The Mission may be the spot to open up the hottest new restaurant, but the Castro is full of neighborhood joints that have a certain neighborhood appeal – walk into any one of these spots and you’ll feel right at home, just in about ten different ways.
3870 17th St.
Telephone: (415) 621-3870
California cuisine is all over this city, but nowhere does it quite like Frances. Something about the small, cozy space and neighborhood vibes makes it feel like you’re dining at a close friend’s house—if that close friend just so happened to have a Michelin star. Menu staples include honey-brined pork chop, bavette steak with caramelized parsnips, and kale salad topped with crispy chickpeas. But this place is no hidden secret—reservations are booked a solid three weeks out.
3801 17th St.
Telephone: (415) 834-5555
Come April, this neighborhood is getting a Korean fix. The menu is rolled out in steps. Step one is to choose whether you’d like a bowl, wrap, taco, or poke bowl. Step two is when you choose your protein like spicy pork, soy garlic chicken, and more. Sides include kimbap – rice with spicy pork and pickled daikon. It’s fast causal adventure dining at its finest.
2223 Market St.
Telephone: (415) 655-3280
From the owners of Sushi Ran in Sausalito comes this modern Japanese restaurant. The name translates to drinking house in Japanese but is also short for Noe-Mission-Castro, the neighborhoods it serves. But the drinks are the selling point here with concoctions like the umeshu tonic with vodka, yuzu, and oolong bitters or the stray cat, a combination of cognac, shiitake, and rosemary. The menu is full of light fusion dishes like karaage fried chicken and waffles.
4416 18th St.
Telephone: (415) 626-4416
This no-reservations neighborhood joint is the go-to for an easy weeknight dinner with the family that’s loaded with flavor. Owner Lily (aka Mama Ji) and Marv serve up home-style Sichuan food. Try the pork shumai or cilantro shrimp dumplings or indulge in the wonton noodle soup and chow mien. And the owners are longtime neighborhood residents so the whole place feels like home.
3583 16th St.
Telephone: (415) 252-7500
Brunch is the name of the game at this sun-soaked patio spot. There’s sunnyside joe’s, challah French toast, chilaquiles with house-made chorizo, and fried chicken po boys – basically, something for absolutely everyone. Of course, lunch and dinner are just as delicious.
460 Castro St.
Telephone: (415) 626-1250
This pizza joint has been around since 1968 and is about as classic as it gets. Pillowy dough and just the right amount of cheese yield delicious slices that have the stability to be eaten by hand (forget that knife and fork!). Tiffany chandeliers and a cozy interior make it the go-to pizza joint for the neighborhood.
2251 Market St.
Telephone: (415) 626-3466
Longtime San Francisco resident and Top Chef veteran Ryan Scott has put down roots in this new American restaurant. The specialty is elevated pub fare, from quinoa burgers to duck confit potpie. It’s got a funky vibe to match with plenty of mismatched leather bar chairs and globe lights. Oh, and did we mention the kitchen is open until 1:30 a.m. Thursday through Saturdays? A finer choice than some of the neighborhood’s other late night spots.
579 Castro St.
Telephone: (415) 431-3990
This little seafood spot has been around since 1977 and the choices are still pretty classic. The crab cake entrée comes with the housemade tartar sauce and roasted potatoes, a cup of chowder or a green salad, as do the wild Mexican prawns. But their cioppino is what brings in the crowds – the traditional seafood and pasta medley is best split with a large group of friends. Whatever you order, don’t forget to cleanse your palate with a couple of oyster shooters.
468 Castro St.
Fans of the Mission’s ever-crowded Indian food staple won’t need to travel far to get their fix with (hopefully) less of a wait. Platters full of delicious curries, from those steeped with mustard seeds and Andhra spices to the perfect combination of cashews and butter with crispy, buttery roti make for the best kind of comfort food.