The 17 Most Exciting Dinner Spots In SF Right Now guide image

photo credit: Melissa Zink

SFGuide

The 17 Most Exciting Dinner Spots In SF Right Now

A night out at one of these places‚ whether it’s for a catch-up with a friend or an impressive date night—feels overwhelmingly of the moment.

For anyone wondering which sit-down restaurants are currently hot in San Francisco right this second, you have arrived at the right figurative Internet place. What does “hot” mean, you ask? Well, it’s safe to say that we put on relatively cute outfits to dine at each restaurant below (possibly even eye makeup and our “good deodorant”). A night out at one of these places—whether it’s for a casual catch-up with a friend or an impressive date night—feels overwhelmingly of the current moment.

Many of the restaurants below are brand spanking new, but we’ve also listed older spots doing novel and noteworthy things. And, as always, we aren't recommending any of these places simply for being sceney. We’ve been to each and every one of these restaurants, and we love the food they serve.

THE SPOTS

Poc-Chuc Restaurant

$$$$

2886 16th St, San Francisco
View WebsiteEarn 3X Points

Four nights a week, Poc Chuc in the Mission transforms into a karaoke bar complete with a dance floor, a fog machine, and reggaeton playing at full blast. It’s basically a full-on club dressed up as a Yucatecan restaurant—and a great one at that. There are crispy panuchos loaded with grilled pork, saucy cochinita pibil with thick, memory foam-like tortillas, and zingy aguachile that are well worth having to yell across the table. Buckets of Modelos are on every table, and music videos flash away on overhead projectors. Dinner here is a party full of sensory overload, and one you should get to soon. 

photo credit: Melissa Zink

Handroll Project review image
8.5

Handroll Project

Folks used to start lining up down the block an hour before Handroll Project opened, trying to get a seat. Not anymore—the temaki-focused spot in the Mission is finally taking reservations. And while it’s still one of the city’s hardest reservations to snag (you should still set alarms on your phone, watch, and maybe even a real clock), the effort is worth it for the seafood-filled dinner you won’t forget any time soon. The rice on every handheld fish pocket is vinegar-y and fluffy, and the toppings practically sparkle like crown jewels. You’ll see scallops coated in a sweet miso aioli, toro studded with pickled radishes, and garlic-chip-topped wagyu that melts in your mouth. Expect to mentally relive each bite on loop for the rest of the week. 

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Sensory overload typically isn’t a plus, unless you’re at Good Good Culture Club. This Mission spot (Liholiho Yacht Club’s spin-off) has turned mixing and matching zingy, funky, sweet, sour, and spicy flavors into an exhilarating sport. The journey through the mostly Southeast Asian menu will include a medley of family-style dishes that pop, like zesty crying tiger shrimp salad, deboned chicken wings stuffed with rice, fragrant lao sausage, and a juicy, pho-inspired ribeye with thai basil. The experience also involves eating in a bright dining room or plant-filled rooftop, both of which look like they belong somewhere in the tropics. People will be overflowing everywhere, including sprawled out on the sidewalk waiting for a table (GGCC takes walk-ups). Do yourself a favor and make a reservation in advance—or get here when they open at 5pm so you can be added to the waitlist.

In SF, there are as many tasting menus as shiba inus named Mochi. One tasting menu that should top your list is from Bodega SF, a contemporary Northern Vietnamese restaurant near Union Square. You’ll feast on eight courses of family-style dishes that blend together comforting, familiar flavors and interesting new ones. For $88, you’ll get a non-stop parade of hits (you can also order a la carte). Throw back oysters topped with yuzu coconut foam, and wrap up perfect bites of whole-fried branzino, vermicelli noodles, and herbs. And the whole table will gun for the last bit of beef carpaccio covered in crispy shallots, citrus fish sauce, and a squeeze of lime. If you don't already realize that this is the most exciting tasting menu in SF right now, you will once the fragrant bowl of phở and mochi pandan cake land on the table and finish the meal.

