Foreign Cinema

Perfect For: Big Groups Birthdays Brunch Classic Establishment Date Night Dinner with the Parents Girls' Night Out Impressing Out of Towners Literally Everyone Outdoor/Patio Situation Private Dining Unique Dining Experience
PHOTOS: Virginia Rollison

If you imagine a Venn diagram encompassing “unique dining experiences” and “classic SF establishments,” Foreign Cinema sits squarely in the center.

Even today, with the Mission being cool and all, the restaurant’s existence is hard to believe. What were its creators thinking, back in 1999? Let’s buy an old-ass movie theatre in the heart of one of the, um, more vibrant parts of town, turn it into a beautiful restaurant that shows foreign movies every night, and put out one of the best fried chickens in town, as a kicker? If so, surprisingly good plan! (And lest you think we’re being unfair about the ’hood, a bunch of our stuff was stolen from the back of a car during a meal at Foreign Cinema.)

But despite the strangeness of the concept, Foreign Cinema continues to kill it. It’s one of the best patios, brunches, and big group dinner spots in town. They have a giant fireplace! It’s hard to imagine taking anyone here and not having a good time. Foreign Cinema is f*cking cool, period.

This restaurant goes in the category of “never a bad idea.” It is never a bad idea to go to Foreign Cinema. Is everything on the menu perfect? No, especially at brunch. Is the experience one-of-a-kind? Every time.

Food Rundown


They’ve got an extended lineup of quality selections.

Lacinato Kale Salad

We can’t talk about kale salads anymore. This is a good one, but most are. From now on only the bad ones will get noticed.

Avo Toast

We appreciate them skirting the avocado trend-bomb by putting sardines on top. Makes those Instagrammers think twice before they order, yeah?

Sesame & Poppy Seed Fried Chicken

This is cool because it’s not a classic fried chicken — it tastes like an Asian/Californian take. And it is excellent. If you’re wavering on what to get, get this.

Pork Chop

SF may be the pork chop capital, and this is another strong entry.

Pop Tart

One of a couple of items that sounded way cooler in concept than they were in execution. An actual pop tart is a wild sugar-rush pixie fantasy. This mostly tasted like crispy fried flour with a teensy bit of filling.

French Toast

Baguette French Toast also sounded cooler than it is. The baguettes are kind of crispy, don’t really absorb syrup, and cut up your mouth a bit. We’ve had good versions, but not here.

Bloody Mary

Foreign Cinema brings hard game on the bloody mary front — they’ve got some curry all up in there, and it’s killer. Definitely our go-to in the city.

Persian Omelet

The egg dishes definitely beat out the carbs, which is sad, because carbs have so many natural advantages. E.g. SUGAR. We can roll with savories, though, and Foreign Cinema definitely brings the spice appropriately.

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