnaise mixed with chopped mango pickle. You can order these as part of Tallula's eclectic Indian-French small-plates lineup or as a bar snack in the downstairs lounge, which serves witty sake cocktails and projects Bollywood epics... More >>

  • Best French

    La Folie 2316 Polk (at Green), 776-5577, www.lafolie.com For the full-on, top-notch, starry French experience, try this newly redecorated temple of luxury (subdued tones of rust and burgundy replace marionettes and harlequins, and tables are bigger and fewer). Here you can command a three-course ($60), four-course ($75), or five-course ($85) menu pulled together from soups and salads, appetizers, fish and shellfish, poultry and meat, desserts and cheeses. Or abandon choice with the set vegetarian menu ($60) or an adventurous... More >>

  • Best Grown-Up Ice Cream Sandwiches

    Citizen Cake 399 Grove (at Gough), 861-2228, www.citizencake.com It's not that we don't love the gummy chocolate-flavored cookies glued together with pasty artificial vanilla ice cream that you can buy in any convenience store, if only for their nostalgic appeal. But Citizen Cake's ice cream sandwiches are surely the living end of all cookies-and-cream desserts. For a well-worth-it $3.75 you can request your choice of any two freshly baked cookies -- chocolate chip, oatmeal-raisin, peanut butter, or one of the... More >>

  • Best Empanadas

    Tamal 1599 Howard (at 12th Street), 864-2446, www.tamalsf.com We like a lot of the small plates on offer at this chic, comfortable new South of Market wine bar -- or "Vino y Mas(a)," as it styles itself, with "mas" for more and "(a)" for masa, the corn flour dough that encloses Tamal's signature tamales. But we were especially wowed by the crisp, fragile pastry on the crab empanadas, filled with sweet Dungeness and served on a mild, creamy roasted... More >>

  • Best Vegetables

    Here are the sides that haunt our dreams, that would draw us back even if these eateries didn't also offer many delicious dishes of flesh, fish, and fowl. One caveat: You can always find our favorites at Grégoire and the Helmand, but seasonality rules at Home and Lime. Brussels Sprouts, Lime 2247 Market (at Sanchez), 621-5256, www.lime-sf.com We love these tiny aromatic cabbages, but we've never had better ones than those served in this Space Age cocktail lounge, adorned... More >>

  • Best Salad Bar

    Mrs. T's Cafe 809 Montgomery (at Jackson), 982-6663 One year we ate lunch at Mrs. T's every day and never got sick of it. The reason is its amazing salad bar. You probably think a salad bar is just lettuce and fixin's, right? Well, Mrs. T's has that. But it also has more: sushi, freshly baked turkey and cranberry sauce, veggie tempura, meatloaf, cheeses, and the tastiest prepared salads north of Whole Foods. We're talking seaweed salad, turkey salad,... More >>

  • Best Soup

    Acqua Povera at Brindisi Cucina di Mare 88 Belden (at Pine), 593-8000, www.brindisicucina.com The name means "poor water" (something like the legendary stone soup), but it's ironic in this instance. At Brindisi, home of many good things to eat, this compulsively edible and satisfying soup comes in a huge bowl. It's a shiny broth full of rapini, white beans, brilliant green peas, and chunks of fried bread -- and you'll feel richer for having tried it.... More >>

  • Best Post-Theater Snacks

    Grand Cafe 501 Geary (at Taylor), 292-0101, www.grandcafe-sf.com One of the best things about an evening at ACT or the Curran or Marines Memorial is heading to a bistro afterward and deconstructing the experience over noshes and cocktails. The Grand Cafe is the ideal post-theater option -- and not simply because of its location. The snacks prepared and served in the restaurant's cocktail lounge are among the best in the city: big iced platters of oysters, clams, and mussels;... More >>

  • Best Faded High-Roller Bar

    Empress of China 838 Grant (between Washington and Clay), 434-1345 These days the Empress of China bar on Grant Avenue is run-down and underappreciated, but the gallery of celebrity photos in the lobby (along with the '70s-chic restaurant) proves that it was once a local hot spot. The bar still has swanky velvet seating, a killer view of Chinatown, and yummy coconut-milk drinks with pineapple spears and such, and there's always a spot to sit and appreciate the bustling... More >>

  • Best Japanese

    Kyo-Ya Palace Hotel, 2 New Montgomery (at Market), 546-5090, www.kyo-ya-restaurant.com The chic, minimal entry and bar of this Japanese restaurant are much more high-style than its rather ordinary, spare, and underdecorated rooms. But what comes out of the kitchen is Japanese food of the highest order: The simplest dish of grilled squid, for example, is carefully scored, properly smoky, kissed with ginger, and displayed to perfect advantage. Kyo-Ya's ingredients, conception, preparation, and plating are all exquisite. One of the... More >>

  • Ferry Building Favorites

    As many before us have pointed out, the 1989 earthquake did have one salutary effect: the eventual removal of the Embarcadero Freeway, which freed up the waterfront and gave us back the Ferry Building (at Embarcadero and Market, www.ferrybuildingmarketplace.com), which is now not only a transportation hub, but also a foodie paradise. In addition to hosting the four-times-weekly farmers' markets (Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and the biggest, Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 2... More >>

  • Best Restaurant to Take Your Parents To

    2223 Restaurant and Bar 2223 Market (off Sanchez), 431-0692, www.2223restaurant.com A parental visit can be like a walk through a recent war zone: You just never know how many hidden land mines you'll step on. That's why picking the right restaurant during such a visit is so imperative. It's amazing how much more smoothly things can go with a little help from a top-notch staff. A stopover at 2223 is sure to prove successful. The décor is warm and inviting,... More >>

  • Best Crab Cakes

    Café Maritime 2517 Lombard (at Scott), 885-2530, www.cafemaritimesf.com This charming neighborhood spot, whose fresh, crisp facade speaks of the seafood delights available within, offers food and drink until 1 a.m. One of Café Maritime's best offerings is its crab cakes, fragile and thin, the kind that favor crab over filler: lump crabmeat, shreds, and flakes, barely held together with a few bread crumbs, and nicely garnished, too, depending on the whim of the chef. A sprightly, garlicky Meyer lemon... More >>

  • Best Sissy-Drink Bar

    Top of the Mark InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel, 999 California (at Mason), 616-6916, www.topofthemark.com When the Top of the Mark opened its 360-degree vistas to the public in 1939, candied violets, pomegranate juice, and lemongrass weren't in your standard bartender's bag of tricks. Times (and taste buds) change, however, and as the martini continues its devolution into a sort of alcoholic Bosco for post-pubescents, phantasmagoric, candy-coated sissy drinks (there's no other term for them) are more popular than ever.... More >>

  • Best Reuse of a Historic Whorehouse

    The Saloon Bar 1232 Grant (at Fresno Alley), 989-7666 This North Beach blues bar is perhaps the oldest drinking establishment still active in the city, having opened in 1861 as the Fresno Hotel Bar and survived several reincarnations (not to mention the 1906 earthquake and fire) since. Lore has it that a group of sailors rushed to save it from the approaching flames in '06, perhaps -- although no one can say for sure -- recalling fond nights spent... More >>

  • Best Resurrection

    Sears Fine Food 439 Powell (at Sutter), 986-1160, www.searsfinefood.com When we left Sears Fine Food one morning without breakfasting there, depressed by its harsh fluorescent lighting, shabby, stained, gray industrial carpeting, and sticky plastic tablecloths, we feared it was on its last legs. But the venerable San Francisco spot (around since 1938) found a rescuer in a local restaurateur who tore up the carpet, revealing white tile; tore out the acoustical tile, revealing a high vaulted ceiling; and put... More >>

