San Francisco

Food and drink recommendations in San Francisco

San Francisco is a culinary paradise with a vibrant and diverse dining scene. From the trendiest brunch spots to iconic American diners, this vibrant city has it all. Discover our food and drink recommendations in San Francisco, showcasing the must-visit places for first timers and the hidden gems that even lifelong residents will find irresistible!

Avotoasty

Avotoasty

If you know us a little from previous trips, you know we love trendy brunch spots! We value a good start to the day and are always on the lookout for hip spots. Avotoasty is such a spot. This lovely avocado toast bar offers avocado toasts (what else?), açai bowls, coffee and mimosas. Sounds like heaven to us! Especially to Thysia, who loves avocado and prefers to start her day with a delicious avocado toast.

We ordered the Veggie Toasty and Prosciutto Toasty with a hard-boiled egg, together with two mimosas. First of all: what a presentation! The toasts were almost too pretty to eat. Eventually we did take a bite (after taking countless photos, of course), and it was delicious! And best of all, it’s also healthy. Win-win! They allow you to personalize your own toast, like choosing your own bread, adding prosciutto and/or eggs,… So make sure to be creative!

If we lived in San Francisco, we would undoubtedly have weekly brunch at Avotoasty. Beautiful interior, healthy and delicious food and tasty mimosas, that’s all we need!

Where: 1796 Union St

Bob’s Donuts

Bob's Donuts

Since we did not yet have a car in San Francisco, we did a lot on foot (read: at least 20 000 steps a day). We are very happy about this, otherwise we would never have stumbled upon Bob’s Donuts! This small bakery specializes in donuts and pastries. Don’t expect anything trendy, but they offer some delicious and affordable sweets. The interior is just that, a small bakery, but the food is amazing!

We tried the square glazed donut and apple fritter, both were delicious! They can be a little “oily” since they were deep fried, so make sure to grab some napkins! And we can say that they fill your stomach as well. Especially the apple fritter, it took us two hours to eat it all. Definitely worth it though! A perfect combination of sugar, cinnamon, and apple. 😋

Check the locations here.

Dim Sum Corner

Food and drink recommendations in San Francisco: Dim Sum Corner

If you’re looking for the tastiest dumplings in Chinatown, you must visit Dim Sum Corner. Here you’ll find some authentic dishes such as bao, dumplings and noodles. And all at affordable prices!

We ordered several sharing dishes: veggie spring rolls, chicken dumplings, black truffle dumplings, BBQ pork bao and vegetarian bao. Can you tell we were hungry? Everything was so flavorful and freshly prepared! Our favorites were definitely the spring rolls, vegetarian bao and the chicken dumplings. The staff brought our food within a couple of minutes, too. It’s one of the best meals we’ve had in San Francisco.

At first glance, the restaurant seems rather simple, both in terms of interior and presentation. However, from the first bite you realize that the food is excellent! We can’t wait to come back to try the rest of the menu. 😍

Where: 601 Grant Ave

Matcha Cafe Maiko

Matcha Cafe Maiko

After our lunch at Dim Sum Corner, we stopped at Matcha Cafe Maiko for something sweet. It is just a 2 minute walk away, all in Chinatown!

We tried their homemade matcha & vanilla soft serve. Now we must admit that we had never tasted matcha until that moment. We really didn’t know what it tasted like or what to expect. 😳 The taste definitely surprised us at first. We expected the flavor of the ice cream to be sweeter since it was combined with vanilla. The vanilla ice cream provided the sweet touch we were hoping for, allowing us to discover matcha in an accessible way!

In addition to soft serve, Matcha Cafe Maiko also offers shaved ice, tea and coffee. Definitely worth a stop if you find yourself in Chinatown! And if a scone full of matcha isn’t your thing, go for a half-half like we did!

Check the locations here.

Li Po Cocktail Lounge

Li Po Cocktail Lounge

Another hot spot in Chinatown is Li Po Cocktail Lounge, known for its Chinese Mai Tais. You can recognize Li Po by its neon sign and cave-like entrance. So cool! What stood out was the remarkable setting. There is a bar, some booths and a lot of Chinese details like lanterns and lights. Anything but a modern bar, but with lots of charm! Some might say this is a dive bar. 😳

We each ordered a Mai Tai here, and can already tell that it was not at all what we expected. In most cocktail bars, cocktails do not contain that much alcohol. At Li Po, we can tell you that their Mai Tais contain a lot of booze! After one cocktail each, the alcohol was already rising to our heads. 😂 This is not your usual cocktailbar where they put effort in the presentation of the drink, but more in the amount of alcohol your drink contains! 😳 If you’re looking for unique, strong cocktails in a remarkable setting, make sure to stop at Li Po! And the prices are great, too! € 11/$12 for a Mai Tai (tip not included).

Fun fact: did you know they trademarked their secret “Chinese Mai Tai” recipe?

Where: 916 Grant Ave

Mel’s Drive-In

Food and drink recommendations in San Francisco: Mel's Drive-In

Since we are both big movie and series lovers, we have seen countless typical American diners pass by on TV. We couldn’t wait to experience this in real life! Places where they refill your coffee or soda without asking, comfort food that’s brought to you in a heartbeat,… We’re all for it! It probably won’t surprise you that we walked into a diner during our first days of our road trip. In San Francisco, we found Mel’s Drive-In, an iconic American diner. Talk about a unique experience! It felt like we were part of a series. From the typical bar and jukebox to the refilling of coffee, everything was just like we imagined it would be. 🤩

Let’s move on to the food, then. Mel’s Drive-In has an extensive menu full of comfort food. From burgers and sandwiches to salad and soup, guaranteed you’ll find something to your liking. We started with a variety platter (onion rings, chicken tenders and mozzarella sticks). Agreed, the presentation was pretty basic. But the taste was spot on!

