Ready to check out what the San Francisco food scene has to offer? You'll get a delicious dose of local flavor at these four diverse establishments.
Between Union Square and the Financial District, in a little alley reminiscent of Paris, you’ll find Gitane, the city’s most romantic dinner destination. There’s a gleaming bar with glowing shelves of spirits, grand chandeliers, red walls and hanging tapestries. The rococo decor makes for a moody setting suggestive of a glamorous bygone era, and colorful touches like the murals bedecking the heated patio and dishware with bohemian prints add gypsy flair—a nod to the restaurant’s name and cuisine. Spanish flavors shine throughout the menu, from crowd-pleasing tapas like bacon bonbons and flavorful bacalao fritters to hearty entrées like clam and pork casuela and braised lamb. Be sure to order one of the excellent craft cocktails and a loaf of olive oil lemon cake. Buen provecho! 6 Claude Lane, San Francisco, 415.788.6686
Dining Guam Style
San Francisco has more restaurants per capita than any city in the country, yet it just now got its first eatery devoted to Chamorro cuisine from Guam—Prubechu. The culturally curious will want to pay a visit to this small restaurant in the Mission District, easy to miss from the bustling street (and still marked by the unassuming awning of the space’s previous tenant, Roxy’s Cafe). The ambience inside is modest and homey with an island vibe. The flavorful food, from caramelized potato soup to a hearty and zesty medley of cooked vegetables called golai hagan suni, is prepared with the utmost pride and care. The passion comes through in the artful presentation of each dish and the accompanying description of its cultural history and significance. To sample a range of the authentic fare with a San Francisco slant, order the tasting menu for $40. 2847 Mission St., San Francisco, 415.952.3654
The Literate Watering Hole
Looking for a modern, classy lounge where you can get a taste of San Francisco’s famed artisan cocktail scene? Look no farther than Novela, a sizable, sexy space that’s popular with the Financial District crowd (and conveniently located near downtown hotels and Moscone Center). Here, the aforementioned artisan libations won’t necessarily require the notorious 10-minute wait, thanks to six punches on tap. A number of craft cocktails named for literary characters (Ichabod Crane, Jacob Marley) are also on the menu, as well as beer and wine. The library theme flows into the polished, clever decor—most notably the rainbow wall of vintage books. 662 Mission St., San Francisco, 415.896.6500
Taste of the Garden
Verbena, the newest sensation on Russian Hill, a neighborhood that has seen a culinary renaissance of late, is a vegetable-focused establishment, but don’t expect the fare to be light or worry about leaving hungry. The food here is hearty and satisfying and its presentation stunning. Although plants take the spotlight, the menu is not vegetarian, with a number of the dishes from chef Sean Baker (Esquire magazine’s 2010 Chef of the Year) incorporating meat. Highlights include the decidedly comforting sprouted seed bread with chevre and the crave-worthy cardoons and parsnips with kale and yogurt. The mood in the dimly lit, yawning space is rustic elegance, with wood furnishings, wall art made from farm soil and a gorgeous backlit pickle (!) wall that steals the visual show. 2323 Polk St., San Francisco, 415.441.2323