Foods You Must Eat When in San Francisco

San Francisco is a true foodie destination, home to a bevy of iconic foods as diverse as its inhabitants
San Francisco is a true foodie destination, home to a bevy of iconic foods as diverse as its inhabitants | © Terry Smith Images / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Deanna Morgado
26 March 2021

The City by the Bay is the go-to food city, and the next time you find yourself there, make sure you check out this list of the best San Francisco food options, and find out what food it’s best known for.

Cioppino

Restaurant, Italian, Seafood, $$$
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Cioppino is a fish stew originating in San Francisco. It is considered an Italian-American dish, and is related to various regio
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If you want an iconic San Francisco dish, try cioppino. This rich fish stew (calamari, Dungeness crab, mussels and more seafood favorites all married together in a tomato broth) was born in San Francisco’s Italian-American community. The art of eating cioppino is an essential SF experience: the portions are huge, so it’s best to dig in with a bib, a large spoon and a side of bread. Order yours at Sotto Mare seafood restaurant, tucked away in a Telegraph Hill side street – look for the swordfish over the door.

Dutch Crunch

Deli, Grocery Store, American, $$$
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Fresh pastrami sandwich on a Dutch crunch roll
© Tonya Hennessey / Stockimo / Alamy Stock Photo

Eating practically anything on a few slices of Dutch Crunch bread is amazing. Bakeries all over the city take pride in their loaves and slices, and with good reason. Roxie Food Center, right outside Balboa Park, is a simple, no-frills grocery, but its deli has some seriously delicious sandwiches. Anything between a roll of Dutch Crunch is a San Francisco must.

The Rebel Within

Patisserie, Pastry Shop, Bakery, American, $$$
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Egg In Muffin On Table
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Little muffin hybrids of goodness, the Rebel Within is a savory soft-boiled egg that has found a home inside a sausage muffin – it doesn’t get much more San Francisco than that. The geniuses behind this delicious coming together is none other than Craftsman and Wolves in the Mission District. Always served with an itty-bitty bottle of Tabasco hot sauce, the entire dish is a whole new take on breakfast.

Clam chowder bread bowl

Bakery, American, $$$
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San Francisco, CA, USA, Inside View, Woman Buying Bread, Display, "Boudin", American Bakery Shop, Sourdough Bread, Counter, Fisherman's Wharf, bakery shelves display. Image shot 2016. Exact date unknown.
© Directphoto Collection / Alamy Stock Photo

Hands down, no food is more San Francisco than clam chowder served in a sourdough bread bowl; while the soup is an East Coast invention, San Francisco added its iconic sourdough to the mix. No one dishes out clam chowder bread bowls like the famous Boudin Bakery, serving the city since 1849.

Xiao long bao

Restaurant, Family style, Cafe, Chinese, $$$
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A traditional Chinese steamed soup dumpling, xiao long bao is a surprising staple in San Francisco. These piping hot dumplings are both cooked and served in a bamboo steaming baskets, and no one gets these thin-skinned beauties perfectly cooked like Yank Sing in the Embarcadero. Can’t get yourself to Shanghai to enjoy this dim sum dish? Head to this San Francisco favorite instead.

Carne asada burrito

Restaurant, Mexican
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San Francisco’s Mission District invented its very own kind of burrito, so not diving into one while in the city should be unlawful. And you can’t find a tastier, delightfully greasier, and flavorful carne asada burrito than at Taqueria El Farolito. There are a few different locations throughout the city, but there’s almost always a line of people trying to get their hungry hands on the Mission burrito.

Salted caramel ice cream

Bakery, Ice Cream Parlour, Ice Cream, $$$
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People wait in long lines outside the popular Bi-Rite Creamery ice cream shop in the Mission District neighborhood of San Francisco, California, October 6, 2019. ()
© Gado Images / Alamy Stock Photo

There’s nothing like enjoying a chilly SF day with a scoop of salted caramel ice cream. Bi-Rite Creamery is one among a long list of venerable ice cream shops, with salted caramel being one of the top flavors. Taste the salty-sweet, creamy goodness to understand why.

Sticky chewy chocolate ice cream

Ice Cream Parlour, Ice Cream
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It’s no exaggeration that San Francisco is turning into one of the best ice cream destinations around, so much so that the iconic Swensen’s Ice Cream is revamping the concept with its sticky chewy chocolate ice cream. The delightfully stretchy, rich and mouthwatering (and completely accidental) treat has become a must-try in San Francisco.

Swedish pancakes

Restaurant, American, $$$
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Antique Edsel car inside the Sears Fine Food restaurant on Union Square, San Francisco
© Terry Smith Images / Alamy Stock Photo

For another example of melting pot culture, give Swedish pancakes a try. Yummy, fluffy and about as big as a silver dollar, Swedish pancakes are a San Francisco breakfast dish loved by many. Since 1938, Sears Fine Food has been serving the city from morning till night, with a whopping 18 Swedish pancakes in an order.

These recommendations were updated on March 26, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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