What are the hidden gems in SF?

I love food. I particularly love good food that can be found at holes in the wall or at places that are surprising and aren’t at the top of a Yelp, Google or tripadvisor list. The gems in the rough! I’m in town for a few days and wondering what SF has to offer? Any recommendations universe?

Are you coming from Italy or Southern California?

Thanks to Yelp et al. I’m not sure there are really any hidden gems.

Some of my favorites:

Angkor Borei - Cambodian
Bar Tartine - Cal-Hungarian-Japanese
Barbacco - Italian small plates
Burmese Kitchen
Cotogna - Cal-Italian & pizza
Cockscomb - Chris Cosentino’s new place (Incanto closed)
Gajalee - Indian seafood
La Ciccia - Sardinian Italian
Monsieur Benjamin - French bistro with Asian twists
Old Jerusalem - Palestinian
Perbacco - northern Italian
Trou Normand - charcuterie
Yank Sing - Chinese dim sum (lunch only)
Yuzuki - Japanese (not sushi)
Zuni Cafe - Cal-Mediterranean

If I had time for only one meal in SF, I’d go to Bar Tartine, La Ciccia, or Perbacco.

Coming from Venice, CA. Wish I was coming from Italy!

Thank you so much for sharing these recs. Going to try Bar Tartine! And hang out close by in the neighborhood for some cocktails if there’s a big wait.

New to this forum. A friend recommended it. Love it already!

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Some cheap more or less hole-in-the-wall places:

A La Turka - Tenderloin / Polk Gulch
Gyro King - Turkish - Civic Center
Old Jerusalem - Mission
L’Osteria del Forno - Italian, porcini pizza - North Beach
Saigon Sandwich - banh mi - Tenderloin / Polk Gulch
La Santaneca - pupusas, best curtido I’ve had - Mission
Sunrise Deli - get a bag of falafels, everything else sucks - Inner Sunset & Financial District
Taqueria San Jose - tacos al pastor or chorizo - Mission
Truly Mediterranean - falafel & schawerma wraps (Middle Eastern answer to burritos) - Mission
Yamo - Burmese - Mission

Not sure if this is a hidden gem, but the turkey burger at MKT (@ the Four Seasons) is fabulous.

Really one of the best iterations of the turkey burger I’ve had, granted I don’t order a turkey burger often but if more turkey burgers were like this I might swear off beef. Might.


I thought Gajalee closed.

So it did. I hadn’t heard.

A cheap and excellent place I love in the Lower Haight is Palmyra. The best falafel sandwich I’ve ever had, which costs a mere $6.50. I was there with a very large group at one point a couple years ago, and we were served platters of many different dishes and hummus, etc. Owner is extremely gracious. Y**p reviews seem to be all over the place, but I guess that’s not unusual.

Where did you end up going?

Bar Tartine and it was delicious! A lot of surprising and interesting combinations and dishes. Beautiful setting too. I can’t thank you enough for the rec. The next day I should have tried Taqueria San Jose but instead we tried Taqueria El Farolito and it was disappointing.

Californios and Mr. Pollo remain SF’s most hidden gems.

Have you been to Mr. Pollo since Manny Torres Gimenez left?


I still think it’s a really cool spot in the city.

I mean, it’s not like Saison level food, but I don’t know of anywhere else one could get a $25 tasting menu, much less in the Mission of SF, one of the most expensive neighborhoods to live on the planet.

It’s now $30 for the four-course prix-fixe. There are a bunch of places in the immediate area where you can eat well for that much or less, e.g. La Santaneca, Old Jerusalem.

Yeah…the price is definitely the special part though. The $30 is so cool to pay. It’s pretty amazing. I don’t know of anywhere else where you can pay exactly that price for food. It’s just about the coolest restaurant in SF, heck, maybe the whole country, perhaps even the world! It’s just unreal. I always leave thinking “man, I can’t believe I was able to pay exactly that price! Incredible!” Never been disappointed. Frankly, even moving it from $25 to $30 was just another stroke of genius. I thought it could never get better, but then they managed it! Totally insane! The place is just unbeatable, and unbelievable!

But it’s not a hidden gem.

Gem, maybe.

Hidden. NFW.

Nothing in SF is hidden anymore…is it?

The gems are hidden to “foodies” (barf) that come to San Francisco (Frisco) once a year, and become self proclaim EXPERTS to the SF food scene.

I really don’t think there are restaurants that are hidden gems, but there are dishes at restaurants that remain a hidden gem even though the restaurant itself may be well known and/or popular.

Aside from the aforementioned turkey burger at MKT, I really think the grilled chicken at Tropsiueno is great, and you can get it by itself in quart and pint sized containers, and I’m a big fan of the cioppino at John’s Grill.

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Hmm, we had such a lousy lunch at Tropisueno and their stupid microwaved crap a couple weeks ago that I can’t imagine ever bringing myself to try it again. Yes, I was pissed off.