Bay Area’s 100 Restuarants

Posted on: June 3, 2005


Suzette Gresham reigns over the kitchen of San Francisco’s only white-tablecloth Italian restaurant. Fine china, intimate surroundings and smooth service directed by co-owner Giancarlo Paterlini are the hallmarks of this romantic retreat. Gresham’s food is both innovative and pretty, done in a style that would make a French chef proud.

Cuisine: Modern Italian

Specialties: Filet of beef rolled with prosciutto, Parmesan and rosemary; house-made pasta such as parsley pappardelle with rabbit and rosemary ragout.

Seats: 40

Prices: $18.50-$22

Parking: Free (after business hours) lot across the street

Vitals: 1722 Sacramento St. (near Polk), San Francisco; (415) 567-5432. Dinner Tuesday-Saturday. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Formerly the chef at Ernie’s, Rondelli has become the darling of the food crowd with his cozy Richmond District restaurant. In addition to his a la carte menu he features a 6-, 9- or 12-course tasting menu.

Cuisine: French/California

Specialties: Foie gras wrapped around a fig; pear and Roquefort in black pepper gastrics; lamb pot-au-feu.

Seats: 45

Prices: $16-$19

Parking: Street (difficult)

Vitals: 126 Clement St. (near Second Avenue), San Francisco; (415) 387-0408. Dinner Tuesday-Sunday. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


This is one of the most unusual Italian restaurants in the Bay Area, masterminded by Bruno Viscovi, who has re-created the foods of his homeland of Istria, Italy, near Trieste. The cuisine incorporates influences from Croatia, Austria and Yugoslavia. Albona’s ambience is casual, but the low lighting and the brashness of its owner make it a charming a destination in its own right.

Cuisine: Istrian Italian

Specialties: Pan-fried gnocchi with sirloin sauce; ravioli with a sage butter sauce; roasted pork loin stuffed with sauerkraut, apples and prunes.

Seats: 42

Prices: $11.50-$15.75

Parking: Complimentary valet parking

Vitals: 545 Francisco St. (near Taylor), San Francisco; (415) 441-1040. Dinner Tuesday-Saturday. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


A subtle glow at night and banquettes covered in Italian silk give this Indian restaurant a serene feel. The menu concentrates on Northern Indian dishes, some of which you won’t find elsewhere.

Cuisine: Indian

Specialties: Chef Salinder Aluja creates butter chicken, lamb with pickles, deep-fried fish marinated in hot spices, minced tandoori chicken with cashews

Seats: 100

Price: $8.95-$16.95

Parking: Free lot

Vitals: 2290 El Camino Real (near Rengstorff), Mountain View; (415) 968-7511. Lunch and dinner daily. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Opened last year, this neighborhood Italian restaurant has become a destination because of the casual sophisticated surroundings, the exceptional quality of the food and the bargain pricing; no main course is more than $14. There are lots of familiar items on the menu, along with some special dishes, but chef Ruggero Gadaldi does them better than just about everyone else.

Cuisine: Italian

Specialties: Soft polenta with wild mushrooms, sliced fennel with blood oranges and red onions, grilled pork tenderloin with Gorgonzola and crispy pancetta, thinly sliced sirloin with herbs and balsamic, coppa Antica (pastry cream with whipped cream and crisp meringue).

Seats: 65

Price: $8.50-$13.95

Parking: Valet, $5, next to La Folie

Vitals: 2400 Polk St. (at Union); (415) 928-5797. Dinner Tuesday-Sunday. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Michael Mina, not yet 30, has come into his own at this opulent fish house, opened in 1991. Not only is the food excellent, but Aqua is also one of the most beautiful dining places in the city, offering a sleek architectural look with dramatic lighting and at least half a dozen towering fresh flower arrangements.

Cuisine: Creative seafood

Specialties: The menu changes often, but the signature dish is fresh grilled tuna layered with foie gras in a Pinot Noir sauce and savory black mussel souffle.

Seats: 115

Prices: $26-$38

Parking: Valet, $6, at dinner; Embarcadero public lot (Front and Sacramento) for lunch

Vitals: 252 California St. (at Battery), San Francisco; (415) 956-9662. Lunch weekdays and dinner Monday-Saturday. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Daniel Patterson and his wife, Elizabeth Ramsey, have turned an out-of-the-way Sonoma location into a destination. The dining room, with a decor reminiscent of Grandma’s attic, features a fixed-price menu. The wine bar has a ’50s family-room look, and the casual food is excellent.

Cuisine: French

Specialties: Terrine of foie gras, ricotta quenelles, excellent cheese courses

Seats: 30 in dining room; 35 in wine bar

Price: cafe: $8.75-$14.95; dining room: $45 fixed price (5 courses)

Parking: Street (often easy)

Vitals: 464 First St. East, Sonoma; (707) 939-8921. Dining room Thursday-Saturday; lunch and dinner daily in cafe


The two small dining rooms are cramped, and the kitchen crew is minimal, but the service is utterly welcoming and the rustic French food is not only delicious but a real bargain to boot. It’s the type of place you could return to night after night.

Cuisine: French

Specialties: Warm goat cheese salad, duck liver pate, rabbit in mustard sauce, chicken with ginger sauce, lamb stew printanier, creme brulee

Seats: 40

Price: $8.75-$12.50; 4-course dinner $14.50

Parking: Street (sometimes difficult)

Vitals: 2953 Baker St. (near Lombard); (415) 931-1475. Lunch or brunch and dinner daily.


Often called the Chez Panisse of Oakland, this 21-year-old restaurant has been a trailblazer thanks to chef-owner Michael Wild. Located in a converted house, the intimate dining room has become a stage for sensible but creative combinations under Wild and Lauren Lyle.

Cuisine: Mediterranean

Specialties: Anything with duck: creamy duck liver flan with green peppercorn, cassoulet with braised legs, or grilled breast with pears and mushroom bread pudding.

Seats: 68

Prices: $13-$18

Parking: Street (generally easy)

Vitals: 3853 Piedmont Ave. (near Rio Vista), Oakland; (510) 655- 6004. Lunch weekdays and dinner daily. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


One of the most innovative Asian restaurants in the city, Betelnut distinguishes itself by serving authentic-tasting food from all over Asia. The warm, modern interior is bathed in dreamy mood lighting, creating a sexy back-alley feel. The restaurant, particularly the active bar that opens out onto Union Street, has become extremely popular with the young professional set.

Cuisine: Asian

Specialties: Fried anchovies with peanuts and chiles; tea- smoked duck; chile crab; Vietnamese barbecued chicken; minced chicken in lettuce cups; green papaya salad; coconut tapioca pudding

Seats: 134

Prices: $7.95-$15.95

Parking: Difficult street parking; public lot across street

Vitals: 2026 Union St. (near Buchanan), San Francisco; (415) 929-8855. Lunch and dinner daily. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Chef Ralph Tingle is producing some of the best food in Sonoma County at this small storefront space on the square in Healdsburg. It has become a well-known casual temple of gastronomy that appeals to tourists and locals. It’s a treat to perch at the counter, watch the kitchen action and settle back with a glass of local wine.

Cuisine: American

Specialties: Menu changes regularly, but look for braised lamb shanks with shiitakes, grilled artichoke with aioli, Sichuan pepper calamari, baked mahimahi with fresh horseradish crust and parsley potato cakes

Seats: 50

Prices: $12.75-$18

Parking: Plenty of street parking

Vitals: 109 Plaza St., Healdsburg; (707) 433-1380. Lunch weekdays, dinner daily. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


The food has gotten better here over the years, but the prices have risen too. Still, it would be hard to top the majestic decor with its soaring columns and mezzanine. Sip a martini at the ornate bar, listen to the live music and you feel like you’ve been transported to another era.

