While there may not be cows, there are burgers and cheese plates and plenty of other good things to be had on and around Union Street. Cow Hollow might usually get looped into the Marina, but it’s a unique neighborhood and deserves to stand on its own.
The area has a mix of everything - from one of the fanciest tasting menus in the city to a pizza-by-the-slice temple to a place that only serves cardboard boxes of rice and steamed chicken. You won’t go hungry, and you will also have the opportunity to eat something cow-related should that be what you seek.
Flores is the place that Union Street always needed. Margaritas are required in all neighborhoods and whatever Blue Light would serve you doesn’t count. Since it opened a few years ago, Flores has proved to be a perfect spot to drunkenly eat chips and killer tacos. Besides well-priced cocktails, the carnitas and crab tostadas are excellent, and weekend brunch is worth checking out too. This place is always packed due to the location, cool interior, and $12 drinks, but all of the food is strong and it’s a consistently great time.
Yes, La Boulangerie is a mini chain around SF. But it’s also one of our go-tos for a healthy-ish breakfast or lunch when we want don’t want to dress up or start drinking first thing in the morning. The rolled oats and smoked salmon toast are the move at breakfast and the grain bowl and croque monsieur are your best bets at lunch. They also have a few outdoor tables that are great for people watching, and determining what shoes/socks/shirt brands are taking over the podcast advertising game.
A solid spot for breakfast and brunch, Rose’s opens early and makes an exceptional smoked salmon breakfast pizza. The outdoor tables are worth waiting for – grab a coffee across the street at Wrecking Ball to kill time.
Upscale mini-market Epicurean Trader brings all of the hippest foods from the Mission to Union Street and the locals will be forever grateful. Grab a loaf of Tartine bread for a picnic or some Craftsman & Wolves pastries. And maybe some Bi-Rite ice cream for good measure.
A vegan picnic sounds like somewhere you’ll be served wheatgrass and encouraged to forage for berries. Hard pass. Conveniently, Vegan Picnic involves doughnuts, a shockingly passable/borderline delicious “crispy chicken” sandwich, and a caprese salad with dairy-free cheese. The space is designed to get you to your picnicking stat, with no tables and a counter-order set up, so plan accordingly.
Belga is a great spot to grab a beer and snack on sausages and meat plates. It’s a good one to keep in mind when outdoor tables and people watching are your priorities.
At one point, the burger you’re eating was roaming the grassy knolls of California. Even if you didn’t need to picture your lunch in its previous life, the quality shows at Roam - everything is fantastic across the board. It’s an order-at-the-counter, take-a-number set-up, and (depending on whether you go for a burger or salad) a good choice for a quick healthy-ish or very-not-healthy dinner. Or split the difference and order the salad topped with three mini burgers. The tejano turkey burger is excellent and if you don’t get the ‘fry-frecta’ - a sampling of zucchini, sweet potato, and regular fries - you’re doing it wrong.
We’ll ignore the fact that nothing here is homemade, because it’s made by professional restaurant people. Semantics aside, Italian Homemade Co. has a bunch of pretty fantastic pastas and sandwiches. This place is open all day, with a bunch of super-casual high tops inside and a few outside too. You can mix and match pastas and sauces or grab a hot or cold sandwich, but we would very much recommend you try the pappardelle with bolognese or pesto.
Terzo is still our go-to date night or semi-fancy dinner restaurant in the area. Good vibes, great wine, lots of bar seats, and awesome Mediterranean food. We always get the hummus, grilled calamari, and chicken spiedini, but you really can’t go wrong with anything here.
This place is basically the Bay Area capital of girl’s night out, but West Coast Wine & Cheese is still the best option in the area for two of our favorite things. If you’re hungry for more than bread and cheese, there are some more creative dishes on the menu too, like a salmon yakitori and shishito peppers.
PSA: this is not the bodega on Steiner with the same name. This is a bar with several things going for it, like a back deck area covered with a huge glass roof (because San Francisco), many big TVs for sports watching, and brunch that could cure a 21st-birthday-level hangover. The short rib hash and the chicken and waffles are both worth your time, but if you prefer to not need an afternoon nap, the kale salad is decent too.
If you’re looking to have a very fancy meal in Cow Hollow, this is your best option. While the menu may look clinically insane (mostly because it comes in the form of a poem), you’ll have a memorable meal here with beautiful, albeit extremely expensive, modern French food. The pre-set tasting menu is over $300 and you need tickets, so keep this in your back pocket for very, very special occasions - like celebrating your New Zealand citizenship papers going through so you can spend more time at your apocalypse compound.
One of the best days you can have in Cow Hollow involves staking out some high top tables in the back of Marengo when the roof’s open and consuming many, many sliders and sweet potato fries. If you want a semblance of health, they even have surprisingly good salads. The drinks flow freely and sports are on TV, so you basically have every human need covered.
Tacko has essentially the same food as Nick’s Crispy Tacos in Russian Hill, only lacking the chandeliers and Soviet sex-den vibe. The guacamole is great and the street tacos (specifically the carnitas) are always the move, but you need to get them Nick’s way for the full experience. You can technically order a lobster roll, but just because there are pictures of Nantucket on the walls doesn’t mean that’s a good choice.
As you might have guessed, Rooster and Rice serves exactly what the name suggests. The menu is short and simple at this little to-go spot, and it’s surprisingly all you need for a satisfying dinner. A meal here involves rice, poached chicken (or tofu), vegetables, sauces, and an egg if you really want to make your meal a metaphor. It’s an ideal place for a quick takeout dinner when you want something heartier than a salad, but you’re still trying to be kinda healthy.
Brazen Head is basically unmarked, and involves a trip back in time to old-school San Francisco with a saloon-y, Prohibition vibe, but luckily is still legal. This place serves some excellent French food - especially the onion soup, escargot, burgers, and petit filet. It’s dark and cozy, always a good time, and we can say with almost 100% certainty you won’t see anyone under 25 here.
This place sounds as much like a startup as it does somewhere you’d go for lunch. However, we can’t complain because the salads, proteins, and vegetable side dishes here are generally excellent and priced well compared to the other healthy neighborhood options. On a nice day, they open up the side windows and it’s a very pleasant place for a quick, healthy meal. And they have cookies, so you’re not really losing out.
The drinks are strong, the outdoor tables are ideal, and a Bloody Mary at brunch is a rule rather than an option. The food at Balboa might not blow you away, but it’s an institution and a fun time day or night. This is also the best spot for observing 45-year-old human mating rituals in the city of San Francisco.
A classic Cow Hollow deli featuring a dude (Tony) who’s worked there forever, Marina Sub is the place for gigantic sandwiches on the go before you head to Crissy Field or Fort Mason. We’re partial to the Atomic, since turkey, pastrami, and cheese are never a bad combo.
Like late night food in SF, friendly French people are generally thought to be a myth. Except Gamine proves this is very much not the case. Not only are the people here very nice, but they also serve top-notch mussels, tasty French onion soup, and an excellent steak frites. The outdoor tables are fantastic for brunch or dinner on a warm night, and best of all, there’s usually a minimal wait.
The presence of alcoholic slushies makes Palm House one of the best destinations for Happy Hour in the neighborhood. A generous number of of outdoor tables is also a strong selling point, and the snack food - from guacamole to fries - is all solid.
While it may not look like much from the outside, Pizzeria Avellino makes some of the best NY-style pizza around, with a thin, crispy crust, and copious amounts of cheese. Most importantly: you can get it by the slice. Note - this spot is on the far, far, far west border of Cow Hollow, but you need to get your steps in today anyways.