Roughly a seven-by-seven-mile square, San Francisco is a unique grid-like city laid out in the hilly terrain of Northern California. Famous for its steep, sloping streets, San Francisco has tricky boulevards that can be difficult to traverse, crisscrossing the metro area with alleys leading to dead ends or quick getaways.
Wander down these hidden and hard-to-find one-way streets and you may be surprised to discover something delicious along your journey. Here are five eateries worthy of seeking out the next time you find yourself hungry in the City by the Bay.
During the workweek, downtown SF is bustling. However, down unassuming Hardie Place (a miniature alley) is Homage, an oasis for a leisurely, delicious breakfast or lunch. As the name implies, this serene spot honors the bounty of farms in the Bay Area. Each month, the chefs source fruit, vegetables, meats and other local products from a distinct farm — paying homage to the ranch on the menu.
Ingredients are respectfully sourced and the food is equally thoughtful. At breakfast, you might enjoy housemade pastries, avocado toast and an elegant Lyonnaise salad with hot smoked bacon and seared asparagus.
Lunch is an assortment of hearty fare, including a house-smoked trout tartine, heritage pork pressed Cuban sandwich and a savory butter bean cassoulet with roasted broccoli and Aleppo chili.
Come happy hour, you’ll find a menu of light items (think baked Marin Miyagi oysters and roasted carrot and smoky chorizo flatbread) meant for sharing. Aperitifs, wine and beer are available at this secret gem, but note that it’s only open Monday through Friday.
In an unassuming alley near the busy corner of Columbus Avenue and Vallejo Street in North Beach, Eight Tables is a luxe, relatively new Chinese restaurant from chef and restaurateur George Chen.
Upon arrival, you’ll be transported to the eatery’s elevator in a Shanghai rickshaw, setting the tone for the lively and exciting dining experience ahead. Designed by AvroKO, the restaurant is sophisticated with a cream, white and tan color palette that does not distract from the intense flavors of the modern Chinese cuisine.
The elaborate 10-course tasting menu begins with an intricate amuse-bouche made up of nine different cold bites showcasing the nine essential flavors found in traditional Chinese cookery. From there, the meal is a tantalizing spread of sensational seasonal dishes that might include “upside-down” sizzling rice soup with poached lobster, five-spice duck in lotus leaf and fermented rice sorbet with goji berry vinegar.
The Hidden Vine
At this Old World-style wine bar on Merchant Street, oenophiles will discover an intimate and romantic escape ideal for sitting back and sipping a few flights. The extensive wine list offers something for everyone, from deep red blends from the Spanish Priorat region to chardonnays from California.
The comparison flights — where a viognier can be tasted side-by-side with a riesling, or rosés from Italy and Oregon can be served alongside each other — are especially wonderful for those seeking to learn more about the world of wine.
A menu of bar snacks — cheese, flatbreads, charcuterie, crostini and sliders — makes it easy to enjoy an entire evening at The Hidden Vine. The outdoor bocce court will entice you to stay longer.
Down the brick-lined Gold Street (an alley in Jackson Square) is Bix — the ultimate San Francisco supper club. This old-school restaurant is beloved by locals for its icy-cold martinis, celebratory potato pillows with crème fraîche and caviar, and prepared-tableside steak tartare.
The two-story venue has live music — depending on the night you dine, it varies from a solo pianist to a jazz trio. Bix is the sort of place where generations of families go to celebrate milestones or where doting couples visit to honor an anniversary, so come dressed to impress.
Just outside of touristy Union Square is Campton Place. Though the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star eatery sits inside Four-Star Taj Campton Place, it’s still inexplicably off most people’s epicurean radar. Should you find your way to the eatery, you’ll be rewarded with some of the city’s most inspired Indian food, courtesy of chef Srijith Gopinathan.
Gopinathan refers to his style of cuisine as Cal-Indian, which is defined by local, seasonal California ingredients prepared using classic Indian techniques. We’re talking fresh lobster in coastal curry sauce, slow-cooked lamb with flavorful basmati rice and rich Liberty duck breast with fava greens and morel mushrooms.
The eight-course spice route tasting menu showcases the talented toque’s clear mastery of contemporary Indian cooking. Paired with a pristine setting, superb service and sensational wines, Campton Place is a delightful little culinary secret you’ll want to keep all to yourself.