Cuisine: California

Specialties: Caviar, steak tartare with grilled olive bread, grilled pork chop with mashed potatoes, chicken hash.

Seats: 100

Prices: $14-$25

Parking: Valet, $6, after 5 p.m.; parking lots at Sansome and Pacific or Sansome and Jackson

Vitals: 56 Gold St. (near Jackson), San Francisco; (415) 433- 6300. Lunch weekdays, dinner daily. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Few chefs can match Loretta Keller’s rustic brillance with a menu that elevates simple cuts such as pork shoulder and beef cheeks to gourmet fare. The small storefront, on the corner of Fourth and Brannan, is washed in a warm mustardy glow from the glazed walls. Fresh flowers and a long bar lend an air of urban sophistication.

Cuisine: Mediterranean

Specialties: Tempura-fried green beans, braised beef cheeks, sizzling scallops

Seats: 70

Prices: $10.50-$14.50

Parking: Generally easy street parking

Vitals: 598 Fourth St. (at Brannan), San Francisco; (415) 543-2222. Lunch weekdays, dinner Monday-Saturday. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Chef Nancy Oakes and designer Pat Kuleto have teamed up to produce what is still one of the hottest draws in the city. The industrial belle epoch interior has three distinct areas; try for the area in back with a spectacular view of the Bay Bridge. In Oakes’ home-style preparations, the vegetable treatments are often more enticing than the star attraction.

Cuisine: New American

Specialties: Foie gras with verjus glaze and aged balsamic; maple-cured pork chops; boneless duck breast with roasted leg (and any other wood-oven items)

Seats: 170

Prices: $18-$26

Parking: Valet, $6, at lunch and dinner

Vitals: 1 Mission St. (at Steuart), San Francisco; (415) 543- 6084. Lunch weekdays, dinner daily. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Chef James Ormsby has taken what could become a cliched concept and given it substance with his sure-handed cooking. Bruno’s, a Mission District classic, opened in the 1930s, closed several years ago and then reopened a little more than a year ago with a stylish 1950s supper-club decor. There’s live music in the bar, and high, curved booths in the dining room allow intimacy and a view of all the goings-on.

Cuisine: Mediterranean

Specialties: Duck salad with wilted radicchio and pancetta, steamed mussels in orange saffron broth, oxtail with mashed potatoes

Seats: 60

Prices: $14-$19

Parking: Some street parking; public parking lot in back

Vitals: 2389 Mission St. (near 20th St.), San Francisco; (415) 550-7455. Dinner Tuesday-Saturday. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


It may be called a roadhouse, but this impressive Marin restaurant, just across the Golden Gate Bridge from the city, is a spectacular outpost for American cuisine under the watchful eye of chef-owner Cindy Pawlcyn. If you didn’t know better, you’d think you were in a chic ski lodge with soaring ceilings and a magnificent fireplace.

Cuisine: American

Specialties: Barbecued, grilled and wood-smoked dishes including mussels, pork chops and duck. Onion rings, baked lemon pudding, butterscotch brulee

Seats: 130

Prices: $10-$25

Parking: Adjacent lot owned by restaurant

Vitals: 15 Shoreline Highway (near Highway 101), Mill Valley; (415) 331-2600. Lunch and dinner daily. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Donna and Frank Katzl’s restaurant has become a cornerstone of the West Portal neighborhood. The reason, simply, is the food: it’s unpretentious American fare, the type of food you could eat every day. The light-wood decor, open kitchen and friendly staff further the homey appeal.

Cuisine: American

Specialties: Hamburger, lettuce salads, grilled rainbow trout, fresh apple cake

Seats: 75

Prices: $9-$16

Parking: Street (not too difficult); lot a few doors down

Vitals: 150 West Portal Ave. (near Vicente), San Francisco; (415) 665-0900. Lunch and dinner daily. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


This new, bright restaurant, on the emerging Fourth Street corridor in Berkeley, could be labeled Zuni East. Chef-owner Marsha McBride is from Zuni, as are much of the kitchen and front-of-the-house crew. While the look here is more modern than at the popular spot on Market Street — with bright-colored lanterns and large windows that open onto the sidewalk — the feel is much the same.

Cuisine: Mediterranean

Specialties: Oysters, charcuterie plate, grilled lamb chops, spit-roasted chicken, persimmon and fennel salad with hazelnuts (in season) Seats: 110 Price: $8-$20 Parking: Free lot Vitals: 1782 Fourth St. (at Delaware), Berkeley; (510) 525-1440. Lunch (daily) and dinner continuously Tuesday-Sunday. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Jacqueline Margulis has created a one-of-a-kind restaurant in North Beach: She serves only souffles — both savory and sweet — and they’re probably the best you’ve ever had. The only other menu offerings are soup and a couple of salads. The charming storefront, where you can see the owner whip up the eggs in a copper bowl, has a romantic feel.

Cuisine: French

Specialties: Black truffle and lobster souffle, chocolate souffle

Seats: 24

Parking: Street (often difficult)

Prices: $25-$50 (serves two to four)

Vitals: 1454 Grant Ave. (between Union and Green), San Francisco; (415) 981-5565. Dinner Wednesday-Sunday. Reservation and credit cards accepted.


Kirk Webber has developed one of the most personal cooking styles in the city, turning this modest neighborhood restaurant into a destination. The plate arrangements are fanciful and the combinations of ingredients are imaginative. For example, on the Caesar salad, the romaine leaves stand straight up on the plate, wrapped in carrots. At times the plates can look like a manicured garden.

Cuisine: California

Specialties: Monthly changing menu may include towering Caesar salad, crab potstickers, crisp-skin salmon in taro basket, walnut- crusted chicken breast with Gorgonzola.

Seats: 65

Prices: $15.95-$19.95

Parking: Validated at Japantown Center garage

Vitals: 1963 Sutter St. (near Fillmore), San Francisco; (415) 775-7313. Dinner Tuesday-Sunday. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Without question, this is the best high-style Mexican restaurant in the city. Each day three of dozens of salsas are made, tortillas are flattened and the intricate moles are mixed. In addition you’ll find some of the freshest fish in the city. The largely young crowd is attracted to the noisy environs and bright interior that looks like a shrine to Mexican folk art.

Cuisine: Mexican

Specialties: Moles from Oaxaca, guacamole made to order, fresh fish, enchiladas with unique fillings and salsas

Seats: 85

Prices: $6-$14

Parking: Street parking (often difficult)

Vitals: 2317 Chestnut St. (near Scott), San Francisco; (415) 776-1506. Lunch Tuesday-Sunday, brunch weekends, dinner daily. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Opened in 1983, this elegant hotel dining room has launched the careers of Bradley Ogden and Jan Birnbaum. Now Todd Humphries is carrying out the tradition. One of the best values, considering the posh environment and top-flight service, is the $29 fixed-price menu on Wednesday. The restaurant is also known for exceptional — but expensive — breakfasts.

Cuisine: American

Specialties: Tuna tartare with caviar, lotus root and cucumber coulis; beef short ribs with truffle sauce

Seats: 68

Prices: $24-$28

Parking: Valet, $6

Vitals: 340 Stockton St. (near Sutter), San Francisco; (415) 955-5555. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Even after more than 25 years, Alice Waters continues to set trends, continually reaching farther to get the most pristine organic products. The downstairs still features a single fixed-price menu. The upstairs cafe offers a la carte pricing. Both restaurants feature a warm craftsman-style interior.

