Whether you’re visiting San Francisco for the first time or you’ve lived here all your life, you’ll always need a bite to eat while you wander the steep streets. Whatever type of food you’re craving, you should never have to settle for something mediocre. Check out our suggestions for the best dishes in San Francisco and the best places to get them.
Clam Chowder at Boudin Bakery
Bakery, Cafe, American, $$$
You saw this one coming: the clam chowder bread bowl. No visit to San Francisco is complete without this quintessential dish from the seafood-rich Fisherman’s Wharf. Head over to Boudin Bakery, the sourdough bread capital of the city, for the best bread bowl experience possible. The bakery has seven locations around the city, most of them conveniently located downtown. Try the Fisherman’s Wharf location to get the full San Francisco clam chowder experience.
If you haven’t heard of the cruffin, you clearly aren’t from around here. This magical marriage between a croissant and a muffin was the brainchild of Mr. Holmes Bakehouse, a popular bakery located in the lower Nob Hill neighborhood. The flaky and delicious pastries are legendary around San Francisco, so be sure to arrive early in the day before they sell out. The flavors offered vary daily, but can include raspberry, passionfruit, matcha, chocolate mint, mango cheesecake, and chocolate coconut.
One of the most mythical foods in the Bay Area is Dungeness crab, with a slim season for serving it and a tumultuous history of shortages. As a crab that doesn’t inhabit many places in the world, half of California’s Dungeness crab comes straight from San Francisco itself. Head over to Crab House at Pier 39 for a taste of the best Dungeness crab in the city, roasted in the restaurant’s secret garlic sauce. The best times to go are during fishing season, from November to June.
If you’ve ever walked through the Mission district, you’ve surely passed by dozens of taquerias, all claiming to have the best burritos in the city. The mission is known for having the best Mexican food in the city, and the Mission-style burrito is famously amazing. One of the most popular spots to grab a burrito is Taqueria Cancun at the corner of 19th and Mission. Super burritos, grilled burritos, vegetarian burritos, and Mission burritos are all on the menu here.
If you ask any San Franciscan where to get Italian food in the city, they will point you toward the North Beach neighborhood, San Francisco’s Little Italy. While there are dozens of pizzerias dotted around the neighborhood, only one draws crowds around the corner. Golden Boy Pizza is famous for its squarely-shaped pizza slices, making it the place ‘where it’s hip to be square.’ The restaurant has a tiny menu, proving that even without a lot of options, its quality is high enough to bring in customers regardless.
Although Irish coffee doesn’t sound like a drink that would have a rich history in the United States, San Francisco was actually the city that brought it to America. Having tried the concoction at the airport in Shannon, Ireland, a San Francisco Chronicle writer named Stanton Delaplane became determined to bring the drink to America. Working together with Jack Koeppler, owner of the Buena Vista Cafe, she was able to recreate the drink. Visit the cafe to try the original American version of Irish coffee.