Where To Eat In The Castro
Mascarpone-stuffed french toast, dumplings, burritos, and more.
The Castro isn’t exactly known for its restaurant scene. But that shouldn’t stop you from reading this guide and getting to know the ones we think are worth checking out. From cozy French bistros to excellent taquerias to one of the best Arab spots in the city, here are the 16 best restaurants in the Castro.
photo credit: Susie Lacocque
We’re always down to drop by Beit Rima for dinner—the space is lively, the menu is shareable and perfect for groups, and coming here last-minute is always easy. It also helps that everything on the menu at this casual Arab restaurant is fantastic, from the lebna and muhammara and whole-fried branzino to the garlicky chicken shish tawook.
El Castillito is one of the places we send people if they’re new to the city or are visiting for the first time. That's because the taqueria is one of the best burrito spots in the city, and their version with cheese melted onto the tortillas and well-spiced carnitas is what keeps us coming back. Eat your burrito over at Duboce Park, or chill inside with an agua fresca.
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If you want to dine in one of the best garden patios in the city, head to Fable. The casual Castro restaurant for pork chops, burgers, and wine (and a great pork cheek, kale, and apple salad appetizer) reminds us of a Mediterranean glasshouse. Potted plants, palms, and birds of paradise are everywhere, and the view is one best admired while seated in the back banquette. Better yet, Fable’s patio has plenty of heat lamps and is weather-proof, which definitely comes in handy on one of the neighborhood’s windier days.
Dinosaurs is a takeout-only operation that has banh mi down to a science. Once you enter the counter-service Vietnamese sandwich spot that’s roughly the size of two elevators, you’ll have eight banh mis to choose from. What makes each sandwich stand out are the delicious meat and vegetarian fillings, and the thick and fluffy bread rolls. We usually go for the grilled pork that has a nice hint of lemongrass, or the one with excellent xiu mai-style meatballs in it. Also, don’t look past the fresh spring rolls—they’re some of the best in town. If you’re not in the Castro, Dinosaurs has other locations in SoMa, Lakeside, and Pacifica.
photo credit: Julia Chen
Anchor Oyster Bar
If you’ve ever had a sudden midday craving for a couple of oysters and a bowl of clam chowder, Anchor Oyster Bar is here for you. If you haven’t, one trip to the old-school seafood spot decorated with light-up anchors and life preservers is all it takes before you start having mysterious visions of miniature clams dancing around in the sky at 2pm on a Thursday. The menu covers the usual from-the-ocean suspects—like prawn salad, a daily selection of oysters, and Olympic swimming pool-sized bowls of cioppino. Everything is excellent across the board, especially the crab cakes that are delicate and crispy.
That line on the corner of 16th and Sanchez Street every weekend is for one thing: brunch. And the sugary bacon. And the mascarpone-stuffed french toast. And the mimosas. If you want to start your day with a big group hang, this casual spot is it—there are a ton of seats out on the street patio and sidewalk. Also know that other people have the same idea, and is why this place is a zoo on Saturdays and Sundays.
Duboce Park Cafe
Outdoor seating next to a nice park is basically unheard of in this city, but Duboce Park Cafe is a rarity. And it's one of our favorite spots in the Castro to grab a quick breakfast or lunch, or hunker down and do some work. If you stop by in the morning, the coconut quinoa porridge, scrambles, and egg sandwich are all good options, and at lunch, go for the cobb salad.
You’re not going to Eiji for a $250 omakase or baked rolls doused in aioli. You go here for the simple, high-quality sushi that keeps us coming back for casual weeknight dinners. Eiji is also cozy, quiet, and where we also turn to for non-sushi things, like the tender tuna belly steak with ginger-soy sauce and incredible homemade ankake tofu. Whatever you do, don't skip the strawberry mochi for dessert.
photo credit: Melissa Zink
This city isn't exactly brimming with late-night dining spots. Luckily, the Castro has Orphan Andy's. The two-level diner has an old-school feel with red booths and swivel chairs, and is open 24/7. Come here if you've had a drink too many and need an omelet at 1:30am.
There are a few I’a Poke locations around the city, but this is a Castro guide. The poke bowls at the casual spot near Duboce Triangle is basically choose-your-own-adventure. You have eight protein options, like ahi tuna, shrimp, yellowtail, and octopus, and can get unlimited toppings ranging from masago to jalapeño to mango. And because we like to plan ahead, get the made-to-order spam musubi for whenever you get hungry later.
The odds that you’ve had a group dinner at Starbelly are high. If you haven’t, it’s time to change that. The menu is a mix of things—like pizzas, kale salads, and burgers—and they also make really good cocktails. The outdoor-ish patio is one of the main draws, and is perfect for getting a group together—and for impromptu catch-up dinners, it’s easy to snag seats at the bar, too. Like Kitchen Story, Starbelly is another great brunch spot.
Mama Ji’s is a very solid option if you’re craving dumplings and are near the Castro. They make har gow, xiao long bao, pork and chive dumplings, and more. Whatever you get, make sure the pan-fried potstickers, with their crispy-chewy skins, are part of the order. Mama Ji’s has more dumpling options on the menu for lunch, but both the Shanghai dumplings and potstickers are there for you for dinner.
La Mediterranée is the spot to hit when you don’t care what you look like, but just need to eat some meat on a stick as soon as possible. The pomegranate chicken is a must, and the lamb meatballs and lentil salad should also be on your table. It’s a casual place for brunch or lunch on a sunny day with multiple street tables, but they also deliver in case you don’t want to leave your apartment. It’s some of the better and cheaper Mediterranean food you can get in the city, and it always comes through in a pinch.
A neighborhood restaurant that’s so good you can never get a table. If you’re a long-term planner, mark your calendar and make a reservation for this American spot. If you’re not, be prepared to fight it out for one or two of the ten seats at the bar. The steak is phenomenal and our favorite thing on the menu. Frances is definitely one of the nicest restaurants in the neighborhood, which makes it ideal for date nights or small groups.
Like the old adage, it's sometimes better to put all your effort into daylight hours. Wooden Spoon on Market Street does just that, in a super cute space. It’s one of the best breakfast and brunch options around with a slightly healthier take on diner food. The breakfast-y options tend to be better than the brunch, and we’d highly recommend going for the morning bowl or any of the scrambles.
photo credit: Thorough Bread and Pastry
Thorough Bread and Pastry
On the border of where the Castro meets the Mission is Thorough Bread and Pastry. The French-style bakery is where we like to eat our body weight in croissants (specifically the almond ones), sticky buns, gougères, and apple galettes. Get a few, or, more accurately, a lot of pastries and sit out on the lovely back patio. And because this place is one of the best bakeries in town, expect a line. Don't forget to grab a baguette to go.
L’Ardoise has a homey feel, friendly staff, and fantastic food. Basically, you'll want to head to the French bistro for everything from steak to coq au vin—and also for date nights, birthdays, or dinners with the family. And regardless of the occasion, we’d recommend getting a reservation just to be safe.