The Required: San Francisco

The Required: San Francisco

A definitive guide to San Francisco's tried and trues, as chosen by over 5000+ of the nation's top chefs, sommeliers, bartenders, & other food and beverage pros.

December 27, 2018
The Required: San Francisco

The Required: San Francisco

A definitive guide to San Francisco's tried and trues, as chosen by over 5000+ of the nation's top chefs, sommeliers, bartenders, & other food and beverage pros.

December 27, 2018
By Roxanne Webber | Art by Cassandra Landry

There are a lot of "musts" in this world. 

And yes, we'll admit it, this list is absolutely littered with them, but we can promise you this: they weren't appointed by a lone critic, or by write-in votes from well-meaning foodies. Instead, The Required is comprised of the stand-out restaurants that have garnered the all-time most recommendations from chefs, bartenders, sommeliers, and the like. There's no black box of arbitrary editorial committees or user surveys with obtuse criteria fueling this list: just plain, crave-able truth.

Read on to plan your next trip—or just be sure you've checked all the best boxes on your home turf. 

Swan Oyster Depot

If you want to get a little bit of the flavor of classic San Francisco in both vibe and cuisine, Swan Oyster Depot is your lunch counter bet. It is no secret, so be prepared to wait, and ideally, commit to going early (10:30 am is recommended by several chefs), and on a weekday if you can, to minimize line time. Then, go nuts. Eat the local Dungeness crab. Get oysters. Have chowder. Ask for the off-menu "Sicilian Sashimi" and don't waste your time worrying about whether or not it's "really sashimi." If you love seafood and hate fussy hipster stuff, this is a sure bet.

Kin Khao

For some spicy, aromatic, deliciousness, Kin Khao, hidden inside the Parc 55 Hotel, is a strong bet. Sample the chili-coated Kua Kling ribs with a cocktail at the bar, or go through the whole menu from salads to wings to noodles. The vibe is part locals, part hotel guests, and everything in between, with a casual-but-cool ease and enough style to make you feel like you're going out to a special place. 

Kin Khao
Hot Spot
Tenderloin, San Francisco
$$, Reservations, Full Bar, Happy Hour, Thai
25 Recommendations

Zuni Cafe

You'd be hard-pressed to find any Zuni haters around SF, particularly among the city's food and beverage professionals, as many of today's stars trained there in some capacity. It's held down a diagonal corner slice of Market Street since '79, though most people would say it truly became an institution under the much-missed late Judy Rogers, who took over as the chef in '87. It remains as one of the city's most consistent, perfectly simple and seasonal restaurants.

Go if you want to experience what "California Cuisine" is supposed to be like. Get something out of the magical wood oven that makes everything taste good (the famous roast chicken with bread salad is worth the wait, and you can always get it started with your drink order), a beverage, and then do what's in season on the menu. Industry pros also love the Caesar salad, the ricotta gnocchi that melts away, and a dozen oysters.

Zuni Café
Hot Spot
Civic Center, San Francisco
$$$, Happy Hour, Full Bar, Modern, New American
20 Recommendations
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