You probably know San Francisco as the “City by the Bay,” with its iconic Golden Gate Bridge, towering streets, street cars, and infamous island prison. While the Californian city is a hub for the technology industry and start-ups, the famous foods from San Francisco is not be overlooked!
From exceptional seafood to special sourdough, there are plenty of delicious foods in San Francisco that you can enjoy.
What’s Special About San Francisco Food?
San Francisco cuisine is special because it uses so many ingredients and influences from the surrounding geography! The foods of San Francisco commonly feature ingredients from the Bay, with classics like Clam Chowder and Cioppino. This connection between the land and cuisines has made high-quality farm-to-table restaurants a classic in the area.
Beyond this, there are many neighborhoods, such as Chinatown and the Mission district, which bring the cultural influences of China and Central America to San Francisco. This has led to the creation of many unique dishes, like the Mission-style burrito and delectable dim sum.
Additionally, San Francisco is an economic and cultural hub, which attracts new chefs to the city all the time. This means the foods from San Francisco are constantly changing and evolving; there is always something new to explore in the gastronomic scene!
Most Famous Food Of San Francisco
Of all the foods from San Francisco, Cioppino is arguably the most famous. This tomato-based seafood stew was brought to the Bay area by Italian immigrants who worked as fishermen.
Standing the test of time, Cioppino has become a traditional San Francisco food ever since its introduction in the mid to late 1800s. Some of the best Cioppino can be found at Sotto Mare in the North Beach area.
The seafood stew was made with leftover bits of fish and shellfish, often from a day’s work. You’ll find that the dish varies widely based on where you order, since it is meant to be thrown together. You may see Dungeness crab meat, clams, mussels, calamari, fish, shrimp, scallops or other seafood, depending on the restaurant.
These days you can find Cioppino served “lazy man” style or shelled. The unshelled, “lazy man” style allows visitors to enjoy this classic in an original manner, with a bib and messy presentation. If you’re not a fan of unshelled seafood, you can also have this classic Californian food in a more elegant presentation – it’s all about what you want!
>Check Little Italy And North Beach Food Tour
Famous Foods From San Francisco
There are a whole bunch of dishes that you can try in this popular travel destination, so we put them into groups to help you find the best ones for you! You really can’t go wrong with any of these foods of San Francisco.
Green Goddess Salad
In San Francisco’s Palace Hotel in 1923, Philip Roemer invented the Green Goddess salad dressing, as a tribute to George Arilss’ hit play, The Green Goddess. The salad dressing quickly gained popularity in the area, just as the play did. It is now available nationally, though you can still find it among foods in San Francisco.
The salad dressing is made with mayonnaise, sour cream, chervil, chives, anchovies, tarragon, lemon juice, and pepper. It takes inspiration from the sauce au vert (green sauce) of French origin.
If you want to try Green Goddess salad dressing in the best place, make sure you check it out while you’re in San Francisco.
Seafood Dishes From San Francisco
Clam Chowder is one of the most popular foods in San Francisco and it’s not uncommon to see this among travel photos.
Many of the popular locations for seafood are in or near Fisherman’s Wharf, which has constant access to fresh seafood. Clam Chowder is made from clams, potatoes, onions, and occasionally other ingredients.
If you want the full experience, make sure that you order this traditional San Francisco food in a sourdough bread bowl. The sourdough flavors add a new spin to the chowder, which is otherwise very similar to New England clam chowder.
Make sure you check out the Clam Chowder, this is one of the most famous foods from San Francisco! There’s no bad time for a warm, comforting bowl of soup.
Known as the “king of salads,” Crab Louie is one of the most sought-after foods in San Francisco. This dish consists of crabmeat, hard-boiled egg, tomato, asparagus, iceberg lettuce, and Louis dressing. Louis dressing is typically a combination of chili sauce and mayonnaise, sometimes compared to Thousand Island dressing’s flavor.
This salad gets its name from entrepreneur, Louis Davenport, who debuted this famous food of San Francisco in the Davenport Hotel in Washington. Over time, this classic dish migrated down to San Francisco, where it can still be found on local menus like the Palace Hotel.
You can’t get much fresher seafood than the Pacific Oysters in San Francisco! The fresh seafood markets in this bayside city give prime access to oysters. Whether you want your oysters cooked or served raw on the half-shell, there are plenty of places to enjoy this food San Francisco is known for.