Cuisine: California French

Specialties: The menu changes, but the restaurant has a full-time forager and is known for fresh ingredients. Upstairs pizza and desserts are stellar

Seats: 50

Parking: Street (moderately easy)

Prices: Fixed-price menu, $38- $68, depending on night

Vitals: 1517 Shattuck Ave. (near Cedar St.), Berkeley; (510) 548-5525. Dinner Monday-Saturday. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


With Gary Danko’s departure, the toque has passed to Sylvain Portay, formerly at Le Cirque in New York. While Portay’s style is more relaxed, the food still satisfies. The elegant, French-appointed dining room, combined with the smooth, professional service, has turned the Ritz-Carltons’ Dining Room into one of the city’s most enticing formal restaurants. Only fixed-price menus are offered.

Cuisine: French

Specialties: Menu changes but look for lobster salad with caviar cream, sweetbreads with ragout of scallions and bok choy, and crayfish veloute

Seats: 94

Prices: Fixed price menu: $49- $63

Parking: Valet, $9

Vitals: 600 Stockton St. (at California), San Francisco; (415) 296-7465. Dinner Monday-Saturday. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Chef Philippe Jeanty has been at this winery restaurant since it opened in 1977, and year after year he continues to craft some of the best cuisine in Napa Valley. The restaurant, which looks over the vineyards, has an interesting barrel ceiling, but the interior is showing its age.

Cuisine: French-California

Specialties: Grilled quail salad; beet salad with feta cheese; roasted sea bass on artichokes, fennel and cherry tomatoes.

Excellent, well-priced wine list.

Seats: 120

Prices: $26-$31

Vitals: 1 California Dr. (off Highway 29), Yountville; (707) 944-8844. Dinner Wednesday-Sunday (after May 1, lunch daily). Reservations two weeks in advance; credit cards accepted.


Although the food is Chinese, the combinations have a distinct California bent. Ping Sung, chef and owner with his wife, Jan Sung, is continually creating new combinations and presenting them on sophisticated Italian pottery platters. Even the interior, done in a Matisse theme, is unique: fresh orchids and artistic glass are everywhere, and tea is served in Wedgwood demitasse cups. There is also a second location (and just about as good) on Oak Street near the Civic Center.

Cuisine: Chinese-California

Specialties: Sunflower beef; mango beef (or chicken); sesame chicken; China prawns; sizzling rice soup; celery salad; asparagus with salmon

Seats: 49 Prices: $6.50-$8.95 Parking: Street (relatively easy)

Vitals: 1457 18th St. (near Connecticut), San Francisco; (415) 648-9999. Lunch and dinner daily. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Arnold Wong’s East-West combinations at this Cole Valley restaurant are about as innovative as can be found. The plates look like works of art, and the combinations deftly bridge the cultures. In addition, the wine list is one of the most creative and fairly priced in the city. The modern restaurant features an upstairs mezzanine and a wine bar next door that serves the full Eos menu, perfect for those who aren’t able to snag a dinner reservation.

Cuisine: East-West

Specialties: Five-pepper calamari, shiitake mushroom dumplings, tamarind-marinated rack of lamb, tea-smoked duck, creme brulee

Seats: 67

Price: $12.95-$23.95

Parking: Street (sometimes difficult)

Vitals: 901 Cole St. (at Carl); (415) 566-3063. Dinner daily. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Although the interior is bare-bones and a bit cold, the service is warm (if often inefficient) and the food is delicious. Portions are often big enough for two, but there are so many good things on the menu it’s difficult to limit yourself.

Cuisine: Peruvian

Specialties: Roberto Shimacana creates shellfish stew; steamed snapper with tomatoes, onions, herbs and wine; beefsteak with onions, bananas and fried eggs; sauteed prawns in white wine and garlic; fried chicken with lemon and herbs; beef heart marinated in chile pasilla

Seats: 50

Price: $8.95-$10.95

Parking: Street (generally easy)

Vitals: 715 El Camino Real (near Brewster), Redwood City; (415) 368-9340. Lunch Tuesday-Sunday; breakfast Saturday-Sunday; dinner daily. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Started on a shoestring and always a work in progress, this modest Noe Valley restaurant draws people from all over the Bay Area thanks to Brad Levy’s eclectic home cooking that borrows from Asia, Italy and points in between. Even though the mismatched tables and chairs have been replaced, the interior still has a Grandma’s-attic feel.

Cuisine: American

Specialties: Shrimp and scallop potstickers, vegetarian main courses, country-style pork ribs.

Seats: 50

Prices: $9.50-$15.50

Parking: Street (sometimes difficult)

Vitals: 4288 24th St. (near Douglass), San Francisco; (415) 821-7652. Dinner daily. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


No other restaurant is as romantic as the tented environment here, and the French food is some of the best. Chef-owner Hubert Keller offers both an a la carte and fixed-price menu paired with wines.

Cuisine: French-California

Specialties: Lamb loin wrapped in zucchini, truffled vichyssoise, vegetarian tasting menu

Seats: 85

Parking: Valet, $7

Prices: $26-$34

Vitals: 777 Sutter St. (near Taylor); (415) 673-7779. Dinner Monday-Saturday. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Many people fall in love with the clubby interior at this restaurant that features San Francisco classics deftly interpreted by chef Robby Morgenstein. Bright and light, with architectural prints framed in brass, the Fly Trap is truly an updated classic.

Cuisine: California

Specialties: Celery Victor, chicken livers on soft polenta, chicken Jerusalem (with artichokes), Hangtown fry

Seats: 100

Prices: $9-$18

Parking: Valet, $4 at night; validated lot on Second Street between Folsom and Howard at lunch

Vitals: 606 Folsom St. (near Second), San Francisco; (415) 243-0580. Lunch weekdays, dinner Monday-Saturday. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Even though the restaurant is a chain with locations in Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia, Fook Yuen serves exceptional dim sum during the day and a full Cantonese menu at night.

Cuisine: Chinese

Specialties: seafood (spot prawns), pork with pickled plums, crispy chicken, dim sum

Seats: 180

Prices: $8-$40

Parking: Free lot

Vitals: 195 El Camino Real (near Millbrae), Millbrae; (415) 692-8600. Lunch and dinner daily. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Banish the thought that an oh- so-trendy jazz club with live entertainment can’t possibly serve great food. Chef-owner Jim Moffat has bridged the gap with his sensible take on Mediterranean fare. In the former space of Caffe Esprit, the dining room has 20-foot ceilings and a curving staircase that leads to the mezzanine.

Cuisine: Mediterranean

Specialties: Grilled artichokes with Meyer lemons, seared duck breast with wilted escarole, chocolate pot de creme

Seats: 84

Prices: $13-$20

Parking: Free lot

Vitals: 235 16th St. (off Third St.), San Francisco; (415) 777- 5558. Lunch weekdays, dinner Wednesday-Saturday. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


In a short time this Yountville restaurant has become the most coveted reservation in the Napa Valley. Chef-owner Thomas Keller has earned a national reputation for his sense of flavor and humor: "Coffee and doughnuts” is a cappuccino semifreddo topped with a foam of whipped cream; it’s served in a demitasse cup with tiny fresh-fried pastry. The fixed-price menu is served in refined and magical wine country surroundings.

Cuisine: French-California

Specialties: Tongue and cheek salad (braised beef cheeks and veal tongue), saddle of rabbit, fresh cinnamon-sugar doughnuts and cappuccino semifreddo, vegetarian tasting menu.

Seats: 60

Prices: Fixed price $59-$75

Vitals: 6640 Washington St., Yountville; (707) 944-2380. Lunch Friday-Sunday; dinner Thursday- Tuesday (open every night in summer and fall). Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Gerald Hirigoyen’s casual bistro is one of the best deals in the city, considering the quality of the Basque-French-California food. The intimate dining room, with windows overlooking the street, can be a bit noisy at peak times, but the modern decor gives it an up-to-date appeal.

