San Francisco's reputation as a world-class city for restaurants is well-deserved. With time-tested classics like linguini in North Beach or dimsum in Chinatown, sampling San Francisco's many cuisines is the best way to get to know this diverse, extraordinary city. You truly haven't visited San Francisco until you have eaten in San Francisco.
And San Francisco has been steadily expanding her impressive menu. Driven by the same westward spirit of risk and expansion of 19th century American pioneers, the San Francisco restaurant scene has reinvented itself. Some of the country's most daring and inventive chefs are nestled in San Francisco's seven hills.
So the answer seems obvious: if you've just finished watching a 49ers game at the brand new Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, the only choice for dinner is to head back to San Francisco, right?
Delay your game for a minute, football fan. Because Santa Clara and the Peninsula, the area south of San Francisco, have their own tradition and inventiveness to offer you.
Want tradition? Then head to one of the several top-notch Italian restaurants in the area.
Interested in tasting the cutting edge, California cuisine that basically started the whole "farm to table" movement? Then head to Parcel 104, a quality restaurant that was heralding the importance of organic food well before many of the hip Mission start-ups.
Goo Yi Goo Yi
Like 99 Chicken, Goo Yi Goo Yi is an excellent example of the fantastic Korean food that can be found around Santa Clara's Levi's Stadium.
Both 99 chicken and Goo Yi Goo Yi offer "Dak Bul Go Gi," the crispy and tantalizing Korean friend chicken. But Goo Yi Goo Yi's menu is a bit more extensive, with seafood dishes such as Eundaegu Jolim (Spicy black cod & radish casserole) and Nakji Bokum (Sauteed octopus with vegetables & green onion).
If you're not quite ready for black cod or octopus, try a meat dish, such as Kal Bi Tang (Short ribs in a mild soup). ((408) 615-9292)
If you're running late to the game but don't want to just scarf down burgers, La Fontana's close proximity to Levi's Stadium makes it a reasonable "last-minute" option. Although reservations are preferred, La Fontana is in the Hilton, right across from Levi's Stadium, so you can afford to wait a bit with that kind of short commute.
Specializing in California and Mediterranean cuisine, La Fontana is your classic hotel restaurant: charming, clean and dependable. With a large dining area, it's a good option for large groups, as well. The enormous 66" HDTV that dominates one end of the area will keep you up-to-date on game time, too. ((408) 562-6731)
By-Th'-Bucket Bar and Grill
Started by the Garcia family in 1959 and passed on to the Furiosi family in 1999, By-Th'-Bucket Bar and Grill is a family owned and operated institution by every measure. You'll immediately feel that warmth and the importance of good hospitality to guests as soon as you walk through their doors.
Although this restaurants is proud of its long traditions, the Furiosi's did add to the menu and ambiance in 1999. The most significant changes were a larger selection of fine wines, specialty By-Th'-Bucket drinks, fresh fish specials, upgraded banquet options, By-Th'-Bucket Market (where you can purchase almost anything we make to take home and cook yourself) and new gelato selections. ((408) 248-6244)
San Francisco's Chinatown is world-famous. Everyone knows this downtown neighborhood specializes in some of the best Chinese food around.
What's not as famous are the fantastic Korean food option all throughout the peninsula, just south of San Francisco and the area where Levi's Stadium is located. If you're football fan who wants to try something more exciting than beer and hot dogs, 99 Chicken is the place for you.
99 chicken offers a "healthy version of fried chicken, " as well as a sizable salad bar with all the fixings. Since this place is very popular, don't expect to rush in and rush out right before the game. ((408) 244-5599)
Butter and Zeus
Can't play like San Francisco 49er defensive lineman? Well, at Butter and Zeus, you can at least eat like one. Butter and Zeus specializes in waffle sandwiches.
That's it. If you like waffles so much you want to treat them as slices of bread, this is definitely the place for you.
For those who believe waffles should be restricted to breakfast time, Butter and Zeus does offer some yummy salads, such as their Garden Salad or Barbacoa Pork Salad.
For those that believe waffles should eaten at breakfast, lunch, dinner and even dessert, you can end your meal with a Banana Pudding Waffle. ((408) 727-1800)
David's Restaurant offers simple, banquet-style food. For those who need a meal before or after a 49ers football game, though, is location right across the street from the stadium is hard to beat.
Not only is the location convenient, but it also offers a lovely view of one hundred and forty acres of a pristinely kept green golf course. The restaurant itself expertly blends the clean lines of modern California architecture with the charm of a Vermont inn.
David's has an extensive menu and is open is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you happen to traveling with a large group, they have a banquet hall that can be reserved, as well. ((408) 986-1666)
Known for its excellent hardwood grilled steaks, chops and seafood, Birk's became a South Bay institution the moment it opened its doors in 1989. If you're interested in the Silicon Valley crowd, a little different than the average football fan, you should check out Birk's. In their own words, Birk's serves the "Silicon Valley's business professionals, travelers, deal makers, mavericks and culinary aficionados."
The Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence has been awarded to Birk's for nine consecutive years, so it's definitely a great choice for those who love wine.
Birk's also opens at 10 am on 49er Game Day, so it's a great choice for a pre-game meal. (408-980-6400)
Jersey Mike's Subs
What says football than a great big sub sandwich? San Francisco 49er players even love Jersey Mike's, so it's definitely a good choice for fans either before or after a game at Levi's Stadium.
Opened as Mike's Subs all the way back in 1956, what turned this one east coast store into a national franchise is quality ingredients at affordable prices. Mike's subs does one thing, but they do it extremely well. With over 1300 stores either open or in development, they must be doing something right.
You can put together your own sub or just order the "Jersey Shore's Favorite," which comes with Provolone, ham and "cappacuolo," which is an Italian-style cold cut made from dry-cured whole pork. (408-477-2690)
Even if the main reason you came to the Bay Area was to watch football or some other event at brand new Levis' Stadium, you can't really call your California vacation complete without having a meal of locally harvested and sustained California ingredients.
And that's Parcel 104's particular speciality. Chef Bradley Ogden has created an American-themed menu showcasing the finest efforts of local Bay Area growers, ranchers, and dairies in a celebration of seasonal dining delights. From the meat to the fruits to the veggies, everything is harvested locally and by season, so you'll be tasting California at her very best with every bite. ((408) 970-6104)
Bourbon Steak and Pub
If you've rushed to the game, but then decided you want a world-class San Francisco meal, don't fret. You don't have to wait until after the game to head to San Francisco to get the best meal of your vacation. Located right in Levi's Stadium, Bourbon Steak and Pub has the quality of service and fine ingredients that Chef Michael Minna demands of all of his restaurants.
When you start off a meal with something like Ahi Tuna Tartare (with Asian pears, Pine nuts, Scotch Bonnets, Mint, and Sesame), you know you're not having the usual football stadium snacks. Who says your football meal has to be just hot dogs? (408-217-2490)
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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