The Best Restaurants In The Lower Haight guide image


The Best Restaurants In The Lower Haight

The best places for tacos, sausages, dim sum, and more in this small, lowkey neighborhood.

The Lower Haight isn’t where buzzy new restaurants are opening left or right, for the most part—and that’s totally fine by us. Instead, this lowkey stretch of Haight St. is where you’ll find a mix of casual, neighborhoody spots, takeout counters, and counter-service places where you can walk in at a moment's notice (and maybe run into an old acquaintance). So, if you’re looking for what’s worth your time in this sea of laid-back spots, you’re in the right spot.


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Craving currywurst and döner? No? You mean, not yet. This teeny-tiny counter-service spot is filling the void left by Rosamunde Sausage Grill (don’t worry, they still have their Mission location) by serving up an array of perfectly charred sausage. But don’t overlook the other German favorites, like döner that are stuffed to the brim, pretzels with Bavarian mustard, and baked potatoes. Run here, order the smoked beer sausage, and grab a drink from the neighboring Toronado next door to get access to their patio out front.

This sushi spot gives off serious wood cabin vibes with mahogany tables and floors, and a bear skin couch—so it’s a perfect date spot, especially if you’re looking to assess what aesthetic your date is into as you begin planning a life together. Once you've had a turn waiting on that bear skin couch for a table, standard nigiri, sashimi, and maki that hit in the right way will arrive. Also worth your time are the more inventive takes on sashimi under the “new style” section of the menu, like albacore tataki coated with crispy onions or a torched walu with yuzu osho. The best things here are the unagi dishes, especially the dragon roll, which will literally turn heads thanks to massive pieces of torched unagi, shrimp tempura, and avocado.

This is the second location of the casual dim sum spot Dumpling Union, and, damn, everything here is f*cking delicious. The siu mai is perfectly constructed, the xiao long bao is extra rich, the barbecued pork buns are pillowy, and the beef chow mein is full of the most tender noodles we’ve had in recent memory. Dim sum this good and fun needs a fun space. There’s a pair of neon blue angel wings on the wall, slightly gaudy gold spray-painted chairs, and vines everywhere.

You’re at YH - Beijing not just for the fabulous dumplings, but also for the deep selection of Chinese dishes from a range of provinces. Think tofu-covered spicy mala beijing noodles, rich braised oxtail stew, and mangosteen buns served inside a lowkey fancy space. There's an a la carte section with more Americanized Chinese classics, but sticking just to those would be a mistake. The soups, noodles, and bao are where this place shines.

Sometimes you walk into a restaurant and tense up from the stress of seeing everything happening everywhere, at once. Palmyra is the opposite of that feeling. Stress melts away as soon as you enter this casual, counter-service Syrian spot specializing in large, well-seasoned platters. Whatever you order off the long-ish menu will be good, but we love the charred shawarma, the giant kebab plate, and the perfectly crispy fries. Just like the coffee shop from Friends, this is the spot to pull up around a round table with some pals and watch life pass by, preferably while devouring some baklava.

Is Iza Ramen the best ramen in this city? No. But it's the best ramen shop in the neighborhood. Their quick, serviceable bowls of noodles get the job done when you have an unquenchable craving for umami-packed broth. Tender noodles and a mix of plenty of add-ons turn this ramen into a choose-your-own-adventure situation. The inside is dark and casual, and the line here is never absurd (looking at you, Mensho), making it perfect for last-minute dinner plans, like randomly meeting up with that person you met last week in the Trader Joe’s line. 

Otra is the buzziest restaurant in the Lower Haight—and the most fun. The calaveras on the wall and bright blue papel picado add brightness to the dark and sultry space. And it’s also always packed with friends, first dates, and anyone in need of solid Mexican food once the sun goes down. The one dish that makes a trip here worth it is the melt-in-your-mouth carnitas on amazingly corny homemade tortillas—it’ll make you want to give up your first born. Many of the other dishes on the vegetarian-friendly menu are hit or miss, but if you grab those carnitas, and a margarita, you'll have a great time before going on your way.

As the name would suggest, choux are the name of the game at Choux. This tiny French bakery and takeout window is serving up some of the city’s best renditions of the creme filled pastry. From sweet raspberry to a tart lemon, every puff is perfectly baked and filled with a not-overly-sweet creme filling. You'll immediately want to return for a box of 12—just make sure to grab a plump mango financier for the road on the way out.

The point of Purple Rice in the Lower Haight is the ability to customize Korean rice bowls, stews, and sizzling plates. Depending on what you order, you’ll get to choose between white or purple rice, spice level, and add-ons like fish or rice cakes. You’ll also get to decide whether your day requires a mini or large stone bowl of well-charred spicy pork or some other barbecued meat. This casual spot has a pretty straightforward menu of Korean mainstays you’ll see all around town. This includes a stellar soondubu, japchae, fried rice, and starters like the extra crispy fried chicken wings with a sweet and sour sticky sauce drizzle. Use this place for quick and filling lunches or dinners anytime you’re in the area.

Tarragon Cafe is the Lower Haight’s multi-hyphenate poster child, and a destination at all hours of the day. In the morning, folks stop by for a quick iced latte with their golden retriever in tow. It’s also where to take an extra-long lunch—there are plenty of sidewalk tables ideal for photosynthesizing in the sun, plus better-than-average cafe staples like pork belly bánh mì oozing with sambal aioli and a comically large caesar salad. Adding to this spot’s many list of talents: wifi that doesn’t suck, so migrate here on afternoons when a WFH change of scenery is in order.

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photo credit: Melissa Zink

The Best Restaurants In The Lower Haight guide image