SFGuide

The 19 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. A few of them are brand spanking new, but there are also old favorites who’ve been exciting from day one.

And, as always, we wouldn’t be recommending any of these restaurants simply for having a memorable scene. We’ve been to each and every spot and loved the food they serve—so you can plan your dinner confidently.

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Melissa Zink

Rintaro review image
8.9

Rintaro

$$$$(415) 517-8539
Hours:FRIDAY5:30PM to 11:00PM

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.

photo credit: Krescent Carasso/Flour + Water

Flour + Water imageoverride image
8.9

Flour + Water

$$$$415-826-7000
Hours:FRIDAY5:30PM to 12:00AM

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. 

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.

Al’s Place imageoverride image
8.4

Al's Place

$$$$
Hours:FRIDAY5:30PM to 11:00PM

Six years after opening in the Mission, Al’s Place is still one of our favorite spots for double dates, birthday dinners, and other small-group special occasions. We chalk this up to a newly-expanded parklet, a great playlist, and a fantastic menu of seasonally-changing dishes. From the massive baby lettuce salad with carrots, herbs, and an avocado spread (which you’re encouraged to eat with your hands) to the stone fruit curry poured tableside over black cod and blueberries, everything is fresh and creative. Standouts on our last visit were the blistered corn and smoked stone fruit mayo, and crispy duck parts served with a side of fermented black bean mayo we now want to slather on everything.

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.

Ever since Tony’s added bigger parklets, this North Beach spot has felt like a pizza party on steroids. For lack of a better phrase, Tony’s is always bumping—huge sidewalk tables and booths are filled with people chowing down on the restaurant’s wide-ranging styles of pies, from Neapolitan to Detroit-style to Roman. The price of admission for a spot to hunker down with a tangy margarita or Sicilian soppressata: a long wait surrounded by some in-your-face chaotic energy. But you’re looking for a spot with a scene, after all. Add your name to the waitlist, go for a walk, and come back once the restaurant texts you that your table is ready. Excellent pies await.

Eating at Lily is a thrilling journey from start to finish. The Richmond restaurant serves incredible contemporary Vietnamese dishes, created with unparalleled attention to detail. There's the intricate presentation (think, watermelon radishes cut into flower shapes, or a whole-fried fish perched on a bed of kimchi and pineapple chow fun), and the sweet, spicy, and salty flavors layered in each dish. Get a bunch of dishes to share, and make sure to get the Vietnamese coffee with salted duck egg foam—it has ruined all other coffees for us.

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.

Dine on Um.ma's spacious back patio and the smell of sizzling meat will waft through the air. You’ll probably also hear an early 2000s playlist blasting through the speakers (yes, that's Ryan Cabrera you hear). The backyard party vibes with picnic tables make this Korean spot in the Inner Sunset the perfect place to catch up with a group of friends you haven’t seen since 2019 while cooking a few pounds of pork belly and sweet kalbi on the tabletop grill. Other standout dishes you and your friends shouldn’t leave without trying are the crispy seafood pancake and the charred gai-lon with oyster mushrooms that soak up the ssamjang dressing nicely.

Loló may have recently nixed weekend brunch, but they’re now also open Mondays—traditionally a tough day to find standout restaurants accepting reservations—so, basically, nature is healing. The Mexican restaurant does Jaliscan food with a very California twist: the panko-crusted shrimp tacos are served on jicama tortillas; fried fish tacos are amped up with a piquin pepper-peanut sauce; and the empanadas are perfect, puffy pockets filled with mushrooms, corn, and cheese. Excellent cocktails and an atmosphere that has more buzz than a deuxmoi rumor drop—a dinner at Loló always adds up to a fun night.

The Anchovy Bar is from the people behind State Bird Provisions—but even as the sibling restaurant of our highest-rated SF spot, it shines in its own right. The seafood-focused restaurant serves shareable small plates and has an extensive wine list, and we go here whenever we want to chill with some wine and catch up with friends over 24-month-aged prosciutto and salty anchovies with crusty bread and tomato vinaigrette. From the soft-boiled egg buried under a pile of fluffy parmesan to the bowl of cloud-like whipped Wagon Wheel cheese, the dishes at this Fillmore spot are unique and so beautifully plated, they deserve their own exhibit at MoMA.

Owned by La Cocina alum Heena Patel, this Dogpatch restaurant serves up excellent Gujarati dishes inside the industrial Minnesota Street Project building. In 2021, she revamped the meat-heavy menu, making it entirely vegetarian and opting to serve everything tapas-style. Which is a great thing for us: it’s now easier than ever to mix and match plates from each of the menu’s four sections (divided by cities within Gujarat)—and to order a lot. Watch as your table becomes brimming with everything from blue cheese-stuffed paratha and spicy charred eggplant stew to the ceramic carafe of herby lemon-tamarind water you pour inside small pani puri puffs and take like a shot. Don’t forget the house-made chutneys and pickles.

photo credit: Mary Lagier

State Bird Provisions imageoverride image
9.4

State Bird Provisions

$$$$415-795-1272
Hours:FRIDAY5:30PM to 11:00PM

State Bird Provisions is a beloved San Francisco treasure, much like Buster Posey’s right arm. And even throughout the pandemic, this spot is still serving creative small plates and their titular fried quail—minus the dim sum carts and plus a really cool new parklet. If you’re dining outside, you’ll be seated under glowing paper lanterns and string lights, and surrounded by plants. The relaxed ambiance will make you forget you’re sitting in the street. Once you’re situated, order as much food as can fit on your table, sit back, and enjoy a meal you’ll be thinking about for weeks after.

When’s the last time you sat down for hickory and cedar-smoked duck, an impressive charcuterie plate that included incredibly buttery tête de cochon, and wine from a list that reads more like a captivating novela? If the answer is never, get to The Morris, a laid-back Mission bistro with some serious fine-dining chops. Service in their dining room or out on their parklet is attentive and never rushed, which makes eating and drinking here with a date or a small group is an ideal way to spend a night.

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