Fine Dining Favorite in San Francisco

Some people might argue that all dining in San Francisco is fine dining -- by virtue of it being in San Francisco.

Issues of city pride aside, the restaurants here comprise a group of personal favorites, leaning toward the upscale, where the combination food, ambiance and service make for a fine dining experience.

Since it's virtually impossible to pick a handful of restaurants in a city known for its culinary arts, I consider this a mere starter list of places that excel in their own categories.

Published in 2007 - Updated annually

See a list of places that opened their doors in 2007 and those coming up in 2008.

  • 01 of 15

    1. Ame at the St. Regis

    SoMa/South of Market
    689 Mission Street (at 3rd) - in St Regis Hotel
    San Francisco, CA 94105
    Telephone: (415) 284-4040
    See Ame on a map

    Located in the upscale St. Regis Hotel, Ame is a subdued and elegant setting, with Japanese and European influences in the varied menu items (from sashimi to duck breast). Ame's ambiance is earth-toned, with window screens and an open kitchen area, with quiet music allowing for conversation over the meal.

    See a short review of Ame including sample menu items and description of the ambiance.

  • 02 of 15

    2. Aqua

    Financial District
    252 California Street (between Battery & Front)
    San Francisco, CA 94111
    Telephone: (415) 956-9662
    See Aqua on a map

    Aqua is known as one of the best seafood restaurants in San Francisco. The space can get a bit busy and loud, so it may not be the best choice for a romantic night . . . even if the fish is superb and service gracious and knowledgeable. You'll have to make the assessment based on your own priorities.

  • 03 of 15

    3. Aziza

    Outer Richmond
    5800 Geary Boulevard
    San Francisco, CA 94121
    Telephone: (415) 752-2222
    See Aziza on a map

    Pick Aziza if you're looking for an excellent dinner that strays from the more common California or continental menus in San Francisco. Aziza's influences are Moroccan and Mediterranean, with an exceptional cocktail menu of interesting twists like tarragon and cardamon flavors. Great moody ambiance, with booths set in along the sides.

  • 04 of 15


    4. Bix

    Jackson Square/Financial District
    56 Gold Street (at Montgomery)
    San Francisco, CA 94133
    See Bix on a map

    Bix has long been popular as an after-work bar, as well as a dining destination. So it's no surprise that their cocktails are exquisitely made, always to order. Just entering Bix is a treat, as the restaurant is set off on Gold Street, a Jackson Square Historic District byway with old brick and a sense of separation from the busy streets nearby. Bix has a supper club feel, with strains of jazz through the dinner.

    Continue to 5 of 15 below.
  • 05 of 15

    5. Boulevard

    SoMa/Embarcadero South
    1 Mission Street (at Steuart)
    San Francisco, CA 94105
    Telephone: (415) 543-6084
    See Boulevard on a map

    Boulevard's location has a special pedigree. The Audiffred Building (1889) is one of the few structures to survive the 1906 earthquake. Boulevard is always busy so the place has a general buzz during after-work and dinner hours. If you don't have a reservation, the long bar to the side of the restasurant is a comfortable place to plant yourself with a cocktail or a bottle of wine.

    See a short overview of Boulevard with links to menus, directions and public transit information.

  • 06 of 15

    6. Delfina

    Mission District
    3621 18th (at Guerrero)
    San Francisco, CA 94110
    Telephone: (415) 552-4055
    See Delfina on a map

    Delfina is one of San Francisco's top Italian restaurants -- but it pays to think ahead because the restaurant is often booked many weeks in advance. Bar seating is available without a reservation. Hardwoods warm the interior which is a mix of metal table tops, candlelight, and artwork on the walls. Delfina has enclosed patio dining as well. It's a vibrant and warm place to take a meal, unpretentious and delicious.

  • 07 of 15

    7. Firefly

    Noe Valley
    4288 24th Street (at Douglass)
    San Francisco, CA 94114
    Telephone: (415) 821-7652
    See Firefly on a map

    Firefly is a Noe Valley gem with the intimate and comfortable feel of a dining room, and a friendly and laid back atmosphere. The cuisine is primarily American and Californian including vegetarian selections. Firefly is a favorite neighborhood spot but draws its patrons from around the city for its comfort food and cozy space.

