10 delicious reasons why you'd rather be in San Francisco

·7-min read

Most people leave their hearts in San Francisco. I left my stomach.

The vibrant Californian city is home to a dynamic food scene, no doubt a product of its diverse ethnic and cultural population.

San Francisco food travel guide restaurants cafes
If you're going to San Francisco, be sure to take an empty stomach.

On a recent visit, I was lucky to be taken to some of the city’s best cafes, restaurants and providores, sampling everything from cheap as chips tacos joint to fancy restaurants.

If you’re headed to one of the USA’s best towns, add the food joints below to your bucket list and prepare to be uncomfortably full but happy.

Mission Chinese Food

2234 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110.

South Korean-American chef Danny Bowien opened the first Mission Chinese Food in San Francisco’s Mission District in 2010. Taking over an old Cantonese restaurant, Bowien began serving unique dishes like kung-pao pastrami and thrice-cooked bacon with rice cakes. He fast developed a reputation for making excellent experimental Chinese food that goes beyond gimmick. He also left the signage intact.

Don't be fooled by the shop front.
Don't be fooled by the shop front.

Today, there are three Mission Chinese Foods, with additional locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Local friends of mine took me to the original my first night in San Francisco and it did not disappoint. If this were a restaurant review it would be five stars from me.

My mission was to eat all the Chinese food.
My mission was to eat all the Chinese food.

Hotel San Francisco

653 Commercial St, San Francisco, CA 94111.

Where do a bunch of Australians go when they land in San Francisco? An Australian-owned bar-restaurant of course. Hotel San Francisco is the brainchild of Aussies Thomas Glenwright, Paul Schulte, and Priscilla Dosiou, who set out to liven up the financial district’s bar scene with a venue focused on cocktails, music and fun. Plus, a menu designed for sharing is tasty and clever, with dishes like confit duck crostini and fries with fancy salt.

We come from a land...
We come from a land...

Thankfully, the owners haven’t leaned in too hard to their Australian heritage. The above ‘Downunder’ sign is one of the only giveaways, along with a boomerang on the wall and the occasional Kylie Minogue song.


1 Ferry Building #35, San Francisco, CA 94111.

Modern American restaurant Boulibar was opened in 2014 by the owners of Boulette’s Larder, a popular breakfast and lunch spot already in the Ferry Building. With a more sophisticated bar-restaurant vibe, Boulibar serves seasonal Meditteranean-inspired food including pizzas, mezze, seafood and salads. Don’t miss the cannoli if it’s on the menu.

Fancy comfort food in a beautiful setting.
Fancy comfort food in a beautiful setting.

Whether you eat here or not, a trip to the Ferry Building is a must. The beautifully restored port terminal is home to a number of specialty shops selling local produce and products including bread, wine, books and chocolate. There’s also an acclaimed farmers market on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Dynamo Donuts + Coffee

2760 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110.

Though Australia’s fancy doughnut hysteria has somewhat waned, Americans are forever gaga for the circular treat. I was taken to Dynamo Donuts + Coffee as part of a food tour of San Francisco’s storied Mission District and I’m still dreaming of deep-fried passionfruit milk chocolate goodness.

I died and went to doughnut heaven...
I died and went to doughnut heaven...

Choose from the classic, year-round favourites or enjoy fun seasonal flavours such as November’s offerings of carrot with cream cheese carrot glaze, sweet potato marshmallow and persimmon. And, for our gut-sensitive readers, there are always plenty of gluten-free options.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Taqueria Vallarta

3033 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110.

San Francisco is known for many things including temperamental weather, a strong LGBTQI community and amazing Mexican food. Whenever a burrito craving hits you, there’s likely to be a Taqueria within a one-mile radius if not closer. It’s what I imagine Heaven is like.