Cuisine: French-California

Specialties: Pork tenderloin confit, steamed mussels with herb vinaigrette and garlic, frisee salad with warm bacon dressing, gateau Basque or creme brulee for dessert

Seats: 50

Prices: $10-$18

Park: Street (relatively easy), or lot across street

Vitals: 570 Fourth St. (at Bryant), San Francisco; (415) 543-0573. Lunch weekdays, dinner Monday-Saturday. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


The decor, as well as the food, is a cut above the competition. Diners coming to Kim and Kham Tran’s restaurant walk across a bridge that spans a charming koi pond before they enter the converted house. The interior features fresh flowers on the tables and intricate wood murals.

Cuisine: Vietnamese

Specialties: Barbecued quail, imperial rolls, beef salad, beef fondue with vinegar, five-spice chicken, steamed whole fish, stir-fried crab with onions and ginger

Seats: 100

Prices: $7.95-$19.95

Vitals: 2211 Van Ness Ave. (near Vallejo), San Francisco; (415) 441-4419. Dinner Tuesday- Sunday. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Ann Harris has created the best steak house in the city, with a decor perfectly tailored to the food. The clubby masculine environment features dark wood and forest green accents.

Cuisine: Steak-house

Specialties: Mesquite-grilled, dry-aged beef; beef tartare; Caesar salad; martinis

Seats: 110

Prices: $18-$32

Parking: Valet, $5

Vitals: 2100 Van Ness Ave. (at Pacific), San Francisco; (415) 673-1888. Dinner daily. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


David and Anne Gingrass left Postrio to create a South of Market extravaganza, with eclectic cuisine that draws heavily from the Mediterranean and Asia. The impressive warehouse-size space features a dramatic oval bar, beautiful art and exposed pipes in the kitchen that look like modern sculpture.

Cuisine: American

Specialties: Menu changes nightly, but try anything featuring prawns, pulled live from the tank; tea-smoked quail, house-cured salmon; lobster tempura

Seats: 250

Prices: $21-$24

Parking: Valet, $5

Vitals: 22 Hawthorne St. (off Howard between Second and Third), San Francisco; (415) 777-9779. Lunch Monday-Friday, dinner daily. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Opened in 1979, this Hayes Valley restaurant pioneered the practice of serving only fresh seafood adorned with simple sauces. The comfortable ambience harks back to the traditional San Francisco grill.

Cuisine: Seafood

Specialties: Local sand dabs and other fish, creme brulee

Seats: 110

Prices: $11.50-$17.25

Parking: Street (difficult), garage a block away (often full on performance nights)

Vitals: 20 Hayes St. (near Franklin), San Francisco; (415) 863-5545. Lunch weekdays, dinner daily. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Even unadventurous diners will warm to the soulful cooking at this Afghani restaurant. The understated decor, while not fancy, is enlivened with fresh flowers on each table and soft lighting.

Cuisine: Afghani

Specialties: Any lamb dish, ravioli stuffed with leeks, baklava, frozen ricotta with pistachio and cardamom

Seats: 70

Prices: $8.95-$14.95

Parking: Free valet

Vitals: 430 Broadway (between Montgomery and Kearny), San Francisco; (415) 362-0641. Dinner daily. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


The multilevel fish tanks, filled with live prawns, give the first indication of what to order. The bright room is rather plain, but the food — particularly the seafood — makes up for it.

Cuisine: Chinese

Specialties: Prawns, salt-baked cod, clay pot dishes, crispy chicken, sweet dessert soup

Seats: 300

Prices: $5-$30

Parking: Gas station at 25th and California; validated reduced rate at lot on Clement near 23rd.

Vitals: 2332 Clement St. (near 25th Avenue), San Francisco; (415) 752- 8833. Lunch and dinner daily. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


The look of the place is about as close to a New York SoHo restaurant as you’ll find in San Francisco, and the crowd is just as friendly. The food is rustic and delicious, the staff one of the most accommodating around.

Cuisine: American

Specialties: Infused vodkas, crispy calamari, roast mussels with aioli, roast chicken with tangerine and garlic, warm chocolate brownie with lemon sauce and espresso ice cream

Seats: 49

Price: $7.95-$15.95

Parking: Street (generally easy)

Vitals: 555 Second St. (between Bryant and Brannan); (415) 543-2282. Lunch weekdays, dinner Monday-Saturday until midnight (1 a.m. on weekends). Reservations and credit cards accepted.


The comfortable dining room seems a bit incongruously appointed, with an aqua, blue and hot pink color scheme and “pit” seating, but the Burmese food is excellent. The staff is friendly and quick to offer suggestions and answer questions.

Cuisine: Burmese

Specialties: smoky eggplant, ginger salad, green tea salad, daikon soup, sea bass steamed in banana leaves

Seats: 50

Price: $5.75-$14.95

Parking: Street (often difficult)

Vitals: 1769 Lombard (between Laguna and Octavia); (415) 931-2830. Dinner daily. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


One of the most popular places in the city. Chef-owner Sachio Kojima is known for the creative twist he adds to many of the sushi preparations. The interior is bare-bones, but the service is exceptionally friendly at this Richmond District restaurant.

Cuisine: Japanese

Specialties: Sushi and sashimi (look for daily specials), barbecued eel, conch cooked in sake broth, flying fish roe with quail egg

Seats: 60

Prices: $11-$18

Parking: Street (often difficult)

Vitals: 5116 Geary Blvd. (near 15th Avenue), San Francisco; (415) 752-5652. Dinner Tuesday-Saturday. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


With Oriental carpet on the walls and floor, and the ceiling tented in white, this San Rafael restaurant has a romantically cozy, womb- like feel. Customers sit at low tables and eat the various combinations with their hands (forks are also provided). Chef owner Mourad Lahlou starts with traditional dishes and lightens them for the California palate.

Cuisine: Moroccan

Specialties: Lamb with honey, chicken with lemon and olives, couscous with vegetables

Seats: 80

Price: $21.75 for complete meal; $11.50-$13.75 a la carte

Parking: Free lot

Vitals: 200 Merrydale Rd. (near Willow), San Rafael; (415) 472- 6666. Lunch Tuesday-Friday; dinner Monday-Saturday. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Looking much like a Bangkok temple, Khan Toke, at 22 years old, is still the prettiest Thai spot in town. Diners remove their shoes and sit at low tables in the serene room overlooking an orchid-laden garden.

Cuisine: Thai

Specialties: Chef Areewan Fasudhani is a master at Thai crepes, sates, duck salad, seafood combinations, curried pork

Seats: 90

Prices: $5.95-$10.95

Parking: Street (sometimes difficult)

Vitals: 5937 Geary Blvd. (near 24th Avenue), San Francisco; (415) 668-6654. Dinner daily. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Located in the Sheraton Palace, this is the most elegant — and expensive — Japanese restaurant in the city. The service is smooth and comforting and the ambience is serene, which is probably needed before you lay out $15 for valet parking.

Cuisine: Japanese

Specialties: Super-fresh sashimi (particularly toro), grilled butter fish with soybean sauce, shabu-shabu

Seats: 86

Parking: Valet, $15

Prices: $31.25-$60 (full dinners)

Vitals: 2 New Montgomery St. (in Sheraton Palace Hotel), San Francisco; (415) 546-5090. Lunch Tuesday-Friday, dinner Tuesday-Saturday. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Donia Bijan reigns over one of the best kitchens on the Peninsula. Her sophisticated yet rustic style always hits the spot. The casual storefront space is perfectly suited to the food. It’s a treat to observe the talented crew working in the open kitchen, separated by a dining counter.

