The Best Places to Eat in San Francisco in 2019

Abby Tegnelia | July 8, 2019 | Food & Drink Feature Story Restaurants Best of the Bay

Soul Food: Hard Knox Café
Comfort food at its most scrumptious, Hard Knox (in the Richmond district, with a second location on Third Street) is where you head when nothing will satisfy but a perfect plate of crispy fried chicken. No one does this finger-licking treat quite like Hard Knox, which serves it up with corn muffins and Southern sides such as collard greens and black-eyed peas. Options include spicy (go for it); smothered in gravy and baked with onions, bell peppers and garlic; or with golden Belgian waffles. Not in a poultry mood? Other highlights include barbecue spareribs; oxtails; fried catfish; and shrimp, chicken and sausage Jambalaya pasta. Mon.-Sat., 11am-9pm; Sun., 11am-5pm, 2526 Third St., 415.648.3770; Mon.-Thu. & Sun., 11am-9pm; Fri.-Sat., 11am-10pm 2448 Clement St., 415.752.3770

Overall Experience: Angler
Since it opened with great fanfare (and monthslong wait times for a reservation) last fall on the Embarcadero, Joshua Skenes’ foodie-luring Angler has been the toast of the endearingly hard-to-impress San Francisco food scene. Here, Angler Caviar is served with parkerhouse rolls brushed with wild boar fat and cultured butter from Petaluma cows, and popular dishes include antelope tartare with breadcrumbs crisped in antelope fat. The star of the show, when it’s available, is the sustainably sourced seafood—think creamy purple sea urchin in the shell and whole petrale sole filleted tableside. With sweeping Bay views, a hunting lodgeworthy collection of taxidermy, and impressive wine and beverage programs, this is definitely an evening to remember. Lunch, Thu.- Sat., 11:30am-2pm; dinner, Sun.-Thu., 5-10pm; Fri.-Sat., 5-11pm, 132 The Embarcadero, 415.872.9442

Adventure: Cockscomb
Taking the descriptor “bold flavors” to new heights, SoMa’s Cockscomb (under the helm of Chris Cosentino) doesn’t hold back from incorporating underused offal in his famously primal carnivorecentric dishes. One permanent showstopper: the famous dish that involves red Fresno chile used with a half-pig head order and chicharrones placed on top. Daily specials, which are suppers for tables of four to six guests to share, sometimes boast the most creative dishes—Leg of Beast beef shank anyone?—or original takes on classics such as surf and turf, which might be accented with chile fermented black bean sauce. Throw in a roasted lamb heart, or beef heart tartare, and you’ve got yourself a hearty meat lover’s dream. Mon.-Fri., 11:30am-1:30pm & 5-10:30pm; Sat., 5-10:30pm, 564 fourth St., 415.974.0700

Farm-To-Table: SingleThread
For the quintessential farm-to-table adventure, set your hungry sights on Healdsburg’s SingleThread, which was awarded three Michelin stars in 2019. Pro tip: The full 360-degree night to remember wouldn’t be complete without nabbing one of the five wine country-chic rooms at the inn. Kick off the 11-course tasting menu by relaxing with bubbly and small bites on the rooftop garden, weather permitting. When you can tear yourself away from the stunning Sonoma views, head downstairs for the sit-down meal, which has vegetarian, pescatarian and omnivore options. Guests are encouraged to have a conversation with staff to further tailor the menu to their dietary needs and preferences. The menu changes daily (drool over the freshest sunchokes, abalone, cod—oh, my), much of it from SingleThread’s 5-acre Russian River farm. Then try to sleep it off—an elaborate breakfast starring farm-fresh eggs awaits. Dinner, starts 5:30pm, 131 North St., Healdsburg, 707.723.4646

Vegetarian: Greens Restaurant
This longtime landmark vegetarian restaurant in Fort Mason Center (spectacular views included) has been a mecca for greens-loving foodies since 1979. Using an embarrassment of riches of local organic produce, including from its own Green Gulch Farm in Marin County, the menu is packed with delectable dishes, most of which can be altered for vegans as well. Standouts include an earthy, creamy Meyer lemon fettuccine (vegans can opt for vegan pasta) with fresh veggies. The airy space lends itself to cocktails and a long, lingering meal—kick it off with the Chantenay carrot hummus with za’atar oil or vegan chili for lunch. Lunch, Tue.-Fri., 11:30am-2:30pm; dinner, Mon.-Thu., 5:30-9pm; Fri.-Sun., 5-9pm; brunch, Sat.-Sun., 10:30am-2:30pm; 2 Marina Blvd., Fort Mason Center, Building A, 415.771.6222

