One of our favorite parts about San Francisco is the amazing variety of food you can get here. Constantly rated one of the best (if not THE best) food and restaurant city in the nation, you can get an astounding array of international cuisine in San Francisco. But with so many places to choose from, how is a traveler expected to be able to make a decision? Fear not! The guides at SF by Foot are here to help! We have put together a list of the best international food experiences that you can have in San Francisco. So read on, and enjoy whatever you can eat here!
1. Italian Food in North Beach
North Beach is the traditionally Italian neighborhood in San Francisco. And it happens to be this writer's favorite neighborhood in the city (come learn why it's so awesome on our North Beach/Little Italy tour!) The community in this area is fantastic--if you spend a couple of days walking around North Beach, you are guaranteed to see a lot of the same faces, many of whom will be more than willing to strike up a conversation (especially if it's over a glass of Chianti!)
But for a truly exceptional experience, we can't recommend Mona Lisa Restaurant highly enough. When you walk in, you are instantly greeted by the owner Maurizio Florese. Maurizio wants every customer to feel like the restaurant is his home (or even better, his Italian grandmother's home!) And the food is simply to die for (try the pesto gnocchi--you won't be sorry!)
2. Japanese Food All Over the Bay Area
So, we're cheating a little bit here, because this isn't exactly in San Francisco. But if you're willing to make a quick trip across the Bay Bridge into Berkeley, you will be rewarded for it! Chef Sho Kamio created a fantastic restaurant called Iyasare that highlights the amazing things that Japanese chefs are making these days. (What, you thought that sushi was the only thing Japan made?) If you haven't heard, the "new" thing in Japanese cuisine is "hatsumono," a phrase that, loosely translated, means "the first fresh food of the season." Japanese chefs are increasingly focusing on hatsumono cooking, to go along with local produce and ingredients. For you, the person eating the food, this means even better dishes at Japanese restaurants! Also, it means that you can enjoy foods such as wagyu beef, which is the best meat in the entire world!
So if you feel like a quick road trip across the Bay, check out Iyasare for some great, fresh Japanese cuisine, or check out Chef Sho Kamio's new restaurant Zut! on Fourth.
3. Burritos in the Mission District
Every city that sells Mexican food has a restaurant that claims to have the best burrito in the world. And until recently, nobody has been able to say definitively which is truly the best. Enter Nate Silver, a world-renowned statistician. Using a mathematical formula to compare restaurant reviews around the nation, Silver figured out the 64 most highly-rated burrito joints in America. Once he had narrowed down the list to 64 (in honor of college basketball's March Madness), he had the enviable task of sampling a burrito from each one. He then created a bracket, pitting each burrito against other burritos in the bracket. It is notable to mention here that 2 of the top 64 burritos in America are separated by one block in San Francisco's Mission District. It is MORE notable to mention that Silver named La Taqueria the BEST BURRITO IN AMERICA! This was amazing for La Taq (as we call it) but severely disappointing for us locals who suddenly had to deal with massive crowds at La Taq at each mealtime!
However, in this list of international cuisine, you can't go wrong visiting the best burrito in America.
TIP: Mission Burritos are included as one of the samples on the San Francisco Secret Food Tour. If you're looking for help finding the best food in the city, this outing might be of interest!
4. Dim Sum in Chinatown
San Francisco has the oldest, biggest, and most vibrant Chinatown in North America. And if you want to take a walk around the area and learn more, definitely take a look at our Chinatown walking tour, or if you want to check out the area by yourself, go download our Self-guided Chinatown tour!
The food in Chinatown is some of the best Chinese food you'll find anywhere. But our favorite type of Chinese food is the dim sum (basically, meals full of bite-sized portions of food).
There are three types of dim sum that you can get: budget restaurants (no-frills, quick food, generally to-go orders), moderate-priced restaurants (essentially normal restaurants that you could visit on a regular basis without breaking the bank) and high end dim sum (we're talking special occasions here).
Our favorite budget restaurant is called Delicious Dim Sum. And, ok. We totally understand that this is about the cheesiest name for a restaurant ever. BUT! It's also really good food. Located in the heart of Chinatown, this is a very traditional dim sum restaurant. You walk in, place your order at the counter, they quickly make your food, and you walk out with it. It's all to-go, meaning there's no seating in the restaurant. But it is, in fact, delicious dim sum.
For a moderately priced restaurant, we love Lai Hong Lounge. This place, a normal sit-down restaurant, has some great dim sum that you will definitely remember long after you leave San Francisco!
Now, if you're willing to break the bank a bit for the best dim sum you've ever had, we can absolutely recommend Hakkasan. This restaurant is actually a few blocks outside of Chinatown, in the Financial District. This is basically the heart of San Francisco. And let me tell you--this is going to be the best dim sum you have ever had! There is a good reason that this restaurant has so many dollar signs on its reviews: it is fantastic!
5. Korean Barbecue
Ok, full disclaimer: for this one, you're going to have to make a bit of a drive. Unfortunately, most of the great Korean restaurants aren't in the main downtown area with all the other attractions. But we can tell you: if you make the trip out west to the Richmond District, you will be rewarded with some great Korean barbecue!
The main thing we love about KBBQ (as the locals call it) is that you get to cook your own food and season it however you want. So we love visiting these places with a group of friends, because it is an incredibly fun social experience. Everybody can sit around a stove and cook food to whatever temperature they want, and season it however they want.
Restaurants change all the time, but right now, our favorite is Han Il Kwan in the Outer Richmond district. As we said, it's a bit of a hike from the main downtown area, but goodness, it is worth the trip. We would recommend going with about five or six friends so you can take over an entire burner. Then, enjoy the whole night of cooking and eating! And don't forget the Soju!
There are a lot of reasons why San Francisco keeps being named the "best restaurant city in the world." We have an incredible amount of international cuisine, and when you visit this city, you'll discover some of the best food you've ever tasted.
So come out and join us for some great food in all parts of the city!