11 Great SF Tasting Menus For Under $100 guide image

photo credit: Erin Ng

SFGuide

11 Great SF Tasting Menus For Under $100

A guide to San Francisco tasting menus that won’t make you want to set your wallet on fire.

San Francisco has so many restaurants with tasting menus, there’s even one (for better or worse) for dogs. These restaurant experiences can be some of the most exciting in town—but they can also be the most expensive, with $200+ meals becoming standard at fine dining spots around town. That’s where this guide comes in. It’s got 11 spots with tasting menus under $100, where you can get a fantastic meal and not cry when you see the bill. 

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Erin Ng

Marlena review image
8.6

Marlena

$$$$

300 Precita Ave, San Francisco
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$65 for 4 courses

At this Bernal Heights restaurant, hyper-local ingredients dictate what you’ll see on the frequently changing four-course menu. The dishes, like ricotta gnudi in brown butter broth and deconstructed pappardelle with aged duck ragu, could have easily been dropped on your table from some stuffy, big-deal fine dining restaurant. But Marlena is the opposite of pretentious, and you’ll feel like a regular even after your first visit. Dinner is exciting, too. No two meals are ever the same, which is just another reason to come back for anniversaries and birthdays that don't require shelling out half a month’s rent on a meal.

$57 for 3 courses

The French spot in Lower Pacific Heights is a destination restaurant to pull out for birthdays and anniversaries—and a place to pop in on a whim for wine and some chicken liver mousse. This isn't a French bistro serving heavy french onion soup or coq au vin. Here you'll get things like salmon with corn and summer beans, pork shoulder confit with braised chard, and crispy potato pave, all served on floral plates you might find at an estate sale down the street. There’s also a three-course prix fixe option that comes with an appetizer, main, and dessert. And, like the regular menu, it changes depending on what’s in season.

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$97 for 9-14 courses

The first time we had the “Let The Kitchen Cook For You” family-style tasting menu at Ernest, we almost had to be rolled out. The Mission spot doesn’t skimp on the portions of this seemingly never-ending line-up of creative and frequently changing hits. Pork neck tonkatsu, squash tempura with nam jim jaew, beef tartare topped with glistening ikura, and other Asian-ish dishes will appear in front of you like gifts. The night of decadent seafood and meat dishes will end with an equally fantastic dessert, which might include soft serve with a chocolate magic shell poured tableside, or shaved ice inspired by PB&J or banana cream pie.

$90 for 11 courses

This Mission spot feels like a backyard island party. Their string light-lit patio is filled with bright floral tablecloths, reggae beats pump through the speakers, and big groups share crispy ko’ko’ wings, creamy tinaktak, and other standout dishes from the Guamanian menu. The fiesta table ($90 per person) is a great option if you want to try snacks, shareable dishes, and desserts that aren’t on the regular menu. Think oysters with fina’denne’, sizzling grilled lamb, and chicken sausage covered in coconut milk. 

$88 for 8 courses

At Bodega SF, bánh khọt get a salty bite from a scoop of caviar, and oysters are topped with airy yuzu coconut foam. Like the regular menu, this Vietnamese restaurant near Union Square punches up dishes on the eight-course tasting menu with unexpected surprises. It’s a family-style spread of everything from a whole-fried branzino and citrus-y bò tái chanh to a mochi pandan bar for dessert. This stylish space is filled with booths and funky geometric light fixtures, and is where you'll want to spend hours discussing dating horror stories and the last show you binged for six hours in a single night. Just keep the Vietnamese coffee-spiked cocktails coming.

$82 for 4 courses 

Sauces are the star of the show at this French restaurant in the Mission. Elderberry jus is poured over crispy-skinned roasted chicken, and rich harissa butter gives tender maitake mushrooms extra complexity. The four-course menu changes daily, so we can’t tell you exactly what to look forward to. But like so many spots on this list, it plays up seasonal ingredients. Here that means towers of scallops and nectarines, and rose ice cream with chunks of perfect strawberries. Sitting inside the charming, naturally lit space to get into everything is one ideal way to spend a special date night or ring in another year around the sun.

$36-96 for 5, 7, or 10 courses

There aren’t many places to slide into a seat at the bar, devour some hand rolls, and be on your way after 45 minutes. Unless you’re at Handroll Project. The omakase-style Japanese restaurant in the Mission is a spin-off from the Ju-Ni people. So expect top-tier topping combinations that sparkle like crown jewels atop fluffy rice, like smoked ikura and uni, and diced scallops with creamy miso aioli. The only decision you’ll have to make once you sit down in the all-white space is whether you want the set of five, seven, or ten rolls. The temaki will come to you.

$98 for 7 courses

There are so many impeccable Korean dishes on San Ho Won’s regular menu that you might short-circuit trying to narrow down an order. The solution: go with the seven-course house menu that showcases their greatest hits, like steaming egg soufflé, crispy scallion pancakes, and galbi that arrives glistening. The Mission restaurant is one to save for any special occasion that also calls for the best Korean barbecue in the city—the perfectly charred meats coming off the lychee charcoal grill are flat-out luxurious. 

photo credit: Trestle

Trestle review image
7.8

Trestle

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$39 for 3 courses

The three-course dinner at this spot where Chinatown, North Beach, and FiDi meet won’t blow your mind, but it doesn’t have to—it’s $39 per person, and the most bang-for-your-buck tasting menu in town. The cozy American restaurant changes the menu often, but you’re still likely to see crowd-pleasers like butternut squash soup and cider-brined pork loin. If you need to round out your meal with another plate of carbs, they have $12 pasta add-ons like shrimp risotto and mushroom ravioli.

$98 for 9 courses

The extravagant dining room at Empress by Boon has the air of a secret club. There are leather booths in teal hues, an actual no-shorts-allowed dress code, an ornate tea pagoda, and intricately carved panels throughout the space. If you get the nine-course tasting menu, the Cantonese dishes will be equally lavish. Duck and pumpkin puffs incorporate truffles, and scallop rolls are crowned with caviar. Next time you’re looking to break out those fancy shoes you never wear and enjoy dinner with Coit Tower views, come to this Chinatown spot.

$90 for 13 courses

Chīsai Sushi Club in Bernal Heights has one of the best value omakases in town. For $90, you get 13 courses of nigiri, sashimi, and a hand roll that will all easily satisfy whatever raw fish craving brought you here. This Japanese spot also has a vegetarian menu featuring things like confit leek and asparagus nigiri. Whichever option you choose, know that you can also throw in some add-ons to round out your order. We like the uni carbonara, which is blanketed in a silky smooth uni-based cream, and the toro donburi with crunchy pickled daikon.  

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