Maybe your old college roommate showed up in town unexpectedly. Maybe one of your core personality traits is an inability to plan, so you forgot to book a table for date night. Or, perhaps you’re just emotionally drained from the seemingly endless rejection you’ve been facing on Resy.
Enter: these 18 spots. Provided you’re willing to wait a little, they’re all excellent options, and their walk-in only policies level the playing field for anyone trying to grab a last-minute meal. From casual dumpling spots to neighborhood pizza places, here are some great restaurants for when you didn’t make a reservation.
Dumpling Home in Hayes Valley has ample indoor and outdoor seating, and it’s where you’ll find some of our favorite xiao long bao and shengjianbao in the city. Even if there’s a crowd waiting outside, it won’t take too long before you’re seated and steamers full of dumplings and plates of green onion pancakes land on your table. Also come with a group - everything is perfect for sharing.
Listen, standing in line behind a retractable barrier for 45 minutes to over an hour is not our idea of fun. But we’ll gladly do it for what Mensho Tokyo is serving up. This Lower Nob Hill spot makes a damn good bowl of ramen that absolutely lives up to the hype. The trick to possibly minimizing your wait time is getting here early (yes, even lining up before they open), coming with a very small group, and accepting a seat at the bar area if it’s offered.
This neighborhood pizza spot in the Outer Sunset has a wood-fired oven that churns out perfectly thin, chewy crusts, a full bar, and a laidback energy. Their pizzas are also excellent, from the margherita to pepperoni to the more creative combos like the potato, pesto, and pancetta. And no order is complete without a side of their hot honey or ranch, which we like to drizzle over every slice.
For carnitas, pozole, and plenty of margaritas, head straight to Nopalito. The Mexican spot in NoPa is where you’ll find all of the above, along with their excellent totopos with crema, lime, and tons of shaved cotija. Plus, their covered, heated front patio is one of our favorite places to chill outside.
Throwing back half a dozen oysters with views of the bay is never a bad idea - but it’s even more tempting when you’re in need of a last-minute place to eat dinner before everyone gets hangry. Hog Island Oyster Co. in the Ferry Building has tables and heaters, and it’s all first come first served. Settle everyone in with a bowl of their fantastic clam chowder, and you’re all set.
Ebisu doesn’t take reservations, but the wait is never too long, which makes it an easy option for a last-minute date or a group dinner with a few friends. This Japanese restaurant in the Sunset makes great sushi, but we’re also down with their $25 sashimi omakase (15 pieces) and the giant hand rolls.
At Italian Homemade Company in North Beach, you’ll walk up to the casual, counter-serve spot and order your choice of freshly-made pasta and sauce, like tagliatelle with bolognese or prosciutto-stuffed tortellini with butter and sage. We like to enjoy everything on one of their high-top tables inside, or grab a seat on their parklet and people-watch.
If you’re walking around Bernal Heights hungry and reservation-less, get to United Dumplings. In addition to more traditional dumpling fillings like pork and Napa cabbage or fish, they also have more playful options, like bulgogi or chicken, mushroom with truffle, and a massive xiao long bao that takes up its own steamer and comes with a straw for the soup. They also have rice dishes and hand-pulled noodles that are great for sharing.
Waiting for a table at San Tung usually requires the patience of a trainer at a puppy school. And even though it seems like everyone in the general vicinity had the same idea as you about coming here for dinner, waiting in line is worth it for their crispy pork potstickers, dry black bean sauce noodles, and fantastic dry-fried chicken wings, which are doused in a caramel-like ginger and garlic sauce.
Burma Superstar has been around since 1992, but it’s still packed every night thanks to their excellent tea leaf salad, rich curries, and extensive menu of stir-fried and wok-tossed dishes (which includes a ton of vegetarian options). Be prepared to wait, though, because lines down the block tend to be a permanent fixture here. And also know that ordering extra coconut rice is non-negotiable.
If the line is too long at Burma Superstar, you can always try Mandalay, another great longstanding Burmese spot. It’s less than a five minute walk away from Burma Superstar, and the waits are generally much shorter. Once seated, gravitate toward the excellent tea leaf salad and coconut chicken noodle soup. Though Mandalay does take reservations for parties of five and up, most of the tables are first come, first serve.
Loló in the Mission is where we go when we want excellent cocktails, a buzzy atmosphere, and Jaliscan food with a very California twist. Think panko-crusted shrimp on jicama tortillas, or fried fish tacos with a piquin pepper-peanut sauce. Add some mezcal margaritas or a glass of natural wine, and you’ve got yourself a great night.
Planning a group brunch usually involves sending out multiple reminders in the group chat, possibly a spreadsheet, and a reservation made at least a couple of weeks in advance. But at Plow, all you have to do is show up. Unless you come right at 7am when they open, the Potrero Hill spot practically guarantees a wait, but you’ll just end up extra hungry and more satisfied once you get their fluffy lemon ricotta pancakes and crispy potatoes in front of you.
We’re always down to drop by Beit Rima in the Castro for dinner - the space is bustling, the menu is super shareable and perfect for groups, and coming here last-minute is easy. The food comes out quickly, so you and your friends will be shuffling around platters of muhammara and lebna, whole-fried branzino, and garlicky chicken shish tawook before you know it.
Arm-length hoagies, lots of bottles of wine, and great desserts - you’ll find them all at Palm City. The neighborhood wine shop in the Outer Sunset has tables set up inside and outside if you want to stay a while and enjoy your mortadella-stuffed sandwich in their bright, casual space.
Tony's Pizza Napoletana
Tony’s in North Beach is always packed with people living out their pizza party dreams. And the slightly chaotic energy makes it a fun place to eat with a group. Just be sure you have as many people as possible to help you take down more than one of their pizzas - they make 12 different types of pies, from Sicilian or Neapolitan to Detroit-style, all of which are excellent.
Hinodeya Ramen Bar
If all you really want is a big bowl of noodles and soup, grab a table at Hinodeya Ramen in Japantown. They use dashi-based broth for all of their ramen, and have vegan options - but we usually end up going with the house ramen, which comes with melty char siu, bamboo shoots, and a soft-boiled egg.