San Francisco was always known for sourdough bread, clam chowder and of course Ghiradelli chocolate! These days it is one of the hottest food destinations in the world, championing new trends and trialling new concepts.
There are fun restaurants in San Francisco, cool restaurants in San Francisco, fine dining restaurant options in the Bay Area, dim sum, ice cream and so many other exciting options that make for unique dining experiences.
I have decided to take a broad definition of the word restaurant and to include a mix of kitsch and cutting edge – I do love a silly eating experience as much as a fancy one. Here is my guide to the Unique Restaurants in San Francisco you must visit – from the classics to the latest!
1. Unique Restaurants in San Francisco – The Meatball Bar
The Meatball Bar formalizes meatball consumption – which means table service for a unique dining experience! It’s all about handmade meatball extravaganzas from lamb to chicken to vegetarian and sauces from truffle fondue to Korean. The first Meatball Bar opened in the Financial District in May 2017 and a new branch opens in Hayes Valley in February 2018.
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2. Unique Restaurants San Francisco – The Progress
The Progress was one of my favourite meals last year! This lovely relaxed restaurant and dining room is located on Fillmore street and specializes in doing innovative things with local ingredients.
The menu changes regularly and is designed to be shared – with lovely wines! The night I went we enjoyed everything from dumplings to filet mignon. This has to be one of the best places to eat in San Francisco.
3. Unique Places to Eat in San Francisco – August 1 Five
An Indian restaurant is not particularly unique. However, Indian brunch is new to me! The menu at August 1 Five features coconut and date pancakes, French toast with cardamom and cinnamon and chicken and waffles.
Unique SF Restaurants – Mezcalito
A bar and restaurant themed around mezcal with mezcal-focused cocktails plus pork belly benedict with corn hollandaise, gouda burgers, taco Tuesday and a generally Mexican themed menu.
Fun Restaurants in San Francisco – Manufactory Food Hall (San Francisco International Airport, Boarding Area A)
When have you read about a great restaurant recommendation that is at an airport? Exactly! Well, four of San Francisco’s favourite chefs Pim Techamuanvivit of Kin Khao, Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson of Tartine, and Gabriela Cámara of Cala—have joined forces to change that! On offer will be tacos and breakfast Tortas, great Thai and morning buns and seasonal tarts from Tartine’s. All at the Manufactory Food Hall – Boarding Area A at the International Airpot.
6. San Francisco Unique Restaurants – Eight Tables by George Chen
This new opening in Chinatown is based on Si Fang Cai or private chateau cuisine of the Chinese elite. That means a 10-course tasting menu that starts after you cross a gold-threaded welcome mat into a private elevator and are whisked up to your own private club! Eight Tables by George Chen is one of the top restaurants in San Francisco.
Unique San Francisco Restaurants – Dumpling Time
For one of the most fun places to eat in San Francisco head to Dumpling Time. You can watch cooks prefer the dumplings in front of you. Make sure you order the King-Dum – the largest soup dumpling you have seen in some time that comes with a straw.
Noodle ingredients included everything from roasted pork belly to peanut butter. There are also noodles on offer if you are a complete freak and don’t like dumplings (does anyone not like dumplings??). These dumplings are a must eat in San Francisco. This is one of the most fun San Francisco restaurants.
8. Unique Restaurants in SF – Foreign Cinema
Foreign Cinema combines amazing locally sourced food with classic films. This restaurant is very much known for its food – particularly its fried chicken. They have an art gallery and a VIP lounge. One of the more unique dining experiences San Francisco.
9. Interesting Restaurants in San Francisco – Urban Putt
Who hasn’t wanted a fantastic dining experience pre or post-playing mini golf? And wouldn’t it be better if you could play mini golf to say 11pm or midnight indoor? Well, Urban Putt heard about these desires and combined food and mini golf.
They have two restaurants – one for bites and one for some great California eating that goes far beyond the usual putt putt kiosk. And have a drink at the Copper Bar first featuring many exciting craft brews. All of this makes for one of the great unique dining experience bay area options.
Interesting Restaurants San Francisco – Farallon Restaurant
Farallon Restaurant specialises seafood. It has been one of the best restaurants in the bay area with an extensive raw bar for over 20 years. In addition to providing fantastic seafood cooked and raw, it is also known for its Jellyfish Bar.
This bar has been themed to make you feel like, well, you are under the sea. Most fabulous are the Jellyfish chandeliers – closely followed by the octopus stools. One of the best atmosphere restaurants San Francisco options.
Unique Dining San Francisco – Straw
From under the sea to the carnival! Straw has a carnival theme and even has a tilt and whirl booth. Like many of the other “themed” restaurants in this article, this restaurant is also known for its food – particularly its doughnut hamburger and fried chicken waffle.
Not for those looking for a lower calorie eating experience! But perfect for those seeking San Francisco restaurants fun atmosphere options.
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The Tonga room features a 75m swimming pool in the middle of the restaurant. This San Francisco classic is located in the Fairmont Hotel. The menu is heavy on Asian fusion and brings in some exotic references such as Tahiti. Best of all they a “thunderstorm” occurs every 40 minutes! Definitely high on the list for fun San Francisco restaurant options!
