Just south of popular Union Square, San Francisco's SoMA (South of Market) district has long been known as a hub of art galleries and SF nightlife—but it's also a prime spot for eating and casual imbibing. Whether you're looking for a bar with some tapas-style snacks, or interested in a multi-course Michelin-star meal, you'll find plenty of options in this oh-so-buzzy industrial 'hood. Don't miss these favorites.
Watching over SoMa for well over a century, the divey Hotel Utah is a neighborhood and citywide staple—a place to come for good drinks and comfort food, not to mention live music seven nights a week. This historic circa-1908 saloon is known for its long-running Monday night open mics, as well as a long wooden bar that calls to mind California's lively pre-Prohibition days. Get comfy here with a draft beer and a grilled cheese, or grab a seat in the bar's upper loft to take in the bands from above.
Savor the rich flavors of Moroccan cuisine—made with modern flare and local California ingredients—in an elegant and contemporary setting on the ground floor of SoMa's renovated Pac Bell building. Moroccan Chef Lahlou Mourad fronts this Michelin-starred eatery known for its speciality family-style dishes and substantial wine menu. Though costs can add up quickly, it's more than worth it for a special occasion or romantic treat.
Get ready to trade in a hair tie or hand over your box of Altoids in exchange for entry into this SF speakeasy, hidden behind a pawn shop front. Once inside, you'll be treated to a dimly-lit Deco space with tropical wallpapering and exposed brick walls. Low-ABV cocktails, Spanish-centric wines and sangria, and local beers reign supreme. Settle in with a beverage and bar bites like plantains and grilled octopus, then sit back and savor the unique ambiance of this well-concealed gem.
Known for its creative cocktails and steampunk-inspired décor, SoMa's Alchemist is the perfect spot for sampling speciality libations while sharing plates of crispy Brussels sprouts and shrimp tacos. The multi-level 70-seat space is often standing room only, though if you arrive early, you can score a seat on one of the leather couches or in one of the bar's cozier nooks.
This rooftop bar has been hopping ever since it opened in spring 2019 atop the city's Virgin Hotel. Along with killer views of the SF skyline, this indoor/outdoor 12-story space offers live DJ spins and a 25-foot wraparound bar to boot. The 4,000-square-foot space gets its name from a character in Thomas Hardy’s "Far From The Madding Crowd," and many of its drink names come from the 1874 novel. On warmer nights, don't miss the bar's Secret Garden, a lush al fresco area. Here, you can linger with libations that showcase unique spirits and house-pressed juices, as well as delicious edibles like fried chickpeas, artisanal cheeses, and charcuterie.
One of San Francisco's gastronomic strongholds since first opening its doors in late 2014, celebrity Chef Chris Cosentino's meat-centric eatery is a culinary tour de force, serving up traditional and exotic dishes ranging from trotter (aka pig's feet) and snails to a sharable serving of wood oven-roasted pig's head. It's a loud, buzzy space combining rustic and industrial elements (not to mention a bit of taxidermy) with an open kitchen and a more intimate upstairs dining area. Lunch is also served on weekdays.
Owned by The Absinthe Group—which is also responsible for Hayes Valley's Absinthe restaurant and Comstock Saloon in North Beach—Bellota specializes in Spanish cuisine and drinks, including an all-Spanish wine list, sangria, and sherry. The 140-seat bistro is centered around an open kitchen with a custom hearth, where shareable tapas and dishes such as wood-fired king salmon, Moorish-spiced lamb leg, and paella are created. It's a bright and airy space that's lively most days (and nights) of the week.
Bar Agricole has transformed a former warehouse into a stylish modern tavern, complete with wooden canopied ceilings, ample glass and concrete touches, and an outdoor patio for the city's increasing number of sunny days. Northern California cuisine like grilled flatbreads, cured meats, and roast chicken are made from local ingredients and served family style, alongside a menu of natural wines and traditional cocktails (think Old Fashioneds and El Presidentes).
If it's a burger you're after, you've come to the right place: Marlowe's flavorful beef patty tops the charts of San Francisco's beloved burger offerings. This New American bistro—whose interior takes its inspiration from a butcher shop—boasts a wonderful larger menu, too, with offerings such as pan-seared Alaskan salmon and New York steak with portobello fries.
One of the city's most revered dim sum eateries, Yank Sing serves up a fine selection of approximately 60 dim sum varieties—out of a whopping 100—daily. Many of these are innovative bite-sized portions of larger Chinese dishes, such as Peking duck by the slice. Take your pick from a series of roving carts stacked with freshly prepared har gau dumplings and curried chicken turnovers, and eat to your heart's content. Once through, a server will tally up the bill. It's open afternoons only.
This counter service spot serves up a fried chicken sandwich that's both delicious and budget-friendly. Join the queue to experience a hearty helping of free-range chicken coated in the eatery's own Berbere spice blend, served on a freshly baked bun and topped with house-made crunchy apple slaw. The Bird is also open for breakfast, when you can get a chicken biscuit sandwich with a side of hash rounds. Hot wings and loaded fries made with applewood-smoked bacon, green onions, and melted cheddar cheese are also on the menu, along with a selection of beer by the can.
Both artisanal and elegant, the high-end Birdsong showcases the flavors and ingredients of the Pacific Northwest in a Michelin-starred eatery. Embark on a culinary tasting journey of either eight or 13 courses, each one with an optional beverage pairing. Expect dishes like seaweed marinated in fishbone vinegar and creek-raised trout that's been cured, smoked, and warmed in cedar. The restaurant, which opened in 2018, boasts a chef's table as well as individual tables for a more intimate dining experience.