Whether your parents are just in town for the weekend and you want to show them the best of San Francisco, or they live a quick hop across the bay and you're simply looking for a place to catch up, here are our picks for the top SF restaurants for dining with your folks.
What do you get when you mix amazing culinary feats with an unpretentious demeanor? The perfect spot for family dinner. Located on the cusp of the city's Cow Hollow and Marina neighborhoods, Maybeck may be a local haunt but its homemade pastas will transport you to the Italian countryside. The restaurant is also known for its delicious fried chicken, as well as a cozy setting that's sure to please the folks.
If you want to impress your 'rents with a swanky San Francisco vibe, take them to Cala, an upscale Nuevo Mexican eatery in Hayes Valley. With clean concrete walls and constellation-like light fixtures that alter the restaurant's appearance as the night progresses, it’s an interior design dream. Plus Cala's cocktails, like the Rosita, a blend of mezcal, St. Germain, Campari, and Verjus, and food are both creative and delicious.
While it’s fun to grab a table at this beloved Mission District eatery, if it’s just you and your parents, a spot at the bar can be just as exciting. Chat up the bartender, peek into the kitchen to watch magic being made, and select from a menu in which pasta (think dishes like oxtail risotto and classic spaghetti) reigns supreme. The restaurant also has a casual pizzeria outpost in Pacific Heights.
Sometimes, dinner with the parents can be a little bit self-serving. Like making a reservation at the one place you’ve been dying to try for months. Don’t worry, they’ll still enjoy Liholiho’s stylish design and creative Hawaiian-, Indian-, and Chinese-inspired dishes like togarashi popcorn and roasted octopus with castelvetrano olives. You’ll also get to enjoy a delicious dinner at one of San Francisco’s hottest restaurants while catching up with your parents—two birds, one stone.
For out-of-town parents, Zuni Cafe is the perfect introduction to classic San Francisco. Its been a city institution since first opening along Market Street in 1979, and this fashionable corner spot's cozy brick interior offers an easy, intimate atmosphere ideal for catching up. Don't miss Zuni's wood-fired chicken for two—it’s the dish that made the restaurant famous.
Some family dinners thrive on lesser frills and good old comfort food. That's Celia's, an authentic Mexican eatery close to Ocean Beach in the city's Outer Sunset neighborhood, where endless fog and cozy atmospheres go hand-in-hand. Opt for a pitcher of margaritas and some enchiladas, then chow down on endless chips and salsa before the entrees even arrive.
A good tip when deciding on a place to take your parents for dinner: their opinions count. If they love a restaurant and keep telling you to go to it, chances are you should bring them along, too. At Heirloom Café in the Mission District, the food is always fresh, the atmosphere clean and relaxed, and the service always friendly. There’s nothing to get in the way of some good old fashioned bonding at this parental favorite.
Sharing is encouraged at this innovative Mexican restaurant on the cusp of San Francisco's NOPA and Haight-Ashbury neighborhoods. Especially for larger family-sized groups, who can fill up together on plates of carintas, empanadas, quesadillas, and more. If you find yourself waiting for a table sip on one of their margaritas in the meantime. Nopalito has a second location, complete with a backyard patio, in the Inner Sunset, just steps away from Golden Gate Park.
Family-style is the way to go at Original Joe’s, a San Francisco Bay Area institution, though a la carte orders are welcome are well. Whichever way you decide, Joe's big vinyl booths are the perfect excuse for families to act like families. And while dishes like veal piccata and Joe’s eggplant parmesan are deliciously delectable, the cocktails are good too, not to mention very reasonably priced. Joe's has two locations: one in SF's buzzy North Beach neighborhood and another in the more parking-friendly Daly City.