5 Timeless San Francisco Restaurants That Never Go Out Of Style

Popular restaurants in San Francisco tend to come and go. But there are a handful of restaurants that never seem to fade away. Those are the eateries that we return to time and time again.

The five SF restaurants on our classics list all seem as fresh as the day they opened. One or two of them may have undergone recent facelifts, but others just keep going on and on with few changes. After all, that's what makes them classics! From a hole in the wall to a Michelin two-star, these classic SF restaurants will not disappoint.


1. Acquerello


It's hailed as one of the first restaurants in the Bay Area to serve authentic Italian food — and it's still one of the very best. Opened in 1989, the restaurant now holds two Michelin stars, with the second star won in 2015. Chef Suzette Gresham has been at the stove since the beginning and has earned a Michelin Star every year since 2007. (The first year the Guide published a San Francisco edition.)

What can you expect? Seasonal tasting menus featuring local ingredients and luxurious Italian specialities.

2. Fog City

Fog City Diner

It was a revelation when it opened in 1985 as Fog City Diner — practically re-inventing the diner and kicking off the small plates movement.

After 28 years Fog City decided it was time for a refresh. Chef Bruce Hill and founders Bill Higgins and Bill Upson closed the place for six months and renovated. They lost the word Diner in their title, now just calling themselves Fog City.

Whatever they call it, you can rely on this place for comfort food, sometimes with a twist. Short Rib Kim Chi Tacos, German Butterball Potato Soup, Wagyu Flank Steak Frites are but a few.

3. Il Fornaio

Il Fornaio

Il Fornaio may not be an independent restaurant (it's part of a 21 restaurant chain, mainly in California) but the food is solid, reliable and authentic.

Is it any wonder? The first Il Fornaio started in 1972 in Italy as a baking school in Lombardia and then a bakery in Milan. They continue to be famous for their authentic Italian baking. What can you expect? Real Italian food — antipasti, minestrone, pizza, and authentic Italian specialties cooked in their rotisserie and on their grill.

We love sitting in the patio area, looking out at the plaza and the fountain.


4. Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe

Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store and Cafe

This North Beach iconic restaurant doesn't even have a website, and really not much of a decor. But that's what keeps Mario's a classic. It was founded by Mario Crismani and his wife Liliana, and serves up the cosiest, most comforting foods in all of San Francisco.

Baked meatball sandwich, anyone? Our other favorites are grilled eggplant panini and caprese salad. This is the perfect place to have lunch and watch life in North Beach.

  • 566 Columbus Avenue at Union Street

5. Gary Danko

Gary Danko

Even though it's a major tourist destination, there is something good to eat at Fisherman's Wharf — found at Gary Danko's award-winning restaurant.

Come here for classically prepared dishes — roast lobster, foie gras, and lamb rotate with seasonal touches. For example, seared foie gras will be paired with Bing cherries in late spring, and roast figs in the fall.

"We may be three thousand miles and twelve blocks off Broadway, but what we do here is definitely theatre," explains Danko. "We work hard to ensure that each evening's performance is seamless and magical."

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