Cuisine: French-American

Specialties: The seasonal menu includes excellent rabbit dishes, pot roast with red wine and duck confit

Seats: 50

Prices: $13-$18.50

Parking: Street (sometimes difficult)

Vitals: 530 Bryant St. (near University), Palo Alto; (415) 323-7614. Lunch Tuesday-Friday, dinner Tuesday-Saturday. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Roland Passot, known for his fanciful French cooking, has turned a charming neighborhood retreat into one of the city’s top restaurants. The refurbished interior is pleasant, but modest considering the final tab for the meal.

Cuisine: French-California

Specialties: Roti of quail and squab stuffed with wild mushrooms, five course Discovery menu ($58.50)

Seats: 60

Prices: $24-$32

Parking: Valet, $5

Vitals: 2316 Polk St. (near Union), San Francisco; (415) 776-5577. Dinner Monday-Saturday. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Taquerias are everywhere in the Mission, but this 24-year-old restaurant is in a class of its own. Owner Miguel Jara keeps the tiled floors and walls spotless and the food is always fresh. Eat out front or on one of the benches inside.

Cuisine: Mexican

Specialties: Great tacos and burritos, especially the carnitas; excellent fruit drinks

Seats: 52

Prices: $2.25-$3.75

Parking: Street (sometimes difficult)

Vitals: 2889 Mission St. (at 25th Street), San Francisco; (415) 285-7117. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only. No reservations.


Modest but pleasant, this new Vietnamese storefront restaurant serves all the standards, yet done with more finesse under chef Vien Lam. Service is some of the most friendly around.

Cuisine: Vietnamese

Specialties: Vietnamese crepes, steamed clams, beef salad, five spice roast chicken, Vietnamese grilled beef, grilled prawns Seats: 50 Price: $6.25-$9.95 Parking: Street (generally difficult) Vitals: 5830 Geary Blvd. (between 22nd and 23rd Avenue); (415) 668-8080. Continuous lunch and dinner daily. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Gabriel Fergosa has adapted his mother’s and grandmothers’ recipes for lucky San Rafael residents. The home-style cooking is featured in a hacienda-like setting with stucco walls, arched windows and fresh flowers scattered around the room and on each table.

Cuisine: Mexican

Specialties: Black bean soup, quesadillas, roasted stuffed poblanos, tamales, tequila-marinated Cornish game hen

Seats: 75

Price: $8.95-$12.95

Parking: Street (fairly easy); city lot a block away

Vitals: 912 Lincoln Ave. (between 3rd and 4th streets), San Rafael; (415) 453-5850. Lunch Monday-Saturday; dinner nightly. Reservations for six or more. Credit cards accepted.


Gino Laghi has created one of the city’s top neighborhood Italian restaurants. The Richmond District location is out of the way for nonresidents, and the modest surroundings, while comfortable, don’t live up to the high quality of the food.

Cuisine: Italian

Specialties: On the daily-changing menu look for game and mushroom dishes, or house-made pasta and risotto crafted by Gino Laghi.

Seats: 42

Prices: $10.75-$18

Parking: Street (often difficult)

Vitals: 1801 Clement St. (at 19th Avenue); (415) 386-6266. Dinner Tuesday-Sunday. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


The fixed-price menu changes daily and can be matched with wine for an additional charge. Regulars keep abreast of what’s being served through a newsletter. There’s also an a la carte menu served in this cozy and crowded two-level dining room.

Cuisine: Mediterranean

Specialties: Menu changes constantly but try anything with lamb, such as rack with a Parmesan crust and vegetable couscous.

Seats: 65

Prices: $12-$18; fixed price menu $19.50-$38 depending on night of the week and number of courses

Parking: Street (relatively easy)

Vitals: 1329 Gilman St. (near Neilson), Berkeley; (510) 527-9838. Dinner daily. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


This truly charming cafe offers some of the best food around at the best prices. Owned by husband-and-wife team Lina Yew and Alain Delangle, Le Charm — located at an unlikely South of Market address — it’s the type of place that’s perfect for a casual evening out. It’s also a great discovery for lunch, when an outdoor patio is open on warm days.

Cuisine: French

Specialties: Duck confit, chicken liver salad, tarte tatin

Seats: 42

Prices: $6.50-$9 at lunch; $18 three-course fixed-price menu at dinner

Parking: Street (often easy); lot on Folsom

Vitals: 315 Fifth St. (at Folsom), San Francisco; (415) 546-6128. Lunch weekdays, dinner Tuesday-Saturday. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


If you can forgive the service, which can move at a snail’s pace, you’re in for a Tibetan treat. Tibetan food isn’t well known here, but this restaurant has an authentic ring; the food has a rustic appeal that is different, but seems somewhat familiar. The interior, with leaf-patterned carpet and forest-green tablecloths, isn’t fancy, but it’s comfortable.

Cuisine: Tibetan

Specialties: Momo (dumplings with savory stuffings), fried chicken appetizer with spicy curry dipping sauce, lamb with daikon and spinach simmered in vegetable broth, sliced cabbage sauteed with marinated beef, butter tea (tea with salt and butter)

Seats: About 50

Price: $7.50-$12.50

Parking: Street (often difficult); public lot on Lombard

Vitals: 2420 Lombard St. (near Scott); (415) 674-9898. Lunch Tuesday-Friday; dinner Tuesday- Sunday. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


The Italian cooks here do miraculous things with limited resources: just one oven in a shoe-box-size kitchen. The tiny storefront interior feels right at home in North Beach and is perfect for a casual, spur-of-the-moment meal.

Cuisine: Italian

Specialties: Focaccia, sandwiches, pork roast braised in milk, pizza

Seats: 28

Prices: $5.95-$8.25

Parking: Some lots in area; street parking (difficult)

Vitals: 519 Columbus Ave. (near Green), San Francisco; (415) 982-1124. Lunch and dinner Wednesday-Monday. No reservations or credit cards accepted.


Roland Passot, of La Folie, has taken his immense talent and created a casual Marin brasserie with excellent food he calls "cuisine Grand-mere,” executed by chef Todd Kniess. The lively brasserie interior, with a bar lined with fruit- and vegetable-infused vodkas, is the perfect setting for the lusty food.

Cuisine: French

Specialties: Mussels steamed in white wine, leek and onion tart, Blue Lake green bean salad with beets, olives and frisee, grilled lamb chops with flageolets, herb-roasted chicken platter

Seats: 125

Price: $9.50-$17.75

Parking: Free valet on weekends; street (not too difficult)

Vitals: 507 Magnolia Ave. (at Ward), Larkspur; (415) 927-3331. Open continuously daily for lunch and dinner. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


It was a real shocker when Reed Hearon left LuLu last year — everyone assumed he was an owner — but for now the standards have been maintained by Jody Denton. Time will tell if the restaurant can stay vibrant without Hearon’s involvement. The warehouse-style interior features a dramatic open kitchen with impressive rotisserie. The noise, however, can be deafening.

Cuisine: Mediterranean

Specialties: Rosemary-scented roast chicken, steak for two, roasted mussels, fritto misto with artichokes

Seats: 230

Prices: $9-$18

Parking: Street; lot across street on Folsom

Vitals: 816 Folsom St. (near Fourth St.), San Francisco; (415) 495-5775. Lunch and dinner daily. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


One of the tiniest restaurants in the city (only 17 seats), this Japantown restaurant has some of the best sushi as well as other items you don’t find other places: steamed Japanese custard and Wappa Meshi, in which rice, meat (or fish) and seasonings are steamed together in a bamboo basket.

Cuisine: Japanese

Specialties: Sushi, Wappa (steamed rice and seasonings), steamed custard

Seats: 17 inside; 8 outside

Price: $12.95-$16.50

Parking: Japantown underground lot

Vitals: 1825 Post St. (Kinokuniya Building between Webster and Fillmore); (415) 921-5215. Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


The interior of this Pacific Heights-area restaurant feels like a comfortable Swiss chalet. The light wood walls, beamed ceiling and chairs are set off with etchings and stained glass windows depicting Alpine scenes. The food, hearty and nurturing, is just as well crafted.

