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. Sixty 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, 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. A guaranteed good time.
Practically across the street from Hawker Fare. We prefer this place to its more famous sibling, 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).
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.
The best last-minute group dinner in town. You have to order at least one type of 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.
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.
Hard WaterPier 3
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.
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.
El Capitan is an oasis in Soma. Happy hour oysters, sparkling rosé, and fry bread tacos are essential pieces of the puzzle.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Circling back to more Burmese — because it’s something our city does excellently. This is another good place to get it.
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.