  • Food & Drink

    Best Steakhouse C&L 1250 Jones (at Clay), 771-5400, www.cl-steak.com The menu here is a little tricky (starters, steaks, vegetables, and desserts each inspired by one of eight cities), but what inspires us in a steakhouse is its meat, and C&L serves some of the best we've ever had: pure cornfed beef from Painted Hills Natural Beef in Fossil, Ore. It's so delicious that we ask to have the sauces (such as the campfire bean that comes with the Denver rib-eye,... More >>

  • Readers' Poll

    Best Restaurant Delfina Best New Restaurant Dogzilla Cafe Best Hidden Restaurant Catalyst Cocktails Best Vegetarian Restaurant Greens Best Seafood Restaurant Pacific Cafe Best Thai Restaurant King of Thai Noodle House Best Fast Food In-N-Out Burger Best Burrito Pancho Villa Taqueria Best Coffeehouse Cafe Flore Best Late-Night Eats Sparky's Best Romantic Restaurant Bix Best Italian Restaurant Incanto Best Greasy Spoon Sparky's Best Bakery Arizmendi Best Ethiopian Restaurant Axum Best Middle Eastern Restaurant La Méditerranée Best Burger BurgerMeister Best Desserts Citizen Cake... More >>

  • Best Steakhouse

    C&L 1250 Jones (at Clay), 771-5400, www.cl-steak.com The menu here is a little tricky (starters, steaks, vegetables, and desserts each inspired by one of eight cities), but what inspires us in a steakhouse is its meat, and C&L serves some of the best we've ever had: pure cornfed beef from Painted Hills Natural Beef in Fossil, Ore. It's so delicious that we ask to have the sauces (such as the campfire bean that comes with the Denver rib-eye, or... More >>

  • Best Vegetarian (Expensive)

    Fleur De Lys

    Fleur de Lys 777 Sutter (at Taylor), 673-7779, www.fleurdelyssf.com San Francisco offers many delights for the vegetarian epicure, but none is more beguiling than the welcome given at the starry French temple de cuisine Fleur de Lys, whose Web site proudly states, "Vegetarians will be pleased to know that Chef Keller is more inspired than ever regarding his non-meat dishes." (That's Hubert Keller, veteran of the famous kitchens of Auberge de L'Ill, Gaston Lenôtre, Paul Bocuse, and Roger Verge:... More >>

  • Best Vegetarian (Inexpensive)

    Herbivore-The Earthly Grill

    Herbivore 983 Valencia (at 21st Street), 826-5657, and 531 Divisadero (at Fell), 885-7133, www.herbivore-restaurant.com Everything on Herbivore's extensive menu is vegan, but run-of-the-mill vegetarians and carnivores eat here happily, side by side with their more abstemious brethren. What's not to like about a roasted red beet salad, the sturdy batons of beet coated in grassy herbs, bedded on fresh greens, and topped with a tasty balsamic dressing? Or a refreshing seviche salad made of diced tofu and minced oyster... More >>

  • Best Classic San Francisco Lunch

    Swan Oyster Depot

    Decades before some overpaid restaurant consultant coined the term "raw bar," this unpretentious landmark was serving up fresh seafood to a clientele of working-class regulars. Located in the same Polk Street storefront since 1912, Swan now attracts devotees from every niche of the social strata (although the Pacific Heights elitists prefer delivery service to eating elbow to elbow with the hoi polloi). The lunch line winds out the door year-round as folks patiently wait for one of the 15... More >>

  • Best Mixed Drinks

    Levende Lounge

    Many places claim to have created their own mixed-drink recipes, but most of those concoctions taste suspiciously like a mai tai or a Cosmopolitan under a different name. Levende, however, has invented some truly cool ones. Try the Effen Cherry Bomb (black cherry vodka and crushed brandied cherries) or the Green My Eyes (sake with cucumber and "sweetness") or one of the other drinks that infuse ginger, mango, and peach into various libations. You'll pay more for a beverage... More >>

  • Best Tea

    Samovar Tea Lounge

    Samovar 498 Sanchez (at 18th Street), 626-4700, www.samovartea.com Drinking tea is a ritual that's been around for 5,000 years, and doing it in style makes all the difference, as the folks at Samovar will tell you. This Castro tea lounge is more of a modern Zen oasis than the stuffy china-closet digs the term "high tea" usually recalls. Grass floors, burnished woods, bronze Buddhas, and plump cushions strewn every which way take customers back to the way original tea... More >>

  • Best Foodie Web Site

    www.chowhound.com As Thackeray once said, "Next to eating good dinners, a healthy man with a benevolent turn of mind must like, I think, to read about them," and we're with him, especially when the reading can introduce us to more of those good dinners to eat. Chowhound.com is a longtime favorite, and its local message boards are essential reading for food-obsessed San Franciscans. Despite the site's difficult-to-navigate, long-loading threads, we love to read its impassioned contributors, who are quick... More >>

  • Best Cheap Meal

    Saigon Sandwich

    For gourmands, slumming is a $6 burrito at Taqueria Can-Cun. For the rest of us, it's a $2.25 roast pork sandwich at Saigon Sandwiches, easily the best bargain in the city. The clerks start with a crusty roll, fill it with various meats, then add shaved carrots, cilantro, sauce, and lots of mayo. Where's the profit? Who knows? It's simple, hearty food, and one is enough, so get used to spending pocket change. The place also has a vegetarian... More >>

  • Best New Bar

    Madrone Art Bar

    While it may seem like San Francisco needs a new bar as much as a canary needs a cat, the mid-Haight/Western Addition neighborhood is surprisingly lacking in decent watering holes. Thankfully, in October of last year Leila Fakouri opened Madrone Lounge on Divisadero Street. The space is far more than just another cocktail saloon; in fact, Fakouri prefers to call it an "art lounge." Similar in spirit to 111 Minna (on a smaller scale), Madrone hosts bimonthly art exhibits,... More >>

  • Best Unsung Restaurant

    RNM Restaurant

    RNM 598 Haight (at Steiner), 551-7900, www.rnmrestaurant.com This small, bilevel, urbane restaurant, a little out of place in its Lower Haight neighborhood, consistently offers fresh, interesting, and well-cooked food that speaks of the skill and passion of its young chef/owner, Justine Miner. Its Web site says it serves "small plates of American food with French and Italian influences," but it delivers plenty of "large plates," too, which match meat and fish with wonderful seasonal vegetables, such as lavender-scented grilled... More >>

  • Best Street Food

    Mission Taco Trucks El Tonayense, 22nd Street & Harrison, 550-9192, and Doña Tere, 21st Street & Alabama There are two local eateries within blocks of each other that are not only unequaled in the areas of gustatory satisfaction and affordability, but they also serve their specialties from the side of a truck. At Doña Tere's friendly, rustic establishment you can get one of the city's finest snacks, sweet corn drenched in mayo, queso cotijo, and cayenne, as well as... More >>

  • Best Breakfast

    Mama's On Washington Square

    1701 Stockton (at Filbert), 362-6421 Every great breakfast spot has a line out the door, and Mama's is no different. Outside it's brutal, but once you get the nod from the server/bouncer, you're ushered into the second line, which hugs the counter. This line is easier. You're now inches from pastries of all sorts, made fresh daily. Locals chat up the cooks as they flip thick omelets and French toast, a house favorite. If you get lucky and someone... More >>

