Although San Francisco’s iconic cable cars are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, these moving landmarks are very much a part of the city’s modern transportation system. Invented more than 150 years ago as a solution for navigating the city’s steep signature hills, it’s easy to hop on and save yourself a hike.
Cable Car Know How
Could anything be more authentically San Francisco? Board one of the three different cable car lines: Powell-Mason line starts start at Powell and Market street turnaround and ends near Ghirardelli Square. Powell-Hyde also starts at the same place and continues to Fisherman's Wharf. A third cable car line, California Street, begins at the intersection of California and Market streets and continues west to Van Ness Avenue.
Listen for the bells and look for the brown-and-white cable car boarding signs along each route or board at one of the cable car turnarounds. They operate every 6-15 minutes from 6:30 a.m. until just after midnight, 365 days of the year. Pre-purchase an all-day ticket at $17, use a Clipper card or buy a $7 ticket from the cable car conductor.
Restaurants Along the Cable Car Lines
Each of these restaurants are located within steps of a picturesque cable car line, so why not combine an must-do San Francisco sightseeing experience with great dining out?
1. BOB’S STEAK & CHOP HOUSE
“Our steaks are prime, our portions big & our drinks stiff.” From prime ribeye to the onion rings to the jumbo shrimp, by “big” they mean “huge.” Handsome dark wood paneling and white table linen make this a favorite since 1993. Bob’s is in the historic Omni Hotel right on the California Street cable car line. Insider’s tip: Save room for the marbled chocolate amaretto cheesecake.
500 California St., 415.273.3085, bobs-steakandchops.com
2. GARY DANKO
As the Powell-Hyde cable car descends Russian Hill, you get panoramic views of San Francisco Bay and Alcatraz. Step off at the turnaround on Beach Street and walk a half-block to one of San Francisco’s fine dining establishments. Chef’s five course tasting menu opens with glazed oysters and Osetra caviar. Ordering à la carte? The grand finale is chocolate soufflé.
800 North Point St., 415.749.2060, GaryDanko.com
Take the California Street cable car to Chef Michael Mina’s Pabu for some of the best nigiri sushi in town. Check out the gluten-free menu, creative cocktails and the 100-long sake list that accompanies a modern take on traditional Izakaya-style dining. Pabu’s buzz and contagious energy is inspired by cool retro soundtracks.
101 California St., 415.668.7228, michaelmina.net/restaurants/pabu
A few steps from the Powell-Hyde stop at Union Square, Farallon has a remarkable underwater-themed decor that includes jellyfish-shaped lamps hanging above the raw bar. Settle into a plush clamshell booth in the elegant, romantic dining room that’s been attracting seafood lovers for more than 21 years. Treat yourself to a half-dozen Pacific Gold Reserve oysters from California’s Central Coast.
450 Post St., 415.956.6969, farallonrestaurant.com
5. THE BIG 4
Named after the 19th century industrialists who built their residential palaces atop posh Nob Hill, The Big 4 exudes old-world sophistication right down to its classic touches: a fireplace, gleaming green leather upholstery, polished dark wood paneling and a live pianist. Loyal fans swear by the chicken pot pie. Inside the historic Huntington Hotel, The Big 4 is directly on the California Street cable car line.
1075 California St., 415.771.1140, big4restaurant.com
6. SEVEN HILLS
Ultra-fresh, locally sourced farm-to-table food is served with an Italian accent at this intimate neighborhood spot in Russian Hill. A daily menu changes depending on what Chef Tony likes best at the market, and he makes his own salumi in-house. The intimate bistro-like space has candlelit tables and big windows look out on cable cars passing by, with the Powell-Hyde cable car stop just outside the entrance.
1550 Hyde St., 415.775.1550, sevenhillssf.com
Step inside Perbacco to be virtually transported to Northern Italy’s Piedmont region, with a touch of Liguria and Provence. Book ahead, as the housemade pasta at Perbacco always brings in the crowds at both lunch and dinner. This is one of San Francisco’s best Italian restaurants, immediately on the California Street cable car line near Market Street.
230 California St., 415.955.0663, perbaccosf.com
8. PARALLEL 37
There’s a cable car stop right outside The Ritz-Carlton San Francisco, home to the elegant Parallel 37. A market-driven menu focuses on seasonal California cuisine with global influences. Come for the signature Golden Gate Breakfast; at dinner, try the Niman Ranch lamb. Note: Tuesdays are special, it’s “Burger Night.”
600 Stockton St., 415.773.6168 ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/california/san-francisco/dining/parallel-37