Explore San Francisco

How to Eat and Drink Like a Local in San Francisco

Where to go for the latest culinary trends sweeping the City by the Bay

Bay Area residents love to be trendsetters and are always hungry for the next new thing. Organic and locally sourced fare has long been the standard here. These days local foodies are ordering seafood delicacies, unwinding with Tequila and mezcal and indulging in alcoholic desserts. Here’s where to taste test the latest tendencies for yourself.

South of the Border Spirits

San Francisco's Mexican bistro Colibri in Union Square
Try Colibri in Union Square for its delicious Mexican drinks. (©Colibri)

San Francisco knows that Tequila and mezcal are solid standalones as well as standby cocktail mixers. Mission favorite Mosto boasts over 300 Tequilas and mezcals. At any one of the city’s three Tacolicious locations, including the one next door to Mosto, customers can sample the agave flight of the month. On Polk Street, 1760 mixes its eponymous cocktail with mezcal, mint, cumin and gin. Padrecito also serves a namesake drink with blanco Tequila, mezcal, agave and lime. If those don’t quench your thirst, Mexican bistro Colibri near Union Square also offers a wide range of beverages, both smoky and sweet, in a Spanish colonial setting, and its modern, urbane sister restaurant La Urbana in NoPa makes sophisticated cocktails from its 75-bottle mezcal collection.

See Food, Eat Food

Causwells seafood restaurant in the San Francisco Marina
Grilled octopus with garbanzo, fennel and chili at Causwells (©Charlie Villyard)

In the City by the Bay, seafood specialties are as plentiful as fish in the sea. Farallon’s lunchtime lobster roll is a tender Maine lobster with fried shallots on a buttered brioche bun. At the Clift Hotel’s Redwood Room, orders of mini lobster tacos come with a hearty helping of mango salsa. Classic Financial District supper club Bix prepares its beloved, time-tested lobster spaghetti. Try a similar spin on that old favorite at the new Hayes Valley hotspot Monsieur Benjamin, a bistro that serves a hearty lobster ragout atop spaghetti al dente.

Another increasingly popular seafood favorite is at Causwells in the Marina, where you can add a small plate of grilled octopus to dishes like steak tartare or roasted trout. Luce, the hidden gem inside the InterContinental San Francisco, pairs the eight-legged cephalopod with Pacific halibut, smoked potatoes, green olives and a lemon verbena fumet. Star chef Michael Chiarello’s restaurant Coqueta offers seaside views on the Embarcadero to go along with its fresh catch, a wood grilled octopus with fingerling potatoes and pimentón olive oil.

Daily Specials

Absinthe in San Francisco
Visit Absinthe for any meal, ranging from brunch to lunch to bar food. (©Absinthe)

Some of San Francisco’s best dining establishments are open from sunup to sundown, with a series of rotating menus for every hour of the day. Fog City opens for lunch at 11:30 am every morning, and there isn’t a bad time of day to grab a comfy seat, an order of deviled eggs and a milk punch cocktail at the round, glowing bar. At Absinthe, open from 11 am on weekends and from 11:30 am on weekdays, you can choose from brunch, bar and daytime menus, whatever hour your hunger strikes. 

Boozy Desserts

Capo's in San Francisco offers alcoholic desserts.
Order a whiskey crisp at Capo's for a delicious treat. (©Capo’s)

You could save room for some after dinner drinks, or just splurge on a decadent, drunken dessert. The rhubarb port sorbet at Acquerello comes with chocolate crumbs, basil and summer berries on top. Capo’s tangy whiskey crisp, an apple, pear and Luxardo cherry pastry with Four Roses whiskey and vanilla bean gelato, gets rave reviews. At the Financial District’s Greek eatery Kokkari Estiatorio, the berry sponge cake with brandy is always a good choice.

Veg-Friendly Berkeley

For vegan food in San Francisco visit Gather
Vegan wild mushroom dish at Gather (©Emily Hayward)

If you’re headed to the East Bay, you’ll find a wealth of vegetarian and vegan fare, especially in Berkeley. Café Gratitude is an institution serving locally sourced vegan dishes, rich smoothies and raw food specialties like chocolate coconut cream pie. An inventive, ingredient-driven spot, Gather isn’t exclusively vegetarian, but it does serve the best vegan charcuterie in the Bay Area. For low-key VegMex, head to Flacos. End a meal with a gooey cinnamon roll from Cinnaholic. You can customize your own flavor, adding a nutty icing with fresh berries on top, or stick with a traditional style roll. Pick up snacks for the BART ride back to San Francisco at Republic of V, a new vegan grocery stocking an impressively wide array of staples, books and even art.