  • Best Italian

    Acquerello

    Everything is top-notch at this 15-year-old Italian restaurant: the serene setting (a spacious, calm, and grown-up room with a striking vaulted wood ceiling); the professional, knowledgeable, and caring service; and the exciting cooking, high-style Italian food created from the best seasonal ingredients. Begin with a simple, exquisite Parmesan budino topped with a tangle of julienned zucchini and sauced with puréed spinach, or a chunk of Hawaiian butterfish in tomato-fennel sauce and seafood stew; move on to an amazing pasta... More >>

  • Best Thai

    Thai House Express

    Thai House Express 901 Larkin (at Geary), 441-2248 The beautifully conceived dishes that come out of the open kitchen here at blinding speed (hence "Express") would do honor to much fancier surroundings -- and prices. The setting does have its charms (the metal-topped tables, blond wood banquette, and abstract paintings read urban bistro rather than inexpensive ethnic dive), but the real draw at this brightly lit corner spot is the food: wonderful salads of shredded green papaya or bamboo... More >>

  • Best Late-Night Eats

    Yuet Lee

    The good news is that you can feast on wonderful fresh seafood (fried squid, steamed whole flounder, pepper and salt roasted prawns in the shell) until all hours -- well, 3 a.m., which is late indeed in our fair city -- in this underdecorated but picturesque corner spot in North Beach, where you might even be able to find parking in the wee hours. The bad news: It's cash only (so remember to bring some, because there's nothing worse... More >>

  • Best Sausages

    World Sausage Grill 2073 Market (at Church), 621-7488 World sources its artisanal sausages locally (no preservatives, no nitrites, and no artificial flavorings of any kind are used), offering at least two dozen varieties including several vegetarian options, from the familiar (Polish sausage, weisswurst) to the unusual (Thai chicken and turkey flavored with lemongrass and cilantro, Hawaiian-Portuguese made with bacon fat). The organic rolls are baked fresh daily, and there's a dizzying array of condiments, including artichoke mayonnaise and hot... More >>

  • Best Sweets Shop

    XOX Truffles 754 Columbus (at Filbert), 421-4814, www.xoxtruffles.com The mystery surrounding European chocolatiers always seemed a bit like hokum until we wandered into XOX Truffles. The shop is a funky little slice of lower Columbus Avenue charm, its windows plastered over with accolades, including a few that are handwritten ("Rated Ultimate by Food Network's Dave Rosengarten" screams one in blue marker). But step into the shop, heady with chocolate aroma, and you know you've done something right. Chef Jean-Marc... More >>

  • Best Cheeseburger

    Rosamunde Sausage Grill

    It's only available once a week, on Tuesday from 11:30 a.m. "until the meat runs out," but maybe that's one of the reasons we find ourselves dreaming of this burger on other days. And we're not alone: On that one day, the line at this popular sausage shack runs out the door, and nearly everybody orders the burger, often taking it next door to the Toronado pub, where you can wash it down with a beer. Rosamunde's is a... More >>

  • Best New Restaurant (Inexpensive)

    Blue Jay Cafe

    We wish we lived near this friendly neighborhood spot, which offers generous portions of Southern-accented home cooking for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at gentle prices, in a funky setting with a large U-shaped counter and a row of tables. For breakfast you can get inventive scrambles or omelets, as well as buttermilk griddlecakes, French toast with bananas, and superb biscuits (which you must not miss), on their own or in the Blue Jay biscuit sandwich, with eggs, cheese, and bacon.... More >>

  • Best New Restaurant (Expensive)

    Jack Falstaff

    Chef James Ormsby is cooking wonderful organic comfort food in a modern setting at this newest member of the PlumpJack family, located just two blocks from SBC Park. His "slow food" approach includes milling his own flour, creating an array of exotic bar snacks that can be packaged to take with you to the game, and sourcing the best ingredients from myriad local and international purveyors. Ormsby matches his braised and roasted meats and lightly cooked seafood with complementary... More >>

  • Best New Restaurant (Very Expensive)

    The Westin St. Francis

    Michael Mina, in a lush room in the St. Francis, is the big-news opening of the year, with a tricky concept sure to intrigue and annoy foodies: A three-course seasonal menu, with many choices offered for each course, presents you with an ingredient-based variation on a theme. It's ostensibly three dishes per course, but in practice, each dish is complemented with a "garnish" so carefully conceived that you'll find six different constructions vying for your attention. An example: a... More >>

  • Best Milkshake

    Bombay Bazar and Ice Cream

    Wonderful on its own or as a cooling counterpart to the crunchy, spicy snacks served here, Bombay's falooda is created with your choice of several homemade ice creams (we loved a version with saffron pistachio, cardamom, and mango, when we asked for the server's favorites), layered with translucent chewy noodles, crunchy basil seeds, and fragrant rose syrup. It's far beyond your standard diner vanilla.... More >>

  • Best Beverages

    Zatar

    We are very fond of this snug, eccentric East Bay eatery, which purveys its own brand of "eclectic Mediterranean cuisine" using organic ingredients, including many fruits and vegetables from its own gardens. But we dream about Zatar's distinctive and delicious fruit beverages, including a special frothy mint lemonade, the best we've ever had; the sensual jalab, flavored with date syrup and rose water; and a lemony tamarind drink also perfumed with rose water. In an ideal world, pitchers of... More >>

  • Best Place to Get a Quiet Drink Downtown

    Hotel Rex

    Downtown hotels are generally to be avoided. Busy, noisy, and full of people in suits, they're usually the last place you'd go to get away from the crowds. The unnamed lobby bar at Hotel Rex is different. Inspired by the San Francisco art and literary salons of the 1920s and '30s, it features distinctive period furnishings, walls of antiquarian books, and an eclectic collection of artwork that helps create an intimate, clubby atmosphere for a quiet evening drink. The... More >>

  • Best Cheese Shop

    Cowgirl Creamery

    Walking into Cowgirl Creamery is like slamming into an olfactory brick wall. "Heady" doesn't quite describe it. This is living, breathing, ripening cheese, releasing dripping molecules of scent into the Ferry Building's cavernous hall like an animal attracting mates. No wonder Cowgirl was mentioned on Will & Grace. Similar to the famed Cheeseboard in Berkeley, Cowgirl is run by staffers armed with cheese slicers, and they're quick to make recommendations. Along with a wide selection of foreign and domestic... More >>

  • Best Taco

    Nick's Crispy Tacos

    Nick's Crispy Tacos 1500 Broadway (at Polk), 409-8226 If you've never ordered a taco from Nick's, you're probably going to make a mistake, so listen up: After you say, "Carnitas taco, please" (the place sells other meat, but it's your money), follow it up with, "Nick's way." It takes people months to get this routine down, satisfied as they are with a simple taco. But for an extra 75 cents, Nick's tucks cheese, guacamole, and a hard shell into... More >>

  • Best Hot Chocolate

    Giacomo Coffee Bar 120 Stockton (at O'Farrell), 296-4907 "Charlie put the mug to his lips, and as the rich warm creamy chocolate ran down his throat into his empty tummy, his whole body from head to toe began to tingle with pleasure, and a feeling of intense happiness spread over him." If the desire for a cup of cocoa hits you at a time when you don't happen to be drifting down Willy Wonka's chocolate river, head to Union... More >>

  • Best Pub Grub

    The Pig and Whistle

    The classic plowman's lunch of fresh bread, a wedge of cheddar, pickled onions, and a pint of ale is considerably supplemented at the Pig and Whistle, a bona fide English pub repotted in Laurel Heights, where hunting bugles decorate the walls, the barkeep knows how to pour a proper Guinness, and the Cornish pasties are just like Mum used to make. Start the day with a delicious, rib-sticking English breakfast of Irish bacon, baked beans, scrambled eggs, crumpets, and... More >>

