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Wash © Stepan Mazurov/Flickr
Wash © Stepan Mazurov/Flickr

The 10 Most Unique Places To Eat In San Francisco

Picture of David Yaghutiel
David Yaghutiel
Updated: 1 February 2017
San Francisco is a city that prides itself on being unique, unusual, and flat-out weird in the most beautiful ways, and one of the best ways to see the city’s unconventional side is through its many quirky restaurants and cafes. Check out our picks for the 10 most unique places to eat in San Francisco.

 

Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar

Located in the Fairmont SF, the Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar is an iconic and unique San Franciscan tiki palace. This tropical paradise restaurant was designed by the set director of MGM Studios, and it features a sleek and elegant granite bar, a lively band and dance floor, and its crown centerpiece, a 75-foot indoor swimming pool. Guests can enjoy the Asian fusion cuisine of the South Sea islands, including Kalua pork, Tonga chow mein, and Tahitian mahi mahi. They can also enjoy the restaurant’s hanging colorful globes, tribal wall coverings, and ‘tropical thunderstorms’ that can be heard and seen every 40 minutes. Don’t forget to make a reservation, as this restaurant is only open Wednesday to Sunday for dinner.

Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar, Fairmont San Francisco, 950 Mason St, San Francisco, CA, USA (415) 772-5278

Opaque

Have a truly surreal experience at Opaque, a restaurant where you dine in total darkness. This restaurant believes that when you limit your sense of sight, you can heighten your other senses in a powerful and profound way. Upon entering this restaurant, you are guided through a multi-sensory three to five-course meal by your servers (who are all either blind or visually impaired), and you have to guess what you’re eating. Opaque is reservation-only and is only open on Wednesday through to Saturday for dinner. Make sure to notify the staff of any food allergies you may have. This place is perfect for a special occasion.

Opaque, 687 McAllister St, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 (800) 710-1270

 

BrainWash Cafe and Laundromat

The BrainWash Cafe and Laundromat is an innovative, psychedelic, swanky joint where you can have a delicious meal and do your laundry at the same time. Created “on accident” by Susan Schindler in 1987, ‘BrainWash’ has become known for its great French toast, burgers, sandwiches and of course, quality washers and driers (with folding services and even a soap bar available). On top of that, customers can play with the many pinball machines and even perform at the cafe’s many open-mic comedy nights.

BrainWash, 1122 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 (415) 861-3663

Forbes Island

Dive into the sea and have an unforgettable dining experience in the heart of the Bay. Forbes Island is a restaurant, lighthouse, and man-made island that prides itself on serving fresh Dungeness crab, filet mignon, and much more. To get to the restaurant, guests are picked up by small boats on Pier 39. Then, they can choose to dine in a number of different rooms, including the lighthouse room with gorgeous views of the Bay at sunset, and the underwater room with stunning views of fish swimming by the windows. Celebrating something? Forbes Island is definitely the place to go.

Forbes Island, PIER 39, 2 Beach St #205, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 (415) 951-4900

Red Door Cafe

The Red Door Cafe is the definition of the word eccentric, and if there was such a thing as an ‘adult cafe’, this would be it. Here’s the lowdown; to get into this cafe, you have to wait at the iconic red door, and the owner Ahmed will probably come out in a leopard jumpsuit and decide if you’re worthy of coming in. Once you’re inside, you’ll find the cafe littered with troll dolls and ‘phallic adult toys”, and Ahmed will personally entertain you throughout the meal with his hilarious and unfiltered stories. The food is incredible, and specialties include the French toast and open-face tacos (with non-family-friendly nicknames). The cafe only holds 14 people so you are only allowed to bring just one other person with you. Keep an open mind and positive attitude, and don’t bring the kids.

Red Door Cafe, 1608 Bush St, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 (415) 441-1564

 

AsiaSF

AsiaSF is a lively and electric restaurant and club that celebrates Asian culture, San Franciscan unconventionality, and gender transcendence. At AsiaSF, guest can enjoy fine Californian Asian cuisine while watching striking performances by the restaurant’s renowned transgender stars, who are both the servers and entertainers. This restaurant features an enormous stage and a ‘Red Dragon Runway’ where the stars perform, as well as a downstairs nightclub that’s open on Fridays and Saturdays. Reservations are recommended, and this restaurant’s an especially popular place for birthdays and bachelorette parties.

AsiaSF, 201 9th St, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 (415) 255-2742

 

Urban Putt

Have you ever dreamed of eating chicken-waffle skewers and mini-golfing at the same time? At Urban Putt, San Francisco’s only indoor miniature golf course, that dream is made possible. Urban Putt features an imaginative golf course with fourteen uniquely themed holes, a restaurant that specializes in burgers and crab cakes (and of course chicken and waffles), and a course-side bar. Not to mention, on Monday nights, you can bring drinks onto the mini-golf course.

Urban Putt, 1096 S Van Ness Ave, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 (415) 341-1080

 

Foreign Cinema

Foreign Cinema is certainly a restaurant to remember. It is well-known for its mouth-watering meals -including its famous fried chicken and seared scallops – and its relaxing and beautiful ambiance created by the dim red hanging lights. To top it off, Foreign Cinema includes a giant projector where guests can watch classic movies as they dine, a prominent bar with an upstairs VIP lounge, and an art gallery. It’s a great place to enjoy culture while having a great meal. Foreign Cinema is open seven days a week for dinner, and also open for brunch on the weekends.

Foreign Cinema, 2534 Mission St, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 (415) 648-7600

 

Farallon

Located in the heart of Union Square, Farallon is a renowned and unique seafood restaurant that is known for its underwater theme. Complete with jellyfish chandeliers, octopus stools, shining kelp columns, and a sandy ocean floor balcony surrounded by thousands of blue marbles, this restaurant’s decor is absolutely stunning. Farallon is also known for its classic entrees, such as the miso-glazed sablefish and Alaskan halibut, and the restaurant also includes a Jellyfish Lounge and Jelly Bar. Farallon is only open for dinner and is also available to book for private parties.

Farallon, 450 Post St, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 (415) 956-6969

Karma Kitchen

This unique restaurant is actually located just across the bay, but how could we talk about unique restaurants in the Bay and not talk about Karma Kitchen in Berkeley? Karma Kitchen is one of Berkeley’s most altruistic and kindhearted food programs, and it takes places in the Taste of the Himalayas restaurant on the last Sunday of every month. When a customer comes into the Nepalese-Indian restaurant, their meal is already paid for them by someone who came in before. After the customer enjoys their free meal, they can ‘pay it forward’ and pay for the meal of the next person who comes in. The staff members of Karma Kitchen are all volunteers, and the restaurant aims to promote generosity and a community feel.

Karma Kitchen, Taste of the Himalayas, 1700 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA, USA +1 (510) 849-4983