Union Square is tourist central and with that comes an excess of lousy, overpriced dining experiences. Follow the golden traveler rule and look two streets over from the Powell Street main drag. You can still hear the cable car ding at all of these spots we’ve crowned the best restaurants in Union Square.
On a block packed with diners, only one is worth eating at. Ignore Lori’s, Pinecrest (despite its freaky history) and Max’s. Café Mason is unassuming, open late, cheap, and serves up piles of quality comfort food. Best for breakfast or lunch, any time of day is good to stop in here. First-rate people watching can be had in the booths by the front windows.
Colibri classifies itself as a Mexican bistro and that’s about right. Good for a pre-theater dinner or for weekend brunch, upscale Colibri makes fresh guacamole at your table and features reasonably priced antojitos (small plates) and central Mexico specialties like chile rellenos, filet mignon, and pescado. All plates are served tapas-style for easy sharing.
Adjacent to the Hotel California, you can eat at one of the best vegetarian restaurants in San Francisco. Millennium consistently impresses locals and visitors alike with its gourmet vegetarian cuisine. Even voracious carnivores will appreciate the innovative take on tofu, tempeh, and veggies.
Don’t balk, but the underground food court at the Westfield San Francisco Centre may be the best mall food court in the country. No Sbarro or McD’s in sight. Here, quick and cheap eats means steaming bowls of udon, organic grass-fed beef burgers, piles of spicy Thai noodles, Korean BBQ, and it doesn’t end there. All options are extremely wallet-friendly so you can save that cash to splurge on a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes in nearby Bloomingdales.
Thai joints are ubiquitous in San Francisco, but King of Thai Noodle House trumps the Union Square bunch. Cheap, quick, and open until 1am, King of Thai draws locals, in-the-know tourists, and late-night revelers for its tasty and generous portions of noodles and curries. Look for the purple sign on O’Farrell near the back end of Macy’s.
For fine dining, head straight to Masa’s on the upper border of Union Square for cuisine with a French edge and California flair. Four courses, including dessert, costs about $95 and features fancy preparations of delicacies like confit duck leg, Tai snapper sashimi, and Wagyu beef carpaccio. Go for the tasting menu ($135 per person) to impress your date with even more inspired dishes and excellent presentation. To top it off, everyone receives the royal treatment from the courteous staff.
Photo courtesy of bensonkua/Flickr