  • Best Cafe

    Cafe Hurghada

    If a cafe is a place where people from the neighborhood catch up and read the paper and watch the world stroll by over the sweet and savory snacks that go with a good cup of coffee, Cafe Hurghada is the genuine article. When you walk in, you become part of a loving, wisecracking extended family in which everyone knows one another -- and how much he despises his landlord and what she was supposed to have done last... More >>

  • Best Fish and Chips

    Piccadilly Fish & Chips

    There are tons of fish-and-chip places in London exactly like the Piccadilly: tiny bare-bones establishments with the interior design of a fast-food joint and the Empire's most positive contribution to global cuisine on the menu. The similarity to the real thing doesn't end at the aesthetic, though. Cod specially flown in from Ireland is fried twice (the second time immediately before serving) to ensure a perfectly crunchy exterior, then paired with thick-cut fried potatoes soft and limp enough to... More >>

  • Best Takeout

    Mistral Rotisserie Provençale

    Mistral Rotisserie Provençale 1 Ferry Building, No. 41, Market & Embarcadero, 399-9751 Mistral serves the sort of rich, hearty, soul-warming food that goes well with a good local cabernet and a hunk of sourdough, the perfect restorative feast after a long, hard day of work. Among Fabrice and Betty Marcon's rustic Mediterranean specialties are their signature stew of fork-tender lamb, carrots, garbanzos, and couscous; a lush, thick cassoulet brimming with pork, white beans, and sausage; organically raised chicken, lamb,... More >>

  • Best Prix Fixe

    Sociale

    The tasting menu here, which changes frequently, is four courses (two choices per course) priced at a reasonable $35. (Starters on the regular menu run from $5.50 to $10, pastas from $12 to $18, and main courses from $16 to $24.) We have happy memories of a feast that began with our pick of two salads (fresh asparagus on a bed of mâche or a "Caesar" made with Gorgonzola), followed by oysters or house-made sausage-stuffed pasta, then arctic char... More >>

  • Best Hawaiian Restaurant

    Hukilau

    The Hawaiian Islands have tantalized San Franciscans ever since Union correspondent Mark Twain paid a visit in 1865, King Kalakaua repaid the favor a few years later, and Matson Lines steamships departed Pier 35 for Honolulu on a regular basis. Hukilau keeps the connection thriving and fragrant with its menu of traditional plate lunches and dinners: big wooden platters of panko-crusted chicken, broiled mahi-mahi, or the island specialty of your choice served with two scoops of rice and a... More >>

  • Best Free Lunch

    Gino & Carlo Cocktail Lounge

    Although it's true that there's no such thing as a free lunch, at one time in our gilded past the saloons of San Francisco would lay out bountiful noontime feasts of oysters, caviar, baked ham, and other salty, thirst-whetting treats, all for the price of a nickel beer. One of the few modern-day exponents of this sorely missed tradition is Gino & Carlo, where on a given 49ers, Warriors, or Giants Sunday the staff will lay a tablecloth across... More >>

  • Best Free Drink Tour

    Anchor Brewing Company

    Anchor Brewing, which makes seven beers and ales (including the popular Anchor Steam, since 1896), offers a free, weekly, yeasty-smelling public tour of its handsome and immaculate all-copper brewhouse, by reservation only, for parties of up to 10. The guided walking tour lasts about 45 minutes and includes a brief history of the brewery and a look at all three floors of the building. A tasting session follows, and is only available to tour members. (The tour and tasting... More >>

  • Five Best Historical Bars

    San Francisco has been a city of taverns, pubs, saloons, and watering holes for a century and a half, and in all that time these pinnacles of interactive vice, gin-fueled activism, popular culture, and political discourse were bound to absorb their fair share of the local history. Here are some of the most phantom-friendly, genealogically abundant saloons in town. San Francisco Brewing Co. 155 Columbus (at Pacific), 434-3344, www.sfbrewing.com Like Li-Po, the Saloon, and Specs, its equally venerable neighbors,... More >>

  • Best Food Court

    Belden Place

    Anchored on one end by the venerable Sam's Grill and Seafood Restaurant (open since 1866) and on the other by Brindisi Cucina di Mare (since last year), this narrow alley, jampacked with side-by-side restaurants fronted with alfresco tables under strings of lights, offers a distinctive and delightful dining opportunity. (Sam's forgoes the outside tables, but inside you'll find impeccable sand dabs, sweetbreads, and such old-fashioned preparations as poached salmon with egg sauce, in an atmosphere far from the madding... More >>

  • Best Wine Bar

    VinoVenue 686 Mission (at Third Street), 341-1930, www.vinovenue.net This spot, more of a wine store that offers a fun tasting experience than a wine bar, blends modern technology (temperature-controlled machines that dispense 1-ounce pours of more than 100 different wines) with ancient (the winemaker's art). On entering the spacious premises, you buy a plastic card loaded with a dollar value amount between $10 and $50; insert this card into a slot on one of the half-dozen or so machines... More >>

  • Best American Food

    The Blue Plate

    The very appealing menu of the Blue Plate, self-described as a "new American restaurant," reveals just how globally influenced and sophisticated today's square meals are: Alongside the excellent meatloaf (with mashed potatoes and a fresh seasonal vegetable), a standard on the frequently changing lineup, you might find a hunky Niman Ranch pork porterhouse sided with herbed spaetzle, English peas, pancetta, and Meyer lemon jus, or duck confit with a rainbow assortment of vegetables and watercress in a snappy cardamom... More >>

  • Best Restaurant Décor

    Le Colonial

    Once you enter Le Colonial's encompassing atmosphere of drowsy tropical elegance, jangling, frenetic downtown San Francisco ceases to exist. This urban oasis, tucked away in the inner courtyard that once housed Trader Vic's and accessed via a fronded open-air atrium, is rich with polished wood, crisp napery, carved rattan, and the gentle glow of candlelight. Two floors and multiple nooks and enclaves feature intricate tile flooring, vintage pressed-tin ceilings in deep red, antique Oriental rugs, richly upholstered forest-green wicker... More >>

  • Best Ice Cream (East Bay)

    Sketch Ice Cream

    There are more than a dozen flavors of dense, creamy gelato and deeply flavored sorbet and granita available daily at this tiny, immaculate shop in the highly walkable Fourth Street shopping neighborhood. The server will scoop your roasted strawberry or peach gelato atop crepes, freshly baked waffles, or tiny loaves of barely sweet brioche. Sketch also bakes macaroons and spice cookies, which can be purchased as is or combined with your choice of fillings to create small but luxe... More >>

  • Best Soufflés

    Cafe Jacqueline

    Café Jacqueline 1454 Grant (at Green), 981-5565 The two major ingredients of soufflés -- eggs and air -- are inexpensive and in great supply, but the skill involved in combining them is apparently not, so soufflés have largely disappeared from the dining scene. Luckily we have an eccentric and cozy spot on upper Grant that not only specializes in soufflés, but also does so to the exclusion of all else: The eatery offers a couple of starter salads and... More >>

  • Best Fancy Vietnamese

    The Slanted Door

    Once the myriad fans of the Slanted Door's extraordinary high-style Vietnamese cuisine had gotten over the restaurant's two moves to increasingly upscale locations (from the Mission to Brannan Street to the Ferry Building) and braved the tedious reservation lines (complete with seven-digit confirmation numbers), they looked around and realized that the new airy, modern digs were pretty swell, the bay views were beautiful, and the food was as delicious as ever. Longtime favorites include the garlicky, spicy shaking beef... More >>