At Thanh Long, the 50-year-old institution in the Sunset, you’ll spend a memorable night with a whole roast crab. Crack open the pepper-coated legs, dig out the perfectly cooked meat, and drizzle it with even more butter before licking it all off with your fingers. Of course, you’ll want to complete your dinner with a pile of Genius Grant-worthy garlic noodles—the buttery, umami-packed dish is still made in a top-secret kitchen within the main kitchen. Thanh Long’s dining room is also packed nightly with folks of all ages decked out in plastic bibs and celebrating, as evidenced by the candle-lit desserts that are whisked around all night. This Vietnamese restaurant has been going strong for decades, and will probably still be when self-driving cars take over. If you've never experienced this seafood and garlic-centric party—or are long overdue for a revisit—use this as a sign to go here now.

This new French spot feels like a well-kept secret in the middle of the Mission. Step inside and you’ll find a cozy space buzzing with dates and groups of friends celebrating birthdays. The best seat to see all the action is at the bar, where you can watch the staff sear hanger steaks, cut hunks of sourdough, and hand out glasses of natural wine throughout the night. Dishes on the $82 tasting menu highlight seasonal ingredients. Think buttery king salmon with leeks draped on top, maitake mushrooms drenched in harissa butter that’s poured tableside, and a scoop of carrot jasmine sorbet for dessert. Everything that lands in front of you is saucy, packed with flavor, and generally just flawless. The best part? No two meals are ever the same (the menu is tweaked daily), which is only another reason why we can’t wait to come back.

State Bird Provisions is a San Francisco treasure, much like Buster Posey’s right arm. And after shelving their dim sum-style carts for two years, the Fillmore spot has finally brought them back. The friendly staff whisks small plates of things like cumin lamb dumplings and pork belly “salad” (which is about 75% meat) around the dining room on carts and trays, making for a meal that’s a huge exercise in self-control. The solution to this very good problem: say yes to whatever catches your eye and get as many dishes as can fit on your table. Save room for the bigger plates, though—the crispy carrot mochi balls and the titular state bird quail served with jammy onions are not to be missed.  

Rintaro’s serene, plant-filled courtyard is an escape from the burning dumpster fire that is currently the outside world. Walk in and you’ll immediately feel an energy shift, like you’ve entered an alternate universe where the scent of yakitori wafts through the air and sweet, refreshing umeshu flows all night long. And that’s just the start to the exciting meal. The dining room at this Mission izakaya is stunning, with arched wooden ceilings and intimate booths that make a meal feel like you’re at a private day spa. Wherever you sit, though, it won’t take long before shareable plates start landing on your table like gifts. The house tofu is so creamy it practically melts in your mouth. The charcoal-grilled tsukune, another must-order, has a crispy outer layer but stays tender and juicy inside. And the hand-rolled udon served in a light dashi broth is more comforting than an eight-hour-long YouTube video consisting entirely of rain noise. When it’s all over, you’ll want to turn right around and come back in (and maybe never leave again). Or just make another reservation for next week.

Flour + Water recently pulled a Bobby Berk and completely remodeled their interior, trading in the previous rustic look for a sleeker, darker space more reminiscent of a stylish Scandinavian living room. What hasn’t changed about the Mission spot is the quality of the frequently-rotating Cal-Ital pastas. Focus on as many as will fit on your table, from tortellini in a flavorful broth to the agnolotti, which has a melt-in-your-mouth veal filling and fresh shaved horseradish on top. If you want to drop some serious cash on a parade of unforgettable carbs, go with the pasta tasting menu ($125), which comes with five pastas and small appetizers like truffle sformato and mushroom arancini. But ultimately, ordering a la carte for the table and sharing everything is still the more cost-effective way to go. 

photo credit: Hardy Wilson

Fiorella Sunset review image

Fiorella Sunset

RESERVE A TABLE

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open table

Whether you live in the area or not, Fiorella Sunset is a great pick if you’re looking for a buzzy new spot to have dinner. The third (and newest) outpost of Fiorella for wood-fired pies is always slammed with people eating inside of the snug dining room, and on the huge covered rooftop and sidewalk patio on lively 9th Avenue. Get here for birthdays, group hangs, and any occasion that calls for getting dressed up and having a fun time. Fiorella regulars will recognize the same menu of thin-crust pies, salads, and pastas, like the rich rigatoni bolognese. One new addition is weekend brunch. 

