It’s no secret that San Francisco is a transient city. You can ask someone on a date on a Tuesday and by Friday, they’ve already left for D.C. to work at a nonprofit lobbying for paper to turn back into trees. With tech startups hiring fresh blood every day, and big companies building outposts around town, there are a lot of opportunities to convince your friends, family, and coworkers to move here.
Getting them to visit is a great way to show them how amazing life would be if they made the move to SF, but you need to make sure that the trip goes off without a hitch. This guide includes everything, from places to go for big, impressive meals to everyday spots that show how even a Tuesday in SF can be as fun as a Saturday elsewhere.
In a perfect world, every morning would start with a trip to the bakery for some fresh bread and pastries. And in that perfect world, Tartine would be that bakery. Get here early so you and your friend can make the most of the day (and avoid the line), load up on croissants, and talk about all the different things you can do with the rest of the morning while they sit there, shocked that a croissant can be this good.
Even though it’s one of the best restaurants in the city, Flower + Water feels like a casual neighborhood spot you’d feel comfortable dropping into for any occasion. The menu constantly reflects what’s in season and even though it’s tough to get a reservation, they still keep a large portion of the restaurant open for walk-ins. Plus, they make the best pasta in the city.
You and your significant other are both sick of long distance. One of you is going to have to leave your beloved city behind, and since you just convinced your boss to let you work from home on Fridays, it’s not going to be you. Get your person to come for a weekend and start off by walking into Nopa late night. It’s one of the best special occasion restaurants in the city and it shows them how, unlike in their city, SF doesn’t shut down at 9:30.
Your cousin Alex is from a small town and moving to a “big city” seems daunting to him, especially after he saw the mess of FiDi traffic after work. You need to show him that San Francisco can feel smaller, too. Take him to Biergarten in Hayes Valley. Everyone is there to have a few daytime drinks, there are no tall buildings around, and you can make friends with the people sitting at your picnic table, easy. Grab a few giant beers and settle in for an afternoon of letting him change his own mind.
Convincing your best friend in the world to uproot and move here would be amazing, so you need to pull out all the stops. Mister Jiu’s is not an everyday place, but if you want to do it big, bringing someone here could help tip the scale. It’s one of the coolest restaurants in the city and can show them that no matter where they live in SF, Chinatown - and basically every neighborhood - is pretty easy to get to and from.
San Francisco has amazing pasta, but going big with SPQR isn’t something you can just do when you have to worry about being able to afford rent and multiple pairs of Allbirds. Instead, take them to Barzotto and show them that amazing pasta and wines by the glass are within reach all the time if they swap out their MTA or Charlie Card for a BART Pass.
For more places like this, check out our Guide To SF’s “Super Cute Reasonably Priced Restaurants To Catch Up With A Few Friends.”
You’ve got a coworker in town that you think would be a great addition to your team - watching them sell is like watching Pollock paint, it’s beautiful - but no one can figure out what’s going on in their head. Take them to Yank Sing for a long lunch and sell them on the merits of moving here outside of work, like hiking and day trips sailing around a former supermax prison, while you eat pork buns and soup dumplings.
Last night, you tried to introduce your sister to all of your cool friends in SF, but today you’re both getting more acquainted with your old friend, Raging Hangover, and you want to take it easy. Take her to The Italian Homemade in North Beach. Choose your noodles and sauce, share a huge plate of handmade pasta, and show her that there are quiet nights here, too.
After another terrible winter, your old roommate from Chicago is thinking about relocating to SF, but is hesitant to leave behind the wind and their beloved Malort. Take them to Hog Island for amazing oysters and incredible views of the bay. Then see if they really want to get back on that plane to O’Hare.
Your old coworker’s best friend wants you to take her out while she’s here. She’s a big fans of clubs, but you can’t do that all the time - inhaling champagne sparkler-smoke and fake fog is hazardous to your health - and living here means finding more affordable ways to have fun. Plus, clubs are kind of the same everywhere. If you still want a fun night out, take her to Li Po Lounge in Chinatown. Get a few mai tais, find some seats upstairs or in the basement, and enjoy being somewhere that could only exist in San Francisco.
It may not be top of mind, but having a go-to deli close to where you live is about as important as not cutting the tags off your mattress. If you have a friend eyeing apartments in North Beach, take them to Molinari for some of the best sandwiches in town. Remind them that they could come here every day on their walk to work or whenever they realize that the only bread left at home is those two awkward pieces at the end of the loaf. Lucca Delicatessen and Mission Cheese also do solid work if the Marina and Mission are on their radar.
After someone moves here, the “let’s go explore everything” phase fades because time passes, bank accounts trickle down, and someone can only ingest so many dumplings and pasta before they feel like they need to go back to eating normal, boring salads. If you take them to Blue Barn when they visit, you can show them that that ubiquitous salad can actually be enjoyable. Go for the arugula or the fattoush.
Everyone needs a few quick and casual places they can pop into at any given time and get a good meal. In SF, we have Souvla to answer the Panera Bread call coming from deep within, but this Greek mini chain is way better. The menu lets you get your protein in sandwich or salad form, and both the lamb or chicken are good calls. Also, skip the fries and get an order of juicy potatoes cooked in the meat drippings instead.
Even if you haven’t gone to Plow for breakfast yet, you need to take your friend there. It’s easily one of the best breakfasts in town. It could even help remind yourself why you moved here in the first place - then you can use that energy to sell you friend, or just let the lemon ricotta pancakes do it for you.
You and your best high school friend miss each other, and they’re considering transferring to their company’s SF office. But they know you won’t be able to hang out with them every day, so it’s important to show them places you can catch up from time to time on a random weeknight when you’re both miraculously not working late. If they test you with showing them how you would actually be living, bring them to RT Rotisserie. It has the feel of a casual weeknight dinner, but the rotisserie chicken is expert and half a bird will only run you $10.
San Francisco has the reputation of being outrageously expensive, from the rent to the cocktails that involve pawning off your nice shoes if you want to afford another, but that’s why The Page exists. This place on Divis has elements from every kind of great dive bar, from the pool table to the books and magazines that haven’t been updated in years to the obligatory paintings of ships and stuffed animal heads on the walls. Even better, beers are $3.50 instead of the $7 they are most places.
Your college roommate is visiting and wants to relive some of the old days by going out in the Marina. Take them to A16 before you hit the bars. This place is good for everything from dates to group dinners, the pizza is great, and you can turn their next visit into a one-way ticket by explaining that this could all be theirs as soon as they start filling out apartment applications.
As much as your friend thinks that all the jobs out here are in Silicon Valley, it’s mostly houses, and odds are, they’ll end up working close to the FiDi/SoMa instead. Set the stage and have them meet you there after work one day, so they can see where they’ll actually be spending their time. Novela makes nice cocktails based on literary characters, and gets crowded after work with people wearing company-branded vests with matching backpacks. Go network and show them that they could meet people whose cousin’s boyfriend’s sister’s best friend is your mom’s book club organizer’s kid. It’s a small world, and look, they’re already making connections in SF.
If they like the idea of checking out places close to where they’ll work, show them our FiDi Lunch Guide and our guide to Where To Get A Drink Near Your FiDi/SoMa BART Stop.
You’ve known since the second grade that your friend Susie is a visual learner, so give her something to look at and take a day trip to Sol Food in Mill Valley. When you’re done eating amazing bistec and cubano sandwiches, drive her around the Marin Headlands and let the views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the city do the talking for you.