5 Historic San Francisco Restaurants Worth a Visit

It's a notorious restaurant town with tough competition, yet a handful of historic San Francisco restaurants have managed to remain popular and continue to draw in hungry diners. For example, Tadich Grill opened its doors before California was a state and today it's thriving, serving 600 meals daily to locals, sport stars, celebrities and politicians.

Food fads come and go, the restaurant business is unpredictable and diners are fickle. You probably know that most new restaurants close within the first 18 months of business, yet somehow these historic SF eateries have defied the odds. When you visit, plan on dining at one of these grand old establishments — you'll discover that they aren't just for tourists. Let's step back in time to start with the oldest one our our list —


Tadich Grill – 1849

Tadich Grill

It started out as coffee shop in 1849 at at the height of the California Gold Rush, founded by a Croatian immigrant.

Today, crowds still flock here for Dungeness crab cocktail, crab Louis and other seasonal seafood. Other popular items on the menu are the seafood cioppino, Sonoma lamb chops, steamed clams, pot roast and no one should leave without trying the famous rice custard pudding.

A Forbes magazine headline raved, "Tadich Grill One of the World's 10 Great Classic Restaurants Well Worth Visiting." Be warned, you cannot reserve a table.

Swan Oyster Depot – 1912

Swan Oyster Depot

Since 1912, this small family-run restaurant has been serving fresh, local seafood. There are no tables, just a narrow counter with stools. Hop onto one of the stools to enjoy fresh oysters on ice, a bowl of Boston clam chowder (the only hot food on the menu), smoked trout with smoked white fish, or the popular octopus salad. Come before 11 AM or after 2 PM to avoid the long lines.

Be warned, cash is the only form of payment accepted at the Swan.

Tosca Cafe – 1919

Tosca Cafe

It started as a dive bar in 1919 and yet in 2014 Tosca Cafe was named one of the best restaurants in the USA by Bon Appetit Magazine.

This revamped boho classic cafe serves up favorites like chicken and dumpling soup, french fries cooked to perfection in duck fat, grilled octopus with salt-crusted potatoes. The menu is classic yet modern Italian. Eat at the bar or choose one of the well-worn leather booth. More fun — the jukebox is free, choose between Dean Martin, Patsy Cline, or opera!


Trou Normand – 1925

Trou Normand

This art deco restaurant opened in the Roaring Twenties in the historic Pacific Telephone Building. You'll find soaring ceilings, white marble tables and an outdoor patio. Today Trou Normand is famous for its in-house butchery and house-made charcuterie, using pork from local farms. There are 40 types of salumi and charcuterie to choose from!

By the way, Trou Normand is a French tradition of drinking a brandy (usually calvados) between courses to settle the stomach and to refresh the palate. Not surprisingly, you can find an extensive selection of Armagnac, Cognac, and Calvados.

Tommaso's – 1935


Another North Beach classic, and a baby by comparison, Tommaso's installed SF's first wood-fired pizza oven in 1935 and there it remains, still cranking out authentic pizzas with a chewy crust and creamy mozzarella.

In 2015, the restaurant celebrated its 80th year with a family dinner between the current owners, the Crottis, and the original Cantalupo family, who were immigrants from Naples. On the menu from 80 years ago — baked fresh coo-coo clams, Margherita, the authentic Naples pizza, and veal parmigiana.

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