Bucketlist Travels logo

Travel bucket list idea:

San Francisco’s best food & drink

  • San Francisco, California, United States of America (USA)

Last updated: 28 April, 2024

Thanks to both the ocean and an abundance of farms on its doorstep, San Francisco is big on farm-to-table and sustainable cuisine. Green-leanings aside, culinary talent runs rampant in SF – in fact, the Bay Area is one of the three areas in the US that the Michelin Guide series rates.

A long-standing immigrant community from the East translates to some of the best Asian food outside Asia.

What to try

Cioppino, a seafood stew made with Dungeness crab, that, rumour has it, traces its roots to Fisherman’s Wharf.

Creamy and white clam chowder is a local staple that came with settlers who’d moved West. For a real San Francisco experience, have it served in a carved-out bread bowl from one of the city’s iconic sourdough purveyors, like Boudin. Their flagship bakery is in Fisherman’s Wharf.

The bold and bursting-at-the-seams Mission-style burrito is a San Francisco invention, one loaded with beans, meat, cheese…the works! You’ll find it everywhere in the city’s Mission neighbourhood, where it originated.

Also look out for popular fortune cookies – apparently invented in Golden Gate Park. There’s a fortune cooking factory tucked away in the alleyways of Chinatown where you can watch them being made (and score a big bag to-go!).

The dining scene

With amazing restaurants filling all corners of SF, the question becomes where not to eat.

For delish Asian food, of course head to Chinatown. SF’s Outer Richmond neighbourhood is known for its dim sum eateries.

To try SF’s famous to-die-for ‘Mission’ burritos, look for hole-in-the-wall cafés in the Mission neighbourhood, which many Latin Americans call home.

Food trucks offer some of the city’s tastiest and most inventive dining options (think steamed bao buns and Ukrainian pyrizhky). Look for them in Golden Gate Park and the Presidio’s new Tunnel Tops experience.

Hot restaurants and cool bars populate buzzy districts like SOMA, while North Beach and the gay-beloved Castro are good bets for fun after dark.

Fancy, five-star eateries tuck behind Victorian facades in Nob Hill and Pacific Heights. However, scoring a reservation at a buzzy restaurant can be near impossible. To pull a seat up to a particularly hot table, try going during lunch.

Who to go with: tour operators

5

Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market

  • San Francisco, California, United States of America (USA)

Outdoor food amrket with stalls at the Ferry Buidling Marketplace

Experience

Three days a week, the Ferry Building hosts this, one of San Francisco’s best markets. Every morning to mid-afternoon on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, more than 100 local purveyors set up shop offering top-quality, locally-grown produce.

Good for age: 18+

Buena Vista Cafe

  • San Francisco, California, United States of America (USA)

Irish Coffee drinks being made on the bar counter at the famous Buena Vista cafe where it was invented, near the Powell Hyde cable car line

Experience

Hailed as the U.S. home of Irish coffee. Legend has it that in 1952, the cafe’s then-owner Jack Koeppler challenged a well-known travel writer to recreate a drink he’d had at Ireland’s Shannon Airport, and this local landmark has been serving them up (in an endless line along the bar) ever since.

Good for age: 18+

  • San Francisco, California, United States of America (USA)

Ferry Building is a foodie hub, and the terminal for ferries that travel across the San Francisco Bay and a shopping center

Bucket List Experience

Ferry Building Marketplace

Located in the historic Ferry Building on the Embarcadero at Market, this first-rate foodie foray – a hall of more than 40 different restaurants and food shops – has outlets offering anything from mushrooms grown in Moss Landing (a town two hours south), to cheeses from a local creamery.

The building itself is a late 19th-century landmark that was completely renovated and restored in 2002. It still serves as a transportation centre for ferries to Oakland, Alameda, Sausalito, and Angel Island.

Its views overlooking the bay and out toward the SF-Oakland Bay Bridge are worth going for alone.

Good for age: 18+

Cooking & oysters at Cavallo Point

  • San Francisco, California, United States of America (USA)

Cooking & oysters at Cavallo Point

Experience

The Cavallo Point Lodge, 30 mins across the bay in Sausalito, operates one of the best ‘hotel cooking schools’ in the country. If you can, time your visit for one of their excellent classes, often featuring local recipes and the farm-to-table produce that the city is famous for, or one of the summer ‘Oyster experiences’, featuring local bay oysters. Book well ahead.