Hog Island Oyster Company is reportedly the best place to enjoy oysters in San Francisco. However, there are plenty of restaurants to get your oyster fix! If you enjoy fresh seafood, make sure that you take the opportunity to indulge in some of these incredibly fresh gems from the ocean.
What food is San Francisco known for, if not the Dungeness Crab harvested from the bay? By this point, you should know that Fisherman’s Wharf is the best place to go for seafood in San Francisco.
The best time to enjoy this classic of San Francisco foods is between November and June, when Dungeness Crabs are in season.
These crabs have a delicate flavor, known for having a slightly sweet flavor and milder than most other seafoods. Fog Harbor Fish House allegedly has the best crabs in San Francisco. If you’re a seafood fan, make sure you check out Dungeness Crab in the San Francisco food scene!
Chinese Foods In San Francisco
Among all the neighborhoods in San Francisco, Chinatown offers plenty of options for dim sum dining and historic restaurants. Walk along Grant Avenue, with the famous Dragon’s Gate, on the corner of Bush Street and Grant Avenue, and you’ll get a feel for just how many options there are to eat this cultural San Francisco food.
Traditional dim sum features steamed buns, with different fillings, dumplings, and rice noodle rolls. Other ingredients and food items vary widely, but often include beef, chicken, pork, or prawns. There are plenty of places to get amazing dim sum in Chinatown, but City View Restaurant is reportedly the best place for it in Chinatown.
Although fortune cookies aren’t traditionally Chinese food, this cookie has become a staple in American-Chinese cuisine. This is one of the most famous foods from San Francisco since fortune cookies were invented in the city.
A worker in the Kay Heong Noodle Factory first created the cookie in the 1930s. The plain cookie is folded, while still warm, to create the unique shape and leave a place for the paper fortune, tucked inside.
In Chinatown, you can smell the fresh cookies and even get some specialized ones with your own messages tucked inside.
Xiao Long Bao
If you want a real taste of Chinese food in San Francisco, make sure you get some Xiao Long Bao. Xiao Long Baos are a type of Chinese steamed dumplings, with plain pork filling. Sometimes Xiao Long Bao also combines pork with crab, which is a real treat since foods in San Francisco feature excellent seafood.
While there are plenty of places to enjoy this popular dish, some of the best include Dragon Beaux and the aptly named, Xiao Long Bao. As always, the best way to check out all the delights in Chinatown is to take a food tour, where you can enjoy the best of San Francisco cuisine with fellow foodies and learn about the district’s history.
Mission District Foods In San Francisco
The Mission Burrito is undoubtedly one of the most famous foods from San Francisco. The standout dish takes its name from San Francisco’s famous Mission District, which is known for its Central American cultural heritage. While Mission Burrito has a lot in common with other burritos, its jumbo size makes it stand out.
Normally, you’ll find a Mission-Style burrito with a flour tortilla carrying rice, beans, cheese, sour cream, salsa, guacamole, lettuce, pico de gallo, and fajita veggies. For some of the best Mission-Style burritos, try Taqueria La Cumbre or El Farolito.
> Check Mission District Food Tour
Blue Corn Huaraches
Huaraches are a classic Mexican dish, with dough flattened to resemble the sole of a traditional sandal. Even with basic corn and vegetable textures, it brings out the great flavors of Mexico. These tasty tortillas are even vegan, meaning almost anyone can enjoy this San Francisco food!
You can get them in countless restaurants around the Mission District. If you want to get the best, try out La Palma in the Mission District! It brings together delicious flavors and homemade foods.
Upscale Mexican Food At Loló
Loló exemplifies foods in San Francisco since it serves Jaslican-California inspired Mexican food; it brings cultural elements of the area into contact with traditional Mexican foods. This restaurant serves fun takes on the classics, like fried avocado tacos or the “taco tropical,” which has spicy panko-crusted shrimp served on jicama tortillas.
The food is upscale in flavor, as well as presentation. This is a small plates restaurant with a casual, colorful vibe. The upscale experience and excellent flavors are some of the best you can find in the Mission District of San Francisco!
