When we host Bay Area visitors, we occasionally get what can initally seem like a simple request.
For example, one time a friend visiting from Seattle asked to dine out at a very “San Francisco” restaurant. He had no preference about the style of food, price range or neighborhood.
But to truly pick the most “San Francisco” restaurant, with no other parameters, is not an easy task. Does he want somewhere historic with classic old-school San Francisco vibes? Would he prefer a hard-to-get-into, farm-to-table restaurant filled with flannel shirts? Or perhaps, instead, we should go for something very unique and zany, with that weird “Only in SF” vibe.
This inspired the SFGATE staff to determine what establishments we think are worthy of being called “the most San Francisco.”
This is not necessarily about the places that are extremely trendy, tourist traps or overhyped. It’s about finding a mix of restaurants with the essence of San Francisco that are cutting-edge, iconic and popular among locals.
The result of our research (which mostly involved polling our colleagues, looking at various SF restaurant rankings on the Internet and re-visiting Chronicle archives) is a series of stories breaking down the most “San Francisco” restaurants into three categories.
First, there are the true classics. These are the San Francisco establishments long-known for their greasy fare or classic martinis. Some of these places have been around for more than 100 years and are instant portals to the city’s past. Others have been reincarnated with a nod to the future, but still hold on to a part of San Francisco’s fascinating history.
You can see our selection of the “true classics” in the above slideshow. We included tips on what to order as well as fun historical tidbits about many of the establishments, such as the one Janis Joplin lived near or the horrific fate of the original owner of John’s Grill.