The Toughest Reservations In SF Right Now (And How To Get Them)

Our thoughts on the busiest restaurants in SF and advice on how to get a table.
A man cooking over a wok at Four Kings in San Francisco.

photo credit: Pete Lee

At any given time, there are a handful of SF restaurants where trying to get a prime-time table is like trying to sprint up the Filbert steps while singing “Bohemian Rhapsody” at the top of your lungs—you just can’t. Right now, these are those restaurants. The spots on this list aren’t necessarily the best restaurants in the city, but they are the hardest places to book a reservation. We think you should know if they’re actually worth the effort, and if so, the best way to go about getting in. Below, you’ll find our verdicts, along with info that’ll help you snag that table (or bar seat), ideally at a time other than 10pm. Check back for regular updates. 


photo credit: Pete Lee



$$$$Perfect For:Literally EveryoneSmall Plates


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Verdict: On a small side street in Chinatown, Four Kings is a modern Chinese spot from some Mister Jiu’s alums that manages to soar above high expectations with their new spins on Cantonese classics. The seven-day dry-aged squab is intensely crispy, the XO escargot has enough sauce to soak the fluffy milk bread it comes with, and the beef chow fun is perfectly stir-fried. A meal here is fun and casual—’90s Canto-Pop is the only thing that comes out of the speakers, and Cantonese film and music posters line the walls.

How To Get In: Four Kings is open until 11pm, so stopping by on the later side is the easiest way to get one of the best meals in this city past 9pm. But walk-ins are seated at the bar all night and reservations are released on OpenTable about three weeks ahead of time. 

Verdict: Elena’s solves our need for a Big Night Out Mexican restaurant with excellent food that doesn’t cost half a month’s rent. This upscale West Portal spot is a vibrant, rowdy dinner party meant for sexy outfits and sipping on spicy margaritas under live trees and candlelight. Luckily, the food is just as good as the scene. The pozole is rich, the esquites are brightened up with kicks of lime, and the melty gobernador tacos arrive with a tangy green salsa that we’d love to pour on every dish.

How To Get In: They’re open all day, but getting a table typically requires a wait during both lunch and dinner.  Come by in the mid-afternoon or late evening for your best chance at a short wait. Otherwise, reservations are released on OpenTable three months in advance, but unfortunately, all primetime spots are booked up through July.

photo credit: Carly Hackbarth



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Verdict: After a meal at this upscale Thai restaurant in the Richmond, you’ll be sending exclamation-point-heavy texts, DMs, and even snail mail to everyone you know about the stacked roster of unmissable dishes. The food isn't your usual Thai standbys, but rather vibrant, creative, and highly seasonal dishes. You’ll throw back scallop and lemongrass “shots” topped with chili jam, dive into some aromatic beef you could cut with a dull spork, and finish with coconut ice cream infused with smoke from a candle. 

How To Get In: Reservations for the next month open up on the first of the current month at 9am on OpenTable (for example, June reservations will open on May 1st). If you're down to roll the dice, just show up when they open at 5pm—every night they set aside a “couple of tables” that are first-come first-serve. 

Verdict: Whether or not you have a fantastic time at House Of Prime Rib depends on a few things. Do you like thick slabs of beef? And martinis? How about a tableside spectacle involving spinning bowls and salad dressing cascading from as far overhead as a server can reach? If yes, this Nob Hill institution is a classic experience you are legally required to have at least once. 

How To Get In: Reservations open one year in advance (yes, you read that right). So if you’re a Type A organizer with an impressively stable lifestyle, reserve your ideal date 365 days ahead of time. If not, don’t worry, they take walk-ins nightly for the dining room and bar—you just might have to wait a few hours to get seated. Another move is to call ahead to ask if there are any day-of cancellations.

Verdict: There’s no other place in the city like Noodle In A Haystack. The 10-ish course meal inspired by ramen ($185) is a nonstop parade of hits. There’s a 16-hour braised pork belly karaage the texture of toasted marshmallow, and a rotating ramen as the main course. It might be topped with crab or pork collar but will star the chewiest noodles you’ll ever encounter. 

