The Best Restaurants In SoMa guide image


The Best Restaurants In SoMa

We narrowed down the best spots to eat in this very large neighborhood.

SoMa is an expansive neighborhood that’s undergone a lot of change over the past few decades. Once a warehouse district, it’s also a hub for the city’s queer community, and where you’ll find a baseball stadium, shiny high-rises, and too many sub-neighborhoods rebranded by real estate agents to count. In between all that are a variety of restaurants, like counter-service cafes serving fried chicken and apple fritters, classic dim sum establishments, and blowout tasting menu spots. So the next time you’re in South of Market, Soma, SoMa, or whatever you like to call it, look to this guide. 


Cafe Okawari

This all-day, counter-service Japanese cafe is a few blocks from Oracle Park, making it an easy option when you need to fuel up with a hearty rice bowl before depleting all that energy screaming at the Dodgers. Cafe Okawari also makes one of the best katsu chicken sandwiches in the city. You’ll spend at least five minutes wondering how the golden-brown chicken thigh is crackly and juicy at the same time, and marvel at how your fingers sink into the slices of milk bread as if it were a Tempur-Pedic mattress. If you’re somehow not in the mood for a sandwich, the spicy tuna bowls and curry plates are also worth getting into. 

A meal at The Bird is all about fried chicken, which is why you’ll see it in salad, biscuit, and sandwich form, and even “naked” (aka just a fried thigh with slaw on the side). Go with the sandwich, and prepare to get messy—we’re pretty sure this place single handedly keeps the world’s napkin suppliers in business. The meat drips with spicy, bright red juices you’ll lick off your hand, and refreshing apple slaw spills out from the squishy bun. When you’re done making your way through the hand-held behemoth, get some just-sweet-enough apple fritters for dessert.

This Mid-Market Vietnamese spot has run a straightforward operation for almost 50 years, and they show no signs of slowing down. On an average day, the casual place is bustling with workers grabbing lunch to-go and folks stopping in for a quick meal at a table in the back. Everyone is there for one thing: the imperial rolls, which are fried and shatteringly crisp. The umami-packed pork filling and bubbly exterior make these worthy of a last meal in the city. Tú Lan also does huge bowls of phở, pork or beef over rice, and vermicelli as more filling options. And the best part about this place is that the portions are huge, and you can get in and out (with leftovers) for less than $20.

Great pizza is easy to find all over town—in SoMa alone, you have excellent spots like Pizza Squared, Joyride over in Yerba Buena, and newcomers like Pie Punks and Empire Pizza. But Square Pie Guys and their Detroit-style pizzas rise above thanks to their thick-but-light crust, and cheddar baked edge that gives a cheesy crunch to every bite. The precise presentation of pepperoni cups and toppings like garlic ricotta cream and hot honey is also a work of art. Square Pie Guys is a very casual spot, which is why you’ll also find knockout chicken wings, a selection of beers and canned cocktails, and a well-oiled takeout operation.

We’ve never ordered something we didn’t love at Moya. The snug Ethiopian spot with the big windows on the corner of Minna and 8th Streets does both vegetarian and meat dishes equally well, and everything is perfect for casual dinners and in-and-out lunches. What makes this counter-service spot stand out are the depth of spices and layers of flavor. We love the buttery kitfo with the tangy housemade cheese, smoothly rich shuro, and berbere-kissed misir wot. And you’ll never go wrong with the onion-packed doro tibs. Lunch or dinner, just get here. 

This place revolves entirely around Japanese A5 wagyu, which is just another way of saying: save this fancy steakhouse for special occasions, or when you’re dining with a coworker who really cares about wagyu beef marble scores and whether a cow ate organic grass or was massaged before it died. The massive binchotan grill is the centerpiece of the room, and chefs barely take their eyes off filet mignons and Jurassic-looking tomahawks cooking over the flame. Expensive cuts of raw meat ($135-$285) are paraded around the space on a platter for diners to inspect before they order. And you even get to pick your own personal steak knife for the evening. In short, dinner here is an immersive beef-centric experience that’s unlike anything else in town. 

It’s not that hard to make a good sandwich. But making a great one that’s worthy of planning an entire day around? That’s a feat in itself—and no place does it like Deli Board. This spot on Folsom between 6th and 7th Streets cranks out tank-sized sandwiches that are well-stuffed with everything from corned beef to tuna salad and falafel. Whatever you order off of their usual menu or eponymous board of daily-changing specials will be fantastic, but we approve anything with pastrami.