Cuisine: Swiss

Specialties: Chef Andrew Thorpe is known for his fondue (nine kinds), raclette with potatoes and pickles, pork tenderloin topped with cheese and onions, grilled veal sausage, veal with mushroom sauce, wiener schnitzel; chocolate fondue

Seats: 85

Price: $12-$21

Parking: Valet, $5

Vitals: 2323 Van Ness Ave. (between Green and Vallejo); (415) 885-6116. Dinner Tuesday-Sunday. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


The newly remodeled decor of rich red hues is now more in line with the extraordinary quality of Julian Serrano’s food and the wine list. Many contend that this is the best restaurant in the city. Only two fixed-priced menus are offered.

Cuisine: French

Specialties: Foie gras with truffle Madeira sauce, warm lobster salad, sorbets

Seats: 68

Parking: Valet, $6

Prices: $70-$75 (fixed price menus)

Vitals: 648 Bush St. (near Powell), San Francisco; (415) 989-7154. Dinner Tuesday- Saturday. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


With her quick wit and impish grin, Fusae Ponne has done a one-woman comedy show for more than 40 years at her cute, postage-stamp-size restaurant. While the food is somewhat standard, chef Yoshitomi Takechi has been turning it out perfectly for 18 years.

Cuisine: Japanese

Specialties: Chef Takechi prepares excellent sushi, katsu donburi, teriyaki

Seats: 20

Prices: $5-$16

Parking: Street (sometimes difficult)

Vitals: 3856 24th St. (near Church), San Francisco; (415) 282-7989. Dinner Monday-Saturday. No reservations.


It feels like a party at this warehouse-like restaurant, which features an impressive bar in the middle and dining tables on three sides. Velvet drapes and concrete floors create a trendy urban environment for Lynn Sheehan’s cuisine. Another plus: Food is served until midnight every day but Sunday.

Cuisine: Mediterranean

Specialties: Platters to share (Caesar, wine-steamed mussels, crispy calamari with pickled fennel), pizza, wine-braised lamb shank, skate wing sauteed in balsamic brown butter

Seats: 160

Price: $13.75-$18

Parking: Valet, $7

Vitals: 2029 Market St. (between 14th and Dolores); (415) 621- 7000. Dinner nightly. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


The out-of-the-way location may be a disadvantage for this restaurant, but the food deserves raves. It’s the only truly creative Jewish restaurant in the city. The interior, with brick walls and jewel-tones hues, has a comfortable, casual feel.

Cuisine: Jewish

Specialties: Jeff Mason and Eric Johnson produce potent pickled vegetables with vodka, matzo ball soup, house-cured gravlax with potato latkes, beef brisket with beet- horseradish sauce, roast chicken, lamb shank, spinach pasta pillows

Seats: 82

Price: $11.50-$13.75

Parking: Street (easy)

Vitals: 2742 17th St. (near Florida); (415) 863-4177. Lunch weekdays; dinner Tuesday-Saturday. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


When you taste chef-owner Toshi Sasaki’s handiwork, it’s clear why many chefs are seen hanging out here on their days off. The sashimi is fresh, the sushi rice perfectly textured. The small, comfortable restaurant has white battened walls, with heartwarming snapshots of Sasaki’s children behind the bar.

Cuisine: Japanese

Specialties: Sushi, deep-fried soft-shell crab, sake-cured salmon

Seats: 24

Prices: $5-$20

Parking: Street (often difficult)

Vitals: 211 Clement St. (near Fourth Avenue), San Francisco; (415) 668-7317. Dinner daily. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


A culinary trailblazer in the Napa Valley when it opened 14 years ago, this low-slung roadhouse remains at the top of the must-visit list. Although chef-owner Cindy Pawlcyn has gone on to open many other restaurants with the Real Restaurant folks, her heart remains here, and you’ll still find her behind the cooking line from time to time.

Cuisine: California

Specialties: Grilled rabbit, calf’s liver with bacon-onion chutney, baby back ribs, onion rings

Seats: 80

Prices: $11.75-$24.95

Parking: Free lot

Vitals: 7399 St. Helena Highway (two miles north of Yountville), (707) 944-2424. Lunch and dinner daily. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


David Vardy creates wonderful food with a focused Japanese sensibility. The serene interior is equally as arresting, with an Asian country feel.

Cuisine: Japanese

Specialties: Noodle dishes (pork tenderloin and mustard greens are fabulous); burdock root, carrot and tofu dumplings; wood oven and grilled specials

Seats: 50

Prices: $9.50-$16.50

Parking: Free lot in back

Vitals: 1830 Fourth St. (near Hearst), Berkeley; (510) 841-8783. Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday. Reservations accepted for dinner. Credit cards accepted.


Paul Bertolli, the chef at Chez Panisse for 10 years, has become a partner here and transformed the food. He’s such a purist that he makes most of his own sausages, pasta and even balsamic. The casual interior has never lived up to the cuisine, but the restaurant is undergoing a major remodel.

Cuisine: Italian

Specialties: House-made sausages, salami, prosciutto, pasta

Seats: 100

Price: $16-$19

Parking: Street (moderately easy); lot behind Market Hall

Vitals: 5655 College Ave. (at Keith), Oakland; (510) 547-5356. Lunch Monday-Friday, dinner daily. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Bruce Hill is one of the few chefs who have mastered the art of mixing East and West. Every dish on his compact menu works beautifully. The stylish decor reflects the casual blending of cultures.

Cuisine: East-West

Specialties: Grilled portobello with plum wine jus, Chinese celery cured salmon, grilled flatiron steak with Chinese long beans

Seats: 48

Prices: $16-$20 (lots of small plates, too)

Parking: Street (often difficult)

Vitals: 1915 Fillmore St. (near Bush), San Francisco; (415) 346-1333. Dinner daily. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


This six-year-old Marina-area restaurant offers some of the best rustic Italian food in the city, prepared by Bruno Quercini. The simple interior has a warm, inviting feel; the focal point of the room is a long table set with a prosciutto and a wheel of Parmesan cheese.

Cuisine: Italian

Specialties: Polenta with mushrooms, whole grilled fish, pasta, gnocchi with roasted rabbit

Seats: 65

Prices: $7.50-$17.95

Parking: Street (always a challenge)

Vitals: 3011 Steiner St. (at Union), San Francisco; (415) 346-2111. Lunch Monday-Saturday, dinner daily. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Tucked away on Belden near the Financial District, this cute restaurant feels like a Parisian alleyway, with large windows overlooking the street, a hexagonal-tiled floor and lofty tin ceilings hung with halogen lights. It’s modern, loud, casual and fun. The food is good and the prices are right.

Cuisine: Seafood

Specialties: Mussels (prepared many ways), seafood, including sauteed halibut with artichokes and a coriander sauce, and steamed salmon with caper-mustard sauce and onion rings

Seats: 45

Price: $10-$14

Parking: Sutter-Stockton garage nearby

Vitals: 40 Belden (near Bush); (415) 986-6491. Lunch weekdays Dinner Monday-Saturday. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Chef Maria Helm has steered the food on a consistent course at this popular, wonderfully designed Marina restaurant. The innovative wine list offers some of the best deals in the city, and many of the wines are difficult to find elsewhere.

Cuisine: Mediterranean

Specialties: The menu changes often but the risotto is superb, as is the bruschetta, stacked with myriad toppings.

