As the most concentrated center of Japanese food and culture in San Francisco, it’s not surprising that Japantown
boasts an array of eating options, from authentic Japanese cuisine to quirky and alternative spin-offs of traditional food. Check out our picks for the top ten brunches in Japantown!
If you’re looking for an adventurous and alternative sushi experience, there is no place better than Isobune, one of Japantown’s landmark restaurants. Here, plates of sushi and various Japanese delicacies circulate the table on boats placed in a moving stream of water. To create your meal, you take anything that catches your eye as it moves past! While you’re here, it’s important to watch the bill, because with the number of appetizing plates going past, you might end up spending more than you expected.
Isobune, Japan Center, 1737 Post St, San Francisco, CA 94115 (415) 563-1030
If you’re looking for a traditional Japanese eating experience in a welcoming environment, there is no place better than Kushi Tsuru. Here, you can choose from an array of traditional Japanese dishes, and their menu boasts everything from Temaki to Ramen. However, be sure to sample several different types of their impressive array of sushi as well as their delicious and savory miso ramen. Due to its small size and welcoming staff, Kushi Tsuru is a perfect place for an intimate brunch with close friends.
Kushi Tsuru, Japan Center, 1737 Post St, San Francisco, CA, (415) 922-9902
On the Bridge
Eating at On the Bridge is a unique and alternative experience due both to its location and its eclectic dishes. Located on the bridge between the east and west sides of Japan Center, it specializes in Yoshoku cuisine and Western-influenced Japanese dishes. Make sure to try their specialty, Japanese curry pasta. The menu encompasses a range of curry flavors, including sansai spaghetti made with seasonal Japanese wild vegetables and ebiko spaghetti, made with shrimp roe. The eclectic interior decoration matches the wild menu — the decoration features figurines from popular animes as well as stacks of anime books.
On the Bridge, 1581 Webster St #206, San Francisco, CA, (415) 922-7765
Sophie’s Crepes is the perfect place for a casual brunch experience — stop in for a quick bite after lunch for a sumptuous strawberry and Nutella crepe, or make it your primary destination and have a savory crepe for brunch! This place is unique and mixes traditional and non-traditional Japanese foods, such as red bean paste, matcha, strawberries, and gelato. The staff is cheerful and welcoming and the atmosphere fun and relaxed.
Sophie’s Crêpes, 1581 Webster St, San Francisco, CA, (415) 929-7732
Although not unique to San Francisco, Benihana in Japan Center is worth a visit for the unforgettable dining experience. Seated around a hot plate and grill in the center of the table, watch as your food is prepared right in front of you by chefs trained to impress and amaze you with their food and knife juggling tricks. Although a bit pricey, a trip to Benihana is perfect for a special brunch event.
Benihana, 1737 Post St, San Francisco, CA, (415) 563-4844
Restaurant, Japanese, $$$
If you’re looking for traditional, authentic Japanese cuisine in an old fashioned atmosphere, Takara Restaurant is the place to go. Their sushi stands out due to its richness and quality of flavor, particularly in their Volcano and Dragon rolls. However, taking a bite of any of their dishes transports you directly to Japan — so come here if you’re looking for a slice of Japanese culture.
Takara Restaurant, Japan Center, 22 Peace Plz #505, San Francisco, CA, (415) 921-2000
Go here for authentic Korean barbeque mixed with modern dishes in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Ssisso is a great place to go with a group of friends to talk, chill, watch a game, and indulge in delicious barbeque. For brunch, make sure you try the Lunch Special, which allows you to try several of their types of barbeque and other Korean specialties such as savory gyoza.
Ssisso, 1700A Post St, San Francisco, CA,(415) 441-1522
Restaurant, Japanese, $$$
If you’re craving a bowl of steamy, savory, and flavorful ramen, look no further than Waraku Restaurant located on Post Street between Laguna and Buchanan. Waraku is known for its creative takes on traditional Japanese cuisine and its modern and relaxed atmosphere, decorated with chic artwork and artistic wood paneling. Go here for reasonably priced quality ramen and a place to spend time with a few close friends.
Waraku, 1638 Post St, San Francisco, CA 94115 (415) 292-3388
Kui Shin Bo
Restaurant, Japanese, Sushi, Ramen, none
Kui Shin Bo
With tables grouped closely together and a small, intimate atmosphere, Kui Shin Bo gives off the small town charm of a Japanese seaside restaurant. However, in contrast to their small size, their menu offers many different types of traditional Japanese cuisine. Be sure to sample their crispy, battered shrimp tempura and fresh, mouthwatering sushi. Come here for quality food at a reasonable price, and you’ll feel like you’re vacationing in Japan.
Kui Shin Bo, Japan Center, 22 Peace Plz #2, San Francisco, CA 94115 (415) 922-9575
Although the exterior of Udon Mugizo appears simple and unassuming, their food is just the opposite. They specialize in udon, which, unlike the other Japantown restaurants, they make themselves in the kitchen. Because of this, their variety within this category is unrivaled. Make sure to try their cream based sea urchin udon, whose rich, thick flavor with a hint of seaside saltiness cannot be found elsewhere. Udon Mugizio is a hidden gem with its reasonable prices and mouthwatering udon which will keep you coming back for more.
Udon Mugizo, 1581 Webster St, San Francisco, CA 94115 (415) 931-3118
By Kate Iida
Kate Iida is currently attending Barnard College of Columbia University in New York City, and plans to study Human Rights and History. She is a former Bay Area native who loves writing, travelling, playing guitar, hiking, backpacking, fencing, and trying different foods.