Adult price: £100

Good for age: 18+

Duration: 3 hours

When: Select dates

Freq: Selected dates

Cheese School of San Francisco

  • San Francisco, California, United States of America (USA)

Cheese School of San Francisco

Experience

Swing by the Cheese School of San Francisco for a 2-hour themed class (book ahead) in cheese pairing, gourmet souvenirs, or some simple fromage and wine tasting. It’s home to San Francisco’s only cheesemaking creamery.

Adult price: £100

Good for age: 18+

Duration: 2 hours

When: Fridays

Freq: Selected dates

Logistics

Price: Free
Minimum age: 0
Age suitable: 18+
When: All year around
Duration: -

When to do it

San Francisco is an early-to-bed city. Most restaurants open for dinner around 5ish and close up shop between 9 and 10pm.

For late-night eats, head to the Mission neighbourhood, where taquerias and a few artisan bars cater to hungry stomachs at least through midnight.

Who to go with: organised tours

13

Our selection of the best Viator tours of this attraction or activity

  • San Francisco

On our Secret Food Tour: San Francisco, the Mission District, you'll see how immigrants shaped the neighborhood by creating brilliant artwork, beautiful architecture and sharing their fantastic food! Originally home to Irish, German, and Italian immigrants, it is now the epicenter of San Francisco's Latino culture. The Mission District is full of vibrant murals that offer a visual history lesson featuring themes ranging from cultural heritage to social-political statements. We will take a stroll through the neighborhood to get an up-close experience. Our tours are more than just the food. Our local guides connect the dots between history, culture, and cuisine to provide you with a deep understanding of the Mission District's thriving culinary scene!

Price $86

Min age 0

Rating 4.76 / 5 [428 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

Viator Logo
Website >
  • San Francisco

There are two Chinatowns, one that you see from a van or bus, and the one that can only be experienced on foot in the back alleys, food markets, and local restaurants. One Chinatown, the one from the bus, is interesting. Our Chinatown will surprise you with new adventures around every corner. In our Chinatown, artisans form Fortune Cookies by hand. In our Chinatown, artisans practice their craft in small alleys using techniques handed down for thousands of years. And in our Chinatown, the authentic cuisine will enliven your senses with new flavors, smells, and aromas. We'll explore exotic and unique Asian produce, herbs, and teas from the very people who know them best. We'll uncover their hidden secrets only intrepid locals know. And you'll be astonished by the new finds in secret alcoves. We'll spend about three hours eating everything from Dim Sum, fortune cookies, teas, and more.

Price $79

Min age 0

Rating 4.87 / 5 [357 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

Viator Logo
Website >
  • San Francisco

Taste your way through San Francisco’s historic Latin neighborhood, the Mission District, a colorful, cultural, trendy area brimming with great local eats. Following your knowledgeable guide on this 5 Star rated 4-course progressive meal, you'll visit four restaurants with each course served at a different restaurant (2 appetizers, 1 entree, 1 dessert). Along the way, you'll hear the stories of chefs and restaurant owners as well as tales of the neighborhood. You have the option to purchase an alcohol pairing at the time of the tour to enjoy three beverage pairings at each savory stop. Be sure to bring your appetite!

Price $115

Min age 12

Rating 4.83 / 5 [181 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

Viator Logo
Website >
  • San Francisco

Go behind the scenes of North Beach’s food scene on this insider food walking tour. Your expert guide will lead you on an easy afternoon walk to popular and hidden spots that only locals know about to enjoy hearty food tastings. Visit 4 restaurants for a four course progressive meal where you'll be seated inside of the restaurants (2 appetizers, 1 entree, 1 dessert) Tastings may include wood-fired pizza or pinsa or arancini or cioppino (a San Francisco invented seafood stew) Eggplant parmesan or California gelato or tiramisu. You'll hear the stories of restaurant owners, learn local tips, and hear stories about this neighborhood’s interesting history, from the Gold Rush to the Prohibition era to today. This small-group tour is limited to 12 people, ensuring a more personalized experience.

Price $115

Min age 21

Rating 4.95 / 5 [158 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

Viator Logo
Website >
  • San Francisco

The historic Ferry Building and Alcatraz are two of San Francisco's most prolific attractions. On this not-to-be missed combo tour, you get to see them both in one day. First, enjoy 90 minutes in the Ferry Building to nibble on some of the city’s finest fare during a guided tour.  Please note that the Farmer's Market is active on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Tours on all other days will spend more time and visits inside the building. After the food tour, walk over to Pier 33 to pick up your tickets and board your ferry to Alcatraz. On Alcatraz Island, the Cellhouse audio tour will captivate you with live recordings from the former prisoners.

Price $174

Min age 0

Rating 4.49 / 5 [151 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

Viator Logo
Website >