One of the city's most esteemed attractions is also one of its oldest. The Ferry Building, at the foot of Market Street on the Embarcadero, was built in 1898 and darn near the only thing downtown to survive the 1906 quake. The Ferry Building itself was closed through the ‘90s for retrofitting and renovation, but reopened in 2003 with the Ferry Building Marketplace; a foodie's heaven of amazing shops and restaurants. Tuesdays and Saturdays, Ferry Plaza, the aptly named plaza in front of the Ferry Building, is abuzz with activity for the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market, with vendors peddling regional produce and products, organic and otherwise. It's definitely one of the highlight events in the city.
The Mission district is home to perhaps the greatest density of good, affordable restaurants in an incredible array of cuisines. Many can be found along 16th and Valencia Streets, though exceptional places are peppered throughout the neighborhood. It is genuinely hard to get a bad meal in this area. Its location adjacent to the Castro ensures that you'll find at least a gay table or two in any restaurant. A word to the wise: take public transit if you're coming to the Mission, as parking is universally difficult. Following is but a small sampling of our favorite restaurants in the ‘hood.
Ti Couz (3108 16th St; 415-252-7373; $7-15) is an authentic Breton crèperie, serving savory and sweet crèpes. Try the powerful and tasty hard cider, served in shallow earthenware bowls. No reservations are taken, so expect to wait on weekends for their inexpensive fare.
For quality Tuscan food at a good price, Il Cantuccio (3228 16th St, at Guerrero St; 415-861-3899; $12-22) tops the list. The kitchen in this narrow space turns out consistently excellent dishes; highlights include a variety of pasta dishes graced with light cream sauces. Try the rigatoni Etrusca. Keep an eye out for periodic special wine nights as well.
We can't say enough good about Luna Park (694 Valencia St; 415-553-8584; $12-27). This happening spot turns out consistently great American fare in a cozy, homey environment. Plus, they serve up the best mojitos in town, bar none. Ramblas (557 Valencia St; 415-565-0207; $4-19), sister restaurant to SoMa's Thirsty Bear, offers very good Catalan tapas in a town where tapas have become run-of-the-mill.
Osha Thai Noodles ( 819 Valencia St; 415-826-7738; $12-19) hip, ultra-modern interior draws a young and equally hip, modern clientele. The food shines here. It's a bit more than you'd pay for comparable food in grittier neighborhoods like the Tenderloin, but it's still darn cheap. Dosa (995 Valencia St; 415-642-3672; $10-17) presents superb, creative Southern Indian food in a trendy, high-ceilinged space along Valencia's Restaurant Row.
Serrano's (3274 21st St; 415-695-1615; pizzas $9-13 plus toppings) is one of the best pizza joints in town. Order by the slice, and they'll make an entire slice from scratch -- not cut from a whole pie, but rather a custom-stretched triangular mini-pizza. For pizza with a more gourmet twist, shuffle up to the gritty north Mission to Pauline's Pizza (260 Valencia St; 415-552-2050; $13-25), not far from the Gay and Lesbian Center. The neighborhood's a bit rough, but worth it for Pauline?s creative and always delicious pizza.
No visit to the Mission is complete without that most San Franciscan of treats, and no, we do not mean Rice-a-Roni. Mission-style burritos are legendary, and everyone -- everyone -- has a strong opinion about where the best are to be found. Big, bustling Pancho Villa Taqueria (3071 16th St; 415-864-8840; $5-10) is line-out-the-door popular, which is why we go around the corner to their sister taqueria, El Toro (598 Valencia St; 415-431-3351; $5-10) for the exact same food with less of the frenzy. To keep the line moving, make sure you know what kind of burrito you want, and how you want it -- what kind of meat, beans, and salsa -- and in mere seconds you'll have a mighty roll of goodness. Another favorite rousing great passions is La Taqueria (2880 Mission; 415-285-7117; $4-$8), especially well known for its rice-less burritos and carnitas.
Anchoring the so-called "Gourmet Row" of 18th Street, the minimalist atmosphere at Delfina (3621 18th St; 415-552-4055; $8-28) hosts the complex flavors of the restaurant's fresh and unpretentious food. No reservations? No way! Book early: this is one of the best Italian restaurants in town, with a menu in touch with contemporary trends in Italian cuisine. The owners also operate an outstanding casual pizza restaurant, Pizzeria Delfina (3611 18th St; 415-437-6800; $10-17) next door. Try the yummy clam pie! On the downside, the pizzeria?s dining room can be noisy and service can feel slightly rushed.
Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six
San Francisco: Introduction
San Francisco: Where to Stay
San Francisco: Where to Play/Meet
San Francisco: What to See & Do
San Francisco: Where to Shop
San Francisco: Resources