There is no shortage of great eateries in San Francisco. The city is a food lover’s paradise where international cuisine and specialty diets are embraced. “Local,” “seasonal” and “farm to table” are no longer buzzwords around here; they are simply de rigueur. Even hotel restaurants, which often serve uninspired dishes in an impersonal atmosphere, are often exceptional in San Francisco. Here are five such places where you can have memorable meal just minutes from your room.
The Grill at The St. Regis San Francisco
The restaurant at Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star The St. Regis San Francisco recently underwent a culinary makeover. Last spring, 15-year hospitality veteran Franck Desplechin came onboard as executive chef of The Grill.
Don’t let the informal-sounding name fool you, though; there is nothing casual about the experience. The eatery, located on the first floor of the chic hotel, is quiet and inviting. The décor is tasteful, understated and sumptuous, with cushy pillows on banquets and yellow Glassybaby candles on the tables. The welcoming staff makes guests feel like the most important people in the world.
Start with a dozen oysters on the half shell (which come with a flavorful trio of interesting sauces) and a glass of Schramsberg Vineyards blanc de blancs. Move on to the superb strawberry gazpacho, a revelation of cool red liquid with balls of watermelon soaked in Grand Marnier. Kobe ribeye with bone marrow, veal chop, rack of lamb — the glamorous protein options are plentiful. The menu changes weekly, but if the potato-crusted sea scallops with heirloom tomatoes, corn, capicola and barbecue aioli is available, order it. A perfect combination of sweet, smoky and salty, it’s summer on a plate.
Parallel 37 at The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco
At Four-Star The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco’s restaurant Parallel 37, diners are in for a real treat. Chef Michael Rotondo trained alongside the legendary Charlie Trotter and serves up globally inspired fare in the sleek and modern Four-Star venue. Velvet booths, mirrored pillars and dark, reclaimed wood details give the space a masculine vibe. A square bar separates the lounge area from the formal dining room, so if you’re in the mood for an assortment of dim sum and an icy cold martini, you can grab a plush seat here.
The dinner menu is more complex, with a focus on locally sourced produce and protein. All of the mostly organic and sustainable ingredients that Rotondo uses come from the Bay Area. Order the three-course tasting menu to understand Rotondo’s culinary prowess or select from á la carte items that include hand-cut linguini with chorizo, olives and grilled calamari; artichokes with tomato ragout, butter beans and cumin yogurt; and pork loin with red Himalayan rice, pork belly and nectarines.
The Cavalier at Hotel Zetta
For classic British cuisine with a California twist, head to The Cavalier at Hotel Zetta. Chef Jennifer Puccio and restaurateurs Anna Weinberg and James Nicholas (of the Big Night Group), came up with the exclusive concept to produce some of the best British food in the city. (Think hen egg hollandaise with ham and cheese soldiers, lamb scrumpets with pickled chile and mint sauce, or fish and thrice-cooked chips with minted peas and malt vinegar aioli.)
Three scrumptious pies — a vegetarian version with leeks, broccoli and gruyere; a seafood one brimming with Pacific whitefish, mustard crème and bacon lardon; and a shepherd’s pie with minced lamb, carrots, peas and curried mash — are also available.
Thirsty? Indulge in a potent cocktail or select a glass of wine from a fascinating list that features French and Californian varietals.
Interiors maven Ken Fulk designed a space that’s equal parts hunting lodge, vintage library and equestrian center. The scene is flashy and the atmosphere is vibrant.
Campton Place at Taj Campton Place
One of San Francisco’s most underrated restaurants is the Four-Star Campton Place at the Four-Star Taj Campton Place. For some reason, local media doesn’t pay much attention to the establishment, but savvy insiders know it’s one of the finest eateries in the city. Chef Srijith Gopinathan offers three different tasting-menu experiences: the first is three courses of creative Cal-Indian flavors; the second is a vegetarian tasting menu that showcases his Southern Indian heritage while using seasonal Northern California produce; the third (and our personal favorite) is the six-course Spice Route menu.
It’s not traditional Indian food because more than customary flavors and techniques are highlighted. Maine lobster is served in a fragrant and flavorful coastal curry broth. Alaskan halibut is paired with green mango and fava beans. Slow-cooked lamb rack is plated on a bed of Basmati rice with snap peas and cumin-lime yogurt. An evening here is truly an epicurean experience to remember.
Americano Restaurant & Bar at Hotel Vitale
If you’re looking for an active dining scene, you can’t beat Americano at Hotel Vitale. The restaurant sits on the corner of Embarcadero and Mission streets, and on sunny afternoons, its expansive outdoor patio is the place to be seen. Natural elements, such as wood, exposed white brick and rocks, are featured throughout the space, and the warm neutral color palette accented with green linen only enhances the welcoming ambience.
A sophisticated, circular cocktail lounge is a popular happy hour spot for the local tech scene. And those famished in the bunch can enjoy an extensive dinner menu. Picture crisp, cheesy pizzas, amazing pasta — the spaghetti alla carbonara is to die for — and a worth-the-hype, house-ground burger on a brioche bun. Definitely try the chicken rillette with pickled mustard seeds and chicken cracklings or the manila clams in green garlic broth, too. After you do, sit back, relax and people-watch.