Rich Table – Innovative comfort food with the occasional foraged morsel is the order of the day at this restaurant in Hayes Valley. Begin with the Dirty Hippie, a mousse of buttermilk, wheatgrass, sprouts and seeds, and sardine chips (homemade crisps neatly threaded with sardines) before the signature main: a chicken lasagne with texture and depth thanks to its wheatgerm sauce and popped-sorghum sprinkles on top. Leave room for a slice of punchy Bleu de Termignon cheese, served with homemade bread, and make sure you have a chat with the charming chef and co-owner Evan Rich. But don’t ask him for his favourite foraging spots – he won’t tell you.
Blue Bottle Coffee – San Franciscans like their food fresh, and the same goes for their coffee. Only beans roasted less than 48 hours earlier make the cup, and every drink is individually brewed. The downside? A long wait. The first time I joined the queue here, it was 40 minutes before I got my turn; the bunny faces the barista was drawing on every coffee were not exactly expediting matters. Still, it was the creamiest, smoothest latte ever, and they haven’t disappointed since.
State Bird Provisions – Book well in advance for this game-changer below posh Pacific Heights, serving modern dim sum: it’s the city’s toughest reservation. The short menu includes the highly recommended State Bird with Provisions: lemony, deep-fried California quail. Everything else (exquisite guinea-hen dumplings with duck-liver mousse; non-seaweed chips filled with hamachi) is passed around on trays and carts by the ebullient waiters and chef/co-owner Stuart Brioza. Each dish is so beautifully presented it’s hard to refuse anything, and the whole experience feels like one huge, hopping dinner party.
Central Kitchen – It’s not often that brunch inspires the entire table to reach for their iPhones and tap the Instagram app, but that’s what happened when the rabbit terrine arrived. This Inner Mission spot is from the people behind the lauded Italian joint Flour + Water. With its creative food, retractable-roofed dining room, adjoining Salumeria deli and smiley staff in Dame Edna specs and ombre hairdos, Central Kitchen is quintessential Northern Cali.