  • Best Sushi

    Ino Sushi

    Nigiri sushi stars at this immaculate, tiny establishment, a narrow room in the Miyako Mall with a blond-wood sushi bar and matching walls. Nine or 10 people can sit at the bar, and a similar number at the five tables that line the wall. The specialty of this small, spare place is the classic: the freshest fish, laid on carefully cooked rice, with a spare smear of wasabi between the two. No Thunder Mountain Screaming Dragon Rolls here -- just... More >>

  • Best Brewpub

    21st Amendment

    Following a San Francisco tradition of masterful brewing that stretches back to the Gold Rush, the 21st cooks up a distinctive array of beers that range from the light and crisp to the rich and yeasty. The 21A IPA, for instance, employs three hops in the fermenting process to especially lusty effect, while the Oyster Point Stout is made with honest-to-God Hog Island oyster shells for a surprisingly tasty hint of errant sea spray. (For their next trick, the brewmasters... More >>

  • Best Beer Bar

    Magnolia Gastropub & Brewery

    There are always 10 to 12 house-made beers on tap here (as well as another three to five on the hand pumps), including the award-winning Blue Bell Bitter and Proving Ground IPA and such original creations as Sara's Ruby Mild ("with a hint of black cherries"), Cole Porter ("just a hair shy of being a stout"), and the hearty, chewy oatmeal Stout of Circumstance. (Seasonal offerings include Jubilee Pale Ale, to celebrate the Haight Street Fair and the start... More >>

  • Best Biscuits

    Mangarosa

    There are lots of reasons to like this North Beach Brazilian-Italian eatery: its stylish and comfortable setting, tasty food (especially the homemade pastas and grilled meats), and affordable prices (its steaks are big enough for two), to name just three. But every time we've dined here, we haven't been able to resist getting at least one order of the pao de queijo, tiny, puffy, hot cheese biscuits listed under appetizers. They are appetizing indeed.... More >>

  • Best Dive

    Gyro King

    The unprepossessing room -- dominated by an open grill and a glass-fronted refrigerated case containing salads -- belies the fresh and exciting Middle Eastern fare on offer here. You order at the counter, grab a drink and silverware, and find a seat at one of the 10 not very comfy tables, where a server will bring you your delicious food. We love the appetizer combo plate, which includes excellent hummus, baba ghanouj, chunky eggplant salad, and the fiery ezme... More >>

  • Best Wine List

    Rubicon 558 Sacramento (at Montgomery), 434-4100, www.sfrubicon.com Some say that Rubicon's wine list, which runs to 70 densely printed pages in a hefty tooled leather binder, is not only the best in San Francisco, but also the best in the United States. Under Master Sommelier Larry Stone (one of the most honored men in the wine trade; the first page of the list is devoted to his awards and those of the half-dozen sommeliers who work with him), the... More >>

  • Best Chinese

    Jai Yun

    When you walk into this tiny, unlisted, six-table hole in the wall, there's no menu to peruse or decision to make except to settle in, put yourself in chef Nei Chia Ji's hands, and spend the next couple of hours eating a fabulous, often unusual multicourse meal. Every morning Nei visits the Chinatown fish markets, greengrocers, and butchers and decides what he'll whip up for his roomful of guests that evening: a warm morel-asparagus salad, perhaps, followed by al... More >>

  • Best Pre-Giants Game Eats

    MoMo's

    The gourmet eats at MoMo's can be a bit pricey, but the creative and artfully arranged American fare -- particularly the ahi tuna tartare with caviar and the grilled skirt steak smothered with portobello mushrooms and braised bourbon onions -- justifies the cost. Located right across the street from SBC Park, it's the perfect spot for a delicious snack or a dry martini before the first pitch, whether you're inclined to lounge at the indoor bar or bask in... More >>

  • Best Pastries

    Tartine Bakery

    Consider, if you will, a light-as-air citrus-edged genoise layered with a delicate grapefruit mousse and topped with torched peaks of meringue; or a crisp, flaky tart lined with bittersweet chocolate and billowing with coconut cream; or a custardlike brioche pudding crowned with macerated peaches; or a dense, dark, fudgelike brownie of crisp whole walnuts and premium Scharffen Berger chocolate. The patissiers at Tartine create some of the most toothsome, ethereal pastries east of the Pacific Ocean in a friendly old... More >>

  • Best Kitchen Aid

    Boulette's Larder

    Cooks in search of an idea for dinner and noncooks in search of dinner will both find what they need in the well-stocked haven of Boulette's Larder. The cooks will be pleased to find preparations to ease their travail, such as bouquets garnis, homemade stocks, prepped and chopped organic vegetables, house-made sauerkraut, and a wide range of hard-to-find spices, herbs, preserves, and other ingredients. The noncooks will be pleased to find a daily-changing array of elegant food, inspired by... More >>

  • Best Only-in-the-Bay-Area Pastry

    La Farine 6323 College (at Alcatraz), Oakland, (510) 654-0338, www.lafarine.com Tartine Bakery 600 Guerrero (at 18th Street), 487-2600, www.tartinebakery.com Until Tartine came up with its own spin on the morning bun (its kitchen adds a touch of grated orange rind to the mix), the only place you could buy one of these legendary pastries (as the store itself modestly states) was at La Farine, a delightful French bakery in Oakland's foodie-friendly Rockridge District. Deceptively simple in appearance, the morning bun... More >>

  • Best Free Tasting

    Yum Foods

    Tastes vary widely in our gastronomic metropolis, but most refrigerators have something in common: They tend to have overcrowded top shelves, home to those various ingenious accents that can turn a plain cut of meat or a raw vegetable into something spectacular. This affliction ensures that even if the rest of the fridge doesn't contain a lot of food, it still holds jars of sun-dried tomato walnut pesto and cucumber lime marinade. At Yum, such condiments are properly revered.... More >>

  • Best Ice Cream Shop

    Swenson's

    Buying ice cream should be a nostalgic event, so stop kidding yourself that Cherry Garcia helps the environment and go to a real shop: the original Swenson's at Union and Hyde. Opened in 1948 by Earle Swenson himself, this place has catered to the Russian Hill community for years, and lines of loyal customers frequently spill out the door. Although the décor is proudly retro, with its ancient sign and ice cream machine in the front window, most people... More >>

  • Best Cheap French

    Baker Street Bistro

    San Franciscans have enjoyed the pleasures of French cuisine ever since the Poodle Dog opened at Grant and Washington in 1849, offering five courses of Gallic comestibles for 15 cents, but few of the Poodle's successors have followed its wallet-friendly example. The Baker Street Bistro, a cozy boîte at the edge of the Presidio, is a throwback to those palate-pleasing, low-overhead glory days. Chef Jacques Manuara cooks delicious examples of old-country fare remarkable for their affordability: garlicky escargots with... More >>

  • Best Homegrown San Francisco Treat

    Blackberry Bushes

    Lake Merced, Sunset & Lake Merced, www.lakemerced.org Starting in late summer, the city is liberally dotted with blackberry bushes loaded with tempting, juicy fruit. But since many of these bushes grow in areas where they're constantly dirtied by car exhaust, their fruit is often unfit for eating (it seems obvious to recommend that you avoid the bushes growing along the Great Highway, for instance). Intrepid city trekkers, however, know that there are numerous natural spots where you can pick... More >>

  • Best Turkish

    A La Turca

    A La Turca 869 Geary (at Larkin), 345-1011 In addition to the familiar, expertly prepared mezes (such as hummus, baba ghanouj, and dolmas) and kebabs (lamb, chicken, and kofte) available in this pleasant place, which is lined with a wide wooden banquette and dominated by an open grill, you'll find such unusual dishes as pides, irresistible, long, thin, stuffed meat pies made with ground beef, chicken with mushrooms, or chicken with pineapple; alexander kebap, aka iskender, a homey dish... More >>

