Saap Ver: Country-style Thai street food that’s arguably my favorite restaurant in San Francisco and possibly the world. Their specialities include variants of papaya salad and extremely spicy sausage, but I’m personally fond of their crispy pork belly fried rice and duck curry - make sure to get the latter with some sticky rice.
Kin Khao: Michelin-starred contemporary Thai in a tiny corner of a downtown Hilton by local-culinary-hero Chef Pim Techamuanvivit. For a Michelin-starred restaurant, it’s not too crowded (you can get 8pm reservations on two days notice), not too pricey (usually in the $40-60 per person range), and has a reasonable range of vegetarian plates (about a third of the menu). They’re famous for the rabbit green curry, where an entire rabbit leg is dipped in mild green curry, but the real standout is the mushroom hor mok, where you ladle mushroom-curry-in-a-jar over crispy rice cakes.
Delah Coffee: Yemeni coffee shop that stays open until 10pm (in San Francisco!). Trying a pot of the spiced coffee is a must, but I go back for the wide variety of pastries, especially the hot pink rose-petal milk cake.
Saigon Sandwich: Cash-only $4 banh mi in the Tenderloin, so you know it’s good.
Boichik Bagels: Ten seconds after putting a Boichik bagel in my mouth, I declared it the best thing I had ever tasted - Boichik is the clear winner of the Bay Area bagel game, though Schlok’s is a close second. Unfortunately, they’re currently only open in Berkeley and Palo Alto, so I’ve only ever had it when someone brings it to the office.
Schlok’s Bagels & Lox: Yes, the bagels are $3 a piece, but they’re worth it. I typically get the egg & cheese sandwich with ham on an untoasted plain bagel, alongside an everything bagel with cream cheese. It’s also convenient to bike to, sitting at one end of the Wiggle and a block away from the Panhandle.
Señor Sisig: Some would say this Filipino fusion food truck is overrated - peak hype was in 2018 - but it’s still a solid only-in-San-Francisco experience and probably the restaurant I’ve been to the most, thanks to proximity. Most swear by the French-fry-filled California Sisig Burrito, but I prefer the Tosilog Burrito with its side of peppered vinegar.
House of Tadu: I’ll admit I haven’t had much Ethiopian, but on its own standards, Tadu is easily my favourite restaurant in the otherwise-lacklustre Mission Bay neighbourhood. The kitfo wrap - spicy minced raw beef in delightfully sour injera - is a particular favourite and can easily serve as a full meal despite being labelled an appetizer.
Raisu: My usual anniversary spot. They’re best known for their tonkatsu teishoku, where panko-breaded tonkatsu is served alongside a carefully-chosen set of sides. They also often have special set menus for holidays like Valentine’s.
Ramen Danbo: A Japanese chain specializing in Fukuoka-style hakata ramen with a handful of locations in North America. They’re my favourite purveyors of my favourite style of ramen; I once patiently waited in line at Danbo over an hour in the snow wearing only a hoody and didn’t regret it for a moment.