Yes, we know it’s supposed to be called “Lower Nob Hill” now, but the Tendernob feels much more like the blending of two neighborhoods than the bottom part of one or the upper half of another (calling a place the “Upperloin” comes with its own set of issues). No matter how you describe it, there are a bunch of great places to eat in the Tendernob. Here are our favorites.
Swan Oyster Depot
Thanks to the constant line, Swan isn’t an everyday stop. But when you skip work to celebrate Arbor Day, it’s where you should go. They skip the white tablecloths and pageantry and go straight to what’s really important - cracked crab, smoked salmon, and oysters on the half shell served without any pretense. We’re big fans of the Sicilian sashimi, which has different fish - make sure you get scallops - sliced thin and served with olive oil, capers, and red onion.
Brenda’s Soul Food is a Southern and New Orleans-inspired restaurant on Polk St. They’re also the best place in the neighborhood for dishes like fried chicken and shrimp and grits. While you’re there, you’ll want to get the crawfish beignets, too.
Cordon Bleu is a tiny Vietnamese lunch counter that stays open until 9:30pm most nights. Everything on the small menu is good and pretty cheap, but the Number Five - five spice chicken, shish kebab, and a huge pork spring roll served over meat sauce-smothered rice - is what you want and will guarantee that you won’t need to eat for another 12 hours. But just in case, you can get half of a five spice chicken to go for $8 when you leave.
There are a few things you can expect when you go to Mr. Holmes Bakehouse: A long line of people waiting for cruffins, the bakery inevitably running out of said cruffins, and people taking a lot of pictures inside next to the big neon sign. When you don’t get your cruffin and order other things from their pastry case, you’ll quickly forget what you originally came for because the filled donuts are outstanding and the other croissant varieties are super flaky and delicious. Don’t skip the chocolate chip cookie either - it’s unlike any you’ve had before and worth the line on it’s own.
Not that standing in line on a street corner for brunch is a bad thing, but it’s absolutely worth showing up at Mymy in time for breakfast so there’s nothing between you and some lemon soufflé pancakes. If you’re not in the mood for those, they have great Benedicts, hash, and chilaquiles that will fill you up for a day of arguing about what you should do next.
At this Tenderloin restaurant, you can get a great banh mi here for under $5.50. Go all out and order the combo, packed with pâté, pork, pickled veggies, jalapenos, and mayo on crispy baguette. And heads up, this place is cash-only.
It’s no secret that we love Liholiho Yacht Club, and it’s one of our go-tos for group dinners. The bar is a blast and if you sit with a group in the back, you get to create your own fun while you eat your way through the menu. Pretty much everything here is great, from the fried oysters with beef carpaccio to the tuna poke to the gigantic beef ribs that you should have no shame in picking up to eat. Grab a few cocktails and settle in for the night - this place is truly an A+.
Louie’s Gen-Gen Room
Get on the waffle boat. This bar below Liholiho serves interesting and tasty waffles, along with a few other small plates like house-made SPAM pigs in a blanket (make sure you get these). Make a reservation, hang out for a few hours, and see how many cocktails you can try and waffles you can eat.
Paragraphs full of scientific words like “inosinic,” “glutamic,” and “soup” cover the walls at Mensho Tokyo, which makes eating at this ramen shop near Union Square both a delicious and academic experience. We’re big fans of the spicy lamb version, and the shio and shoyu options are good, too. There can be a line, but it moves relatively quickly and your food will come out not long after you order. All the seating is at communal high tops, so coming here with fewer people is better.
VCs, when you need to take a break from hearing Shark Tank style pitches from people who need funding for sustainable plant-based steel, here’s where you should go to spend some serious money. Sons & Daughters serves one of the Bay area’s best tasting menus, and for $115 for food (with no a la carte options available) and an additional $79 for wine pairings, this is the kind of spot we’d reserve for a celebratory dinner or a “Damn, I got that new promotion” kind of evening. That said, they really know how to wow you and we say it’s worth it.
Pakwan Indian Restaurant
Cheap, efficient, and all-around delicious Indian-Pakistani food is the name of the game at Pakwan. There’s beer, there’s biryani, and you better believe you’re getting at least one order of the garlic naan.
Not the hippest spot around (it’s attached to a hotel and not in a cool way), but a solid option for pizza, pasta, and very safe Italian food. If you have kids in tow, go here. There’s lots of space, spaghetti with meat sauce, and cheap jugs of wine for the parents. Add some of the house-made focaccia to your order and you won’t regret it.
There are three Lers Ros locations in town, but if you’re in the Tendernob, it’s a great chance to try some of the best Thai food around. The house specials are fantastic and the basics like pad see ew do the trick as well. Best to hit up with a group, because then you get to order way more things and try some of everyone’s.
Elephant Sushi has super-fresh fish and very good sushi and small plates, all in a sleek space. The restaurant is small, but service is quick and tables turn over quickly. We tend to eat a lot of sashimi here, but the White Out roll - with yellowtail, avocado, seared butterfish, and garlic ponzu - is pretty solid too.
Some of our favorite pizza in town and a pleasant space to eat it in. We love the big green oven behind the bar and we really love the pizza. A lot. The wine list is good too and has some totally affordable options, which is always a plus.
Right on the border of the ’Loin and ’Nob is The European inside the Warwick Hotel. It’s a good place to stop in for a pre-dinner drink during their daily Happy Hour or for a nightcap before you head home. The cocktails are some of the best in the neighborhood and the bar menu can easily stand in for dinner if you decide to make yourself comfortable.
Hogwash has 30 craft beers on tap, along with plenty of German-style sausages and more sauce varieties than we can count. Order a beer in one of the fishbowl-sized glasses, as well as a massive platter of fries topped with curry, pork sausage, and a fried duck egg, and call it a day.
Zen Yai Thai
This Thai spot in the Tenderloin serves bowls of boat noodles, complete with chicharrónes, beef balls, pork, liver, and pork blood broth. They have plenty of other items on the menu, too, like BBQ chicken, rice plates, fresh spring rolls, and chicken wings.
Every neighborhood needs an all-day spot where you can grab a coffee, breakfast, or something kind of healthy between meals, and the Tendernob has Jane. Just like the Fillmore location, this one is always packed, but it’s still our go-to for an afternoon juice or when you just want to sit silently and eat a slice of cake.
If you’re looking for fancy tacos in the neighborhood, Matador is the answer. The drinks are tasty, the tacos are good (but not out of this world), and there are a bunch of seats around the bar that seem made for casual weeknight hangs. As a heads up, they do a lot of carry out, which means the food can sometimes take a while to come out.