  • Best Fried Chicken

    Jack Falstaff

    Our opinion of fried chicken is monotonous: We like it. Big juicy chickens, small tender chickens, thick crunchy coating, thin crisp coating, spicy, bland -- lots of choices, lots of styles, lots of price ranges. And we like proper fried chicken sides, too, with points for real mashed potatoes and for biscuits or corn bread. These places serve the best in the city. Jack Falstaff 598 Second St. (at Brannan), 836-9239, www.plumpjack.com It's not always available (the seasonal menu... More >>

  • Best Cake

    DeLessio Market & Bakery

    Yes, Citizen Cake does make some nice cakes. Hell, it's right there in the place's name. And if you want to pay as much for a cake as for a small foreign car, go right ahead. But if you want a more reasonable price -- for a cake that's just as insanely exotic and tasty -- go to DeLessio. The Market Street restaurant and bakery's Chocolate Tower Cake is such a stunner that you might find it hard to... More >>

  • Best Caesar Salad

    Oola Restaurant & Bar

    Too many salads served under the proud name of Caesar don't fulfill the mandate of this dish: The lettuce is neither romaine nor served in whole leaves, the eggless dressing is watery, there's a timid hand with the garlic, and all too often the anchovies have gone entirely missing. Not so at Oola, where you'll find a sublime Caesar salad, a stack of crisp romaine leaves drenched in a brave dressing, pungent with garlic, sharp with anchovies, and salty... More >>

  • Best After-Opera Meal

    Absinthe Brasserie & Bar

    Whether it's Wagner or Offenbach (or even the ballet or the symphony or City Arts & Lectures), our favorite act is always the last one, which takes place at Absinthe, a thoroughly professional restaurant that's well aware of the responsibility conferred on it by its location adjacent to Civic Center. Reservations are imperative for the before-event meal, but we prefer arriving after: The kitchen is open until midnight Tuesday through Saturday (and the bar is open until 2 a.m.... More >>

  • Best Turkey Sandwich

    Lee's Deli Twelve locations, including: 322 Kearny (at Bush), 986-1052; 475 Sansome (at Clay), 391-4740; 222 Front (at California), 433-3222; and 648 Market (between Montgomery and Kearny), 421-0648 They're down-market in so many ways, but the multiple Lee's Deli locations still make one of the best turkey sandwiches to be found in San Francisco. The company roasts its own turkey -- real bird, not pressed or processed -- and you can get thick slices of nice, moist dark meat,... More >>

  • Best Dim Sum

    Yank Sing

    This large, efficient eatery in the middle of the large, efficient Rincon Center is less charming than the old, rickety Yank Sing of memory, but the dim sum on the rolling carts are still as fresh and appealing as ever. The carts appear at your table with blinding speed after you're seated, and it's tempting just to say yes to everything that's on them. But hold out for some specialties: not just bao, siu mai, and pot stickers, good... More >>

  • A Decade of the Best Burritos

    For many San Franciscans, making a declaratory statement about burritos is a good way to start an argument, since everyone who shovels one down more than once a week has an allegiance to his favorite shop. While trying to sort out 10 years' worth of Best Burrito winners, we've discovered much about those lumpy tubes of rice, beans, meat, and salsa -- but most of all we've learned that when it comes to burritos, this town suffers from an... More >>

  • Best Free Food Tour

    Scharffen Berger 914 Heinz (at Eighth Street), Berkeley, (510) 981-4066, www.scharffenberger.com The Bay Area boasts a holy trinity of chocolatiers (Ghirardelli, Joseph Schmidt, and Scharffen Berger), which proffer their exceptional morsels of delight to decaying teeth all over the world. Ghirardelli is an obvious tourist attraction, and you might have to know Mr. Schmidt himself to get in on one of the special private tours there, but Scharffen Berger offers free factory tours every day. On this journey through... More >>

  • Five Best 24-Hour Restaurants

    There's an eerie feeling of culinary limbo to this one-time Wickedest City on Earth once the bars close. A mere dozen establishments serve up sustenance to the insomniacs, night creatures, and graveyard shifters on a 24-hour basis. Even if you're safe at home, full of belly and snug in bed, it's comforting to know that if the need arises there are at least a few places where a San Franciscan can pull an Edward Hopper and wait out the... More >>

  • Best Oyster Bar (tie)

    Swan Oyster Depot

    Swan Oyster Depot 1517 Polk (at California), 673-1101 Hog Island Oyster Co. 1 Ferry Building, No. 11A, Market & Embarcadero, 391-7117, www.hogislandoysters.com We can't choose between these two places: one of San Francisco's oldest eateries and one of its newest. It depends on our mood. Is our mouth watering for the world's best crab Louis? Then we wait in line on Polk Street for a seat at Swan's well-worn marble counter. Do we hanker for a view of the... More >>

  • Best Dumplings

    Shanghai Dumpling King

    We happily trek to this unassuming two-room establishment way out in the Richmond District for beautifully made soup dumplings, here listed as Shanghai steamed dumplings: heaven on a plate, and only $4.95 for 10 big, plump, juicy beauties. There are lots of other dumplings on offer, as well as tasty fried treats, such as the Shanghai-style crispy salt pancake stuffed with shredded cabbage. The stir-fries and clay pot specialties are also fresh and well made, but the dumplings and... More >>

  • Best Early Bird Special

    Bendean

    It's the early bird who gets the bargain at Lance Dean Velasquez's homey Berkeley eatery. Velasquez, who cooked at San Francisco's Moose's and Home, thrills the neighborhood with a $13 three-course meal named for his son Ben (who shares the restaurant's name with his father). Ben's Supper is available between 5 and 6 p.m. and changes nightly: One such feast was an arugula salad with pine nuts and apples in a citrus vinaigrette, followed by ear-shaped orecchiette pasta with... More >>

  • Best Ice Cream (S.F.)

    Ciao Bella Gelato

    More than once we've inquired if the delicious ice creams and sorbets we've enjoyed for dessert in a variety of fancy restaurants were house-made and been told that the icy treats came from Ciao Bella, whose gelato is made from a family recipe out of Torino, Italy. It contains only 12 percent butterfat, as opposed to 16 percent in typical ice cream, and the creamy mouth feel results from its 20 percent air by volume, versus 60 percent in... More >>

  • Five Best Pizza Parlors

    A friend from North Carolina once told us that among the more popular snack items in the Raleigh area is something called California pizza. "What's that?" we asked. "Oh, you know," she said, "pizza with a lotta weird stuff on it." Although it's true that our affection for the offbeat does sometimes extend to the slice-o'-pie experience, San Francisco's finest pizza joints cannot be so easily pigeonholed. Tommasso's 1042 Kearny (at Broadway), 398-9696 The city's No. 1 pizzeria (at... More >>

  • Best Jams

    We were never big jam fanciers until we sampled the delicious hand-cut marmalades and preserves of June Taylor, and we've never been without a jar (or two or three) since. We were introduced to her wares by the serious foodie (and erstwhile San Franciscan) Dan Philips, proprietor of www.gratefulpalate.com, inventor of the Bacon of the Month Club, and purveyor of all things most delicious. Several upscale retail emporiums also stock the jams, and Miss Taylor herself often presides, with... More >>

  • Best Singaporean

    Penang Garden

    Penang Garden 728 Washington (at Kearny), 296-7878, www.penanggarden.com A nice change from the numberless Chinese restaurants that surround it, Penang Garden has taken its inspiration from a Singaporean food court lined with vendors, but made all its offerings conveniently available from one menu, as you sit decorously at one table under one roof. Its huge, vividly illustrated menu presents hundreds of dishes, from humble street snacks (juicy satay served with peanut sauce, airy "roti" pancakes with curry sauce) to... More >>

