Tapas comes from the Spanish word tapar, which means ‘to cover’ or ‘top’. There are two types of tapas – hot or cold and both have become popular attributes of Spanish restaurants in San Francisco. This is quite an unusual example of how traditional dishes can be evolved into refined cuisine since tapas were initially designed as snacks for a long trip. Here in San Francisco
, they became a symbol of everlasting summer and hot days. Here are our top picks for tapas in the city.
Restaurant, Tapas, Spanish, Seafood, $$$
This 22nd Street restaurant has a huge variety of tapas, welcoming anyone who wants an authentic Spanish experience. Bring friends and family to Esperpento, order as many tapas as possible and share it with everyone. The place is not that big, it can be filled within 30 minutes and it can be loud and chatty, but this is what tapas restaurants are about. Seafood or meat paellas will require customers to be a bit patient, as it needs approximately 20 to 30 minutes to be prepared.
Esperpento, 3295 22nd Street, San Francisco, CA, 93110
Esperpento © George Kelly/Flickr | © George Kelly/Flickr
It’s surprising to find this little Spanish heaven in Russian Hill. The design represents every region of Spain and captures a sense of eternal sunshine. Zarzuela knows how to surprise, but each dish is crucially prepared according to traditional recipes, making it a great place for a date or company of friends. A few steps from the restaurant is a cable car line if you alternately fancy a quick getaway from a disastrous first date.
Zarzuela, 2000 Hyde Street, San Francisco, CA, 94109
The Basque country of Spain is one of the oldest regions with a rich history and unique culture, language and food. The Romans were especially known for praising the Basque cuisine (especially their seafood), and it’s guaranteed that you’ll be equally ecstatic about the Basque-cuisine at Bask. Combine both hot and cold tapas, tapas ‘pan y serrano’ or ‘pulpo a la gallega’, at decent prices for an experience that will make you come back the very next day. Their entrees are big enough, combine them with tapas and the dinner can last for a few hours. Bask has a great Spanish wine list too.
Bask, 42 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco, CA, 94111
Restaurant, Spanish, $$$
Patio Español is more than just a restaurant, their extensive continental menu, family style paellas, and homemade soups are all examples of how an ordinary day can be transformed into a long and amazing ceremony of tasting food and drinking. The outdoor patio is perfect for small receptions complete with a beautiful fountain. Their famous ‘sopa de ajo Aragonesa’ brings so much flavor that it will take a considerable length of time to truly comprehend this dish. Kids will definitely love this place too as the aforementioned patio can be a great playground.
Patio Español, 2850 Alemany Boulevard, San Francisco, CA, 94112
Restaurant, Spanish, $$$
The menu is designed to show exactly what Alegrias can offer and how impressive their menu is. The famous house specials are more than just traditional Spanish dishes, the saffron flavored rice is an identifying symbol of the Valencia region. Whether coming here for dinner for two or a birthday party, this 20-year old family-run business is a place that should definitely be considered.
Alegrias, 2018 Lombart Street at Webster, San Francisco, CA, 94123
Restaurant, Contemporary, Spanish, Tapas, South American, $$$
Poquito is a modern Spanish and Latin American restaurant boasting the heady mix of tapas and cocktails, along with traditional sangrias, turning it into an urban oasis. Here at Poquito, anyone can travel from one dish to another and truly experience authentic Latin American cuisines, from ‘chulpi’ (Ecuadorian corn tostado) to ‘cubano sandwich’, and from there to traditional Spanish ‘patatas bravas’ and finishing this journey with some homemade crusted empanadas. This journey will not cost you a fortune and the result is absolutely worth it.
Poquito, 2368 3rd Street, San Francisco, CA, 94107
Bocadillos offers a variety of portion sizes and the best thing is that even a small portion can fill you up within 15 minutes. If it’s a dinner for two, it’s suggested you try ‘huevo diablo pinxto’ with ‘burrata’ and wine. The ambience brought about by the brick walls and light music transforms Bocadillos into a sensual experience.
Bocadillos, 710 Montgomery Street, San Francisco, CA, 94111
Diner, Restaurant, Spanish, $$$
Imagine, you are sitting in a restaurant with high yellow ceiling contrasting with fans, important tool of a hot summer in Spain, or a bike seat, which was creatively transformed into a bull’s head. To the right Salvador Dali is sitting and reading newspaper, he just ordered house made ‘carafe of sangria’ and will keep drinking it all day, next to you Pablo Picasso is sharing ‘parillada’ with Gaudi. If you want to experience this kind of picture, Pícaro is the place to come. Everything in this place (from a simple chair to a poster of Pedro Almodovar’s movies) comes to life thanks to the owners who are keeping their traditions alive in the very heart of Mission.
Pícaro, 3120 16th Street, San Francisco, CA, 94103
Picaro © Neeta Lind/Flickr | © Neeta Lind/Flickr