Odds are, you’ve ended up in Union Square with clients, coworkers, friends from out of town before you all go to the theater, or someone who is honestly fascinated by how cable cars turn around. Unless you’re looking to pop into Nieman Marcus or the Nike Store, there’s little reason to be here. Or anywhere near here, really - it’s a veritable no man’s land of SF neighborhoods.
Regardless, we’re here to help you out with our updated Union Square guide. Save yourself from the tourist trap joints and fake-old-timey storefronts designed to lure you in.
Trust us, instead.
A perfect place for work lunches, cheap happy hours, and outdoor tables. The tacos, bowls, and burritos do the trick, and you can’t have a better al fresco meal anywhere near Market Street. The inside is big too, and perfect for groups looking to grab a quick bite.
Do you dream of tiki drinks and ukeleles? Then head to the basement of the fanciest hotel in town, and get your mai tai on. The Tonga Room is an institution, and the drinks are tropical magic. The food won’t blow your mind, but it’s better than you might expect from a place with a pool in the middle of the restaurant. This is our happy place.
All day breakfast that’s not a McMuffin isn’t the easiest thing to come by in these parts. That’s why Workshop exists. They have good coffee, strong wifi, and scrambles, bagels, and breakfast tacos all day long. One of the rare places in Financial open late-ish (until 10pm), the healthy bowls and salads as lunch and dinner options are great too. Be warned: people come here to get sh*t done, so it’s definitely not the place for a prolonged gossip session.
The beloved Marina pizza and small plates spot had the good sense to set up in an area that is generally devoid of decent food. The downtown spot has a nice outdoor patio in a pedestrian area off Market Street and is one of the best options around. Whatever you do, get the burrata bruschetta.
Home to the most insane milkshakes and delicious ice cream around, Shakedown is worth a venture into the Tenderloin. This is not hyperbole: the Derby Pie Milkshake will change your life.
Unless you live under a rock or have no thumbs to open up Instagram, you’ve seen pictures of Mr Holmes and their ‘I Got Baked’ sign. You’ve probably also seen their crazy pastries - from cruffins to croissants to one of the best chocolate chip cookies in the city. If you need sweets and baked goods, get this on your list stat.
Ryoko’s is not glamorous or fancy. There is no omakase. But who needs that? The sushi is fresh and there are lots of roll options - we’re partial to the Orange Delight. If you stay late enough, it becomes a karaoke party. Do with that what you will.
Yes, you have to venture on to Market Street to visit Mazarine, but sometimes you just have to live on the edge. The coffee here is excellent and all the toasts are bomb too (especially the avocado or fig jam and ricotta). Breakfast or lunch here is very much the right choice.
The crew behind Sons & Daughters delivers some fancy dishes and molecular gastronomy, but you don’t feel like you got lost in a chem lab while you’re eating there. The food is incredible, and if you’re a planner, you should absolutely make a reservation in advance. This is a place for people who appreciate food, but if you and your dining companions are those people, the $115 tasting menu is absolutely worth it.
Almost every seat in here is a bar stool, which is exactly what you want if you’re stuck dining alone. The service is fast, and the fancy ice cream concoctions are perfection. No weird need to double dip with your boss.
If you’re taking clients (or yourself) out, hit the omakase at Akiko’s Restaurant. It’s not cheap, but it’s worth it. When else will you have a chance to eat baby barracuda? Make sure you go to the restaurant, not Akiko’s Sushi. Akiko Sushi is a trick. Don’t go there.
Afraid of sharks? So are we. Like, refuse to swim in the ocean afraid. Conveniently, this Hawaiian outpost on the edge of the Tenderloin has no sharks, only incredible fried chicken, beef tongue buns and tropical cocktails. There’s also a reservations-only bar downstairs. Dive in.
While this isn’t the closest Thai food to Union Square (that’d be Kin Khao), it’s walkable, and it’s by far the best option. The fried pork ribs and stir fried pork belly are top of our list. Have we mentioned we like fried meat?
The games of Dave & Busters, the entrance of a condemned fire trap, and a strong, IPA-heavy beer list are a frightening/enticing combination. We live on the edge. Once you’re inside, you have several levels to explore, millions of TVs, and better than average wings and quesadillas.
Fancy cocktails that are very reasonably priced. Also the ingredients-needing-to-be-Googled ratio is appropriately low, and the vibe is excellent. Our go-to is the basil gimlet.
Thank god the good people of the Del Popolo pizza truck finally settled down in one place. The brick and mortar location has great bar seats, incredible wood-fired pizza, and a great wine selection.
Dodge the street crazies and duck inside Jane on Larkin for some of our favorite lattes, granola, breakfast sandwiches and avocado toast in the city. Have we mentioned that avocado toast is a food group? The baristas are friendly, and if you feel like hanging around for a few hours and ordering lunch too, you wouldn’t be making a mistake.
Shrimp & grits, cornbread, fried chicken and black-eyed pea fritters? The South has arrived in San Francisco and while our arteries are fighting it, we’ll show them who’s boss. Get everything we just mentioned, and you’ll be a happy camper. Who is extremely full.
Welcome to San Francisco. Stroll down to the Blue Bottle at Mint Plaza for some crazy good pour over coffee and their own take on $4 toast or the killer granola served in a mini mason jar.
Off the insanity of Market Street, Press Club is a dark, swanky spot to grab wine without committing to a sit-down dinner with people you barely know. Colleague from Phoenix in town? Go here. We’d definitely recommend the fig & duck mini pizza and as many cheeses as your party feels comfortable ordering. Hopefully you don’t have to itemize your expense reports.
Sure, the “fancy restaurant” vibe is a tiny bit off, but the food is incredible. Get one of the large-format meats and everyone will go home happy.
Don’t be fooled by the dingy exterior. As a wise old man once said, “The dirtier the outside, the tastier the burritos.” (On second thought, maybe that was us the last time we were drunk.) Incredible burritos and open til 2am on the weekends? An actual answer to our prayers.
Lots of vegetarian and even vegan options for rice bowls and takeout sandwiches at this casual Vietnamese spot. We’re partial to the smoky eggplant or crispy catfish bun mees, or the hawker bowl if we feel like keeping our hands relatively clean.
Have you ever wished San Francisco were more like other American cities, especially like, say, New York City? Relive the claustrophobia, condescending service, overpriced cocktails, and “French Bistro” food of your two years in Manhattan at the Cavalier. OK, perhaps we’re being too harsh, as the food is often pretty good here. More importantly, the scene is wildly entertaining. Just be prepared to be the least well-dressed person in the room.
Now this is a cocktail bar we can get behind. Relaxing, and generally a good time. Order an any beverage (or three), and times will be good. If you’re looking for sustenance, go charcuterie all day.
A swanky Francophile restaurant that is trying about 10% too hard. If you’re on an early-in-the-game date, though, that extra push will be exactly what you need. The eats won’t let you down either. It’s up to you now.
Beer nerd? You’ll be happy. They’re also willing to accompany the drinks with ballpark-grade snacks and sausages, but you’re really here for the ABV and IBUs.
There’s so much booze at Rickhouse they need a rolling ladder to get to the top of the shelves. If whiskey is your thing, Rickhouse is your place, although they certainly don’t neglect the other liquors of the world.