The Best Places to Eat in San Francisco
San Francisco has some of the best food around, ranging from award-winning Michelin-star restaurants to authentic ethnic street food from all over the world. With such a competitive food scene—spurred on by the demanding locals who fill restaurants every day of the week—it's no wonder San Francisco has become world-class for its restaurants and famous chefs. From the first pop-up restaurant (Tadich Grill, which started as a coffee stand in 1849 for gold miners) to innovative chefs like Alice Waters, you'll find quality and history all around the city.
Fortunately, many of these food options are situated near the marathon course and the start/finish lines. Most notable of this is The Ferry Building, which houses a snapshot of all that makes San Francisco an amazing city, food and all. Because there are so many places to choose from, we asked our San Francisco Ambassadors to recommend their favorites for you to enjoy during your San Francisco marathon Racecation™ trip.
Best Restaurants Overall
This is less of a freestanding restaurant and more of a group that organizes food truck gatherings on specific days of the week all over the Bay Area. Food truck culture is huge in San Francisco, with over 320 food trucks operating in the city alone. Ranging from Asian food to seafood to ice cream and cookie dough, you'll find food trucks through Off the Grid that rival some of the best restaurants in the city.
According to Racertrips Ambassador Luda, the most famous of the Off The Grid gatherings takes place on Friday nights at Fort Mason in the Marina neighborhood. Make sure when you go, try a small item from a few trucks to share, so you can get a taste of each one. And be sure to save room for dessert!
A favorite local hotspot of San Francisco Ambassador Derek Brookmeyer, Starbelly offers forward-thinking California comfort food. Starbelly is located in the heart of the Castro, which is one of the most diverse and vibrant communities in the world. Menu items at Starbelly may sound basic, such as spaghetti, pizza and burgers, but they will blow you away. Enjoy a dinner on their beautiful patio and feel like a San Francisco local for an evening.
Best Restaurants Near the Starting/Finish Line
If you're in the mood for Italian, but want more than the standard fare, Barbacco Eno Trattoria is a great choice for those staying near the start/finish line. With high tables, rich wood, exposed brick and lower lighting, the restaurant has a slightly more upscale atmosphere. As you can expect with most restaurants in California, they have delicious wine options. Racertrips Ambassadors and Co-Founders Angi and Chip thoroughly enjoyed the 2015 Chardonnay and a six-red blend.
For food, you can start with Acme bread from a nearby bakery (upon request), which is served with a tasty olive oil vinegar. The burrata di stefano appetizer is a good choice: The cheese and tomatoes are both exceptionally fresh. And for sides, the fried brussels sprouts are a must-try. For entrees, consider the orecchiette pasta dish (with or without sausage) if you like broccoli. It's quite tasty, but the broccoli flavoring is strong. One downside to the restaurant is that it's not especially geared for kids: There's no kids menu, and subsequently, no chocolate milk. Although they earn bonus points for serving up regular white milk in a Greenware cup with a lid and paper straw.
The Ferry Building is a famous San Francisco landmark turned food artisan marketplace, housing some well-known San Francisco restaurants like The Slanted Door, Gott's Roadside Cafe and Humphrey Slocombe ice cream. A favorite of Bay Area chef Alice Water's, there is also a well-known Farmer's Market here on Sundays, which features some of the best local produce and seafood, including sushi-grade fish. Whether coming here for a meal, a snack or special treat, you will all find something delicious at the Ferry Building, according to Racertrips Ambassador Kim.
Recommended by Racertrips Ambassador Kim is Ozumo, a fine dining Japanese restaurant. Located in the same building as the Harbor Court Hotel, and with beautiful views of the Bay Bridge, location meets luxury at this refined Japanese eatery. This meal will not be cheap, but it may well be the best Japanese food you'll have outside of Japan. A frequent for celebrities passing through, Ozumo offers sushi as well as small plates and charcoal-grilled bites in a beautifully designed setting. A great option for pre-race carb loading that won't leave you feeling stuffed.
Best Restaurants to Experience What San Francisco is Known For
This intimate oyster bar is off the beaten path when compared to other oyster and seafood restaurants in San Francisco. Located on Polk Street, tucked between bars, taco stands and the famous Bob's Donuts, Swan Oyster Depot was a favorite of Anthony Bourdain and other celebrity chefs, as well as Racertrips Ambassador Derek. It's super tiny and very local, so you'll have to wait in line, but its well worth it. And while the oysters are a must-try, don't leave without also trying the crab chowder and smoked salmon.
If you aren't catching on, San Francisco is known for its seafood, particularly crab and clam chowder which needs to be served in a hollowed-out sourdough bread bowl and eaten on the pier. If you want to experience the best bread bowl clam chowder in the city, Racertrips Ambassador Luda recommends heading down to Pier 39 to Chowders. You can choose between white or red chowder, though white is more traditional to San Francisco. If you want a red sauce seafood stew, you should try cioppino which was also invented in San Francisco. Chowders is also known for their sourdough-breaded fish and chips. And after your meal, stop by Trish's Mini Donuts for the best mini donuts you've ever had.
