SFGuide

The Most Fun Dinner Spots In San Francisco

A night out at one of these places feels overwhelmingly of the moment.
A spread of xiao long bao, duck, chicken, and mapo tofu at Z&Y Peking Duck

photo credit: Erin Ng

Those seeking a polite meal, click away now. This guide is reserved for anyone who’s wondering, “Where’s the place to be?” and might have a penchant for mid-dinner photoshoots and post-dinner bar hopping. Chairs aren’t just for sitting in some of these restaurants and, while food is important, a good time takes priority. These spots aren’t rabbit rillette-and-a-top-hat kind of fun. No, they range from old-school classics and geotag-heavy new spots serving the best pizza in town. They’re the “it” dinner places in San Francisco. And if you happen to be looking for some fun bars, we have a guide to those too.

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Carly Hackbarth

Thai

Richmond

$$$$Perfect For:Big Groups

Dinner at Muukata6395 in the Richmond is a chaotic, smoke-filled charcoal Thai barbecue event. The space is constantly shrouded in a gray haze from the pork belly, shrimp, and bacon sizzling away on the domed charcoal grill surrounded by a broth moat. Birthday parties and large friend groups shriek as they take shots of soju. Come with people who are willing to yell across the table and don’t mind putting in the work to get this grill-it-yourself situation going. Prepare to finish off the meal by slurping up the soup flavored with the meat juice drippings a.k.a. the best way to prevent a hangover.

photo credit: Pete Lee

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Even though Four Kings just opened, a meal at this modern Chinese spot from some Mister Jiu’s alums is already one of the hottest tables in town. Seasonal shōchū cocktails and imported beers flow while ’90s Canto-Pop blasts through the speakers. Cantonese film and music posters line the walls of this wooden oasis. And the menu is packed with creative twists on Cantonese classics, like a seven-day dry-aged squab with intensely crispy skin and an XO escargot dish with a side of fluffy milk bread for sopping up the extra sauce. You’ll have to constantly check Opentable for a primetime reservation, but they’re open until 11pm with walk-ins accepted all night at the bar.

photo credit: Carly Hackbarth

When you need a healthy dose of Cape Cod escapism, Little Shucker is the answer. The Pacific Heights oyster bar is seafood central—especially if you go all in on the Big Shucker, a seafood tower of oysters, mussels, lobster, and crudo so iconic it should be added to the city skyline. It’s the ideal shellfish centerpiece to pick from while you get tastefully wine-drunk off spritzes or a bottle of riesling in the breezy dining room. Also know that adding one of their tremendous lobster rolls (cold, always) to your order is a requirement. 

photo credit: Erin Ng

This Chinatown spot serves arguably the best Peking duck in the city, but that’s not the only reason you’re here. The Z&Y spin-off is the hottest place in the neighborhood for big group dinners that end up lasting hours longer than expected. The two dining rooms are controlled chaos, complete with a spotlit duck carving station, entrées overflowing with Szechuan chilis, and tables packed with so many dishes you can’t see the surface. Round up your cohort of coworkers, extended family, or whatever quadruple date you can scrape together to get here (and make sure to reserve a duck ahead of time). 

photo credit: Carly Hackbarth

$$$$Perfect For:BirthdaysBig Groups

According to our scientific and accurate calculations, adding a disco ball to a dining room makes any meal at least 67% more fun. Not only does this Thai restaurant in the Mission have that spinning disco ball, but it also has pink mood lighting, colorful lights in the bathroom, and fiery, in-your-face dishes (like an eye-watering papaya salad) that guarantee a night you’ll be thinking about for at least three to ten business days. The infectious spot is built for birthdays involving many rounds of natural wine and soju cocktails, or nights that call for big group hangs over charcoal-grilled pork, chili-dotted chicken wings, and some pad thai that’s worthy of celebrating. 

Flour + Water Pizzeria held it down for a couple of years before it shut down in summer 2022. But like a phoenix from the ashes, this pizza place is back, this time in chic new North Beach digs. Their mozzarella sticks with molten lava-like cheese, best enjoyed dunked in chunky marinara sauce, are every bit as life-altering as we remember. As are the crisp, charred red and white pies—be sure to pay attention to their cacio e pepe pizza, a decadent stunner. Also on deck are boozy slushies, a swanky glass “dough room” that doubles as a private dining space, and great house wines, cheekily named things like “Pasta Sauce” and “Pasta Water.” 

photo credit: Erin Ng

After closing in 2020, Leopold’s reopened in May of 2023 to bring back the alpine German-Austrian party vibes to Russian Hill. No matter how your day is going before heading in, you’ll always leave having consumed way more beer and schnitzel than you thought possible—so will everyone else. It’s always a constant shouting match here—because of the heavy pours and giant two-liter boots, this place is always at a decibel level that your doctor would find concerning. The food here can vary from dry and tad underwhelming (looking at you, weiner schnitzel) to fun and comforting (kasespatzle). Either way, all of the food is appreciated, especially after the boot-chugging contest you’ll likely have with the next table down. 

photo credit: Erin Ng

$$$$Perfect For:Special Occasions

Calling Copra the prettiest dining room in San Francisco is big talk, but we stand by it. One step into the Fillmore restaurant is all it takes to see why—there’s a bachelorette party’s worth of macrame everywhere, ropes and vines hang overhead, and shelves full of baskets and ceramics reach as high as the ceiling. The South Indian dishes are as imposing as the grandiose space, too—hamachi collar is topped with delicate flowers, you unwrap black cod in a banana leaf like a gift, and lacy appam is finished off with a pile of shaved black truffle. 

The Laundromat is where to get tipsy off natural wine, bob to records, and roll up your sleeves to dive into saucy Sicilian pizzas. The Richmond spot is the Avenues’ hottest destination for anyone who enjoys broccoli rabe-topped pies and a space filled with eclectic Elmer Fudd water glasses and vintage-y art you’ll be tempted to buy. It’s extra packed on Wednesdays thanks to weekly smashburger nights, which you should mark on your calendar and circle three times in red ink—these drippy, double-patty burgers are fantastic. 

After a two-year hiatus, Liholiho Yacht Club is back. We haven’t been this hyped about a comeback since high-waisted jeans became in again—this meal explodes with in-your-face levels of punchy flavors. Dishes on the menu, which the Lower Nob Hill spot calls “heritage-driven,” showcases Hawaiian, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean influences. Silky shaved pig’s head slices are served alongside a zippy frisee and Asian pear salad. Ribeye is grilled until perfectly charred and topped with slightly sweet carrots so good they’ll rewire the part of your brain that stores all the carrot facts. And the baked Hawaii, torched and filled with coconut POG sorbet and orange chiffon cake, is exactly what you’ll want to devour during every future birthday and big-deal dinner. Tell your coworkers, neighbor’s dog walker, and favorite Trader Joe’s cashier to get here immediately.

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 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.

Rintaro’s serene, plant-filled courtyard is an escape from the burning dumpster fire that is the world. The moment you walk into the Mission izakaya you’ll feel the energy shift, like you’ve entered an alternate universe where the scent of grilling yakitori wafts through the air and refreshing umeshu flows all night. But there’s more to this exciting meal. The dining room is stunning, with arched wooden ceilings and intimate booths that remind us of a private day spa. Wherever you sit inside or out, it won’t take long before creamy house tofu, charcoal-grilled tsukune, and hand-rolled udon start landing on your table like gifts.

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 ($135), 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. 

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 ($118), 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.

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