How To Get In: Reservations are released on Tock every second Sunday at 9pm for the following month. And while slurping up ramen next to someone you like is fun and all, know that it’s much easier to snag one-person reservations, so maybe a solo noodle date is in order. 

Verdict: A meal at Copra feels downright celebratory. The new South Indian spot in the Fillmore is a high-end place to show off your nicest sweater and drop a chunk of change on a fantastic dinner, which includes cracking into some crab legs and sucking the curry-drenched meat right out of the shell. Getting a table requires some month-out planning, but all that effort is worth it once you plop down on a woven chair in the macrame-filled dining room and are presented with their perfectly roasted black cod and rasam poori spiked with tangy passionfruit.

How To Get In: Reservations are released 30 days in advance at 9am on Resy. There are a few tables available for walk-ins, and the bar is open for walk-ins, too.

Verdict: San Ho Won is one of the best new restaurants in SF. Their double-cut galbi is already the stuff of legend, and we have recurring dreams about their bubbling, spicy chicken tteokbokki. The upscale Korean restaurant is straight-up phenomenal, so expect to think about this meal for months after. 

How To Get In: Reservations are released 29 days in advance at 10am on Tock. They also accept a couple of walk-ins at 5pm when they open (we’ve seen people line up as early as 4:30pm). There’s no waitlist, so if you don’t get the one or two available tables, come back around 9pm when they'll start to free up. 

Verdict: This six-seat restaurant in Lower Haight is the best place for omakase in the city. Dinner at this tiny spot feels like an intimate dinner party consisting of 14 courses ($225) of incredible nigiri, sashimi, and small plates like silky chawanmushi and poached ikura in rock sugar and ume broth. Every moment of the meal makes you feel like you’re the most important person in the room, so you’ll want to get here for the next special night out.

How To Get In: Reservations are released 21 days in advance at 11pm on Resy. Since there are only six seats inside and two seatings per night, this spot books up pretty fast. Another option is to keep an eye on their Instagram stories for last-minute (and usually day-of) openings. 

Verdict: State Bird Provisions is our highest-rated restaurant, so no surprise here—it’s absolutely worth the effort to get a table. The Fillmore spot is small plates royalty, and watching servers push around cumin lamb dumplings and herby pork belly salad on dim sum-style carts and trays (and eating everything in sight) is our idea of a perfect night.    

How To Get In: Reservations are released 30 days in advance at midnight on OpenTable. The bar is reserved for walk-ins. According to SBP, a line starts forming outside about half an hour in advance, so plan accordingly. 

Verdict: This Italian restaurant in the Financial District has been around for years, and is still holding it down in the housemade pasta department. Their face-sized raviolo filled with ricotta and egg yolk is the best version you can find in the city. And seasonally changing dishes, like corn triangoli or tomato and Romano bean bruschetta, are perfectly executed every time. If you’ve never been or are overdue for a revisit, consider this your sign to get here.

How To Get In: Reservations are released 30 days in advance on SevenRooms. Or you can walk up and try to go for a seat at the bar. If you want to avoid the dinner rush, come during lunch when it’s less busy—they serve mostly the same menu. 

Verdict: Like a 2000s pop playlist, Rich Table never gets old. This Hayes Valley spot has only gotten better over the years, and we have full faith it’ll still be packed nightly even after 3D-printed cars become a thing. The frequently changing dishes excite us every time we come back, including bread with actual Douglas fir infused into it, and pork schnitzel topped with silky mapo tofu. 

How To Get In: Reservations are released 30 days in advance at midnight on Resy. Walk-ins are welcome at the bar.

Verdict: This Mission spot is an iconic Cal-Ital restaurant you should cross off your bucket list. Their rotating housemade pastas combine ingredients you’d never think would go together, like corn and cheese-stuffed cappelletti that's topped with mint, and cocoa and rutabaga casoncelli. 

How To Get In: Reservations are released 28 days in advance at midnight on Resy. They also save space for walk-ins (grab a glass of wine and a snack down the street at Flour + Water Pasta Shop if you have to wait). You can also see if their more casual but just as fantastic sister spot, Penny Roma (also in the Mission), has any open tables. 

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