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7 Classic Only In San Francisco Restaurants Like Tadich Grill

Updated on October 4, 2011

What Are Classic San Francisco Restaurants

San Francisco is known for its lively and trend-setting restaurant scene. Many visitors to our city prefer to dine at the trendiest fine dining destinations, those restaurants most likely to appear in the pages of national food and travel magazines like Travel + Leisure or Bon Appetit.

But there’s another class of San Francisco restaurant that is well worth a visitor’s time and money: The classic, old-school San Francisco restaurants that convey a sense of place and time and helped this city earn its culinary chops and land on the foodie map.

Sure, these aren’t always the sexiest spots in town or the toughest-to-get reservation. But they are classic San Francisco restaurants, restaurants that could only exist in San Francisco, and these San Francisco restaurants capture more about what this city is about — historically and today — than do of-the-moment hotspots like Flour + Water, Café des Amis, Wayfare Tavern or Twenty-Five Lusk.

Tadich Grill

Tadich calls itself "the original rainy day restaurant," and it certainly is a cozy spot on a classic foggy day in San Francisco. When cold gray mist swirls outside, the restaurant's windows steam over and the long, long wooden bar just inside Tadich's heavy double doors is sure a welcome site.

Tadich is also one of the oldest restaurants in San Francisco.

The cioppino seafood stew here is famed as one of the best in the city; it comes with a huge hunk of rich garlic bed. Tadich also specialties in classic old American dishes like oysters Rockefeller, crab or shrimp louie and they make a mean Petrale sole — another classic San Francisco recipe.

The white-coated bartenders at Tadich also mix a mean martini and pour a pretty nice draft beer. All servers here where old-world white jackets and bow ties, and all measure the amount of time they've worked at Tadich in decades, not months.

Address: 240 California Street.

Cliff House

Come for the views.

Cliff House has worked to upgrade its food offerings in recent years. Cliff House even hired George Morrone — one of San Francisco’s celebrity chefs who, with Michael Mina, put the now-closed Aqua on the map — to consult in the kitchen. But it is the view that will keep people coming to Cliff House no matter what the kitchen prepares, though it sure helps that the food at Cliff House is now better than just edible. The aptly-named Cliff House is perched on a cliff above the Pacific, between Ocean Beach and Lands End.

Sutro’s on the lower level has more fine dining fare, if the white tablecloth is your thing; the more casual Terrace Room has a famous Sunday champagne brunch. Cliff House has live jazz on the weekends.

Address: 1090 Pt. Lobos


Dine as though you were blind.

This novelty restaurant is pitch black, and diners have to feel their way through their meals. Don't worry about reading the menu here — it's a set menu.

Opaque may not be a classic in the historic sense —it’s only a few years old — but it’s pretty unique and an only-in-San-Francisco experience.

Address: 689 McAllister St. Opaque is only open Wednesdays through Saturdays.

John's Grill

Opened in 1908 and one block off of Union Square, John’s Grill is an institution in San Francisco history as well as in popular culture.

John's Grill is the setting for a scene in Dashiell Hammett’s “Maltese Falcon.”

John's Grill is classic old school restaurant food; think chowders, chopped steak and benedicts. It's a great place for a restorative Bloody Mary after a morning shopping, or to pick up a hearty mid-day meal or dinner.

Address: 63 Ellis Street

Forbes Island

Why not eat on a floating island in the Bay?

Forbes Island offers a quirky, unique escape from touristy Pier 39. The restaurant picks up diners at Pier 39, Gate 4 next to the Fog Harbor Fish House, and shuttles them by boat to this small island replete with palm trees, lighthouse and waterfall just off the pier.

Forbes Island restaurant itself is no less an experience. The underground restaurant is decorated to resemble the interior of an early 19th century sailing ship. Outside the portholes, you can see fish swim past. Upstairs at Forbes Island, there are tiki rooms.

Address: Pier 39.


Tucked away on a small alley between the Financial District and Jackson Square is Bix, part speakeasy and part sexy supper club, and home to San Francisco's best martini. Oh, and Bix offers live jazz nightly. Bix is definitely one sexy spot.

The waiters and bartenders wear jackets; the men and women who dine at Bix look smart. The restaurant is all plush banquets and dark mahogany wood and is on two levels, giving Bix a spacious feel that comes as a surprise after the narrow alley you walk down to reach the restaurant. Bix serves modern American style food.

Address: 56 Gold Street.


Scoma's is a seafood institution in San Francisco, where it has occupied a place on Fisherman's Wharf for over 45 years. Scoma's remains a family-run business, and is so popular, it counts over 400,000 patrons a year!

Scoma's is not some dinosaur of a restaurant stuck in the past. It offers all sustainably sourced seafood. Like Tadich, Scoma's has a mean cioppino. And its Dungeness crab cakes are worth a visit.

Address: Pier 47, Fisherman's Wharf. (Jones and Jefferson streets)


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