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Restaurants

Eight Restaurants You Must Try in San Francisco’s Financial District

When people talk about San Francisco's dynamic food scene, they often forget that its epicenter is not the happening Mission District or uber-rich Pacific Heights or even up in Napa. It's around the Financial District and straight west on Market Street.

A dish at Boulevard.

The pork chop at Boulevard.

Photographer: Nader Khouri/Boulevard

Unlike many cities where staying at the local Hyatt Regency may leave you scrounging for a decent meal at the hotel bar, some of San Francisco's best restaurants are in reasonable walking distance from the Transamerica pyramid in the heart of downtown.

To explore the city's food scene, start at the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero. Used for 100 years as a transport center, its combination today of farmers' stalls, boutique stores and inviting restaurants can take credit for the explosion in good food that has followed.

Here are a few of my favorites in the financial district, all a reasonable walk from your office.

Tosca Cafe

The interior of Tosca Cafe.
The interior of Tosca Cafe.
Photographer: Peter Elliot/Bloomberg

A beloved red-sauce Italian spot with leather booths and antique jukeboxes was about to meet a wrecking ball until April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman of The Spotted Pig fame saved the day. Bloomfield's revamped Italian menu has made this the darling of the San Francisco food scene.

Kokkari Estiatorio

Swan Dive Oyster Co.

Swan Dive Oyster Co.

Photographer: Peter Elliot/Bloomberg

San Franciscans love their fish, and while you can find it many places — including my favorite dive, Swan Oyster Depot — Kokkari gets it right. This Greek restaurant's style is pure simplicity, and the fish benefits from a light touch. It's also reasonably priced, great after work and good for groups.

 

Tadich Grill and Alfred's

These throwback restaurants are two sides of the same coin. Tadich specializes in seafood. A wooden bar with brass rails stretches from front to back and not much has changed in 160+ years. Alfred's does steak, martinis you can swim in and has recently reopened after a brush with modernity.

Boulevard

When people talk about "New American Cuisine," they are talking about Nancy Oakes's Boulevard. Facing the Bay Bridge, the room feels old-world but the food never lets you down. From simple dishes like roast chicken to chocolate mousse, it's one of the best spots in America.

Boulevard.

Boulevard.

Photographer: Nader Khouri/Boulevard

Benu

Corey Lee is one of the West Coast's most celebrated chefs because he takes Korean and Chinese influences and filters them through skills he learned at The French Laundry under Thomas Keller. That makes him chef royalty and makes Benu one of the most interesting restaurants in the world.

R&G Lounge

If you want to make foodies upset, tell them R&G is the home of the best Cantonese food in America. It perfected dishes like salt and pepper fried crab and fried rice before Mission Chinese was even an idea. It sports a prettier than average downstairs restaurant and a huge banquet space upstairs.

Slanted Door

Charles Phan's Slanted Door introduced a whole generation to Vietnamese food, from cellophane noodles to Pho. He also gets credit for pairing it with non-traditional whites like Riesling. The anchor space in the Ferry Building faces out over the bay and has plenty of options for large groups or quick lunches.

 

Wayfare Tavern

Can celebrity chefs really cook? Tyler Florence proves that he's not just a pretty face with a stylish take on everything that makes San Francisco appealing: good ingredients, local wine, serious beers and a not too formal air. He tweaks American classics from fried chicken to clam chowder and has won over the locals.

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