Find Restaurants
Launch Map
SF

17 Restaurants You Can Actually Get Into

Launch Map
SF

17 Restaurants You Can Actually Get Into

PHOTOS: Lance Skundrich

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.

The Spots

1

Hawker Fare SF

Mission
680 Valencia St.
8.4
MAP

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.

2

Burma Love

Mission
211 Valencia St.
8.1
MAP

Of a piece with Hawker Fare — more delicious accessible Asian flavors, 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 the fried catfish).

3

Pakwan

Mission
3180-82 16th St. #2
8.1
MAP

It’s (kind of) late. You’re wandering the Mission in a fugue state. Spicy meats and rice sounds perfect, doesn’t it? Yes. Yes it does.

4

Lers Ros

Mission
3189 16th St.
8.1
MAP

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 the alligator). More conventionally, the tom kha khai and crunchy pork skin are top-caliber. If you have an adventurous bone in your body, you’ll leave happy.

5

Fog City

Embarcadero
1300 Battery St.
8.3
MAP

Refurbishing old, cool diners and stocking them with solid food and drink is always a good move in our playbook. (If more of these opportunities are on the table, please take them, restaurant overlords.) 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.

6

Hard Water

Pier 3
MAP

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.

7

Bar Agricole

Soma
355 11th St.
8.3
MAP

Yes, you’ll probably have to stand around at the bar, but who 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.

8

El Capitan

Soma
1123 Folsom St.
7.6
MAP

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.

9

Garaje

Soma
475 3rd St.
7.2
MAP

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.

10

4505 Burgers & BBQ

Nopa
705 Divisadero St.
8.3
MAP

The open-air benches at the 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.

11

Chubby Noodle

Marina
2205 Lombard St.
7.9
MAP

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.

12

Gioia

Russian Hill
2240 Polk St.
6.9
MAP

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.

13

Spices!

Richmond
294 8th Ave.
7.0
MAP

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.

14

Mandalay

4348 California St
MAP

Circling back to more Burmese — because it’s something our city does excellently. Plus, in the Richmond, it feels even more legit (even if it isn’t). Try to ignore the knockoff Chinese dishes if you can.

15
7.8
MAP

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.

16
8.1
MAP

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.

More SF... Find Restaurants
You'll need a better browser for that!
Upgrade to Chrome and start finding Restaurants.