Best Places to Carbo Load
The North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco is a famous Italian food destination, with Italian immigrants settling here after the 1906 earthquake. In the 1950s, this neighborhood was the epicenter of the Beat Generation, with local watering holes frequented by Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and Neal Cassady. Now, the Italian charm still exists and some hundred-year-old Italian restaurants remain as well. The Italian Homemade Company is a local favorite, serving up no-nonsense pasta on paper plates you can eat outside if one of the three tables is free. If not, walk it over to Washington Square Park for a lunch with a view, mentions Racertrips Ambassador Luda.
According to Racertrips Ambassador Kim, the name of the game at Del Popolo is pizza, lots of pizza. What better way to carbo load before a marathon than a freshly-baked personal pizza made just for you? Try the Potato Pizza for an extra carbo-loaded kick. This place is well-known in San Francisco, so it may be crowded. But if you have the time, it's worth every second to wait. And the cozy, rustic atmosphere is the perfect place to unwind the evening before the race.
Best Places for Breakfast or Coffee
Eight Am Coffee is a great place to grab a coffee or breakfast during your weekend in San Francisco because it has a convenient location and everything there is delicious. Located near Fisherman's Wharf, Eight Am is a hidden gem for its low prices and high-quality food. You will still find yourself waiting in line, but it is worth it. Make sure to try the Avocado Toast 3 Ways, says Racertrips Ambassador Luda.
Coffee is serious business in San Francisco. So it's no wonder some of the best coffee in the country was born here, like Blue Bottle, Four Barrel and Verve. But if you'd ask most locals what their favorite coffee is, they would say Philz. Locally roasted and sustainably sourced, Philz is known for their bold brews and unique garnishing with fresh mint. If you're looking for a pre-race buzz or an afternoon pick-me-up, Philz is the go-to spot, with a location just a short block from the starting line. Make sure to try the iced Mint Mojito, a creamy, sweet, minty iced cold brew with milk and simple syrup, topped with fresh mint.
Best Places for a Casual Meal
If you're looking for a quick bite to eat that's cheap and also considered the best pizza in the city, you'll find it all at Golden Boy Pizza in North Beach. Recommended by Racertrips Ambassador Kim and established in 1978, this local hot spot is known for their beautifully designed bread pizza, cut into squares. The only downside is there's not much seating and you will have to wait in line for a slice, but it's all worth it. Be sure to grab a slice (or many) and walk down to Washington Square Park to get a taste of how locals live in North Beach, San Francisco's iconic Italian neighborhood.
Best Places to Splurge
According to Racertrips Ambassador Derek, SPQR is hands-down the best Italian restaurant in San Francisco. The vibe is chill, the pasta is homemade and the menu is beyond inventive. This is the best place to go to celebrate your race! Expect different proteins like the octopus, pig's foot, and abalone to better than you can imagine.
Cool Restaurants in Oakland and Sausalito
Drake's Dealership is the place to go if you're in Oakland and/or staying in either of the Emeryville hotels we recommended. The restaurant and brewery is located in the same brick building that formerly housed the Dodge dealership on Oakland's historic Auto Row. In addition to the interesting history, it's a very chill, full service restaurant with 32 beers on tap and a massive open-air dining area and beer garden. It's perfect for a post-run meal, according to Racertrips Ambassadors Tricia, Angi and Chip. Drake's offers live music several days a week, including jazz on the weekends.
For beers, try the porter, IPA and Belgian-style summer saison. For food, we recommend trying the Hangover Hash or one of their tasty wood-fired pizzas. While the brunch menu is somewhat limited, the lunch menu has more options.
The outdoor space has plenty of tables, some of which feature seating in the form of stools or even tree trunks/stumps. Even on a busy Sunday morning, the staff won't hurry you along to make room for other guests. Drake's is also very dog friendly. Don't be surprised to see several canines while you're there.
Drake's can also be a good choice for families because the place is abuzz with people, and there's room for the kids to move around a little bit. While the gravel flooring in the center of the beer garden seems to be an attraction for the kids, it is very dusty and messy. Don't dress your kids in their Sunday best to come here. Also, fyi, there's no kids menu, and they have white milk only. (No juice or chocolate milk.)
Parking is available in an adjacent lot for $6 per hour.
If you heed our advice and take a morning or afternoon to bike across the Golden Gate Bridge, you'll find yourself in the very quaint, often-bustling town of Sausalito. While there are is a ton of restaurants to choose from, the Napa Valley Burger Company is a solid choice if you're hungry, really like gourmet burgers and want more casual than fancy.
The beef is sustainably and humanely raised, and the restaurant has a rooftop garden in which it grows seasonal plants like strawberries, radishes, peppers and herbs like parsley and chives. On the menu, you'll find about a dozen burgers to choose from, including a Whiskey Bacon Burger, a Stinson Beach BBQ Burger, a Baja Burger and a Prime Rib Burger. There is also a Chef-made veggie burger with a mushroom, black bean, beet and quinoa base and a blended burger that was their entry for the James Beard Blended Burger Project™ contest. There's also a handful of salads, chicken dishes and pacific grilled cod tacos.
If you worked up a thirst crossing the bridge, you can choose from Four Point beers on tap, as well as several wines—also on tap.
If you're a history buff, you may appreciate the fact that the restaurant is housed in the oldest brick building in Sausalito. It was originally built in 1885 by Fred Fiedler to house Fiedlers General Store.
When you're done, you'll either be fueled up to continue the bike ride to Tiburon or stand in line for a ferry back across the bay. (Racertrips Ambassadors and Co-Founders continued on to Tiburon. Detailed blog post coming soon!)
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