The Most Unique Dining Experiences in San Francisco
San Fransisco is a city that's always prided itself on being unusual. One of the best ways to truly see the city is to eat your way through it. Here are just some of San Francisco's most unique dining experiences.
For Unique Menus
AL's Place (1499 Valencia St.)
Not every restaurant can boast that its produce comes exclusively from a single supplier. That's just one thing that distinguishes AL's Place from the rest of the pack. There's also the fact that they use "every part of everything," offer family style service for a flat fee, and make some of the most unbelievable French fries you've ever tasted. Having been named Bon Appetit's Restaurant of the Year in 2015 doesn't hurt, either.
Foreign Cinema has made the list of San Fransisco's top 100 restaurants for a whopping 17 years in a row. Captained by chefs Gayle Pirie and John Clark, Foreign Cinema offers an exquisite menu, oysters on the half shell, and retro, glamorous decor. Don't miss the Hamachi sashimi, warm rice cake, yuzu ponzu, avocado, serrano chilies, watermelon radish, and togarashi.
In Situ (151 Third St.)
Did you know there's a place in San Francisco where you can enjoy dishes prepared by different chefs from all over the world? Chef Corey Lee curates a menu inspired by his talented peers in the world of food at In Situ. It seems only appropriate that this guided culinary experience across many styles and techniques be housed at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA).
Kennedy's Irish Pub & Indian Curry House Restaurant (1040 Columbus Ave.)
Yes, you read that correctly. The gang at Kennedy's is so good at what they do, it's regarded as one of the city's best pubs as well as the place to go for some of the city's best Indian food. There's nothing quite like enjoying chicken tikka masala while shooting pool, or pairing your Guiness with lamb vindaloo.
Where do you go if you want BBQ, pizza, crab sandwiches, and hoppy microbrews all at once? You got to Off the Grid, wherever they may be. This collection of food trucks and pop-up vendors has standing engagements around San Francisco, depending on the season. In warmer, drier months, you can find them every Sunday on the Main Lawn of the Presidio for a truly gut-busting, choose-your-own-adventure brunch.
State Bird Provisions (1529 Fillmore St.)
Champions of the farm-to-table ethos, Bay Area natives Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski were determined to showcase local flavors in their food at State Bird Provisions. The diversity of their menu (which can change nightly) celebrates and mirrors the diversity of San Francisco. Where else will you find jerk octopus, cheddar pancakes, and passion fruit pudding cake under one roof?
Straw is known for its bizarre (and delicious) carnival-inspired comfort food. Case in point? The Ringmaster Donut Burger, which slaps a thick, juicy burger patty between two glazed donuts. If that won't satisfy your sweet and salty tooth, try the Fried Chicken and Waffle Monte Cristo or grab a plate of funnel cake!
Sushirrito (475 Sansome St.)
San Fransisco is one of the first places to serve up the sushi burrito, and you can't afford to miss it on a food tour of the city. Featuring delicious, sushi-grade fish, pickled veggies, perfect sticky rice, various sauces, and more, the Sushirrito is a weird, wonderful, delicious treat that's wrapped for walking.
Zante Pizza (3489 Mission St.)
What happens when Indian cuisine meets an Italian staple? Enter Zante Pizza. This bold eatery features one of the city's cross-cultural culinary masterpieces: sweet, spicy pizza baked on fresh, house-made naan bread.
For Unique Surroundings
Berber (1516 Broadway)
Come for the North African cuisine; stay for the dancers and aerial performers! Berber, located in picturesque Russian Hill, will stimulate all your senses with its unpredictable slate of live entertainment.
The Cliff House offers one thing in San Fransisco that no one else does: stunning cliffside views of the ocean, without a massive price tag. More than 150 years old, the Cliff House serves up a variety of moderately-priced fare. It's best-known for its beer, oysters, and fish and chips. Take your meal outside to soak up the salt breeze and the views.
Sitting in the heart of Union Square, Farallon is a truly unique seafood restaurant that's known for its sea-inspired decor. Go for the jellyfish chandeliers and octopus stools, and stay for the miso-glazed sablefish. Once you're finished with your dinner, you can kick back in the Jellyfish Lounge or the Jelly Bar.
Lazy Bear (3416 19th St.)
In a city where chefs are likened to rock stars, Lazy Bear sells tickets to their dinner, much like a concert. Meals are served communally, and guests don’t know what they’ll be eating until they arrive. The chefs describe each dish to the customers. It’s like a dinner party, but with new friends and globally recognized talent in the kitchen.
Opaque (689 McAllister St.)
Think dining in the dark wouldn't be any fun? Try visiting Opaque. An establishment that offers the experience of eating a full-course meal in complete darkness, Opaque makes diners focus on the more subtle elements of their meals, like texture and flavor changes.
Yes, it's true. SFO has some of the greatest airport dining in the world, primarily because restaurant space has been awarded to the best Bay Area restauranteurs and not national chains. Whether it be 1300 on Fillmore or Mustards Grill, you can get a first (or last) taste of the Bay Area within minutes of stepping off (or on) your flight.
The oldest restaurant in California is an only-in-San-Francisco experience. Dining at Tadich Grill, you'll hear the rumble of the cable car right outside, be served by some of the most experienced waitstaff in the whole city, and even feel like a local celebrity if you dine in one of their classic, private booths.
The Tonga Room is a fun, Tiki-themed bar and restaurant inside the historic Fairmont Hotel. The venue features a 75-foot pool directly in the center, which is filled regularly by indoor tropical storms. If that wasn't enough, there's a live band that floats in the middle of the pool, playing on a small island.
Indoor mini-golf is unique in itself; but an indoor mini-golf with its own restaurant? Upstairs from the 14-hole course, inspired by San Francisco's most iconic sites and neighborhoods, you can dine on anything from a fried chicken sandwich to vegan crepes. Even better: you can take one of their terrific cocktails on the course with you.
For Unique Staff
AsiaSF is a popular destination for both dinner and dancing. A multi-level establishment, the upstairs level offers dining and entertainment. Dancers, who are also servers, perform on and off the bar between taking orders. Once you're done eating, you can head downstairs to the establishment's nightclub, which features a house DJ and visiting acts.
Atelier Crenn (3127 Fillmore St.)
Sure, the creations from the kitchen are in a class by themselves, but what makes Atelier Crenn so special is the woman behind it. Chef Dominique Crenn is now the most honored woman chef in the United States, having recently earned her third Michelin star.
Cala (149 Fell St.)
This isn't your typical Mexican restaurant. Think tacos and tostadas, but elevated. You're sure to have a seafood-centric feast here. Part of what makes Cala so unique is its talent. The in-demand eatery was created and is still run by chef Gabriela Camara from Mexico City.
Want a truly futuristic dining experience? Try a burger at Creator, where each delicious dish is made by robots. A marvel of engineering, Creator's main machine is like taking Henry Ford's assembly line to a neighborhood barbecue. It has to be seen—and tasted—to be believed.