Seats: 50

Prices: $17-$20

Parking: Street (always difficult)

Vitals: 3127 Fillmore St. (near Filbert), San Francisco; (415) 563-4755. Lunch weekdays, dinner Monday-Saturday. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Wolfgang Puck’s Northern California outpost has the most Los Angeles feel of any San Francisco restaurant, and has been rated the favorite restaurant by the Zagat Survey for the fourth year in a row. The dramatic staircase leading down to the dining room lets all patrons have their 15 seconds of fame.

Cuisine: California with Mediterranean/Asian accents

Specialties: Chefs Steven and Mitchell Rosenthal create crispy fried quail with pineapple glaze, soft egg ravioli, Chinese-style duck with mango sauce, excellent desserts

Seats: 180

Prices: $19.50-$29

Parking: Valet, $7

Vitals: 545 Post St. (at Mason), San Francisco; (415) 776- 7825. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Wendy Brucker has turned a pleasant, low-slung cinder-block building into a charming destination for her rustic cooking. The restaurant plans to remodel sometime this spring.

Cuisine: Mediterranean

Specialties: Mushroom fritters, hot fudge sundae

Seats: 66

Prices: $10-$15

Parking: Street (generally easy)

Vitals: 1539 Solano Ave. (near Peralta), Berkeley; (510) 526- 2542. Dinner daily. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Sam DuVall has transformed KiKi’s into a bright and bustling brasserie and seafood grill. The combinations are simple, but nicely executed. And he’s kept one of the best of the old dishes on the new menu: a thick slab of prime rib.

Cuisine: Seafood

Specialties: Oysters, peel-your- own shrimp, sauteed sand dabs, grilled petrale, roasted mussels, prime rib

Seats: 140

Price: $12.95-$19.95

Parking: Valet, $3

Vitals: 2080 Van Ness Ave. (at Pacific); (415) 567-7600. Dinner nightly. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Read Hearon, who was the brains behind LuLu, has turned his immense talent to Italian food, and he’s created what has quickly become one of the best restaurants in the city. The open kitchen features three different cooking stations, each with its own wood fire. The medium-toned wood, tile floor and black and white photographs on the wall add up to a very sleek, sophisticated look that contrasts pleasantly with the rustic food.

Cuisine: Italian

Specialties: Cured halibut (and other fish), spaghetti with seafood sauce, whole roast (or grilled) fish, cioppino, “terrorized” steak

Seats: 140

Price: $10.95-$18.50

Parking: Valet, $4, at lunch; $7 dinner

Vitals: 532 Columbus Ave. (near Union); (415) 399-0499. Lunch and dinner daily until midnight. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


One of the original San Francisco grills, featuring private booths in the back room, Sam’s has a solid, traditional look. It’s one of the few restaurants left where you can get once-popular classic dishes.

Cuisine: American

Specialties: Seafood, including petrale, sand dabs or Rex sole; sweetbreads broiled with bacon; veal chop; French pancakes with lemon

Seats: 125

Prices: $9-$21

Parking: Street (difficult) or public lots

Vitals: 374 Bush St. (near Kearny), San Francisco; (415) 421-0594. Lunch and dinner Monday-Friday. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Donna and Giovanni Scala have created the most stylish, fun Italian restaurant in the city as a follow-up to their popular Don Giovanni in Napa. The dramatic dining room includes booths that lend privacy but have a great view of the action.

Cuisine: Italian

Specialties: Crispy calamari with fennel and green beans, any pasta, grilled portobellos with sauteed greens and toasted garlic, Bostoni cream pie

Seats: 164

Prices: $9.95-$15.95

Parking: Valet, $10, for three hours

Vitals: 432 Powell St. (near Sutter), San Francisco; (415) 395-8555. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


David Kinch has created a simple, pleasant setting in Saratoga for his bright, rustic food, which might include a delicate sea bass wrapped in potatoes and gently accented with a red wine oxtail jus. His food is so good, it’s worth a drive from anywhere in the Bay Area.

Cuisine: French

Specialties: Slow-braised lamb shank, wild mushroom soup with truffles

Seats: 38

Prices: $18.95-$22.95

Parking: Street (easy); free lot behind

Vitals: 14583 Big Basin Way, Saratoga; (408) 867-3110. Dinner Tuesday-Sunday. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Owner and chef Charles Phan has created a Vietnamese restaurant that is quickly gaining a national reputation. Many of his combinations are based on street food, but they’re ideas that haven’t been seen here before. Even though the location on Valencia Street can be a little off-putting, the interior has an upscale, architectural feel.

Cuisine: Vietnamese

Specialties: Imperial rolls, caramelized shrimp, “shaking beef” over lettuce, clay pot catfish, chicken simmered in caramel sauce and ginger

Seats: 100

Price: $8-$14.50

Parking: Street (often difficult)

Vitals: 584 Valencia St. (at 17th Street), San Francisco; (415) 861-8032. Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


It’s only a counter — and a seafood shop — but Swan, opened in 1912, has developed a cultlike following. Eat at the counter and feel like you’ve traveled back in time. Cuisine: Seafood

Specialties: Boston clam chowder, smoked salmon or trout, cracked crab and other shellfish

Seats: 20 stools at the counter

Prices: $3.50-$14.50

Parking: Street (sometimes difficult); lot on Polk

Vitals: 1517 Polk St. (near California), San Francisco; (415) 673-1101. Breakfast and lunch Monday-Saturday. No reservations or credit cards accepted.


Lissa Doumani and Hiro Sone have crafted a unique wine country restaurant that blends the rustic elements of the Italian countryside with the freshness of Asian food. The stone walls and tile floors make the enticing interior look like a Tuscan villa.

Cuisine: East-West

Specialties: Tataki of tuna with ponzu vinaigrette, ragout of sweetbreads with mushrooms and white truffle oil, terrine of foie gras with apples walnuts and Belgian endive marinated sea bass with shrimp dumplings in shiso broth

Seats: 92

Prices: $14.50-$23

Parking: Street (easy)

Vitals: 1345 Railroad Ave., St. Helena; (707) 963-8931. Dinner Wednesday-Monday. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Chef/owner Pathama Parikanont has consistently been at top form at this charming restaurant. Not only is the food a cut above, but the cozy dining room has the feel of a Victorian parlor.

Cuisine: Thai

Specialties: Coconut chicken soup, minced chicken with garlic, seafood curry, beef salad

Seats: 49

Prices: $5.95-$10.95

Parking: Street (sometimes difficult)

Vitals: 400 Waller St. (at Fillmore), San Francisco; (415) 431-2526. Dinner daily. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


One of the most unusual restaurants to open in 1996, this restaurants is both a brew pub and Spanish tapas restaurant. The lofty space features huge stainless steel tanks behind glass and a partly open kitchen. The place can be very noisy but the food is superb.

Cuisine: Spanish

Specialties: Fish cheeks, shrimp sauteed with garlic and chile flakes, fried potatoes with garlic and parsley, white beans and grilled fennel sausage, paella, baked monkfish with roasted almond and garlic sauce, chocolate cones with chocolate mousse

Seats: 150

Price: $12.50-$16.95

Parking: Lot at Third and Howard

Vitals: 661 Howard St. (between Second and Third), San Francisco; (415) 974-0905. Lunch weekdays, dinner daily. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Sylvie Le Mer was the chef who fueled the creperie craze in the Bay Area, and her Breton crepes are still the best. The interior of the Mission restaurant looks as if it belongs in a French country village. For the best show, perch at the counter and watch the paper-thin pancakes being made.

Cuisine: French creperie

Specialties: Crepes, both sweet and savory

Seats: 70

Prices: $1.95-$5.25

Parking: Street (often difficult)

Vitals: 3108 16th St. (near Valencia), San Francisco; (415) 252-7373. Lunch and dinner daily. No reservations. Credit cards accepted.


