It seems like a strange goal to have (and I know it is), but the 7×7 magazine always put out this amazing looking list and I knew one of my goals when I was first putting my list together would be to try and complete the entire list in the year. They have a new list yearly, but I thought it would be a very ambitious goal to eat all the restaurants within the year. There are definitely some places I have been to before this year, but most of places were completed and eaten in this year. I do have some favorite restaurant and dishes, and there are some dishes definitely didn’t deserve a top 100 spot in my mind. It was a lot of fun trying to finish a list of things, but definitely took over my life. I’ve told my friends I’m never allowed to do these lists again because they’re time consuming and expensive. I’m definitely not made out of money, but it definitely was a fun adventure to have to try these places in San Francisco.
I decided to put together a list of my 15 favorite places from least to most expensive (sort of in order).
Saigon Sandwich: These sandwiches are not only cheap, but also really delicious. The chicken is tender and juicy, the pork is the same. For less than $4, you can get a filling sandwich which is so great that I’m willing to walk through the Tenderloin for it (just not when it’s dark).
El Porteño Empanadas: This place in the Ferry Building is a lunch favorite. Two of their delicious empanadas is enough for me for lunch. It’s such an easy location and pick up; it’s a quick lunch with no complaints.
b. Patisserie: Belinda, the owner, has San Francisco in love with her Kouign Amann – there’s even a national holiday now for it. A little bit sweet and flaky, it’s a perfect combination for a morning dessert. The different flavors are great, but stick with the traditional the first time around.
Tartine Bakery & Cafe: Every San Francisco food list includes this store on its list as one of the best bakeries to go to in the City. Their fresh baked bread is some of the best in the City but it’s large loaf so bring a friend or two to share. They’ve also got a great fruit tart, frangipane tart, lemon tart, chocolate cream tart, and banana cream tart, and bread pudding. Try to go on a weekday because it’s always busy on a weekend.
Liholiho Yacht Club: This new restaurant was an instant favorite. The atmosphere is casual but they have elevated Hawaiian food like I haven’t seen. Everything is beautiful but also delicious. If you can’t get a reservation, their bar area fills up quickly but there’s actually a lot of room especially if you’re eating by yourself. The octopus is one of the best dishes I’ve gotten in a really long time.
Pläj: To be honest, I didn’t expect this quiet Scandinavian Hayes Valley restaurant to be on the list of my favorites but the food was unexpected and a cuisine I’d love to explore more of. The Swedish meatballs are 1000x better than those Ikea ones and the taste of herring was surprisingly a great dish and really flavorful.
Ichi Sushi: I had come here because the list suggested the miso asari clams, but definitely had the nigiri and I loved each one I got. The best was definitely the tuna. It was melting in my mouth – and wow, definitely so good. My other favorite was the Ao Ebi (which was shrimp). I had it raw because well, who has that stuff cooked? Also they deep fry the head which was delicious! Definitely a place I have to go back with friends and enjoy some great nigiri and drinks.
Nico: This Laurel Heights location is far from all the activity around the SOMA and Hayes Valley, but it’s coming out with an amazing 5 course prix fix that’s at an unbelievable price. The wine pairing included is only around $100 per person. While I didn’t enjoy every dish the night I went, the presentation and service was that of a much more an expensive place.
Monsieur Benjamin: The red fox that welcomes you is a nice addition to each plate you’ll receive. Even though I just had a few dishes myself here, I enjoyed my entire experience. The staff was never pushy especially since I was sitting by myself for a really early dinner so I wasn’t very hungry. Amazing dishes and I can’t wait to try more.
Tosca Cafe: I recently came here on a date and the food was amazing. The service was spotty at the bar where we were seating (and there was a lot of seating), but the chicken for 2 was the best part of the meal. My favorite part of the dish was the sauce that came with it. Great Italian flavors.
SPQR: This little Italian place has a great experience – especially if you’re able to sit at the chef’s counter. Since I was able to go myself (my friends all ditched me for better things to do that night), I talked to the older man sitting next to me for a little bit and shared some other great restaurants in the City. The uni (sea urchin) pasta was some of the best I’ve ever had and I loved the fact they let me taste of the wines before choosing on one that would go best with both my taste buds and the food I was having. Sit at the chef’s counter and have live entertainment and great food.
State Bird Provisions: I’ve been here twice this year and it’s been a great experience each time. If you can, try and sit at the bar seating because you’re able to connect with the chefs and also see your dishes being made. Small dimsum style with the food being brought around but a focus on New American dishes, rather than Chinese food of any kind.
Lazy Bear: This experience was definitely something unique. First the restaurant sells tickets for dinner (2 seating a night, dynamic pricing and sales are once a month for the next month). Being able to interact with the chefs while they’re playing is a special experience. The service received is amazing. Definitely a try if you’ve never been.
Quince: I had written a blog post right after the experience describing it. The food, atmosphere, service, and just about everything was amazing. Even though my experience was not that of a normal night, the experience was special especially since I got to spent it with some friends. If I had a chance to eat here, I’d take it in a heartbeat.
Benu: This very multi course is exciting because the bites start of small and become larger. Also it can introduce people to Asian products that are not familiar to every day dining. I was able to experience this for a celebration dinner and the entire experience was exquisite.
This list was a hassle to finish, but I’m actually glad I had this goal because I was able to try some of the most amazing restaurants in SF. Would I ever do it again? I may pick and choose different items from the next couple of years if they sound really good, but I doubt I’m going to try and get through an entire list again. Ambitious goals for people who actually try and get through all the actual dishes because some dishes are seasonal and some restaurants have closed since the list was presented.
PS. One of the restaurants is awesome and the owner Sofia has been great. Los Shucos was destroyed by a fire in early 2015. When they reopened, she offered for me to come down personally to the restaurant. She’s awesome! Their Guatemalan hot dogs are amazing!
PPS. The new list is out!