a guest blog by travel journalist Jules Older, co-creator of the new iPhone App San Francisco Restaurants.

Savor San Francisco Dining without Breaking the Bank

Here’s a travel fact: San Francisco is the world’s favorite American city. Year after year, it’s the city overseas visitors most want to see.

Here’s a food fact: Along with Chinatown, the Golden Gate Bridge and those little cable cars climbing halfway to the stars, one of San Francisco’s biggest attractions is its food. It has 3,489 restaurants.

Here’s a locals’ fact: San Franciscans firmly believe that visitors routinely miss the best of the restaurants.

I’m a San Franciscan. I share that belief.

When I see tourists, they’re flocking to places all my friends avoid. When my wife and I eat out, the places we choose rarely see a tourist from farther away than San Jose.

Why the disconnect? Because while there are fine restaurants downtown, most of the best eating in San Francisco is in the ‘hoods. Especially at small ethnic restaurants. And most especially, at small, ethnic, cheap restaurants.

Even those that aren’t cheap cost far less than the Venus Fly Traps where tourists flock to devour… and be devoured.

Let me share some of our faves with you.

Our go-to restaurant is a venerable Thai place, Little Thai. It’s on Broadway and Polk, where Russian Hill meets Pacific Heights. Don’t miss their pumpkin curry with soft tofu — we eat it so often that when we sit down, Toni, the owner asks, “And what are you having besides pumpkin curry?”

One of the great bargains of San Francisco is a Persian restaurant on Van Ness and Sutter. I’ve never had a bad dish or even a just-ok dish at Alborz, but their standouts are the lamb shank and the Shirin Polo. That’s rice with almonds, pistachio, raisin, orange peel and saffron. It’s also the best rice on Planet Earth.

Here’s another bargain, this one with a view. Wherever you eat, one thing is certain — the restaurant with the best view is going to be among the most expensive. San Francisco is no exception. And the best daytime view in San Francisco is looking down on the Pacific from the windows of Cliff House. Gorgeous viewing — wickedly expensive.

But fifty yards up the hill, the view from Louis’ Restaurant is equally splendid. So are the burgers and the chowder. And the whole menu’s budget-friendly. But bring cash — Louis has no truck with checks or credit cards. 

I talk about all these restaurants and many more on a new iPhone app, San Francisco Restaurants. On it, I also name the best restaurant in San Francisco. It’s one that most visitors have never heard of — a small and intimate Italian place called Capannina.

If Capannina were on Union Square, it would be known to all. But it’s on Union Street, where locals eat and most tourists never go. It’s filled with Italian warmth, and the food is simply superb. If you go before six, the $25 Prix Fixed Menu is an outstanding value.

We’ve tried to make our app an outstanding value, too. San Francisco Restaurants costs 99 cents. And Apple iTunes has honored it by naming it a “Staff Favorite.”

It’s entirely created by San Franciscans. Sutro Media commissioned it. Effin Older photographed it. I wrote it. We all live and dine in San Francisco.

We’ve also created a two-minute YouTube video about the app called San Francisco Restaurants, The Movie. Check it out — it’s free.

San Francisco Restaurants, the app, is sold at the App Store on iPhone and iPod Touch, and at the iTunes Store, http://sutromedia.com/apps/sfdining. San Francisco Restaurants, The Movie is at http://www.youtube.com/julesolder#p/a 


The Olders’ travel and food articles have appeared in the US, Canada and New Zealand. They’ve written about food and restaurants from Italy to Iceland, from New England to New Zealand. They can be found at http://julesolder.com

Related Posts with Thumbnails


Ellen Barone has been creating words and images for travel and tourism since 1998. She co-founded and publishes the group travel blog YourLifeIsATrip.com and is currently at work on her first book "I Could Live Here".