While there may not be cows, there are burgers and cheese plates and plenty of other good things to be had on and around Union Street. Cow Hollow might usually get looped into the Marina, but it’s a unique neighborhood and deserves to stand on its own.
The area has a mix of everything - from one of the fanciest tasting menus in the city to a pizza by the slice temple to a place that only serves cardboard boxes of rice and steamed chicken. You won’t go hungry, and you will also have the opportunity to eat something cow-related should that be what you seek.
Just when you thought San Francisco couldn’t sustain another place serving upscale Mexican food, along came Flores. Turns out, Union Street was sorely lacking in the margarita department, and now you have a new place to drunkenly eat chips. Besides delightful cocktails, the carnitas and crab tostadas are excellent, and weekend brunch is worth checking out too.
Contrada is one of our favorite places in all of SF for large bowls of gluten. The pasta here is stellar, particularly the gnocchi, and the salads and vegetable sides are great too. A good wine list and friendly service keeps this spot in our rotation for any meal of the day, whether it’s date night or eating meatballs at the bar solo.
As you might have guessed, Rooster and Rice serves poultry and rice. The menu is short and simple at this little to-go spot, and it’s surprisingly all you need for a satisfying dinner. A meal here involves rice, poached chicken (or tofu), vegetables, sauces, and an egg if you really want to make your meal a metaphor. It’s an ideal spot to hit for a quick takeout dinner when you want something heartier than salad but you’re still trying to be kinda healthy.
PSA: this is not the bodega on Steiner with the same name. This is a bar with several things going for it: a back deck area covered with a huge glass roof (because San Francisco), many big TVs for sports watching, and brunch that could cure a 21st-birthday-level hangover. The short rib hash and the chicken and waffles are both worth your time, but if you prefer to not need an afternoon nap, the kale salad is decent too.
At one point, the burger you’re eating was roaming the grassy knolls of California. Even if you didn’t need to picture your burger in its previous life, the quality shows at Roam - everything is fantastic across the board. It’s an order-at-the-counter, take-a-number set-up, and (depending on whether you go for a burger or salad) a good choice for a quick healthy-ish or very-not-healthy dinner. Or split the difference and order the salad topped with three mini burgers. The tejano turkey burger is surprisingly excellent and if you don’t get the ‘fry-frecta’ - a sampling of zucchini, sweet potato, and regular fries - you’re doing it wrong.
We’ll ignore the fact that nothing here is homemade, because it’s made by professional restaurant people. Semantics aside, Italian Homemade Co. has a whole bunch of pretty fantastic pastas and sandwiches. IHC is open for your carb-loading needs all day, with a bunch of super-casual high tops inside and a few outside too. You can mix and match pastas and sauces or grab a hot or cold sandwich, but we would very much recommend you try the pappardelle with bolognese or pesto.
A solid spot for breakfast and brunch, Rose’s opens early and makes an exceptional smoked salmon breakfast pizza. The outdoor tables are worth waiting for – grab a coffee across the street at Wrecking Ball to kill time.
Terzo is still our go-to date night or semi-fancy dinner restaurant in the area. Good vibes, great wine, lots of bar seats, and awesome Mediterranean-influenced food. We always get the hummus, grilled calamari, and chicken spiedini. To start.
Little did you know, the wider Bay Area capital of girl’s night out is in Cow Hollow. West Coast Wine & Cheese may have the most homogenous clientele we’ve ever encountered, but we also can’t deny our love for the themes behind this little spot (alcohol, dairy products). We put our full endorsement behind the Mt. Tam cheese, whipped burrata, octopus, and roasted vegetables. Small plates > juice cleanses.
One of the best days you can have in Cow Hollow involves staking out some high top tables in the back of Marengo when the roof’s open and consuming many, many sliders and sweet potato fries. If you want a semblance of health, they even have surprisingly good salads. The drinks flow freely and sports are on TV, so you basically have every human need covered.
Tacko has essentially the same food as Nick’s Crispy Tacos in Russian Hill, only lacking the chandeliers and Soviet sex-den vibe. The guacamole is great, and the street tacos (specifically the carnitas) are always the move. You can technically order a lobster roll, but just because there are pictures of Nantucket on the walls doesn’t mean that’s a good choice.
Pizzeria Avellino2769 Lombard St
While it may not look like much from the outside, Pizzeria Avellino is some of the best NY-style pizza around, with a thin, crispy crust, and copious amounts of cheese. Most importantly: you can get it by the slice. Fold that up and inhale it.
Brazen Head is basically unmarked, and involves a trip back in time to old-school San Francisco with a saloon-y, Prohibition vibe, but luckily is still legal. The place does some excellent French food - especially the onion soup, escargot, burgers, and petit filet. It’s dark and cozy, always a good time, and we can say with almost 100% certainty you won’t see anyone under 25 here.
The drinks are strong, the outdoor tables are ideal, and a Bloody Mary at brunch is a rule not an option. The food at Balboa might not blow you away, but it’s an institution and a fun time day or night. This is also the best spot for observing 45-year-old human mating rituals in the city of San Francisco.
If you’re looking to have a very fancy meal in Cow Hollow, this is your best (and only) option. While the menu may look clinically insane (mostly because it comes in the form of a poem), you’ll have a memorable meal here with beautiful, albeit extremely expensive, modern French food. The pre-set tasting menu is over $300 and you need tickets, so keep this in your back pocket for very, very special occasions. Like celebrating buying your own private island.
A classic Cow Hollow deli featuring a dude (Tony) who’s worked there forever, Marina Sub is the place for gigantic sandwiches on the go. We’re partial to the Atomic - turkey, pastrami, and cheese are never a bad combo.
Belga is a great spot to grab a beer and snack on sausages and meat plates. It’s a good one to have in your roster when outdoor tables and people watching are your priorities.
Like late night food in SF, friendly French people are generally thought to be a myth. Except Gamine proves this is very much not the case. Not only are the people here very nice, but they also serve top-notch mussels, tasty French onion soup, and a kickass steak frites. The outdoor tables are fantastic for brunch or dinner on a warm night, and best of all, there’s usually a minimal wait.
The presence of alcoholic slushies makes for one of the best happy hours around. A generous number of of outdoor tables is also a strong selling point of Palm House, and the snack food - from guacamole to poké to fries - is solid too.
Perfect lattes, friendly people, and an open-door policy towards dogs - all reasons you will find us (and our dogs) at Wrecking Ball regularly. Be aware though, this is very much a grab-and-go operation, with just a few chairs inside. Food-wise, they get Marla Bakery pastries delivered daily and you definitely should investigate the sticky buns.