20 Ways to Eat Like a San Francisco Local

Forget the Rice-A-Roni and crusty sourdough bread bowls and try these San Francisco treats to enjoy the City by the Bay like a local would.

By: Tamara Palmer
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Photo By: Tamara Palmer

Photo By: Tamara Palmer

Photo By: Tamara Palmer

Photo By: Tamara Palmer

Photo By: Tamara Palmer

Photo By: Tamara Palmer

Photo By: Tamara Palmer

Photo By: Tamara Palmer

Photo By: Tamara Palmer

Photo By: Hartsell via Flickr Creative Commons BY 2.0

Photo By: Tamara Palmer

Photo By: Tamara Palmer

Photo By: Kevin McCullough

Photo By: Tamara Palmer

Photo By: Tamara Palmer

Photo By: Tamara Palmer

Photo By: Tamara Palmer

Photo By: skrb via Flickr Creative Commons BY 2.0

Photo By: Tamara Palmer

Photo By: Tamara Palmer

Unwrap a Burrito

Locals are addicted to bulging burritos stuffed with endless ingredients. Splurge on Papalote’s massive Triple Threat burrito, which packs in nearly two pounds of shrimp, chicken and steak  — a perfect share for a pair of ambitious eaters. Smaller appetites can check out the one exceptional exception to the rice inside the burrito standard at La Taqueria

Graze at a Farmers Market

San Francisco is full of farmers markets big and small where locals go to sample and score a wide variety of produce  -- for the kitchen or even a quick bite. The most bountiful of the year-round weekly affairs takes place at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market on Saturdays, but don’t overlook the smaller neighborhood farmer’s markets like the Castro Farmers’ Market

Patronize Old-School Taco Trucks

Stalwart Mexican taco trucks like El Gallo Giro and Tacos San Buena pre-dated the current proliferation of trucks that serve every type of food imaginable. At $2 or less apiece, they also offer one of the last remaining bastions of extreme food value in the area.

Try New School Food Trucks

If you can dream up a meal, it’s probably available on wheels. Off The Grid offers a vast number of weekly truck gatherings with an ever-growing array of international vendors, while converted parking lots like SoMa StrEat Food Park and G Food Truck Lounge provide permanent places for trucks to rotate through.

Seek Ice Cream in All Weather Conditions

San Franciscans are not fair-weather friends to ice cream; we devour both classic and experimental flavors with passion no matter the temperature. A tin roof sundae at Humphry Slocombe or an avocado milkshake at Mitchell’s Ice Cream warms our hearts all year long. 

Bloody Sunday

Let’s face it: San Francisco is a food town and Sunday brunch is not a spectator sport. Expect crowds and long lines. We’ve found that Bluestem Brasserie and Foreign Cinema are solid go-tos. They accept reservations and are generally accommodating to larger groups. 

Top Ramen

San Francisco’s obscure Japanese noodle soup shops were once the speakeasies of the food world, but now one can’t sling a lucky cat without hitting one. Try homeland exports like Men Oh Tokushima Ramen and Yamadaya (which has locations all over California) for a true taste of different styles.

Two for Me

Afternoon tea isn’t just for old ladies anymore. Fancy it up on a Saturday at the Fairmont or take the guys along on a Sunday picnic on the patio for a hearty tea at Charles Chocolates.

Be Animal Free

Vegan restaurants remind us that food can be made without cruelty and still satisfy. Most popular are Asian spots like Golden Era and Cha-Ya, which have achieved cult-like status without using animal products.

Go Off Menu

If you grill it, they will come. Secret items are a fun way to keep locals feeling connected to a restaurant. Some, like the off-menu burger served on Tuesdays at Rosamunde Sausage Grill’s Haight Street location, keep insiders wanting more. 

Dip in a Hot Pot

The best all-you-can-eat action around can be found at the rapidly rising number of hot pot purveyors. Japanese places like Nabe and Shabuway present polite sets of vegetables and thinly sliced raw meat to swish-cook in hot broth, while Chinese spots like i-Pot and Dragon Beaux add dumplings into the mix.

Get Toasted

The once humble slice of toast has been elevated to a meal requiring a knife and fork at joints like The Mill and Outerlands, where breads are baked on site and then covered in decadent smears or served as the base for open faced sandwiches.

Try a Pop-Up Meal

A pop-up meal in a temporary location is a wonderful way for a chef to experiment with new ideas. Visit the Michael Mina Test Kitchen for the latest beta project from the popular restaurateur or consult the Feastly calendar and sample meals made by master chefs or tender novices. 

Room Service

Gone are the days of waiting forever for lousy pizza. Services like Caviar, Seamless and Postmates deliver serious gourmet meals from anywhere in San Francisco to your mouth, typically within the hour. 

Egg Topper

Whether it’s a burger or a bowl of ramen, just about everything is better with an egg. Deviled eggs, a star on bar menus across town, might be at their most heavenly when topped with bacon and fried oysters at Hog & Rocks.

Dim Sum on the Fly

Locals love to nibble on the various bite-sized Chinese dumplings, noodle rolls and buns that make up the dim sum category. Delight in the delicious danger of impulse ordering off a roaming cart at City View or from a checklist at Dim Sum Club

Experience an Exotic Plate

A local in San Francisco has a palate for global cuisine. Travel to exotic destinations without leaving the city limits. Try Laotian and Thai food at Champa Garden; sample Iranian delights at Anar; or sail away to Sri Lanka via 1601 Bar & Kitchen.

Worth the Wait

Waiting in line is a necessary evil at Tartine Bakery, where the queue starts forming daily around 4:30 p.m. to catch a baguette or specialty loaf hot and fresh out of the oven. 

Roll Play With Sushi

Just about everyone in San Francisco eats sushi and its prices vary just as the clientele. Visit Ichi Sushi for a high-end experience at still-affordable prices or break the bank at Kusakabe, where a blowtorch provides endless visual entertainment to accompany the fresh fish.

I Scream

Sunny skies and happy lives breed a love for sweet treats in San Francisco. The granddaddy of all desserts here is the It’s-It, a chocolate covered ice cream sandwich that has been made since 1928.

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