Anyone else hungry now?
San Francisco food tour travel restaurant Mexican tacos

The city’s Mission District, in particular, is famous for its Hispanic restaurants, with a rich history of migration and refuge for Latin American peoples. It’s hard to find bad food in the Mission, but if you need a recommendation, Taqueria Vallarta is an old no-frills taco joint serving fresh, authentic Mexican food for next to nothing. Set your mouth on fire with hot sauce then weigh yourself on the scales provided. Just joking, please don’t do that.

Modern torture device.
Modern torture device.

Dandelion Chocolate

740 Valencia Street, San Francisco.

Do you want to try the best cookie in the whole wide world? Big call, I know. But I’m quietly confident in crowning the oatmeal chocolate chip cookie from Dandelion Chocolate thus. And believe me, I’ve done a lot of research. They do a damn good hot chocolate to wash it down with too.

Best job in the world?
Best job in the world?

With several locations in San Francisco, Dandelion Chocolate is a shop, a cafe, a school and a warehouse all in one. Watch chocolates being made in real-time, learn to temper and bake with it and feast on creative, delicious treats like chocolate yuzu, iced chocolate chai and dulce de leche chocolate bars.

Bi-Rite Creamery

3639 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94103.

Founded by two bakers, Bi-Rite Creamery serves responsible, sustainable ice cream made with locally-sourced ingredients. Their goal is to make people happy with intense, original and perfectly balanced flavours such as Roasted Banana, Honey Lavender and Lemon Ricotta Pancake, and boy, do they achieve it.

I scream, you scream...
I scream, you scream...

On a sunny afternoon in a park right by the 18th Street creamery, I had a religious experience with two scoops of Black Sesame and a Welsh Corgi. Sadly, I didn’t get a photo of the Welsh Corgi from the park, but here is a picture of another Welsh Corgi in case you need help picturing the scene.

A Welsh Corgi, but not THE Welsh Corgi.
A Welsh Corgi dog

Panchita’s Pupuseria

3091 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103.

Before this visit to San Francisco, I had never eaten, nor heard of, pupusas, a Salvadoran fried good filled with joy. This trip changed me. Now, I pledge allegiance to pupusas and pupusas only. If you need more convincing than “fried bread stuffed with meat and/or cheese” I can’t help you.

Pupusas Panchita's Pupusaria Salvadoran Mexican food travel San Francisco
Try saying "Panchita's Pupuseria" three time fast.

If you find yourself hungry in the Mission District, Panchita’s Pupuseria is a popular place serving delicious, authentic Salvadoran food. Pop in for a pupusa or five, I promise you’ll thank me.

Pier Market

If you go to Fisherman’s Wharf and don’t have a chowder, have you really been to Fisherman’s Wharf? I’m pretty sure you have. I’m a vegetarian and I distinctly remember being there.

Whoever invented the bread bowl should be canonised.
Whoever invented the bread bowl should be canonised.

My seafood-eating dining companions at Pier Market, however, assured me that the New England Clam Chowder tasted worthy of its crowning of ‘best on Fisherman’s Wharf’. This lovely, waterside restaurant has been serving high-quality, sustainable seafood since 1983 and remains deeply committed to preserving the ocean and fisheries.

It's hard to beat seafood on a pier.
It's hard to beat seafood on a pier.


I’ve been to the United States several times but until this trip, somewhat regrettably, I’d never been to an IHOP. I’ve also been to paradise, but I’ve never been to me.

ihop food USA American restaurant San Francisco travel
Where all your breakfast dreams come true.

IHOP ( or International House of Pancakes), is the quintessential American pancake house chain, a breakfast institution serving up eggs and coffee 24 hours a day since 1958. Sure, the eggs are kind of rubbery and the coffee on the bitter side, but there are four types of pancake syrup (blueberry, strawberry, butter pecan and old fashioned) so all is forgiven.

An IHOP restaurant in Nashville, Tennessee.
IHOP pancake house International House of Pancakes San Francisco breakfast diner food travel coffee

Unfortunately, access to IHOP’s website appears to be forbidden in Australia so you can’t revel in its glory online, but I’m considering throwing in this whole writer business and opening a franchise here so watch this space.

The writer was a guest of San Francisco Travel Association.

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