Although this isn’t the Mexican food the Mission District is typically known for, Bi-Rite Creamery deserves to be counted among the best foods from San Francisco. This ice cream shop specializes in small batches of ice cream, paired with hand-baked goods. The creamery brings together the expertise of two bakers, who wanted to create delicious treats sustainably.
A trip to Bi-Rite Creamery makes for a special experience since they often feature the season’s tastiest fruits. You can also get hand-crafted sundaes and other sweet treats. This is the perfect place for a sweet treat among the other foods of San Francisco’s Mission District.
Breads & Pastries San Francisco Is Known For
What food is San Francisco known for if not its sourdough bread? San Francisco has countless bakeries, most of which pump out delicious sourdough. According to Boudin bakery, the main home of this traditional San Francisco food since 1849, the specialized taste comes from a certain strain of bacteria that thrives only in the San Francisco climate.
In terms of flavor, San Francisco sourdough normally has a more sour flavor profile, with more aeration and a chewier texture. For some of the best, you should visit the Boudin factory on Fisherman’s Wharf, where you can try this notable San Francisco food. You can also see some of their animal-shaped loaves, one of the fun things to do in San Francisco!
Dutch Crunch Bread
Although Dutch Crunch bread isn’t the most extravagant of the foods in San Francisco, it is one of the favorits amongst locals. The bread is normally a white roll, with a mixture of rice flour and sugar applied to it. This gives the bread the famous crunch from its name, as well as a slight shine.
The sugar coating on top gives it a slightly sweet flavor, which makes for a unique sandwich. The Dutch crunch bread is extremely popular in the city, making it a traditional San Francisco food. If you get the chance, try this bread with your sandwich in SF!
Croissants At Arsicault Bakery
If you’ve made it all the way to San Francisco, make sure you try the croissants at Arsicault Bakery! These croissants were famously named the “best croissant in America” by Bon Appétit. There is a good reason why these flakey, buttery pastries are a delicious part of the food San Francisco is known for.
Although this bakery is part of the San Francisco food scene, it carries out the best of French baked goods. The lines can be quite long, but these treats are well worth it. Depending on where you are, you can check out the Inner Richmond location or downtown at the Civic Center.
The Rebel Within
If you stop into Craftsman and Wolves, you can try one of the show-stopping foods in San Francisco, the Rebel Within. This pastry looks like an ordinary muffin, but if you cut it open, you’ll reveal a soft-boiled egg inside. Once you bite into it, the surprises continue: you’ll encounter a cheesy cake, with onions and sausage.
This pastry creation turns the sweet breakfast pastries on their head, creating an exciting surprise for breakfast. If you’re interested in trying one of the famous foods of San Francisco, drop by Craftsman and Wolves! You won’t regret it!
Egg Custard Tarts
This classic British pastry has become one of the notable foods in San Francisco. These flakey pastries are filled with egg, custard, and nutmeg, then baked. It’s a classic dessert, which you can get at any variety of bakeries in San Francisco.
The most famous place to try an egg custard tart is undoubtedly the Golden Gate Bakery, which also often features long lines. If you’d rather not queue for too long, the Lung Fung Bakery and Dragon City Cafe are both great places to grab some of these delicious treats.
Focaccia At Liguria Bakery
You will find the best focaccia in San Francisco at Liguria Bakery; it’s definitely worth the trip if you’re a fan of Italian breads.
Focaccia bread is a flat Italian bread, made with olive oil, yeast, herbs, and sometimes olives. It is often served as a side dish, along with other Italian foods, and this focaccia is definitely one of the famous foods of San Francisco.
The focaccia at Liguria Bakery is so tasty people often try to arrive at the bakery right when the doors open – this allows them to try the focaccia when it is at its most fresh. You can find this bakery in San Francisco’s Little Italy neighborhood, among other Italian treats. Make sure you give it a try!
> Check Little Italy Food Tour
Desserts And Sweet Foods In San Francisco
Among all of the famous things in California, you may not know that Ghirardelli Chocolate originated in San Francisco. Domingo Ghirardelli transferred his chocolate business to San Francisco in 1893, to the Ghirardelli Square, where it is still located. Visitors still see the gleam of the Ghirardelli sign at Fisherman’s Wharf, one of the iconic landmarks in San Francisco.