Yank Sing is one of the most famous dim sum restaurants in SF, and that likely has to do with it being around since 1958. This place isn’t the best dim sum spot in the city, but it’s a classic we love. Everything from the steamed BBQ pork buns and scallop siu mai to excellent xiao long bao is consistently great, and we’re sure it’ll stay consistently great for another six decades. We like the large Spear Street location inside the Rincon Center (they also have a smaller outpost on nearby Stevenson Street). The high-ceilinged atrium with funky geometric walls and tons of natural light is just where you want to be while devouring one of everything that rolls by on the carts. 

This high-end restaurant located several blocks from Oracle Park is reimagining traditional Indian cuisine and mixing in ingredients and cooking styles from around the world with the precision of a lauded scientist. Simply put, Rooh is exciting and inventive, especially their small plates. Rich mawa-stuffed black morel mushrooms are slathered in decadent yakhni sauce. The spiced chickpeas topped with potato mousse and crispy salli shreds are hearty enough to double as the world’s best campfire meal. And the avocado-filled puri puffs topped with chilled yogurt mousse crack in your mouth in a satisfying way when you bite into them. The best part is you'll eat it in the presence of a fancy ayurvedic-inspired cocktail, and in a place that's jewel-toned, swank, and filled with velvet chairs.

This Mexican fine dining restaurant is where we send people looking to blow hundreds of dollars on a single dinner that will solidify into a core memory. That’s because the 16 courses of dishes are nothing short of thrilling. Chicharrones are buried in shaved truffle, and grilled bananas are served in savory dulce de leche and crowned with caviar. While dinner doesn’t come cheap ($307 a head), the cavernous all-black space and phenomenal food make this meal a production you won’t want to end.

This casual Nepali restaurant on the corner of Howard and 6th Streets makes incredible momos. We love everything about them—from the well-spiced turkey, lamb, or veggie fillings to the delicate flour wrappers to the tasty roasted tomato and cilantro sauce that comes on the side. Get the combo meal if you really want to fill up on momos, and are looking to enjoy their other great dishes, like the sautéed cauliflower with peas, green onions, and spices. You can also grab Bini’s food at the weekly Ferry Building farmers market and at the La Cocina Municipal Marketplace in the Tenderloin.

Montesacro stands out for its oval-shaped Roman pizzas, a style that’s harder to find in the city. Rarity aside, these pies are delicious. The crust is crisp and bubbly and light, and the extensive menu means there’s a topping combination for everyone. Go for the maranella with housemade spicy pork sausage and extra creamy burrata, or the tormarancio with soppressata and very thick tomato sauce. Service is efficient and the space can easily accommodate groups, which makes this a go-to spot, especially if you’re seeing a show at The Orpheum nearby. 

It’s easy to love Taksim. The upscale Turkish restaurant near Brannan and 4th Streets from the Lokma people has a large dining space centered around a wood-fired oven, and is pretty enough for an easy weeknight dinner, or meals with coworkers when snacks at the bar just won’t do. The biggest reason to come here is the food, coupled with friendly service. The menu is a mix of mezes, salads, housemade breads, and large plates—just about everything is what you want to eat over convivial conversation about water signs. The golden branzino is balanced with salty sea beans, the lamb and beef kabob is perfectly cooked, and the plump king shrimp wrapped in finely shredded kadaif are a dream over sweet pomegranate molasses. And the interesting cocktails infuse Mediterranean ingredients like carob molasses and urfa pepper. 

This spot is related to Burma Superstar, and along with great cocktails, they also have the same food as their other locations, including the tea leaf salad, spicy tomato chutney, and rich curries with beef. With its tall ceilings, huge bar, and second level that looks like a VIP lounge, this place feels like a nightclub—so it’s definitely an above-average casual dinner spot.

Sometimes all you want is to sit down, slurp up a bowl of steaming hot noodle soup, and be on your way. Noodle enthusiasts (and SoMa) are lucky to have Turtle Tower. The casual Vietnamese restaurant is a quick stop on 6th Street for Hanoi-style phở, served with flat noodles that are the optimal level of chew. And the fragrant broth is just what you want to load up on before heading over to Oracle Park to brave the wind chill, or on days when the sky looks more like a gray amorphous blob. The vermicelli bowls and sticky rice with Chinese sausage are also solid, but focus your attention on the phở.

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photo credit: Sarah Felker

The Best Restaurants In SoMa guide image