  • 08 of 15

    8. Fleur de Lys

    Fleur de Lys
    Union Square/Nob Hill
    777 Sutter Street (at Jones)
    San Francisco, CA 94109
    tel (415) 673-7779
    See Fleur de Lys on a map

    A known and established entity among San Francisco's French restaurants, Fleur de Lys is also among the more pricey establishments in town. Service is professional, the ambiance is warm and inviting, quiet enough to converse. Arrive with appetite intact because if you're splurging at Fleur de Lys, you might as well enjoy a languid four or five course meal. Fleur de Lys also offers vegetarian selections, not always easy to find on some of the meat and game driven menus.

    Continue to 9 of 15 below.
  • 09 of 15

    Foreign Cinema

    9. Foreign Cinema

    Foreign Cinema
    Mission District
    2534 Mission Street (at 22nd)
    San Francisco, CA 94110
    Telephone: (415) 648-7600
    See Foreign Cinema on a map

    Foreign Cinema is one of those places you have to try, just for the novel concept of dining with the backdrop of a classic film. It sounds more intrusive than it is. The outdoor patio shows films with volume kept at bay to keep conversation viable. For the full immersion, dine after sundown (when the films begin) and if at all possible, get yourself a spot on the patio.

    Read a short review of Foreign Cinema including links to menus, hours and public transit information.

  • 10 of 15

    10. Gary Danko

    Gary Danko
    Fisherman's Wharf Area
    800 North Point (at Hyde)
    San Francisco, CA 94109
    Telephone: (415) 749-2060
    See Gary Danko on a map

    Gary Danko is a quintessential fine dining experience in San Francisco . . . provided you plan ahead with your reservations, or luck out with an early table. Gary Danko is known for its consistency in both food and service. Servers are attentive but not overbearing, and the ambiance is warm with its earth tones. Cuisine is California and classical, with emphasis on the seasonal.

    If you're new to San Francisco, cap the evening with a short walk down Hyde to the Buena Vista Cafe for an Irish Coffee, and a cable car ride from the Hyde terminus of the Powell-Hyde line.

  • 11 of 15

    11. Jardiniere

    Civic Center
    300 Grove Street (at Franklin)
    San Francisco, CA 94102
    Telephone: (415) 861-5555
    See Jardiniere on a map

    Jardiniere is a great choice if you're attending an event in the Civic Center area. It's also an easy walk from Civic Center BART. A Pat Kuleto establishment, Jardiniere is tucked away in the former Kimball's Jazz Club building. Be sure to book a table upstairs, removed from the busy bar, but with a view to the scene downstairs. The ambiance is elegant but friendly, food is Californian with French influence and based on seasonal ingredients.

  • 12 of 15

    12. Masa's

    Union Square
    648 Bush Street (between Powell & Stockton)
    San Francisco, CA 94108
    Telephone: (415) 989-7154

    Masa's setting is elegant but understated, with white tablecloths in a small space that's conducive to conversation. The cuisine is French with California influences, from Executive Chef Gregory Short, formerly at French Laundry in Yountville. Masa's has six and nine course tasting menus, and well as a special vegetarian tasting menu.

    Continue to 13 of 15 below.
  • 13 of 15

    13. Millenium (Vegetarian)

    Civic Center/Tenderloin
    580 Geary Street (at Jones)
    San Francisco, CA 94102
    Telephone: (415) 345-3900
    See Millenium on a map

    Millenium is an upscale vegetarian restaurant, committed to an environmental and sustainable food ethic. Millenium (along with Greens at Fort Mason) stands out as a fine dining experience where vegetarians don't have to dance around one entree or a collection of side dishes. In addition to its regular menu, Millenium also offers a five-course tasting menu.

  • 14 of 15

    14. The Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton

    The Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton
    Nob Hill
    603 Stockton Street (at Pine)
    San Francisco, CA 94108
    Telephone: (415) 296-7465
    See Ritz Carlton on a map

    The atmosphere is true to what you might expect at the Ritz -- formal, hospitable, attentive, expensive. It's an elegant retreat for a romantic meal, with French cuisine and a traditional dinner menu as well as an eight-course tasting menu. The wine list has more than 1400 global selections.

  • 15 of 15

    15. Town Hall

    Town Hall
    SoMa/South of Market
    342 Howard Street (at Fremont)
    San Francisco, CA 94105
    Telephone: (415) 908-3900
    See Town Hall on a map

    Town Hall's location, in the 1907 Marine Electric Building is among my favorite spaces in town. The ambiance is warm and laid back with its exposed brick and hefty wooden tables. It's tucked away on Howard Street, a relatively short walk from the Embarcadero area and from BART. The menu has some delicioius southern twists, like the popular barbecued shrimp appetizer. Service is friendly and informed.

    Read a short review of Town Hall including restaurant details and transit information.