The Sunset feels completely different than the rest of San Francisco - it’s flatter on this side of the city, buildings are shorter, and everything is a little more spaced out. It almost feels like a Southern California beach town - at least until the fog rolls in.
It’s also home to a lot of great restaurants, from sports bars to Chinese noodle houses to excellent bakeries. And aside from having food worth making a pilgrimage for, most of these spots are more affordable than the actual price of crossing town from the Mission or Pac Heights just to come here. While there are endless places you could walk into in the Sunset, these are our 21 favorite spots.
This place has the same naming issues as Shake Shack because while their coffee is great, it’s their toast that keeps us coming back. The slices of bread are super thick and covered in butter and cinnamon sugar in a way that, if you did this at home, it would probably take you a week to clean up. Then get a fresh coconut to wash it down or maybe actually opt for coffee instead because theirs is fantastic.
San Francisco has so many great coffee shops that they could have their own King Arthur-style mythology built around them, and if that existed, Andytown would definitely have a seat at that Round Table. Aside from making perfect coffee, this spot has excellent soda-bread scones and a concoction called the Snowy Plover with espresso, sparkling water, and whipped cream that always leads to a big line going out the door on the weekends.
Arizmendi bakery is set up how we think all grocery store pick-n-mix stations should be, but instead of choosing from a bunch of candy and definitely skipping over the banana Runts, Arizmendi has endless bread options. Fill up a bunch of pastry pouches with cheese rolls, focaccia with toppings like kale and cheese, and sourdough croissants that might feel dense, but are still flaky when you bite into them. They also do pizzas that change up frequently, but are always delicious if it’s too late in the day to justify just having some coffee and a pastry.
There is a waitlist at Kingdom of Dumpling, but it gets completely ignored, so when you show up here, don’t walk off or you’ll get skipped over. This place in the Outer Sunset is tiny to the point that whenever someone squeezes in behind you, they really are squeezing behind you, but it’s worth getting nudged a few times throughout the meal because the dumplings here are both cheap and great. We like the standard pork with cabbage, but the spicy dumplings with pork and chili oil and the pan-fried soup dumplings with a thick, chewy, cakey wrapper are the real stars.
If we ended up with the genie lamp from Aladdin in our hands, we’d skip the whole royalty thing and immediately ask to be greeted each morning by a breakfast sandwich from Devil’s Teeth. The Special Breakfast Sandwich is our favorite in the city because it has everything we could want: eggs, bacon, cheese, avocado, and aioli all served on an incredible biscuit. But because the genie was set free in 1992, we have to settle for coming here, getting a few biscuits to go, and eating them on a bench outside or at Ocean Beach if they survive the walk.
With its bright yellow walls and TV playing things like Indiana Jones and Harry Potter, King of Noodles can feel as much like a teen hangout sponsored by Nickelodeon as it does a restaurant. The menu is huge and has everything from soup dumplings to chow mein, but we come here for the noodle soup. Our favorite is the spicy beef version that’s cloudy with chilis and spices, but isn’t overly hot. The beef is tender and delicious and the noodles are perfectly chewy. One bowl is enough for two people and only costs $9, and on a lazy Sunday afternoon, this is where you should be.
All of the fish here is prepared simply, and you can get things like crab cakes with a lot of meat and almost no filler, fish tacos, and one of our favorite burritos in the city. What’s even better is how casual this place is - with its bright wood and concrete, it feels like some sort of Icelandic beach shack. We usually come here after a trip to Ocean Beach once we’re reminded why we hate sand so much.
You go to Thanh Long in the Outer Sunset for Dungeness crab - gigantic, whole-roasted Dungeness crab. They’re thoroughly covered in salt and pepper, which makes breaking into the shells just as good as eating the actual meat. And while the crab alone is enough of a reason to come here, the garlic noodles pair about as perfectly with it as Tom Cruise does with sprinting on camera.
Outerlands serves a solid brunch, with things like dutch babies, sticky buns, and a giant grilled cheese that always has people getting here before they open at 9am, but we prefer coming to this Outer Sunset staple for dinner. They make great salads with seasonal produce and an excellent rock cod with Sungold tomatoes, but the best thing on the menu might be the bread with cultured butter that you need to order as soon as you sit down. There are just as many kids here running around at night as there are during the day, but it’s still one of the best date spots in the area.