  • Best Hidden Restaurant (tie)

    Sociale

    Sociale 3665 Sacramento (at Spruce), 921-3200 The City Club 155 Sansome (at Bush), 362-2480, www.cityclubsf.com Anybody who can find Sociale (at the end of a narrow, slanted lane that appears unexpectedly at the midway point of an ordinary retail block of Sacramento) is welcome to dine there, though reservations are recommended for the small, urbane Italian eatery, with an especially pleasant, rather magical plant-lined patio. But you have to have an in to eat in the City Club, atop... More >>

  • Best New Sandwich Concept

    Giordano Brothers

    You've tried the Philly cheesesteak and the New Orleans po' boy and the Atlantic City sub and the Italian beef out of Chicago and other examples of regional American sandwich-making ingenuity; now there's a new hero/grinder/blimp/ hoagie in town. The "All-in-One" (conceived as an especially hearty example of the genre for the truck drivers of Pittsburgh, Pa.) takes the portable-meal concept one step further, cramming between the bread not only meat and cheese but also the stuff one usually... More >>

  • Best Tapas

    Bocadillos

    Bocadillos 710 Montgomery (at Washington), 982-2622, www.bocasf.com The small-plates frenzy still engulfing the San Francisco restaurant scene was inspired by the many tapas bars in Spain. Small plates can be found all over town, in dizzying variety, but our favorite spot draws its inspiration from the source. Gerald Hirigoyen's Bocadillos is named for a small sandwich (on a floury roll, stuffed with aged serrano ham, Catalan sausage, roast beef, or numberless other items) that's available, two to a plate,... More >>

  • Best Local Coffee Blend

    Philz Coffee

    "It's my life's masterpiece," says Phil Jaber, leaning across the counter of his shop in his snap-brim fedora, expectantly holding the bag, waiting for us to take a whiff. "I call it," he says, pausing, "Tesora." The name of his signature blend of coffee rolls off his tongue like the password to a forbidden city, where men have stolen a recipe for a mysterious concoction of the gods. Jaber has been working on the blend for the past few... More >>

  • Best No-Frills Vietnamese

    Tu Lan

    Ignore the uninspiring, grungy surroundings (we choose the cramped upstairs over the tables tucked behind the open grill that dominates the downstairs room, but many in the long lunchtime line prefer grabbing their food to go) and concentrate on the wonderful (and wonderfully cheap) food. The noodle soups come in huge bowls, and the shrimp spring rolls wrapped in stretchy rice noodle dough and the fried pork summer rolls are deservedly popular. There are interesting stir-fries, too, served family style... More >>

  • Best Cheap Sushi

    No Name Sushi

    Reservations are nonexistent at the tiny, diner-style restaurant popularly known as No-Name Sushi -- hell, the place doesn't even have a phone. The seating space is cramped and the crowds are overwhelming, as the line of would-be patrons often spills onto Church Street. But there's a reason why informed, economical sushi fans brave the cool evening breeze for a chance to chow at Yokoso Nippon. The food is carefully prepared and pleasing to the palate, but Nippon distinguishes itself... More >>

  • Best No-Frills Sandwich

    Tommy's Joynt

    The best sandwich on Earth is the roasted dark meat turkey sandwich on LaBrea Bakery sourdough at Greenblatt's Delicatessen in West Hollywood, but a reasonable facsimile is available at Tommy's Joynt, the ornately rendered cafeteria/ bar at Geary and Van Ness. Shards of meat are sliced from a freshly roasted turkey before your eyes and nestled between the folds of a sourdough roll. That's all there is to it -- no lettuce or tomato or apricot-wasabi aioli, nothing to... More >>

  • Best Caviar Tasting

    Tsar Nicoulai Caviar

    If you don't mind the envious glances of the passing parade, sit yourself down at the U-shaped counter of this purveyor of luxury and enjoy the taste of the sea in an assortment of pricey little fish eggs, accompanied by homemade buckwheat blini and crème fraîche. We prefer the premium caviar sampler (including two grades of California Estate osetra, two types of imported sevruga, and hackleback sturgeon caviar for $46) to the slightly wacky, bargain-priced, brightly colored American sampler... More >>

  • Best Freebies (tie)

    The Old Clam House

    The Old Clam House 299 Bayshore (at Oakdale), 826-4880 The Rotunda 150 Stockton (at Geary), 362-4777, www.rotundarestaurant.com Tartare 550 Washington (at Montgomery), 434-3100, www.tartarerestaurant.com We like tradition, especially when it comes in such tasty forms as the all-you-want piping hot clam broth with shreds of potato and onion that starts off every meal at the Old Clam House (an old-fashioned touch that reminds you, more than the remodeled setting, that the place has been roosting on Bayshore since 1861);... More >>

  • Best Nepalese

    Little Nepal

    After its greeter welcomes you with a kind "Namaste," this chic, spare, and modern wood-lined room in Bernal Heights is a calm setting in which to enjoy Little Nepal's highly spiced and appetizing fare. You have to start with momos, perhaps the best-known Nepalese dish: sturdy, plump dumplings (stuffed with minced pork, chicken, or a mélange of fresh vegetables) served with a bright, slightly hot tomato sauce spiked with sesame. The chicken, lamb, and fish curries, which come with... More >>

  • Best View Bar

    Blooms Saloon

    Bloom's Saloon 1318 18th St. (at Missouri), 552-6707 As spring heats up, a young person's mind turns to ... beer, of course, preferably drunk outside. If you're tired of waiting in line at Zeitgeist with all the other sun-and-suds worshippers, head on over to this distinctively tiled Potrero Hill watering hole with stupendous views of the bay, the Bay Bridge, and downtown San Francisco decked out in sunny splendor. Potrero Hill is one of those great neighborhoods that feel... More >>

  • Best Pasta

    Quince

    You eat very well indeed at Quince, a charming, small, Italianate neighborhood restaurant of high ambitions. But the pastas reign supreme. They change frequently, but if tajarin is on the menu, don't miss it. It doesn't look like much on the plate: a tiny, tangled haystack of the thinnest, most fragile tagliatelle imaginable, shining with butter and topped with a bit of fresh sage. But it's the apotheosis of flour, egg, and water. The simplest dishes are the most difficult... More >>

  • Best Butcher Shop

    Golden Gate Meat Company

    The reborn Ferry Building isn't just a fine example of architectural grace and the shining jewel of our lovely new waterfront: It's a dream come true for the many and varied food fanatics of San Francisco. Especially invaluable is the Golden Gate Meat Co. over in slot 13. This family-owned butcher shop sells an astonishing variety of natural and organic beef, pork, lamb, veal, poultry, smoked meats, sausages, and game from top-quality sources, as well as the company's own... More >>

  • Best Fries

    Tallula 4230 18th St. (at Collingwood), 437-6722, www.tallulasf.com They call them "pommes frites" here, and they come stacked high in a tall silver cup: fresh-cut fries, crisp without, floury within, dusted with an Indian masala (spice mixture) and topped with a container of mayonnaise mixed with chopped mango pickle. You can order these as part of Tallula's eclectic Indian-French small-plates lineup or as a bar snack in the downstairs lounge, which serves witty sake cocktails and projects Bollywood epics... More >>

