Where To Eat & Drink In Noe Valley
photo credit: Mr. Digby's
If you got dropped in the middle of 24th Street in Noe Valley, you might think you were in a small city in some other part of the country. This very casual half-mile stretch has everything you could need, from a bank to a dentist to a playground to a ridiculously tiny Whole Foods. The family-friendly area is also home to a lot of great comfort food restaurants and very chill bars. If you live in Noe Valley or are just passing through, use this guide. And good luck dodging the fancy strollers.
photo credit: Emma Shepler
Saru Sushi Bar is the queen bee of casual sushi in Noe Valley, and it’s a damn good spot we wish was in every neighborhood. Their specialty rolls, like the White Out with seared escarole and garlic ponzu, are an exciting antidote to any weeknight blues. As are their well-executed nigiri, like fatty tuna, yellowtail belly, and uni. The place is tiny but keeps things moving efficiently. You’ll probably have to wait in line before sliding into the bar or snagging one of just a few tables.
photo credit: Stephanie Court
La Ciccia’s seafood-heavy Sardinian dishes make this place a destination, even if you have to cross eight neighborhoods to get here. They’re simple perfection and some of the best Italian food you can get in SF. Prime examples are the spaghetti in spicy oil, a perfect tangle of pasta that’s garnished with cured fish roe, and the baby octopus stew full of fiery tomato-y broth that’s more comforting than a fleece blanket. Excellent Sardinian wines and super friendly staff keep things lively and warm.
photo credit: Billingsgate
This fancy seafood market feels like it was yanked out of the Hamptons and dropped in Noe Valley. They sell fresh crabs, salmon, and scallops, and they also double as a cafe. The menu covers shrimp and lobster salads, oysters, and shareable appetizers like crudos bathing in olive oil, and tomato toasts with anchovies. They're fantastic and will easily satisfy your raw fish quota for the week. If you’re in the area with an afternoon hankering for shellfish, they do a great weekday Happy Hour with half-off oysters and cava by the glass.
photo credit: Mr. Digby's
The food at this tavern-like restaurant and cocktail bar is the equivalent of finding a $20 bill in your pocket: comforting, and has the ability to alter the course of your day. This place goes classic American comfort, with blue cheese-drenched wedge salads, chicken pot pies, meatloaf, and hot sourdough stuffed with a spinach-forward spinach dip. It’s all very hearty and warming—all that’s missing is a fireplace. Expect to see couples on dates, the after-work bar crowd drinking classic cocktails, and families with expensive strollers.
photo credit: Bistro Ember
This upscale Turkish spot is best for special date nights, birthdays, or an “I need self-care in the form of a nice meal." It has a sultry vibe with small table lamps, barely lit overhead lights, and soft acoustic music playing over the speaker. Stellar dishes that look like art also make this place feel special, from the chickpea yeast bread that’s served with spicy honey and honeycomb-shaped butter to the kampachi crudo with melon gel and raki perfume. The well-seasoned lamb manti is their Monet—grand and larger than life (we would dedicate a museum to them). Dinner here moves slowly, not because the kitchen takes its time, but rather because you’ll want to drag it on forever.
photo credit: Krescent Carasso
It’s hard to not hop in line whenever you pass Vive La Tarte. Come to this bakery and cafe for their pastries, like their turmeric monkey bread that’s more spicy than sweet, but they also have a full breakfast menu if you have time to inhale more than just some fancy bread. The stars are the seasonal croissants, which are basically desserts masquerading as breakfast, but we’re not complaining about that. We especially like the mocha and strawberry versions—but the regular ones hold their own, too. It’s good we don’t live next door to this place, because we’d be eating 90 croissants a day.
photo credit: Ricky Rodriguez
This Thai restaurant has a surprisingly long menu that allows you to chart your own course for the night. Nothing here will blow your socks off, but that’s alright because you can walk in at a moment's notice any night of the week, and enjoy the perfectly solid food. All of the Thai classics are present, including pad thai, pad see ew that’s easily slurpable, creamy panang curry, and a som tom with a bite. Sit back in the nice space that's filled with plants and murals, and sip on some Thai tea.
