Maybe you’re in San Francisco’s department store Disneyland to find a new pair of shoes, or maybe it’s where your company decided to put your new office. Either way, you’re going to be here long enough where you’re going to need to eat lunch, and you’d rather avoid all the tourist traps. From places to take visiting clients to quick takeout for a busy day to where to go after hitting all the shoe department sales, these 16 spots have you covered.
This Thai place is shoved into a corner in the bottom floor of a hotel, but the food here is truly outstanding. At lunch, prices hover around $20 per dish, so it’s not the cheapest lunch in town, but the portions are large enough to split with someone else if you want. The khao soi is heavy and spicy, and the pork bowl is light, but rich. You won’t need anything other than a main, but that shouldn’t stop you from getting the mushroom hor mok to start.
We love the Marina location of Delarosa for brunch, but this one is much better for a slightly longer-than-average break in the middle of the day. Meet up with your friend who works a few blocks away, get the burrata to start and then some pasta, and start to plan your next vacation from the patio outside.
Everything at this fast-casual lunch spot is great - from the falafel to the salads, chicken, and sabik sandwiches - and the line moves pretty fast, so you won’t be waiting half your day for lunch. While everything here comes in bowl-form, the pita is baked fresh, so it’s worth getting a sandwich. Whatever you do, you should be dousing anything you order in their spicy skug sauce.
If your flight into SF got delayed, but you still want to meet up with someone for a late work lunch, you should go to Ayala. This seafood spot on Geary Street has everything from raw oysters to cured fish charcuterie boards to whole roasted fish, which makes it great for both a quick meeting or a full-blown catch up. If you want something more substantial though, get the Dungeness crab pasta, and make sure whoever you’re with gets their own because you won’t want to share.
Tratto is only open for lunch on the weekends, but that’s the only time you have time to go shopping around Union Square anyway. When your bags start to get heavy from all the jeans you got on sale that you’re probably going to return anyway, stop in here for a breather of pasta and a glass of wine. If you’re already wearing red, go for the pappardelle.
Tacorea is a good step in the direction of the hybrid Earth culture seen in Blade Runner. This place serves Korean-Mexican food and it’s all really good. If you get tacos, both the carnitas and the “Kanye” asada are great, but the real thing to go for here is the Tacorea kimchi burrito with spicy pork, kimchi, cheese, and Spanish rice. Like all burritos, it’s enough for two meals, but unlike a lot of burritos, you’ll actually want to eat this two meals in a row.
If you’re looking for something cheap, simple, quick, and all around good for lunch, Rooster & Rice is a solid choice. A full meal here will run you about $12, but you get twice as much food as pretty much anywhere else for the price. All you really need is the original, which gets you poached chicken, rice, cucumber, and a side of chicken broth. The habanero sauce you can get at the counter is good, but it’s nothing compared to the ginger, garlic, and soybean sauce that comes with your box.
The lines at Ramen Underground can be long, so this is a good stop when your friend “is only going to be a minute” getting their phone fixed in the Apple store. Grab a seat at the counter once one opens up, and order some chicken ramen. Then think about where you’ll go next to buy a bunch of stuff you don’t necessarily need since you’re already here anyway.
We usually like to come here after work for margaritas, but if it’s the middle of the day, Tropisueno is a good stop for a nicer work lunch. A few tacos will run you $7, plus free chips and full reign of the salsa bar. On a nice day, sit outside on the patio, but maybe set a timer to remind yourself that you actually have to go back to work.
If you’re staying in Union Square and have time to kill before your pitch meeting in the Financial District that you’ve memorized better than your own birthday, walk a few blocks over to Yank Sing. This is one of our favorite dim sum spots in the city, and it’s nice enough where most people around you will be wearing business attire, or at least a branded Patagonia jacket. Load up on soup dumplings and shrimp har gao before you have to give your presentation. Just make sure to not get any sauce on your shirt from the Peking duck.
House of Thai is on the edge of Union Square and the Tendernob, but the Thai food is good and cheap enough to leave the shadow of Macy’s for 45 minutes to get lunch. The fried chicken is solid, but you should get the Gang Jerd Woon-Sen soup with ground pork, tofu, and silver noodles. If you try to eat it right away though, you’ll need to buy new taste buds at Neiman’s when you head back to the middle of Union Square though.
If your Bart ride was a little more cramped than usual and you just want lunch to be a few minutes of peace rather than feasting like it’s Game of Thrones, walk into Mazarine. This place is mostly a coffee shop, but they have good sandwiches and other small things too. Grab an espresso and some avocado toast, check your texts, and get back to whatever it was you were doing before.
If you’re in Union Square because you need a coat, but realized that you’d rather warm up with food, head to Hogwash. Everything here is heavy and probably what you’d want to eat after a long day of ice fishing - it will hold you over, even if you’re not drinking from their long beer list. We like the curry fries with a duck egg on top if we’re not planning on eating anything else for a while.
It’s not that much of a surprise that your friend is running late to meet you to go shopping in Union Square. What is a surprise is how much they’re pushing the boundary on their lateness. Doesn’t matter though, you can walk over to Ippudo and get some ramen while you wait. Showing up alone pretty much guarantees that you’ll be seated faster at the communal table, so at least you can wait it out with some food. We like the Akamaru Modern with thin noodles and pork belly. It’s enough to fill anyone up during lunch, but if you still want something else, go for the chicken buns.
Museum food has a tendency to be about as edible as the art inside, but we’d go to the Wise Sons at the Contemporary Jewish Museum even if we weren’t here to check out an exhibit. They have everything from latkes to matzo ball soup, but if you’re in the mood for something more standard “lunch,” get the pastrami sandwich and load up on spicy mustard. Maybe check to see if your office gets discounted tours on the way out too.
Thanks to the chandeliers and table service, Oren’s Hummus feels like a nice lunch option you can casually drop into near Union Square, and thanks to their food, it’s somewhere you’d actually want to do that. Come here with a few friends, split the lamb hummus with them, and let the inevitable passive aggressive struggle for the last bite ensue.