It’s no secret that San Francisco is an incredible food city, with great new restaurants popping up around town almost every day. And while we can’t complain about all the new food rolling in, we’ve got some legendary dishes, like xiao long bao and prime rib, that will straight up change your life. So add these dishes to your culinary bucket list and plan to try them at least once (emphasis on at least).
The 12 Most Iconic SF Dishes You Must Try Before You Die
Roast Chicken And Bread Salad At Zuni CafÉ
This crispy, free-range bird and savory, currant-studded bread salad is the stuff of legends, and with good reason. The recipe has been widely shared, but nothing can touch the original. Plan a romantic date night, request the roast chicken for two, and don’t forget to order a bottle of wine.
1658 Market St.; 415-552-2522 or zunicafe.com
Cioppino At Tadich Grill
In business since 1849, this restaurant has old-school written all over it and is the best place to get San Francisco’s signature seafood stew, brimming with clams, prawns, scallops, bay shrimp, crabmeat, whitefish and mussels.
240 California St.; 415-391-1849 or tadichgrill.com
Xiao Long Bao At Yank Sing
Come for the full dim sum experience (which feels a little like eating in a stadium with 250 of your closest friends) and be sure to get at least one order of these delicate, soup-filled dumplings. Pro tip: Poke a hole in them and let them cool a bit before digging in—or risk third-degree burns in your mouth.
Multiple locations; yanksing.com
Carnitas Burrito At La Taqueria
Many a fight has broken out over who makes the best burrito in town, and San Franciscans are fiercely loyal to their favorite. We say you certainly can’t go wrong with this rice-less wonder that's stuffed with pinto beans, salsa, cheese, sour cream and guacamole.
2889 Mission St.; 415-285-7117
Cellophane Noodles With Crab At The Slanted Door
Tourists come from all over the country to try Charles Phan’s modern Vietnamese creations. And while you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, this dish has a special place in the hearts of locals. Simple, satisfying, delicious.
Ferry Building Marketplace, 1 Ferry Building #3; 415-861-8032 or slanteddoor.com
Clam Chowder In A Bread Bowl At Boudin Bakery
Cheesy? Sure. Classic San Francisco? Absolutely. Even the die-hard local in us is willing to admit that there is something magical about a piping-hot bowl, eaten on the pier at Fisherman’s Wharf on a sunny day, with sea lions barking in the background and seagulls soaring overhead.
Multiple locations; boudinbakery.com
Prime Rib At House Of Prime Rib
This is about as classic as it gets. The super-old-school, English-style restaurant has been slinging perfect slabs of meat (carved table side) and dry martinis since the 1940s. Go early to give your stomach time to digest every bite. And don’t knock the creamed spinach till you’ve tried it.
1906 Van Ness Ave.; 415-885-4605 or houseofprimerib.net
Any Seafood At Swan Oyster Depot
Literally. Oysters on the half shell, Dungeness crab salad, Boston clam chowder—we can’t even begin to choose a favorite, so why not order all of the above? It’s one of Anthony Bourdain’s perennial favorites when he comes through town. Our advice: Go on a weekday before it opens, plan to wait in line, and when you finally score a counter seat, order yourself an ice-cold Anchor Steam to wash all the seafood down.
1517 Polk St.; 415-673-1101 or sfswanoysterdepot.com
Explosive Chicken At Z & Y Restaurant
When the grandmother of classic Chinese food in California calls this her favorite dish, we listen. Deep-fried chunks of chicken sit atop a bed of dried chile peppers. It’s some of the most flavorful bird we’ve ever had—but don’t eat the chiles. Seriously. Thanks for the recommendation, Cecilia Chiang.
655 Jackson St.; 415-981-8988 or zandyrestaurant.com
Chicken Parm At Original Joe’s
It may not be fancy, but chicken parmigiana is the ultimate comfort food. Get this dish along with an order of spaghetti and meatballs for a taste of simple red sauce from a bygone era.
601 Union St.; 415-775-4877 or originaljoessf.com
Garlic Fries At At&t Park
It’s pretty much illegal not to order a heaping side of garlic fries every time you watch the Giants play. Just be sure to bring breath mints.
Multiple vendors; 24 Willie Mays Plaza