Known for its Broma process, discovered by the Ghirardelli chocolatiers, Ghirardelli chocolate has a distinctively rich flavor. Ghirardelli chocolates are now sold all around the world, in several flavors. You can still tour the chocolate factory and see some of the antique equipment that used to make this delectable San Francisco food.
If you’re looking for a variation on a classic pancake, grab some of these Swedish delights. Swedish pancakes are thin, eggy, and mildly sweet, so they can be the perfect vehicle for whatever your preferred topping is.
While they look like crepes, they have more milk, butter, and eggs in relation to flour, making them lighter and fluffier than crepes.
If this breakfast treat sounds good to you, the most famous place to grab some is Sears Fine Foods. They offer a dish called 18 Swedish pancakes, which are made with a family recipe from the 1930’s. You can’t get a better taste of San Francisco food or history in any other place!
San Francisco natives have a sweet tooth – you can tell from all the ice cream options among the foods in San Francisco. You can get indulgent ice cream classics, as well as inventive creations, like vegan ice creams and sorbets. No matter what your ice cream choice, the City by the Bay is a great place to pick up this sweet treat!
If you want to get the best of the best of this San Francisco food, check out Smitten, which is known for hand-rolled ice cream and waffle cones. For something lighter, check out Marco Polo Italian Ice Cream, specializing in artisan gelato.
In any case, you can’t go wrong with a sweet scoop in SF! Grab this sweet treat while you check out some of the best attractions in California around the city.
Drinks San Francisco Is Known For
Anchor Steam Beer
While it isn’t a famous food of San Francisco, Anchor Steam Beer definitely deserves a mention. After all, The Anchor Brewing Company is the oldest brewery in all of San Francisco, opened in 1896. This makes it the first and oldest American craft brewery.
Anchor Steam Beer has a deep, amber color with a thick and creamy head. It has a rich, distinct flavor that combines pale and caramel malts. The fermentation with lager yeast at warmer ale temperatures creates this unique flavor, which San Francisco is known for.
If you enjoy a cold brew, make sure that you check out the Anchor Brewing Company for a tasting session, while learning about the history of this classic brand!
The Winery Collective
Why pick a particular wine when you could taste several? Stop into the Winery Collective at Fisherman’s Wharf, which has over 50 wines on the menu. These wines come from over 20 different boutique wineries across California. Here you can get a taste of boutique wines from the famous wine regions in the greater California Area.
If you have any extra time, take your tasting to the next level and consider a trip out to Sonoma and Napa Valley. There are plenty of wine tours that leave from the San Francisco area. Either way, make sure you get a taste of the delicious wines in the San Francisco area.
Caffe Trieste Espresso
If you’ve ever enjoyed watching The Godfather, you have Caffe Trieste espresso to thank, at least in part. This espresso has a special place among foods in San Francisco, since it has been served since 1956. The coffee shop locations bring together elements of Old Italy, poetry, and the arts.
Famously, Francis Ford Coppola wrote The Godfather in Caffe Trieste, while enjoying an espresso. For this reason, the espresso and the atmosphere are thought to trigger inspiration and creativity. If you want to check out these rumors for yourself, stop into Caffe Trieste and order an espresso for yourself!
While you can’t enjoy a martini in its place of origin, you should still try a martini in San Francisco. The martini was invented in the Occidental Hotel in San Francisco. Although the original hotel building was destroyed after an earthquake in 1906, when it caught on fire, you can still find Martinis throughout the city.
This classic cocktail is principally made of two ingredients: alcohol and vermouth. The best place to enjoy a martini is in the North Beach neighborhood, which combines Italian food and an upbeat bar scene. If you want a classic cocktail experience, there is no better choice than the martini!
FAMOUS FOODS IN THE US
Sampling Famous Foods From San Francisco
With all the things San Francisco is known for, the cuisine is definitely among the best things to try in the Bay. From the Mission-style burritos to the famous seafood dishes, there is plenty of variety in San Francisco foods.
The area is home to many immigrants, as well as a constant stream of tourists, which brings great chefs and restaurants into town.
The city is known for innovation in the tech sector, and this reputation certainly applies to the San Francisco culinary scene as well. Make sure you check out all of the famous foods in San Francisco, from Chinatown to the Mission District and so much more!