San Francisco is universally recognized as a city of fine cuisine and artistic design. Many would argue the most successful design is the simplest one, and the simplest design for a good meal is homestyle. There's no question that the complex, ancient sauces of Chinatown are a must-try, and the rich, sultry risotto of North Beach cant' be missed. But when you just want a meal to end with a satisfied belly, plain and simple, then you're in the mood for some homestyle.
If homestyle means BBQ to you, then try the delectable ribs and sausages at Hi Lo BBQ in the always interesting Mission District. If you want a sense of where locals find their comfort food, the buffets at either Tommy's Joynt or Lefty O'Doul's on Union Square are legendary troughs.
Whatever spot on your list you pick, you'll get what we all want from homestyle cooking: simple foods that fulfill the simple purpose of filling up our bellies without any fancy fuss. Although the city by the bay is know for restaurants, it's also known for historic landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge and iconic Coit Tower - both destinations that take time and energy to get to. So fill up your belly with some homestyle and get walking!
As the name would indicate, this Italian restaurant takes opera as seriously as it does cuisine. Polished woods and opera-themed art set the scene for a wealth of delicious dishes, including veal, poultry, seafood, and pastas. Expanding the options are such specialties as gnocchi, sweetbreads, parchment-baked salmon, and grilled eggplant. The family-owned place is a great destination for romantic dinners too. The convenient location near 24rth and Mission puts you right by several MUNI stops and a main BART stop, so this restaurant is accessible no matter where you're staying in San Francisco. After dinner, the never-ending energy of the Mission District is right at your feet. (415-282-0500)
Hog and Rocks
As the name indicates, this Mission favorite likes to pair oysters with ham. Not just any ham, but the finest proscuitto, from Iowa to Spain to Italy and all parts in between. And not just any oysters, but both locally grown and carefully selected varieties from all over the world. The best part of sitting down at a restaurant that specializes in oysters and hams is that you can be certain that both a re exceptionally fresh and unbelievably tasty. If you're looking for a little more savory than your average oyster bar can offer, head to Hog and Rocks. (4155508627)
San Francisco Soup Company
Soup is on the menu year round in San Francisco, a place that can stay in the high 50's for much of August. If you find yourself in downtown San Francisco on one of those days when it feels like the wind and fog are barreling right through you, head to San Francisco Soup Company for a bowl or cup of their organic Southwestern Corn Chowder or organic Smoky Split Pea. On a chilly day, the best part of this grab and go item is that it will warm both your hands and your insides. And since all coups come with a generous hunk of sourdough bread, this quick and inexpensive meal will give you all the energy you need to tackle San Francisco's hills. ((415) 834-0472)
Constantly bustling, this restaurant along the southern edge of Golden Gate Park offers a cozy, relaxed atmosphere. It also dishes up top-quality Italian food, friendly service, and great prices. A favorite with both locals and visitors, it has the feel of a comfortable lodge, perfect for cocktails and dinner by the fireplace or a casual lunch on the heated outdoor porch. Menu items include hamburgers, steaks, wood-fired pizzas, seafood linguini, and poultry. The bar has an impressive offering of local beers on tap, as well. And after you've stuffed your belly full of comfort food, Golden Gate Park is just across the street, ready to offer that after-dinner stroll. (415-665-9912)
Lefty O'Doul's Restaurant & Cocktail Lounge
Besides a well-stocked bar and a popular buffet-style menu, Lefty O'Doul's is chock-full of San Francisco sports memorabilia and history. Founded in 1958 by legendary Giants hitter Lefty O'Doul, the bar quickly became a favorite hangout for local sports celebrities. Although the bar is in the heart of the Union Square tourist area, locals abound here, so don't be shy. Shoulder up to any one of the friendly locals at the bar to get an earful of San Francisco sports history - or maybe a hot tip on what your next stop should be. And if you just need a quick drink and want to save your appetite for something a bit more fancy, consider the up and coming Fifth Floor Restaurant, just down the street. ((415) 982-8900)
"Life is complicated enough... so a simple, affordable meal like grilled cheese and soup is an easy way to make people happy." So says the founder of "The Melt," Jonathan Kaplan, who also invented the Flip phone. The first "Melt" opened in 2011 and, like most simple but good ideas, it's been a great success. Don't go too far past the name to understand this restaurant: they take good bread and good cheese and melt them together. The creativity comes in soup combo, such as "The Italian Job," which features Fontina and Provolone on Garlic Bread paired with a Sausage and Pepper Soup. Yum, yum and yum. ((415) 691-6536)
Hi Lo BBQ
At first glance, San Francisco's Hi Lo BBQ seems like just another addition to the restaurant-crazed Mission District, which sees 'Grand Openings' on a regular basis. But if you take the time to look- and smell - a bit more closely, you'll find out why Hi Lo is a trend that will not go away.
How many restaurants, after all, name their ovens, as is the case with "Precious," the 7,000 pound Oyler Pit Oven from Mesquite, Texas that cooks Hi Lo's heritage breed meat? Heritage breed meat is a highly valued local meat that comes from a diverse stock to insure quality. Open daily from 5-10 pm. (415-874-9921)
Tommy's Joynt opened on the corner of Geary and Van Ness (a.k.a. Route 101) back in 1947 with budget prices and a strong dedication to overflowing carnivorous sandwiches and entrees of pulled pork, oxtails, and spareribs. Luckily, things haven't changed since then and this local landmark remains a must for San Francisco visitors. Expect boisterous cooks (tip: know what you want before going in), red and white checked tablecloths and an extensive beer selection. Locals love Tommy's, too, so it's a great spot for tourists to get the inside scoop on the "must-see" spots in the city. Long bar for the social and plenty of dark booths for the private. (415-775-4216)
About Tom Molanphy
The only thing that Tom Molanphy loves more than the food, art, music, and culture of San Francisco is sharing it with others. San Francisco never gets old for Tom.
Tom has lived in the San Francisco Bay area since 2000. His journalism has appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle, SF Weekly, and 7x7. He teaches writing, journalism and literature at the Academy of Art University in downtown San Francisco. His latest book, Loud Memories Of A Quiet Life, is available through Outpost19.
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