Specializing in Hakka-inspired food, this large, Hong Kong-style restaurant serves both excellent dim sum and an array of dinner items. While the light-colored booths, rose-colored walls and Chinese lanterns don’t help set it apart, the food certainly does.

Cuisine: Chinese

Specialties: Dumplings (particularly Shanghai), salt-baked chicken, clay-pot dishes Seats: 200

Prices: $7-$15

Parking: Street (often a challenge)

Vitals: 5821 Geary Blvd. (between 22nd and 23rd avenues), San Francisco; (415) 386-8530. Lunch and dinner daily. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


The food has become better and better under new chef Julie McCloskey, who creates some of the most vibrant, nurturing combinations in the city. The industrial- looking interior, with lots of metal and concrete, has won several design rewards for its urban style.

Cuisine: American

Specialties: Golden and red beet salad with warmed goat cheese croutons, seared chicken livers with caramelized apples, pot roast with stew of winter vegetables, grilled flatbread with herbed goat cheese, focaccia sandwiches at lunch

Seats: 30 plus bar

Price: $11.25-$18.50

Parking: Street (generally easy)

Vitals: 2814 19th St. (near Bryant), San Francisco; (415) 821-4608. Breakfast, lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Located on the first floor of the Transamerica Pyramid and named after the famous Hitchcock movie, this stylish restaurant has soared under the new chef, Jeffrey Inahara. The architectural elements of the building are woven into the interior, producing a warm, modern look.

Cuisine: American

Specialties: Honey-glazed quail with brioche salad, crisp duck confit, roast striped bass with lemon mashed potatoes, roast duck breast with potato galette, warm chocolate truffle cake

Seats: 145

Price: $17-$24

Parking: Valet, $5, at dinner Vitals: 600 Montgomery St. (entrance on Clay), San Francisco; (415) 433-7250. Lunch weekdays, dinner Monday-Saturday. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Carlo Middione has perfected his Southern Italian cooking at this grand Opera Plaza restaurant. (His Vivande Porta Via on Fillmore, which offers substantial take-away, is also excellent). It’s one of the top spots for a bite before or after the symphony.

Cuisine: Italian

Specialties: Pastas, risotto, stuffed calamari, thin-pounded lamb chops, sea bass on a bed of cabbage with capers, chocolate earthquake cake

Seats: 150

Prices: $17-$22.50 Parking: Valet, $6

Vitals: 670 Golden Gate Ave. (between Franklin and Van Ness), San Francisco; (415) 673-9245. Lunch and dinner daily. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Five miles off Highway 101 on Guerneville Road in Santa Rosa, this low-slung roadhouse serves some of the most delicious food (and well-priced wine) in the Bay Area. The interior has a rustic charm, with great attention to details shown on the copper tables and in the flower arrangements on the bar.

Cuisine: American

Specialties: Chef Richard Allen changes the menu weekly. His cured pork chops and duck breast preparations are excellent. Desserts are consistently good.

Seats: 44

Prices: $11.95-$16.50

Parking: Free lot

Vitals: 3535 Guerneville Rd. (at Willowside), Santa Rosa; (707) 523-4814. Dinner Wednesday-Sunday. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Tucked next to the freeway, this restaurant continues to feel like it was just discovered. It’s so small that you can smell the food cooking and at times feel the heat. The open kitchen takes up most of the space, and the nine tables wrap around two sides.

Cuisine: American

Specialties: Menu changes weekly but might include pork chop stuffed with fennel with mashed potatoes, duck breast on lentils, smoked salmon on potato- scallion latkes

Seats: 31

Prices: $14.50-$17

Parking: Street (often easy)

Vitals: 1700 Mission St. (at Duboce), San Francisco; (415) 621-7122. Dinner Wednesday-Sunday. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Although it’s as big as a banquet hall, Wu Kong is still one of the prettiest Chinese restaurants in the city, with fine art on the walls and crystal chandeliers. Wu Kong features very good Shanghai cooking, but the one drawback is the somewhat disjointed service.

Cuisine: Chinese

Specialties: Drunken squab, vegetarian goose, pan-fried noodles, crystal prawns

Seats: 200

Prices: $8.85-$25

Vitals: 101 Spear St. (1 Rincon Center), San Francisco; (415) 957-9300. Lunch and dinner daily. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


On any given day, Yank Sing will feature 80 items on the dim sum carts, plus diners can get individual servings of tea- smoked duck. Some don’t realize how large the Embarcadero restaurant really is because the dining areas are broken up by a warren of rooms.

Cuisine: Chinese

Specialties: Dim sum, including dumplings, barbecued pork buns, minced squab, tea-smoked duck

Seats: 330

Prices: $2-$5 per item

Parking: Embarcadero One lot

Vitals: 427 Battery St. (near Clay), San Francisco; (415) 781-1111. Lunch daily. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


Cuisine: Thai

Specialties: Butter cups with garlic shrimp, mussels with basil, sirloin with hot pepper sauce

Seats: 55

Price: $6.25-$9.95

Parking: Street (difficult)

Vitals: 2380 Lombard St. (near Scott), San Francisco; (415) 922-1599. Lunch Tuesday-Friday; dinner Tuesday-Saturday. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


The first really good tapas restaurant in San Francisco, this neighborhood charmer features a tightly packing dining room with rough wood, stucco and brick accents. No reservations are accepted so there’s always a wait, but the food is satisfying and the service is friendly.

Cuisine: Spanish

Specialties: Lucas Gasco creates exceptional paella, Zarzuela (seafood stew) and tapas (chicken croquettes, roast duck leg, poached octopus, tortilla Espanola)

Seats: 50

Prices: $8.95-$13.95

Parking: Street (nearly impossible)

Vitals: 2000 Hyde St. (at Union), San Francisco; (415) 346-0800. Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday. No reservations. Credit cards accepted.


Husband-and-wife team Barbara Mulas and Mark Drazek have created one of the most charming small restaurants in San Francisco. It has the feel of a sophisticated, intimate brasserie that is designed to showcase their light cuisine.

Cuisine: Mediterranean

Specialties: The monthly changing menu often includes twice-baked goat cheese souffle, apple galette with caramel ice cream and main courses such as roast rabbit with artichokes and mushroom ragout, pork chop stuffed with Gorgonzola and glazed onions

Seats: 45

Prices: $13.50-$16.50

Parking: Street (sometimes difficult); lot at corner

Vitals: 2330 Taylor St. (near Columbus), San Francisco; (415) 563-6266. Dinner Tuesday-Saturday. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


With a waterfall running down one side of the umbrella, and umbrellas defining the ceiling in back, this industrial-modern restaurant blurs the lines between its patio and dining room. The food by chef Andrea Rappaport can be sensational.

Cuisine: Mediterranean

Specialties: Thin-crusted pizza, fennel salad with mint, lemon and Parmesan, half-roasted chicken with frisee and warm potatoes

Seats: 55

Price: $10.75-$16.25

Parking: Street (difficult)

Vitals: 2355 Chestnut St. (between Divisadero and Scott), San Francisco; (415) 346-6623. Dinner daily. Reservations and credit cards accepted.


A culinary landmark, Zuni sports the most interesting crowd to be found in San Francisco. It’s so much fun to people-watch that it’s hard to know whether diners go there for the fabulous food crafted by chef/owner Judy Rodgers or the scene (which goes until midnight).

Cuisine: Mediterranean

Specialties: Large selection of oysters, chicken in wood oven, hamburger, Caesar salad, Piccolo fritto (fried vegetables)

Seats: 110

Prices: $11-$18

Parking: Valet, $5, at night; street parking at lunch (sometimes difficult)

Vitals: 1658 Market St. (near Franklin Street), San Francisco; (415) 552-2522. Breakfast, lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday. Reservations and credit cards accepted.



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