  • Best French

    La Folie

    For the full-on, top-notch, starry French experience, try this newly redecorated temple of luxury (subdued tones of rust and burgundy replace marionettes and harlequins, and tables are bigger and fewer). Here you can command a three-course ($60), four-course ($75), or five-course ($85) menu pulled together from soups and salads, appetizers, fish and shellfish, poultry and meat, desserts and cheeses. Or abandon choice with the set vegetarian menu ($60) or an adventurous tasting menu (called, appropriately enough, Menu L'Aventure), at... More >>

  • Best Grown-Up Ice Cream Sandwiches

    Elizabeth Falkner's Citizen Cake Ice Cream Parlor and Eats

    It's not that we don't love the gummy chocolate-flavored cookies glued together with pasty artificial vanilla ice cream that you can buy in any convenience store, if only for their nostalgic appeal. But Citizen Cake's ice cream sandwiches are surely the living end of all cookies-and-cream desserts. For a well-worth-it $3.75 you can request your choice of any two freshly baked cookies -- chocolate chip, oatmeal-raisin, peanut butter, or one of the more exotic choices like ginger-molasses -- and... More >>

  • Best Empanadas

    Tamal

    We like a lot of the small plates on offer at this chic, comfortable new South of Market wine bar -- or "Vino y Mas(a)," as it styles itself, with "mas" for more and "(a)" for masa, the corn flour dough that encloses Tamal's signature tamales. But we were especially wowed by the crisp, fragile pastry on the crab empanadas, filled with sweet Dungeness and served on a mild, creamy roasted red pepper rémoulade, with sharp garlic aioli dabbed... More >>

  • Best Vegetables

    Here are the sides that haunt our dreams, that would draw us back even if these eateries didn't also offer many delicious dishes of flesh, fish, and fowl. One caveat: You can always find our favorites at Grégoire and the Helmand, but seasonality rules at Home and Lime. Brussels Sprouts, Lime 2247 Market (at Sanchez), 621-5256, www.lime-sf.com We love these tiny aromatic cabbages, but we've never had better ones than those served in this Space Age cocktail lounge, adorned... More >>

  • Best Salad Bar

    Mrs T's Cafe

    One year we ate lunch at Mrs. T's every day and never got sick of it. The reason is its amazing salad bar. You probably think a salad bar is just lettuce and fixin's, right? Well, Mrs. T's has that. But it also has more: sushi, freshly baked turkey and cranberry sauce, veggie tempura, meatloaf, cheeses, and the tastiest prepared salads north of Whole Foods. We're talking seaweed salad, turkey salad, ambrosia, gingered green beans, sweet potatoes with walnuts,... More >>

  • Best Soup

    Brindisi Cucina Di Mare

    Acqua Povera at Brindisi Cucina di Mare 88 Belden (at Pine), 593-8000, www.brindisicucina.com The name means "poor water" (something like the legendary stone soup), but it's ironic in this instance. At Brindisi, home of many good things to eat, this compulsively edible and satisfying soup comes in a huge bowl. It's a shiny broth full of rapini, white beans, brilliant green peas, and chunks of fried bread -- and you'll feel richer for having tried it.... More >>

  • Best Post-Theater Snacks

    Grand Cafe - Brasserie and Bar

    One of the best things about an evening at ACT or the Curran or Marines Memorial is heading to a bistro afterward and deconstructing the experience over noshes and cocktails. The Grand Cafe is the ideal post-theater option -- and not simply because of its location. The snacks prepared and served in the restaurant's cocktail lounge are among the best in the city: big iced platters of oysters, clams, and mussels; artisanal cheeses from here and abroad; light, crisp... More >>

  • Best Faded High-Roller Bar

    Empress of China

    These days the Empress of China bar on Grant Avenue is run-down and underappreciated, but the gallery of celebrity photos in the lobby (along with the '70s-chic restaurant) proves that it was once a local hot spot. The bar still has swanky velvet seating, a killer view of Chinatown, and yummy coconut-milk drinks with pineapple spears and such, and there's always a spot to sit and appreciate the bustling crowds below.... More >>

  • Best Japanese

    Kyo-Ya

    The chic, minimal entry and bar of this Japanese restaurant are much more high-style than its rather ordinary, spare, and underdecorated rooms. But what comes out of the kitchen is Japanese food of the highest order: The simplest dish of grilled squid, for example, is carefully scored, properly smoky, kissed with ginger, and displayed to perfect advantage. Kyo-Ya's ingredients, conception, preparation, and plating are all exquisite. One of the best ways to sample its cuisine is to order the... More >>

  • Ferry Building Favorites

    As many before us have pointed out, the 1989 earthquake did have one salutary effect: the eventual removal of the Embarcadero Freeway, which freed up the waterfront and gave us back the Ferry Building (at Embarcadero and Market, www.ferrybuildingmarketplace.com), which is now not only a transportation hub, but also a foodie paradise. In addition to hosting the four-times-weekly farmers' markets (Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and the biggest, Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 2... More >>

  • Best Restaurant to Take Your Parents To

    2223 Restaurant

    A parental visit can be like a walk through a recent war zone: You just never know how many hidden land mines you'll step on. That's why picking the right restaurant during such a visit is so imperative. It's amazing how much more smoothly things can go with a little help from a top-notch staff. A stopover at 2223 is sure to prove successful. The décor is warm and inviting, with just enough classy touches to say upscale without... More >>

  • Best Crab Cakes

    Cafe Maritime

    This charming neighborhood spot, whose fresh, crisp facade speaks of the seafood delights available within, offers food and drink until 1 a.m. One of Café Maritime's best offerings is its crab cakes, fragile and thin, the kind that favor crab over filler: lump crabmeat, shreds, and flakes, barely held together with a few bread crumbs, and nicely garnished, too, depending on the whim of the chef. A sprightly, garlicky Meyer lemon aioli is a constant, with a contrasting salad... More >>

  • Best Sissy-Drink Bar

    Top of the Mark

    Top of the Mark InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel, 999 California (at Mason), 616-6916, www.topofthemark.com When the Top of the Mark opened its 360-degree vistas to the public in 1939, candied violets, pomegranate juice, and lemongrass weren't in your standard bartender's bag of tricks. Times (and taste buds) change, however, and as the martini continues its devolution into a sort of alcoholic Bosco for post-pubescents, phantasmagoric, candy-coated sissy drinks (there's no other term for them) are more popular than ever.... More >>

  • Best Reuse of a Historic Whorehouse

    The Saloon

    This North Beach blues bar is perhaps the oldest drinking establishment still active in the city, having opened in 1861 as the Fresno Hotel Bar and survived several reincarnations (not to mention the 1906 earthquake and fire) since. Lore has it that a group of sailors rushed to save it from the approaching flames in '06, perhaps -- although no one can say for sure -- recalling fond nights spent at the old Fresno when it was a whorehouse.... More >>

  • Best Resurrection

    Sears Fine Foods

    When we left Sears Fine Food one morning without breakfasting there, depressed by its harsh fluorescent lighting, shabby, stained, gray industrial carpeting, and sticky plastic tablecloths, we feared it was on its last legs. But the venerable San Francisco spot (around since 1938) found a rescuer in a local restaurateur who tore up the carpet, revealing white tile; tore out the acoustical tile, revealing a high vaulted ceiling; and put in comfy chairs, homey antiques, and pleasant lighting. The... More >>

  • Best Steakhouse

    C&L

    Best Steakhouse C&L 1250 Jones (at Clay), 771-5400, www.cl-steak.com The menu here is a little tricky (starters, steaks, vegetables, and desserts each inspired by one of eight cities), but what inspires us in a steakhouse is its meat, and C&L serves some of the best we've ever had: pure cornfed beef from Painted Hills Natural Beef in Fossil, Ore. It's so delicious that we ask to have the sauces (such as the campfire bean that comes with the Denver rib-eye,... More >>

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