After that, Thysia had the grilled cheese combination and Kelvin had the famous Melburger. The burger was so juicy! The grilled cheese came with a bowl of tomato soup, this was such an amazing combination. This is something typically American, we saw this several times during our road trip. In Belgium, grilled cheese is served with a salad, ketchup and mayonnaise. In America, you get soup and fries. 😂 You won’t hear us complain though! 😋

The atmosphere, food, and free refills is what made this a perfect experience for us. We were so happy to finally be able to cross of “visiting a diner” of our bucket list! This wasn’t the only one we visited during our 5 weeks in the US, make sure to read our US road trip itinerary to discover another amazing diner in the US. 😍

Check the locations here.

Leo’s Oyster Bar

Food and drink recommendations in San Francisco: Leo's Oyster Bar

Since it was Kelvin’s birthday when we were in San Francisco, Thysia booked a restaurant to celebrate his birthday. After a lot of research, she ended up at Leo’s Oyster Bar. This gorgeous seafood restaurant is located in the heart of the Financial District and is such a gem! It’s also just a few blocks away from Chinatown, where you can get some dessert at Matcha Cafe Maiko afterwards. 😉

First things first, the interior. 😍 We both agree that Leo’s Oyster Bar is a gorgeous and Instagrammable restaurant, maybe the most beautiful restaurant we’ve ever visited. The stunning wallpaper, the plants and candles,… So romantic and intimate! The perfect setting to celebrate Kelvin’s birthday.

We started with some cocktails and the spicy salmon bites. Both the cocktails and bites were incredible! We really loved that we didn’t have to tell the waitress we wanted to take things slow. The cocktails came first, closely followed by the salmon bites. Just as it should when you’re having a romantic dinner! As a main course, Kelvin had the lobster roll and Thysia had the scallops. These were some wonderful dishes! It was the first lobster roll we had during our time in the US (not our last), but it set the tone right! The scallops were wonderful, too. They came with a butternut squash and zucchini. Definitely a first for us and so good!

Leo’s Oyster Bar is undoubtedly in our top 3 best restaurants of our road trip, and that says a lot. It is the perfect place if you have something to celebrate or for a romantic dinner date!

Curious to find out which other restaurants made it to our top 3? Make sure to read our Q&A on our US road trip!

Where: 568 Sacramento St

Smuggler’s Cove

Food and drink recommendations in San Francisco: Smuggler's Cove

Of course, a speakeasy cannot be missing from this list. Smuggler’s Cove is one of the coolest speakeasies we’ve ever seen! The whole setting screams “Pirates of the Caribbean” and we’re all for it. Expect ultimate pirate vibes with anchors, fish netting, and well, pirates. 😂

But what was the highlight for us, or at least for Kelvin, was the wide selection of rum. Kelvin is a big rum lover and it just happens that Smuggler’s Cove has more than 550 rums available! We just knew we HAD to come here. They have multiple areas, the one downstairs is definitely our favorite! Just a better, nicer and more intimate atmosphere overall.

The cocktail menu is very extensive, making it difficult to choose. To make it a little easier for you, we recommend choosing one of the Smuggler’s Cove Originals, thank us later. 😉 Or you can ask the bartender, we’re sure they’ll make you a cocktail you won’t forget!

Where: 650 Gough St

Ferry Building

Ferry Building

Besides speakeasies, we also love food markets. When we strolled through the Embarcadero, we stumbled upon the Ferry Building. It is a vibrant marketplace with different stalls of local and artisanal food. You can buy everything here, from cheese and honey to sandwiches and empanadas.

We tried the truffle grilled cheese from The Epicurean Trader and the pastrami sandwich from A16. Both were so good! We regretted not tasting some empanadas, they smelled and looked delicious. Since seats are scarcely available, Thysia secured 2 places somewhere in the back. In the meantime, Kelvin ordered food at both stalls, and grabbed some drinks in between pickups. That way we could sit together, and still have all the food we wanted without having to wait too long! We recommend you do the same, or you can just walk and eat at the same time.

Whether you’re a local seeking the finest ingredients for your next home-cooked meal or a visitor eager to immerse yourself in San Francisco’s vibrant food culture, a visit to the Ferry Building is a culinary experience that cannot be missed! If we were living in San Francisco, we’d come here every week just to get some new produce to cook with! So lovely.

Where: 1 Ferry Building

In-N-Out Burger

In-N-Out Burger

In-N-Out Burger already popped up numerous times on our Instagram feed before our road trip. With conflicting opinions ranging from America’s finest fast food chain to mediocre burgers, we couldn’t help but feel intrigued about which side we would lean towards.

Determined to settle the debate, we couldn’t resist trying out In-N-Out Burger on our first night. 😂 Luckily for us, there was a venue just 2 minutes away from our hotel! Our order consisted of the Double-Double, grilled cheese, and a side of crispy french fries. Although In-N-Out Burger’s menu may appear modest at first glance, they also offer a “not so secret menu” that opens up a world of possibilities. We highly recommend trying the Animal Style fries, generously topped with cheese, spread, and grilled onions. For the ultimate burger experience, don’t hesitate to order your burger Animal Style as well.

Beyond the incredible taste, what sets this chain apart is its affordability. While other fast food establishments like Burger King can easily exceed € 20, at In-N-Out Burger, we never paid more than that! We’re definitely on team ‘America’s finest fast food chain’. 🤩 Animal Style all the way, baby!

Check the locations here.

These were our food and drink recommendations in San Francisco. Now that you’ve discovered all the hot spots, it’s time to discover the best things to do in San Francisco! Get ready to walk a lot, while spotting iconic landmarks like the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge and cable cars.

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