photo credit: Lani Conway
This comfort food spot is stuck in the ‘90s, but the dated look is part of the charm. Eating here feels like you’re at the home of a bohemian who really digs earth tones. The food, which we can only describe as a bit American and a bit all over the place, matches the eccentric vibe, but the flavors are really good. There’s a kampachi crudo tostada that’s heavy on avocado, a well-executed fried chicken with mashed potatoes and biscuits, and a creamy coconut seafood stew. Since Firefly is pretty mellow you can easily secure a reservation (they don’t take parties larger than six), so it’s a great intimate catch-up spot.
photo credit: Emma Shelpler
Thanks to the model train in the window, we’ve walked by this place a few times thinking it was a hobby shop even though it is in fact a bakery. There’s usually a line, but the bread and pastries are worth it. Take a few of their not-too-tangy-not-too-sweet lemon tarts, some mini cupcakes, or a loaf of onion sesame bread to a birthday or dinner party, and you’ll be a hit.
We’re not statisticians, but our best guess is that 73% of the neighborhood makes one trip to Noe Bagel a week. The bagel shop is the AM go-to spot. In addition to having every flavor of bagel you could ever dream up—cinnamon raisin, salt, caraway rye, you name it—they also do mini bagels, which work great as sustenance for the tiny stroller-sized human you probably have in tow. The breakfast BEC also never misses.
photo credit: Sarah Park
This casual bistro-like restaurant is a lovely place to eat Greek food surrounded by friendly servers in branded T-shirts. It’s also a great place to have lunch and wine. During the day, everyone fills the high tops and sidewalk tables to drink rosé and soak in the warm atmosphere. Order the lamb gyro with paper-thin slices of meat, the garlic fries topped with Greek cheese, and the very thick, very lamb-y burger. Like with any casual meet-up spot, you’ll probably get seated quickly if you walk in. Prepare to stay awhile.
photo credit: Julia Chen
Hi-Way Burger & Fry is a counter-service operation serving rare under-$10 burgers. If that doesn’t draw you in, the scent of caramelized smash patties will. Their hefty behemoths are well-stacked with thick tomato slices, house sauce, and sesame seed-covered buns that soak up the meat juices without getting soggy. Wash one down with a chocolate milkshake and be on your way. This place is always busy, and a revolving door of pick-up orders, quick solo meals, and families taking out trays of burgers and fries after soccer practice.
photo credit: Krescent Carasso
This kind-of-casual, kind-of-fancy Portuguese place feels like the neighborhood spot your friends found on their vacation in Lisbon and now won’t stop talking about. The crowd is people of all ages, plus couples on date night. And the food is heavy on seafood and tomato bases, and light on things that are vegetarian. Everything on the menu is well-executed and tasty, but the gambas, sardines, caldo verde, and short rib are standouts. The staff is quick with helpful recommendations, and the wine list is reasonably priced and goes beyond your usual California sauvignon blancs. Long story short, you’ll have a great time.
If you can’t decide whether you’d rather be outside today or watching a game, tell everyone to meet you at Valley Tavern. The back patio at this sports bar is one of the city's best—it has multiple levels to it, each with a large picnic table and TV so your friends can feel like they have their own private patio while everyone watches the game. But because, San Francisco weather, you might wind up inside. Sit in one of the U-shape booths for prime sports watching—they look up to the large TVs and sort of feel like being in a theater.
photo credit: Erin Ng
Henry’s Hunan is the poster child for dinners that require zero to little effort, and where you’ll spend under $20 per person (and definitely have leftovers). Coming here for their range of homestyle Hunan specialties, like scallops in black bean sauce and shredded pork with mushrooms and egg, will quickly become a part of your weekly self-care routine. Order their signature onion cakes, which are flaky and golden-brown, for the table.
photo credit: Emma Shepler
Bernie’s is the gold standard of neighborhood coffee shops. If you find yourself sitting here working on your latest novel about Jane Goodall’s secret life as a house DJ, you’ll notice that everyone seems to know each other. But this place isn’t just a community meet-and-greet. Aside from the strong coffee, the wifi is undoubtedly better than your own home’s, so you’re all set when you inevitably need to research what Jane would use as a stage name.
Self-service yogurt shops aren’t as much a revelation as they are a sign that you’re in a neighborhood near some good schools. But since you’re in Noe Valley and likely want something sweet after dinner, it’s hard to pass by Easy Breezy without loading up on whatever daily-changing yogurt is on hand with every topping you can imagine.