The Best Restaurants In Hayes Valley
photo credit: Krescent Carasso
Hayes Valley has a lot going on. Aside from being centrally located near tons of shops and theaters, it also gets lots of sun and is largely flat and walkable, so you can take a pleasant stroll without getting a calf cramp. The neighborhood is also home to some fantastic restaurants and bars, from a fun omakase spot to one of the best restaurants in the whole city.
There’s a new-ish breakfast destination in the neighborhood: Loquat, a cafe serving Jewish and Levantine-inspired pastries that rise to the top of the SF Pastry Power Rankings, which we’re sure is very much a real thing. The mini salted chocolate babkas have delicate layers that taste even better when you start passionately “mmm-ing” at the table. Golden-brown bourekas are filled with warm, sweet ricotta and sage. And the space itself looks like an adorable set straight out of an old Sunset Magazine shoot with pink walls and rustic flower arrangements. You’ll want to stay in it all morning with a latte and a slice of chocolate espresso cake.
Dumpling Home is packed every night with groups of friends or families, and the reason is simple. The casual Chinese spot makes some of the best dumplings in the city—like shengjianbao with crispy, golden-brown bottoms, and xiao long bao with translucent skin and flavorful soup. 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.
Rich Table isn’t just one of the best restaurants in the neighborhood, it’s one of the best in the entire city. The menu here changes constantly, but classics like their porcini donuts or sardine chips are always available—and even if you’ve been here a million times, you’d be hard-pressed to guess what the new dishes will look or taste like. From make-your-own hand rolls to agnolotti in borscht broth, the menu makes it easy to impress whoever you’re with.
There’s no shortage of fried chicken sandwiches in SF, but the ones from The Bird are simple perfection that we’ll never say no to. Here, you choose between classic or spicy, and each one comes loaded with pickles, mayo, and a sweet, refreshing apple slaw. Unlike the original location in SoMa, this Hayes Valley spot has beer on tap and cocktails, if you’re in the mood for something boozy.
There are a lot of reasons to love Nojo. For starters, it’s not hard to get a table. And second, they make some of our favorite ramen in the city with entirely chicken-based broth—so prepare to get fired up about fowl. We love the tan-tan spicy miso with ground chicken, but you really can't go wrong here, especially if you add the onion-packed chicken meatballs to every bowl.
In a neighborhood full of French restaurants, this cozy corner spot stands out for its friendly feel and really excellent food. Chez Maman is more intimate than the other French spots in the area, and only has a few tables and some seats at the bar—which is also what makes it great for a low-key weeknight date or a solo meal when you’re just in the mood for fries. Get a pot full of steaming mussels and their French onion soup, which we instinctively crave every time it rains.
This dimly lit sushi spot can be as casual as you want it to be, which is why it’s great for special little date nights or catch-ups with friends who don’t mind lining up on the sidewalk. There’s a 12-piece omakase option for $58 stacked with yuzu and garlic ponzu-topped nigiri (if it’s a ball-out-on-raw-fish kind of night), or you can just order a la carte. When in doubt, go for a creamy baked roll, anything panko-crusted, or one of the specials scrawled on a mirror in the back. Just know that this isn’t necessarily a group destination—it’s mostly bar seating in the tiny space.
It costs anywhere from $99-$199 per person to eat at Robin. But unlike a lot of pricey sushi options in town, this spot is actually a fun place to have dinner with its loud music, colorful tiled walls, and creative dishes like potato chip nigiri topped with caviar. There’s no menu here—instead, servers ask you how much you’re looking to spend. The experience can feel weird at first, but like any good negotiation, you’ll always end up with the right amount of food.
RT Rotisserie is the casual offshoot of Rich Table, located a block away, but here they have a simple menu of roasted chicken, sandwiches, salads, and more. You can get half a bird for $13.20, which is one of the more affordable and filling meals you can find in the neighborhood. This place is super casual and they have wine both by the glass and bottle—it makes this one of our favorite spots to come for a casual midweek catch-up with a few friends.
Gioia used to have an outpost in Russian Hill, but then they moved here to open this smaller, much more streamlined spot. No matter which toppings you get from this counter-service slice shop, know that the crust is always perfectly crispy on the bottom and chewy around the edges. Our go-to at Gioia is the garlicky mushroom pie, but you really can’t go wrong.
This Greek mini-chain is an easy, quick, and delicious option for lunch, especially when a sad salad just won’t cut it. Everything on the menu is available in pita sandwich or salad form, and our favorites are the chicken and the lamb. But no matter what, you need to order the juicy potatoes cooked in the meat drippings from the spit and the frozen Greek yogurt topped with baklava, which we like to grab on the way out and eat while window shopping for artisan candles around the neighborhood.
You could go to Absinthe to eat a lot of French food, but our favorite time to show up at this large brasserie is for a drink and a quick bite at the bar. They make great cocktails, both with and without absinthe, and we’re partial to their sazeracs, especially alongside one of their burgers. It’s got grilled onions and Point Reyes TomaTruffle cheese, with nicely crispy fries piled high on the side.
When it's foggy, cold, and you haven't seen the sun all day, go to Suppenküche to feel something. It's run by the same people as Biergarten and Radhaus, but feels cozier than those bright, wide-open spots. And it's a great place to come with a group when you want to go in on multiple rounds of giant Belgian beers and split some potato pancakes or schnitzel.
Lers Ros is perfect for randomly dropping into when your group of six suddenly turns to nine. First of all, there’s hardly ever a wait. And most of the food comes in family-sized portions, so having a group is the best way to take advantage of the menu. Go for the garlic pork, roasted duck curry, and pad kra pow moo krob with crispy skin pork belly and peppers.
Monsieur Benjamin is where to go for a fancy-ish meal before sitting through a live film score at the SF Symphony. It’s just a block away from Davies and the Opera House, so you can soak in natural light from the floor-to-ceiling windows and admire the tiny foxes on every possible surface before making your way out. Focus on the raw bar items, which are highlights on the meat and seafood-heavy menu. Or go for the duck leg confit, which gets zhuzhed up with big chunks of bacon.
This Papito has the same tacos we love from their original location in Potrero Hill, and fantastic spicy margaritas, which makes it a great place to drop into for a late lunch or casual date. If you’re up in time for brunch on the weekends, they have solid huevos rancheros, too. Sitting outside on the sidewalk is where you want to be on a nice day, but if there are no tables left, the roof here is mostly skylights, so it still (kind of) feels like you’re outside.