The lack of a Koreatown in SF doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t find banchan or mandu worth planning your week around. Case in point: San Ho Won. Every dish at the new contemporary Korean restaurant in the Mission is a masterpiece, from the housemade tteok in a sweet maple soy glaze to the melt-in-your-mouth galbi that will make you seriously question everything you thought you knew about beef. Going big here means opting for the house menu ($88), which will fill your table up with a huge, family-style spread of eight dishes, each one more delicious than the next. Order as much of the specialty kimchi and perfectly-grilled meat as you can, dig in, and know that you’re experiencing a meal at the most exciting new Korean spot in town. 

When something changes constantly (see: SNL skits), it’s easy to let quality slip. Not at Cotogna. Despite a menu that gets tweaked daily, the Italian restaurant in the Financial District has mastered the art of consistency. The egg in their raviolo oozes out like lava every time, and all of the housemade pasta is rolled to textbook thickness. Everything that comes out of their kitchen, from the grilled bread topped with aioli and a garden’s worth of tomatoes to the dessert-like corn triangoli, is executed perfectly. So get to this cozy dining room for a power lunch, date night, or, even better, just to see what’s new on the menu. No two meals here are ever the same, but you’re guaranteed to leave happy. 

Abacá is a new Filipino fine-dining spot from the team behind Pinoy Heritage, one of our favorite pop-ups in the city. And it very much lives up to the hype it received before opening summer 2021—the Fisherman’s Wharf special occasion spot is churning out excellent dishes with a contemporary, California twist. Come here with a group so you can share as many of the surprising dishes as possible in the lush space, like the delicate yuba that’s folded up like an accordion and drizzled with adobo glaze, or the squash fritters with black garlic, herbs, and a fiery pinakurat vinegar. Each dish is as beautiful to look at as it is delicious to eat—you’ll want to book another reservation before you’re even done with the first.

Penny Roma is Flour + Water's sister restaurant, but it doesn't stand in the shadow of the game-changing Italian spot. Penny Roma is also pasta-centric, but focuses on more rustic Italian dishes like cacio e pepe, tagliatelle bolognese, and agnolotti dal plin. We like them all, especially since the quality and attention to detail that goes into every carefully-folded tortelloni is evident. And don't overlook the fantastic crudos and the housemade focaccia that’s perfect for soaking up all of the extra sauce. Sit in their plant-filled courtyard and order every single pasta on the menu (go big or go home) and you've got an ideal date night or chill catch-up with friends.

Ernest in the Mission now offers walk-in bar seating, so eating here no longer requires setting up a billion Resy notifications to get a table—which is all the more reason to get here. You can choose to go with the chef’s pick menu ($95) or order a la carte—but either way, everything that lands on the table will be fantastic. The menu has some Asian influence and focuses on seafood and seasonal dishes made with local ingredients. Get into the raw bar section, where you can choose from things like buttery scallop sashimi or a Serrano ham and uni spoon (the textbook definition of the perfect bite). The larger meat and seafood dishes include an uni carbonara, and pork tonkatsu with green goddess dressing and heirloom tomatoes. Whatever you do, save room for the soft serve.

Step into the dining room at this upscale Cantonese restaurant, and you’ll meet one of the most stunning views in the city—there are intricate wooden panels, big windows that overlook Coit Tower, and a cocktail lounge with a pergola and skylight. Reservations at this buzzy new spot can be tough to snag, but the trick is to grab a seat at the bar, and order from the a la carte menu, which has more options than the $88 prix fixe menu you can only get in the dining room (the grilled black cod and crispy sea prawn roll are hits). This should definitely be your move if you want a more casual cocktails-and-small-plates experience.

When we think about Nari, we enter a state of mind similar to when we realize our work crush watched our Instagram story: satisfaction, delight, and bliss. The upscale Thai restaurant in Japantown is one of our favorite spots in the city, period. But what makes it so exciting right now is the chef’s pick tasting menu ($115 per person), which started during the pandemic as a takeout option and now lives on the dinner menu. It comes with practically every “first-course” item, plus a couple of mains and desserts. Each dish is exploding with flavors, whether it's the sweet melt-in-your-mouth pork jowl with squid, the tender duck confit curry puffs, or the spicy black cod curry that’ll make your nose run. Wash it all down with some cocktails as you enjoy the bustling energy of the dining room, which reminds us of a greenhouse.

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