Splurge Burger: Epic Steak
Epic Steak has pulled out all the stops for its bacon-cheddar steakhouse burger (available on brunch and lunch menus)—which is juicy, classic yet unique beef perfection. The thick house-ground 80% lean patty is topped with black pig, double-smoked bacon from Vande Rose Farms and a slice of English white cheddar. The whole affair is served on golden challah buns baked twice daily in-house, with a side of Epic’s proprietary burger Sauce. Every juicy burger needs some sidepiece crunch; here, feast on french fries and house-brined tumeric bread-and-butter pickles. Tuck a napkin into your shirt, and dig in while taking in the Bay views from the Embarcadero Waterfront. Lunch, Mon.-Fri., 11:30am-2:30pm; Dinner, Sun.-Thu., 5-9:30pm; Fri.-Sat., 5-10pm; Brunch, Sat.-Sun., 11am-2:30pm, 369 The Embarcadero, 415.369.9955

Ice Cream: Bi-Rite Creamery
When Bi-Rite Creamery opened on 18th Street in 2006, it pioneered the use of local, organic dairy in its now-famous signature flavors of homemade ice creams. The crowd favorite is absolutely salted caramel, which pits the creamy goodness of the ice cream with bitter and salty notes, but the choices are endless. Go for honey lavender (a process of steeping organic dried lavender and adding Bay Area Bee honey), TCHO chocolate (rich, chocolate fudgy ice cream made with TCHO cocoa powder), Ricanelas (cinnamon ice cream with snickerdoodle crunch), or black sesame (nutty and salty ice cream with Japanese black sesame). And don’t underestimate Bi-Rite’s vanilla—it’s made with organic Madagascar vanilla beans for a velvety toasted marshmallow finish. Daily, 11am-10pm, 3692 18th St., 415-626-5600; Daily, 8am-9pm, 550 Divisadero St., 415.551.7900

Boba Milk Tea: Boba Guys
The bubble tea pop-up-that-could grew before our very eyes into a socially conscience housemade-syrups and tapioca-pearl-producing boba leader with 14 locations across the Bay Area, L.A. and lower Manhattan. Everything with these guys is 100% natural, from the creative ingredients to the socially aware ethos. Along those lines, a limited seasonal drink for spring and summer called Korean banana milk, with a story of bridging cultures, recently did gangbusters. There’s also the popular strawberry matcha latte, a layered concoction of organic A recent Global Bubble Tea Market study concluded that over the next five years, the Bubble Tea market will register a 7.9% compound annual growth rate in terms of revenue; the global market size is expected to reach $8.46 billion by 2024, up from $5.37 billion in 2019. premium matcha (on top) and strawberry puree (at the base), and the double shot of espresso-topped dirty horchata. The strawberry matcha latte, the most popular drink on the menu, was invented by Boba Guys in 2013. It is now a staple across the industry. You can also choose your own adventure from a coterie of milks, teas, flavors and sweetness levels. Six San Francisco locations, 415.967.2622

Korean Fried Chicken: Sunday Bird
Deuki Hong’s perma pop-up fried chicken joint serves up an impressive array of inventive (and Instagrammable) mouthwatering Korean dishes, all from behind the Fillmore Street location of bubble tea hot spot Boba Guys. Crunchy, crowd-pleasing Sunday wings are expertly fried and topped with scallions and sesame; Sunday Birdies popcorn chicken bites make one heck of a snack; and the fried chicken Sando is bao-bun perfection. Sinful sides include Sunday fries with traditional poutine, and fried rice cakes. New additions include garlic noodles and tamago sando. Tue.-Thu., 11am - 9pm; Fri.-Sat., noon-10pm; Sun., noon-6pm, 1522 Fillmore St., 415.967.2622

It Ingredient: Matcha
There’s no doubt about it —matcha (the bright green tea leaf powder that is packed with caffeine without causing jitters) is having one sweet moment in the spotlight. For a sinful escape, dig into the chocolate matcha lava cake served with matcha ice cream (all matcha here is organic and sourced from Uji, Japan) at U Dessert Story in the Castro; or the crepe cake, with a whopping 20 layers of alternating matcha cream and crepe. Thirsty? For starters, there’s a matcha float, yuzu matcha spritzer, matcha latte and ceremonial matcha. In the Mission, head straight to Stonemill Matcha for its matcha cream pie, a flaky crust filled with matcha white chocolate cream and topped with orange zest whipped cream; matcha white chocolate chip cookies; matcha cream puff choux; or opt for the refreshing sparkling matcha with mint and lime. Need to cool off this summer? Japantown’s Matcha Café Maiko has you covered, with all sorts of matcha soft-serve (we recommend matcha vanilla swirl and matcha hojicha, meaning, roasted green tea, swirl) and traditional Japanese toppings such as mochi balls and matcha chiffon cake. U Dessert Story, Mon.-Thu., 1-10pm; Fri.-Sun., noon-10pm, 3489 16th St., 415.796.3633, Stonemill Matcha, daily, 9am-6pm, 561 Valencia St., 415.796.3876, Matcha Café Maiko, Sun. & Tue.-Thu., 12:30-8:30pm; Fri.-Sat., 12:30-9:30pm, 1581 Webster St., #175, 415.757.0919

Originally published in the July issue of San Francisco

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Photography by: Photos by Bonjwing Lee; Courtesy of Greens; Boba Guys; Eric Wolfinger; Courtesy of Stonemill Matcha, U Dessert Story and Matcha Café Maiko