The 10 Best Restaurants In Pacific Heights, San Francisco
One of San Francisco’s most beautiful neighborhoods, Pacific Heights is known for its imposing mansions and stunning views of the entire city on the Bay. But, this gorgeous area also has an understated collection of restaurants that evoke a relaxed, friendly feel with exceptional cuisine. Here are the ten Pacific Heights restaurants sure to satisfy even the most discriminating palates.
Courtesy of Terzo
Atelier Crenn is a unique culinary adventure that propels its guests on an epicurean journey of the senses. Chef Dominique Crenn calls it ‘poetic culinaria,’ where the names of dishes like ‘Under the midnight glow, I can taste the sweetness of the sea’ are meant to evoke an intuitive experience created through her imaginative combinations of assorted ingredients. This pairing of whimsy and culinary precision earned Crenn the distinction of becoming the first female chef in the U.S. to earn two Michelin stars, and diners can opt for two different prix fixe menus that change with the seasons.
With a beautiful interior, a large and varied menu of authentic South Indian dishes and an exotic cocktail list, it is not surprising that Dosa on Fillmore has remained a neighborhood favorite since it opened in 2006. It has earned a number of Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand awards as well as being consistently chosen by local media as the best Indian restaurant in San Francisco. In addition to the eponymous Dosa crepes, which come accompanied by the traditional Masala (spiced potatoes) or intriguing flavors such as spicy basil or white truffle, they offer tasty small plate dishes like Bhel Poori, as well as lamb, chicken and seafood entrées. There is even a very thoughtful menu guide that points out which items are vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free.
Known for its large selection of excellent ceviches and its comforting lomo saltado (a spiced stir fry of steak strips, onions, tomatoes, French fries and rice), Fresca is a long-standing local favorite for ‘Nouveau’ Peruvian cuisine. Groups of friends drinking pitchers of sangria keep things boisterous, where patrons compliment the Peruvian specialties like empanadas and fried plantains. Prices are reasonable, especially at happy hour; just don’t expect five-star service as things move at a brisk pace at this busy room in the Upper Fillmore section of Pacific Heights.
Sitting at the summit crossroads of these two Pacific Heights streets, Jackson Fillmore is the true archetype of a cozy neighborhood trattoria. Flavorful classic Italian dishes like linguini with prawns fra diavolo served with a good selection of reasonably priced Italian wines has made this spot a locals’ favorite since it opened nearly 30 years ago. Chef and owner Jack Kreitzman treats his regulars well and keeps thing fresh by frequent trips to Italy. The ambiance is warm and friendly, if occasionally just as booming as a trattoria back in the old country. Just make sure to reserve ahead as the place is virtually always packed.
The more relaxed outpost of Slanted Door, the well-known San Francisco restaurant in the Embarcadero Ferry Building, Out the Door brings chef Charles Phan’s contemporary approach to traditional Vietnamese ingredients to Pacific Heights. In the sleek minimalist space on Bush Street, this offshoot continues to deliver customer favorites like Shaking Beef as well as delectable twists on classics like spring rolls, barbeque spareribs and pho served by a knowledgeable and friendly staff. Its consistent popularity, however, means reservations are necessary along with a tolerance for fairly loud noise levels.
Considered by many in San Francisco as the best Italian style pizza this side of Naples, Pizzeria Delfina serves authentic Neapolitan pies in their perennially busy Pacific Heights location. They capture the Italian penchant for high-quality ingredients that are simply and perfectly prepared. This philosophy extends to their whole menu, including their delicious contorni, such as broccoli di ciccio with anchovy, caper and chili, or their house-made gelato in exciting flavors like Spiced Cardamom and Popcorn. This is not a destination for a quiet date, the ambiance being consistently loud and lively. Be sure to get there early or be prepared to wait as they don’t take reservations.
Named after the acronym for the Roman Empire, SPQR has earned itself a Michelin star for the past two years, with chef Matthew Accarrino being named ‘Best New Chef’ by Food and Wine in 2014. This translates into inventive and beautifully presented Italian cuisine that is more contemporary than traditional. Owner Shelley Lindgren is also an award-winning sommelier, travelling to Italy twice a year to seek out the best Italian wines to offer her guests, which can be ordered by the half glass to encourage a sampling of her latest finds. The quarters are a little cramped, but there is always a chance to sit at the chef’s table and watch the action up close.
Tataki Sushi and Sake Bar, San Francisco | Courtesy of Terzo
The central philosophy at Tataki is sustainable fish, following the environmental guidelines set by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. This makes for a menu that includes out of the ordinary seafood selections. Including arctic char and black sea bream that can be prepared in their house specialty ‘tataki’ style, which means lightly seared and paired with ingredients that complement the unique flavors of each fish. The highly creative California-style maki seem to be the real favorites here, rolls like the Extinguisher (spicy pole-caught albacore with avocado, habanero, masago, and spicy aioli) that literally arrives on a flaming plate. The price of sustainability is not cheap, so many locals appreciate the happy hour specials offered daily.
Terzo is a neighborhood gem that maintains a stylish ambiance and attention to service, located down the hill in the Cow Hollow area of Pacific Heights. Chef Mark Gordon’s pan-Mediterranean cuisine is inspired by the Mediterranean’s coastal regions but uses locally sourced ingredients. A focus on small plates encourages a sampling of the many carefully prepared and delicately flavored dishes, and a notable wine list offers a large selection of varietals from across the Mediterranean and California in a broad range of prices.
Just a short drive from the summits of Pacific Heights into the historic Presidio, The Commissary has turned a former barracks building on ‘infantry row,’ originally built in 1895, into a light-filled, modern and welcoming restaurant space. An example of the Presidio Trust’s mission to reuse the site’s historic structures. With renowned San Francisco chef Traci Des Jardins at the helm, the focus is Spanish-inflected Californian cuisine, reflecting the history of the military outpost first established by the Spaniards in 1776. Sustainable cuisine is a central focus, and the large counter area surrounding the kitchen allows for a perfect perch from which to see the visually appealing dishes come to life.