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Cozy Up: Best Spots for California Comfort Food in San Francisco



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 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!


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At La Taqueria, you'll not only get a great Mexican meal, but you'll save a little cash too! The menu specializes in burritos, tacos, and quesadillas served with beef, pork, sausage, or chicken. Carne asada comes highly praised, and chorizo sausage must be sampled before you leave. Long wooden dining tables are shared by guests, so enjoy a delightful meal and the opportunity to socialize with locals and tourists. Although it's often crowded, they have the service line down to a science, so don't be scared away by a long line. If you're looking for a big Mexican meal at a reasonable price, head to La Taqueria.

Recommended for Homestyle because: Quality Mexican food served fast and delicious. A definite comfort food!

Tom's expert tip: La Taqueria often tops the list of "Best Mexican Restaurants" of San Francisco.

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If you feel more comfortable leaving your steak preparation to a Texan rather than a Californian, then head to Bob's Steak and Chop House. Founded in 1993 in Dallas, Texas, this steakhouse follows the Texas tradition of the bigger the better. The cuts of meat are big, the glasses of wine are fish bowls, and the jumbo shrimp in the enormous salads could pass as lobsters. Even the atmosphere is as big and robust as a ten gallon hat. And, if you still have room, then order their Marbled Chocolate Amaretto Cheesecake to complete the shift of all your blood flow to your stomach. If your dinner happens to be your only meal of the day, make it a Bob's night out.

Recommended for Homestyle because: There's nothing that says comfort more than a big, fat steak.

Tom's expert tip: The menu describes the onion rings as huge. That's an understatement.

Read more about Bob's Steak & Chop House - San Francisco →


La Traviata


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.

Recommended for Homestyle because: La Traviata carries on the grand tradition of comfort food that was practically invented by the Italians.

Tom's expert tip: The antipasto misto is a nice way to start off your meal.

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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 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.

Recommended for Homestyle because: San Francisco Soup Company is proof positive that soup is the king of comfort foods.

Tom's expert tip: The name is not imaginative, but the soup is.

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The Tenderloin
Original Joe's


Founded way back in 1937 and having survived the Great Depression, Original Joe's is a great place to eat. The simplicity of the meals is only outdone by the portions: the classic Flatiron Steak and Eggs is three square meals on one plate. The breakfast menu offers a good variety of omelets, along with sausage, eggs, ham, and other traditional breakfast items. The retro ambience includes waiters in tuxedos, and hamburgers come highly recommended. With its signature red leather booths, legendary smooth cocktails, and renowned Italian American menu, Joe's has come to signify its own Northern Californian category of food and symbolizes classic Italian American comfort food at its finest.

Recommended for Homestyle because: Original Joe's has been making simple but comforting food for San Francisco for generations.

Tom's expert tip: Walk up and down the hills of North Beach to work off your big Original Joe's meal!

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Rosamunde Sausage Grill
Photo courtesy of used in book.


Within this small, bright eatery, you'll find some of the city's best sausages. Choose from kielbasa, knockwurst, Italian, chicken or weisswurst, or live boldly by sampling wild boar with chutney or smoked duck with figs. The variety is impressive and served on French rolls with toppings like sauerkraut, spicy peppers and grilled onions the dogs are incredible. Sodas and chips also find a place on the menu, and since the grill is small, most people place to-go orders or even take their selections next door to the Toronado Pub, which stocks great microbrews. On Tuesday, Rosamunde makes awesome juicy cheeseburgers as well.

Recommended for Homestyle because: Nothing says comfort food like a fresh sausage from Rosamund's Sausage Grill.

Tom's expert tip: The Monday-Friday Happy Hour from 4-7 is a fun way to kick of a feisty night in the Mission.

Read more about Rosamunde Sausage Grill →


Yamo
Photo courtesy of Tom Molanphy


If you want an Asian restaurant with plenty of space and attentive service, Yamo's may not be for you. But if you'rw willing to sacrifice some of the atmospheric frills that accompany most residents for an excellent, thoughtful meal, then try Yamo's. Located in the city's ultra-hip and busy Mission District, Yamo's is a cramped place where take-out is the best plan. Be sure to sample the unique and popular tea-leaf salad. Noodles can be served either hot or cold. If you are able to find a seat, it's a delight to watch the cooks work their magic on the hot stoves.

Recommended for Homestyle because: Yamo feels like you just walked into a friend's kitchen in Asia.

Tom's expert tip: Yamo is popular, so be prepared to wait in line. One of the best cheap-eat options in the Mission.

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One of three locations, the Valencia Street restaurant in the Mission District is where the magic that is Pica Pica first happened in 2010. Fitting in perfectly with its surroundings full of Latin flair, this Maize Kitchen is open for lunch, dinner and dessert. Most popular on the menu is the arepa (pocket composed of grilled corn and stuffed with vegetables, plantains, beans, cheese or meats. . .your choice). Also sample the ceviche or yuca fries as a starter. Don't leave without having a glass of sangria and a taste of dessert (yuca beignets or coconut quesillo). Bringing pure food, fantastic flavors and environmental awareness, all take-out containers are completely biodegradable.

Recommended for Homestyle because: Arepas are irresistible pockets of Latin comfort food. Wonderful spot to share small bites of carefully prepared home-style food.

Tom's expert tip: This is a small space with limited seating, so get your food to go during busy hours.

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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.

Recommended for Homestyle because: Nothing says homestyle like a big buffet, and Tommy's has one of the best in the city.

Tom's expert tip: One of the best selections of bottled and draft beers in the city.

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Downtown


"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.

Recommended for Homestyle because: The Melt is homestyle food for SF's tech-saavy crowd.

Tom's expert tip: Reasonable prices and convenient locations make "the Melt" a homestyle-favorite.

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Meet 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...  More About Tom

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