Holy Gelato carries both dairy and vegan ice cream flavors, which you can get in a cup or cone depending on your ice cream drip risk tolerance. They have things like an excellent standard chocolate, but the real reason to come here is to try some of the more interesting flavors, like strawberry with flecks of chocolate mixed in, or the non-dairy Irish Morning with coffee, fudge, cookies, and whiskey that actually tastes like an Irish coffee.
There’s no American breakfast food here, but this place makes the best onion pancakes we’ve had in San Francisco. They’re big, puffy, and flaky and stand up perfectly to the things they fill them with, like beef with Hoisin sauce. This place also makes super chewy hand-pulled noodles in the back that you can get stir-fried with things like lamb or served in soup. House of Pancakes is small and there’s most likely going to be a wait, but it’s always well worth it.
We love the Sunset because of its high concentration of chicken wings and dumplings, but if we’re trying to keep things healthy-ish, we go to Judahlicious. This place specializes in vegan and raw foods - from gigantic acai bowls to the “No Shirt, No Shoes,” a burrito bowl with black beans and rice, grilled vegetables, sesame tomato sauce, sliced avocado, cashew crème, and tomatillo sauce. It’s a good sport to come hang out for a long casual breakfast or lunch.
Their classic plain glazed donuts and apple fritters are reason enough to check out Twisted Donuts, but it’s everything else on the menu that’ll keep bringing you back. They have things like Maple bacon, Nutella with walnuts, and cookies and cream that all sound way closer to what you’d find at an ice cream parlor rather than a donut shop, but we’re more than fine with it.
San Tung is a throwback spot with servers who wear black bow ties and a ceiling with paper dragons hanging from it, but we hope they never change because this is one of our favorite Chinese restaurants in the city. The menu is so long that you could read someone a bedtime story in less time than it takes to sift through the pages of dumplings, noodles, meat, seafood, and poultry dishes, and it’s all great. If there’s one thing to get, it’s the dry-fried chicken wings that are heavy on pepper and covered in a sweet, sticky, and slightly spicy sauce, but that magically stay crispy somehow. Make sure to get the Three Deluxe Spicy Sauce Noodles too, with squid, shrimp, and scallops that ride the line between not spicy enough and almost too spicy with every bite.
The Pizza Place is a neighborhood institution and it has some of our favorite pizza by-the-slice in the area. It’s super casual and a little sleepy, but it also makes delicious New York-style pizza, including gluten-free and vegan options too, if you choose to live on that side of the fence. We usually stick with classic cheese or margherita, but you really can’t go wrong.
This place has great pho, with a meaty broth that could thaw out Austin Powers before the world needs him again, as well as great salt and pepper crab. It’s right next to San Tung, and if the wait there is longer than you can handle, Yummy Yummy is an excellent place to use as an alternative, especially if the fog starts to roll in while you’re waiting.
Ebisu doesn’t take reservations, but the wait is never too long, which makes it an easy option for a last-minute date or a group dinner with a few friends. The sushi here is all great as well, and affordable - get the $28 sashimi omakase for two or some giant hand rolls. If you want something hot though, we always start with the Pink Cadillac, which is a grilled salmon filet wrapped around scallops.
The menu at Izakaya Sozai looks deceptively small, but before you know it, your table will be covered with skewers, raw dishes, and more fried things than you’ll know what to do with. Our favorites are the Nasu Dengaku eggplant with sweet miso, hamachi carpaccio with mustard miso vinaigrette and jalapeno, and the pork jowl skewers that are somehow meatier than a full pork chop. If you’re still hungry though, definitely get the chashu pork belly ramen.
Toyose is located inside a converted garage, but unlike our third-grade science projects, most of what comes out of this place is actually pretty good. It’s open until 2am daily, and late-night is when you should come here - both because that feels like the right time to eat out of a converted garage and the Korean food they serve here is filling and perfect for after you’ve had a few drinks. We like the seafood pancake with shrimp, calamari, and vegetables, as well as the kimchi fried rice.
Much like how we assume Nicolas Cage chooses roles these days, Polly Ann Ice Cream has a gigantic wheel of flavors behind the counter that they’ll spin to let fate decide which ice cream you get. It’s a good way to avoid choosing chocolate or cookie dough for the thousandth time and trying some of their unique flavors, like green tea or durian.