San francisco restaurants

The Most San Francisco Restaurants: The True Classics

When we host visitors from the Bay Area, we sometimes receive what may initially seem like a simple request.

For example, once a friend visiting from Seattle asked for dinner at a very “San Francisco” restaurant. He had no preference for food style, price range, or neighborhood.

But really choosing the most “San Francisco” restaurant, without any other parameters, is not an easy task. Does he want a historic spot with classic old school San Francisco vibes? Would he prefer a hard-to-reach, farm-to-table restaurant full of flannel shirts? Or maybe we should go for something very unique and goofy instead, with that weird “Only in SF” vibe.

RELATED: These San Francisco Restaurants Are So “SF Only”

This inspired the SFGATE staff to determine which establishments deserved to be called “the most in San Francisco”.

These are not necessarily ultra trendy places, tourist traps or over-mediatised. It’s about finding a mix of restaurants with the essence of San Francisco that are cutting-edge, iconic, and popular among locals.

The result of our research (which consisted primarily of interviewing our colleagues, examining various SF restaurant rankings on the Internet, and revisiting the Chronicle archives) is a series of stories breaking down the most “San Francisco” restaurants into three categories.

RELATED: The Most “San Francisco” Restaurants: The New Classics

First, there are the true classics. These are the establishments in San Francisco that have long been known for their greasy cuisine or their classic martinis. Some of these places have been around for over 100 years and are instant portals to the city’s past. Others have been reincarnated with a nod to the future, but still retain some of San Francisco’s fascinating history.

You can see our pick of the “true classics” in the slideshow above. We’ve included tips on what to order as well as fun historical information about many establishments, such as the one Janis Joplin lived near or the horrific fate of the original owner of John’s Grill.

Tweet your disagreement with this list or just send a nice GIF to Jessica Mullins on Twitter @mullin_around. You can also email him at