If you are looking for fun places to eat in San Francisco look no further! The Asia SF restaurant is fully staffed by fabulous transgender ladies. Not only do these lovely ladies serve you food and drinks they also perform hourly on the Red Dragon Runway Bar!
Dinner shows happen nightly and the food has a good reputation. When it comes to candidates for best dining experience in San Francisco Asia SF fits the bill!
I visited Myanmar/Burma a few years ago and fell in love with the food. I became particularly obsessed with their salads. The dressings feature a unique mix of sour and sweet flavours that take a tomato and particularly aubergine salads to a whole new level. However, there are very few good Burmese restaurants around – they tend to be more casual.
I had to include Burma Superstar in this article as I know this is difficult to find cuisine! The menu is classic Burmese and best sampled shared.
Forage SF is both a restaurant, Wild Kitchen, and an experience. You can choose to do one of their amazing food-foraging classes and get involved in farm to table first hand – from urban sea foraging to wild food walks. If you are too hungry to forage yourself Wild Kitchen is a roving underground supper club that brings 100 diners together for an 8-course meal.
Eno Wine Bar
This super cute little wine Bar was virtually next door to the Hotel G, my boutique hotel of choice on my last visit to San Francisco. Eno Wine Bar features an extensive menu of wine flights. I love wine flights! From Mission Impossible (featuring the mission grape) to Faux Bordeaux it is going to be a big night when you hit Eno.
They also serve wine, cheese and chocolate from local providers that constantly varies based on what is in season – which just allowed me to classify this as a restaurant as you can have the equivalent of a meal here! It’s not one of the best restaurants in San Francisco but it is a great place for drinks and snacks!
The Ferry Building
I have saved the best to last! I completely fell in love with the Ferry Building on my last visit to San Francisco. It is artisanal food heaven – if that is such a thing! Multiple foods and wine providers are in one place – from stalls to full-on restaurants.
There is a fantastic outdoor seating area as well. I went on a San Francisco food tour that covered the Ferry Building and then went back again the next day!
Everywhere here is good – from the amazing Acme bread (favourite of local restaurants) to Blue Bottle Coffee (you’ll know when you have found it from the queue). Frog Hollow Farm has fantastic local produce and does a great brunch. Fantastic Vietnamese is on offer at The Slanted Door – and I love the name of its takeaway area – Out the Door!
When it comes to where to eat in San Francisco, The Ferry Building is at the top of my list!
The highlight for me was the Cowgirl Creamery. Firstly – great name! Secondly wow cheese heaven!!! Then there is the menu – cheese toasties, grilled cheese of the day, Macaroni & Cheese – really it covers every cheese base! Cowgirl Creamery cheese is a must eat in San Francisco.
There are so many amazing, unique and cool restaurants in San Francisco. It has become such a foodie city! I think it is almost impossible to nominate the best dinner in San Francisco or even the best restaurants in Bay Area – there are too many options! I would love to hear about your San Francisco eating experiences – please do email and let me know!
For all of the above, it is always a good idea to book before you go. I use Open Table. Their website also has some good maps and directions.
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Boutique Hotels in San Francisco
–Hotel G is a fantastic boutique hotel with an amazing location only one block from Union Square. The rooms have a chic Scandinavian feel with lots of plump white duvets and sheets and darker oak. Great value and style. Click here for latest prices and availability.
-for amazing views and a bit military history check out The Inn at the Presidio. This is particularly good for runners and outdoor enthusiasts as it is located in a park. Stylish design mixes with military memorabilia. Click here for deals and dates.
For a complete rundown from a local check out this fantastic post on Where to Stay in San Francisco.
-if you would like to be as close as possible to the famous Golden Gate Bridge then Cavallo Point may be for you. This also has a military background – it was former military quarters. It is located in the charming area of Sausalito which is literally just over the bride from San Francisco. Click here for availability and prices.
-for those of you who are into high tech and hip Hotel Zetta could be a great choice. The hotel is super close to shopping district Union Square and has one of the hottest restaurants in town inside. You can also bring your dog! Click here for costs and availability.
Getting to San Francisco
And why not download the brilliant Skyscanner App so you can sort cheap flights out on your phone?
Tours Around San Francisco
Whatever you do make sure you book Alcatraz before you leave home. If possible book it quite some time before you leave home – particularly if you are heading over in the North American summer. If it is booked out there are some extra tickets on the day but they go fast.
The better option is to google for tour companies that bought up the tickets and but one of their combined tickets eg The one I got was actually combined with a food tour and the Ferry Building so it worked out brilliantly.
Other things you might like to read
If you’re feeling foodie check out some of my other food-related posts from around the world:
Top 10 Restaurants and Cafes in Medellin Colombia,
Maltby Street and Druid Street Markets in London,
The 6 best brunches in Melbourne Australia
The hottest new eating out district in Sydney Barangaroo.
For some other great foodie cities in the United States:
Check out the Top 10 Instagrammable Places in Baltimore
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Also published on Medium.