The Oldest Restaurants In San Francisco

San Francisco by night © Pexels
San Francisco by night © Pexels
From the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake to the Beatnik 1950s to the Tech Boom of today, these restaurants have seen it all. These dining establishments have been defined by their ability to adapt to new trends while keeping their authenticity. Since we’re constantly being distracted by all things shiny and new, check out ten of the oldest restaurants in San Francisco for a look into the city’s rich history.

The Tadich Grill, est. 1849

Restaurant, Seafood, $$$
Tadich Grill, San Francisco
Tadich Grill, San Francisco | © Dion Hinchcliffe/Flickr

Located in the Financial District and just a few blocks from the Ferry Building, the Tadich Grill is one of the most authentically San Franciscan restaurants in the city. California’s oldest restaurant, it prides itself on serving its customers the freshest and most delicious seafood available. Due to its reputation, Tadich’s is crowded at nearly every time of day, so expect a line when you visit.

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The Old Clam House, est. 1861

Bar, Restaurant, Seafood, $$$
The Old Clam House has served food and beverages in the exact same place for over 150 years. This amazingly resilient restaurant was popular among local workers in the late 20th century and continues to be a hotspot for all kinds of San Franciscans. With its bar still consisting of the original structure, you can be sure that you’ll be enjoying your pint at a place filled with thousands of stories.
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Cliff House, est. 1863

Restaurant, American, $$$
Sutro's | © Neeta Lind/Flickr
Nestled among the cliffs overlooking Ocean Beach, the Cliff House has had a long history in San Francisco. The original structure was built in 1863 and after several ownership switches, countless renovations, and even an explosion, the Cliff House continues to delight its guests with stunning views and beautiful architecture. Be sure to check out its weekly Sunday Brunch, which – although not cheap – includes an all-you-can-eat buffet and bottomless champagne.
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Sam’s Grill and Seafood Restaurant, est. 1867

Restaurant, Seafood, $$$
The sign outside Sam’s Grill
The sign outside Sam’s Grill | © Phil Parker/Flickr
Evolving from a small oyster stand to one of San Francisco’s most established restaurants, Sam’s Grill and Seafood Restaurant is certainly one of the best restaurant transformations. In addition to dozens of delicious menu options inside the restaurant, this seafood-friendly smorgasbord has recently opened Sam’s Seafood Alley, a casual outdoor space with its own unique menu.
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Fior D’Italia, est. 1886

Fior D’Italia has been serving its customers authentic and delicious Northern Italian cuisine for the last 130 years. Fior opened its doors in 1886, making it the oldest Italian restaurant in the entire United States. The restaurant also has a series of banquet rooms, such as the ‘Godfather room,’ available to hire.

Some of Fior D’Italia’s waiters pose for a portrait Courtesy of Fior D’Italia

John’s Grill, est. 1908

Restaurant, Cocktail Bar, Steakhouse, Seafood, $$$
John’s Grill lights up the night
John’s Grill lights up the night | © Sean Davis/Flickr

From actress Renée Zellweger to President Zedillo of Mexico, John’s Grill has hosted over a hundred famous guests since opening in 1908. This historical gem is filled with pictures of its famous patrons as well as authentic old San Francisco furnishings. John’s Grill is also known for being one of the settings in Dashiell Hammett’s novel, The Maltese Falcon.

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Balboa Cafe, est. 1913

Bar, Cafe, Cocktail Bar, American, $$$
The Balboa Cafe
The Balboa Cafe | Courtesy of Adriana Jones
With its brunch menu that includes items like the Balburrito and the Balboa Burger, the Balboa Cafe is a good place for a re-energizing breakfast following a night out in the Marina. Although the restaurant was officially established in 1913, the owners were superstitious about the number 13, so the sign outside the reads, ‘Balboa Cafe since 1914.’
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Alioto’s Restaurant, est. 1925

Alioto’s Restaurant is located in Fisherman’s Wharf, a popular spot for both tourists and locals. To capture Alioto’s seaside culture, try their cioppino, a Sicilian specialty and one of their signature dishes created by Rose Alioto, the restaurant’s founder.

Alioto's Seafood Platter

A photo posted by Joy Wong (@joyywongg) on

Sabella and La Torre, est. 1927

Restaurant, Seafood, $$$
Stop by for a quick bite at Sabella & La Torre’s outdoor restaurant in Fisherman’s Wharf
Stop by for a quick bite at Sabella & La Torre’s outdoor restaurant in Fisherman’s Wharf | Courtesy of Sabella & La Torre
Also located in Fisherman’s Wharf, Sabella and La Torre is an Italian restaurant that began as a drive-up store for fresh seafood. Its founder, Luciano Sabella, came to San Francisco from the fishing town of Sciacca in Sicily, Italy, in the early 1920s. The restaurant is currently run by Sabella’s great-grandchildren.
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