San Francisco is a food-lover’s bazaar. While raising her family here, my mother, a newcomer and tour guide herself, ensured that I stayed familiar with the traditional travel-circuit staples. These were, in no particular order: steamed dungeness crab from Fisherman’s Wharf; clam chowder, served strictly in Boudin sourdough bread bowls; and the finest tacos this side of Mexico, from La Taqueria in the Mission.
But the City, as I learned, famously flouts convention. The food scene is a kaleidoscope of fine-dining experiments, California fusion cuisine, high-end pizzerias, in-house coffee roasteries, bare-bones dumpling houses, and much, much more. It can all seem very disorienting—that’s why I recommend starting with the basics, and following your nose to neighborhoods of interest rather than particular dishes or restaurants. Here’s how to do it in three food-filled days.
No matter the season, fog and chills often roll in on a dime—always carry a jacket, and something warmer during cooler months.
If you only have time for one thing, make it visiting North Beach and Chinatown, two neighboring old-school foodie districts.
From there, it’s a pleasant walk past the tourist scene to North Beach and Chinatown, two of San Francisco’s oldest foodie enclaves. Spend the rest of the day hopping between the eateries—I suggest visiting the Hang Ah Tea Room for dim sum, or the no-frills Liguria Bakery for divine focaccia. Pro tip: Bring cash.
Your second day is for venturing farther afield. It’s good foodie practice to forage the Mission, a historically Latino neighborhood, for “Mission-style” burritos and some of the city’s most progressive restaurants.
After lunch, follow Mission Street back towards SoMa (South of Market), a former warehouse district turned tech hub, for an afternoon craft beer and microbrewery crawl.
If you’re still standing, dinner’s a stone’s throw away at upscale restaurants along the Embarcadero waterfront. The art deco throwback Boulevard and modern Vietnamese spot The Slanted Door are two local favorites.
On your final day, head to the Richmond district, where you’ll find Russian bakeries, Chinese restaurants, produce markets, and one of the most overlooked multicultural food scenes in California.
Alternatively, world-class wine tasting awaits in Napa and Sonoma, Tuscan-like counties north of San Francisco. Book a wine-tasting tour with lunch for a care-free day that negates the need for a sober driver.