San francisco restaurants

These San Francisco Restaurants Are So ‘Only in SF’

Last year, we attempted to rank the restaurants that best epitomize San Francisco. And this might be our favorite batch.

Above is a slideshow of what we consider to be the most “Only in SF” restaurants you can find in our town.

This project started with a simple request from a visiting friend, who asked for dinner at a “very San Francisco” restaurant. Asking you what it really means to be a real “San Francisco” restaurant, we interviewed our staff and revisited the Chronicle archives to come up with a list. There were so many worthy contenders that we realized we needed to create three categories: True Classics, New Classics, and “Only in SF” restaurants (above).

Most of these “Only in SF” spots could have easily qualified for our “True Classics” or “New Classics” lists, but considering how each of them has such unique qualities in San Francisco, they deserve their own recognition.

They could be a perfect, ever-adapting example of Bay Area culinary ideology (hi, Zuni) or a beloved restaurant that started a local trend, like Cha Cha Cha ushering in small plates or Burma Superstar paving the way for so many Burmese restaurants in the Bay Area or, how, thanks to the Tonga Room, San Francisco isn’t a bar-shy tiki town. Many of these wonderfully eclectic restaurants have proven they have the ability to adapt to our ever-changing city. Others are food spots representing a mix of old and new San Francisco. And we also had to add some of our staff’s personal favorites, just because.

Some of these restaurants are notably “SF” for their food, while others are just original enough in concept or ambiance to make the list.

Editor’s Note: This was the third installment in an SFGATE series of “most San Francisco” restaurants. The first two slideshows featured the city’s “true classics” and “new classics.”