It's time to be honest with ourselves, San Francisco. This city is a NIGHTMARE for grabbing dinner, unless you have the forecasting skills of Nate Silver or the patience of the Pope. 60 days in advance for reservations to eat at Nopa? I have to line up at State Bird Provisions at 3:45 to get a table? Is this a joke?
This may blow your mind, but in other cities, where the yuppie-to-cool-restaurant ratio is not so out of whack, you can just "show up" at good dinner spots, and usually eat a nice meal, on your schedule. This experience is hard to replicate in SF, but it is possible.
For a long time, we've wanted to compile a master list of good restaurants that you can just, you know, go to. Consider it your cheat sheet for last-minute dining. That is, until these places get slammed, in which case we'll have to issue another version.
It's hard to explain how many times this place has come through in the clutch. Great Asian food, in a cool, huge space, in the heart of the Mission? We can't imagine a more perfect solution for many of your dining problems. And the tiki drinks are STRONG, yo. A guaranteed good time.
Read our full review.680 Valencia St., Mission
Of a piece with Hawker Fare — more delicious accessible Asianflavors, and practically across the street. We like it more than its more famous ancestor, Burma Superstar, and not just because of its shinier interior – the food game is stronger, too (case in point: the chicken with mint and thefried catfish).
Read our full review.211 Valencia St., Mission
Central Kitchen at night without a reservation is a special kind of hell. We once spent an hour and a half fitfully praying for a table for 5 (we know, we know), milling about the entryway, and eventuallyconsuming our appetizers half-seated on a stoop near the host stand. It wasnot a prime experience. But for brunch? We've waltzed in a number of times. The patio is amazing, and the egg and sweeter dishes are precisely executed. This is one of the best brunches in town, and somehow NO ONE (relatively) knows.
Read our full review.3000 20th St., Mission
It's (kind of) late. You're wandering the Mission in a fuguestate. Spicy meats and rice sounds perfect, doesn't it? Yes. Yes it does.Read our full review.
3180-82 16th St., Mission
Lers Ros The best last-minute group dinner in town. You have to order at least one animal meat that you've never eaten before (we're partial to thealligator). More conventionally, the tom kha khai and crunchy pork skin aretop-caliber. If you have an adventurous bone in your body, you'll leave happy.
3189 16th St., Mission
Fog City Refurbishing old, cool diners and stocking them with solid food and drink is always a good move in our playbook. (If moreof these opportunities are on the table, please take them, restaurantoverlords.) Fog City also happens to be a good option for watching sports, if you're the kind of person who drinks $40 in cocktails during a game.
Read our full review.1300 Battery St., Embarcadero
Disclaimer: you absolutely cannot show up here between 4pm and 8pm during the workweek. But at any other time, the Ferry Building environs are desperate for non-tourist customers. If you haven't been here yet, the wall of whiskey will blow your mind.
Pier 3, Embarcadero
Yes, you'll probably have to stand around at the bar, butwho cares? It's a great bar. This is another restaurant whose massive square footage saves the day. Especially during the Indian Summer months — the front patio is great, as long as it hasn't been booked out by the latest Series B celebration.
355 11th St., Soma
Soma is dead as hell, but El Capitan is an oasis. Happy hour oysters, sparkling rosé, and fry bread tacos are essential pieces of the puzzle.
Read our full review.1123 Folsom St., Soma
This may be the most mediocre restaurant that we visit constantly. The beer selection is incredible, don't get us wrong, but the "Mexican" food could be reduced to tortilla + a bit of meat + pile of guacamole. Except for the zapatos. Those hot cheesy carnivorous pockets redeem everything. We love you, Garaje.
Read our full review.475 3rd St., Soma
The open-air benches atthe best barbecue spot in town are frequently vacant. Almost as a side note, the burger is also top-tier. Bring a jacket, though, because...you know. It's SF.
705 Divisadero St., Nopa
Infatuation SF continues its crusade to push Chubby Noodle to the top of your list. We have no vested interests, other than the deep hope that the denizens of the Marina will one day give in to gluten's simple pleasures. SOMEDAY, people.
2205 Lombard St., Marina
Gioia Look, we're not trying to argue that this is a perfect restaurant. But it IS an Italian restaurant you can stroll into and order some solid meatballs and roasted carrots. And then stroll across the street and watch a football game.
Read our full review.2240 Polk St., Russian Hill
Not as exciting as the name might indicate! But a good Sichuan option if you're in the mood. Easy to walk in and get a table, to be sure.
Read our full review.294 8th Ave., Richmond
Circling back to more Burmese — because it's something our city does excellently. Plus, in the Richmond, it feels even more legit (even if itisn't). Try to ignore the knockoff Chinese dishes if you can.
4348 California St., Richmond
Not exactly a cakewalk to get into, but not the toughest either. It's pretty much what you'd expect from upscale Mexican: think of it as Tacolicious without the scene or Nopalito without the wait. Gets the job done, if a little hard on the wallet.
901 Cole St., Cole Valley
Terra Cotta Warrior
Don't show up here precisely at primetime, and you'll be fine. The noodles are also very, very fine. But the crispy pig ear could change your life, if you let it.
2555 Judah St., Sunset