Most people leave their hearts in San Francisco. I left my stomach.

The vibrant California city is home to a dynamic food scene, no doubt a product of its diverse ethnic and cultural populations.

When you go to San Francisco, be sure to take an empty stomach.

On a recent visit, I was fortunate enough to be taken to some of the best cafes, restaurants, and vendors in town and tried everything from cheap chips tacos joint to fancy eateries.

If you’re traveling to one of the best cities in the United States, add the food stalls below to your bucket list and prepare to be uncomfortably full but happy.

Mission Chinese Food

2234 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110.

South Korean-American chef Danny Bowien opened the first Mission Chinese Food in the Mission District of San Francisco in 2010. Bowien took over an old Cantonese restaurant and began serving unique dishes like kung pao pastrami and three-cooked bacon with rice cake. He quickly developed a reputation for making excellent experimental Chinese food that goes beyond the gimmick. He also left the signage intact.

Don't let the shop front fool you.

Don’t let the shop front fool you.

Today there are three Mission Chinese Foods with additional locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Local friends of mine took me to the original on my first night in San Francisco and it didn’t disappoint. If this were a restaurant review it would be five stars from me.

My mission was to eat all of the Chinese food.

My mission was to eat all of the Chinese food.

Hotel San Francisco

653 Commercial St, San Francisco, CA 94111.

Where do some Australians go when they land in San Francisco? An Australian bar-restaurant, of course. The Hotel San Francisco was founded by Aussies Thomas Glenwright, Paul Schulte and Priscilla Dosiou, who are committed to bringing the financial district’s bar scene to life with a venue that focuses on cocktails, music and fun. Plus, a sharing menu is delicious and clever, with dishes like confit duck crostini and french fries with fancy salt.

We come from a country ...

We come from a country …

Fortunately, the owners haven’t relied too much on their Australian heritage. The “Downunder” sign above is one of the few freebies along with a boomerang on the wall and the occasional Kylie Minogue song.

The story goes on

Boulibar

1 Ferry Building # 35, San Francisco, CA 94111.

The modern American restaurant Boulibar was opened in 2014 by the owners of Boulette’s Larder, a popular breakfast and lunch spot already in the Ferry Building. The Boulibar offers a more refined bar-restaurant atmosphere and serves seasonal Mediterranean-inspired dishes such as pizza, mezze, seafood and salads. Don’t miss the cannoli if they are on the menu.

Unusual home cooking in beautiful surroundings.

Unusual home cooking in beautiful surroundings.

Whether you eat here or not, a trip to the Ferry Building is a must. The beautifully restored port terminal is home to a number of specialty shops selling local produce and items such as bread, wine, books and chocolate. There is also a renowned farmers market on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Dynamo donuts + coffee

2760 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110.

Although Australia’s edgy donut hysteria has subsided somewhat, Americans are forever in search of the round treat. Brought to Dynamo Donuts + Coffee as part of a food tour of San Francisco’s famous Mission District, I am still dreaming of deep fried passion fruit milk chocolate.

I died and went to donut heaven ...

I died and went to donut heaven …

Choose from classic, year-round favorites, or enjoy fun seasonal flavors like the November menu of carrots with cream cheese and carrot icing, sweet potato marshmallow, and persimmon. And there are always plenty of gluten-free options for our sensitive readers.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Taqueria Vallarta

3033 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110.

San Francisco is known for many things, including spirited weather, a strong LGBTQI community, and amazing Mexican food. Anytime you’re hit by a burrito craving, a taqueria is likely within a mile if not closer. This is how I imagine heaven.

Is anyone else hungry?

San Francisco Food Tour Travel Restaurant Mexican Tacos

The city’s mission district in particular is famous for its Hispanic restaurants with a rich history of migration and refuge for Latin American peoples. Hard to find bad food at Mission, but if you need a recommendation, Taqueria Vallarta is an old, no-frills taco place that serves fresh, authentic Mexican food for next to nothing. Set your mouth on fire with hot sauce, then weigh yourself on the provided scales. Just kidding, please don’t do this.

Modern torture device.

Modern torture device.

Dandelion chocolate

740 Valencia Street, San Francisco.

Would you like to try the best cookie in the world? Big call, I know. But I’m calmly confident of crowning Dandelion Chocolate’s oatmeal chocolate chip cookie like this. And believe me, I’ve done a lot of research. They make some damn good hot chocolate to wash them off too.

Best job in the world?

Best job in the world?

With multiple locations in San Francisco, Dandelion Chocolate is a shop, coffee shop, school, and warehouse rolled into one. Watch how pralines are made in real time, learn to temper and bake them, and enjoy creative, delicious treats like chocolate yuzu, chocolate chai ice cream, and dulce de leche chocolate bars.

Bi-Rite Creamery

3639 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94103.

Bi-Rite Creamery was founded by two bakers and serves responsible, sustainable ice cream made from locally sourced ingredients. Your goal is to make people happy with intense, original and perfectly balanced flavors like roasted banana, honey lavender and lemon ricotta pancakes, and boy, can you do it?

I scream, you scream ...

I scream, you scream …

I had a religious experience with two scoops of black sesame seeds and a Welsh corgi on a sunny afternoon in a park next to the dairy on 18th Street. Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of the Welsh Corgi from the park, but here is a picture of another Welsh Corgi in case you need help depicting the scene.

A Welsh corgi, but not THE Welsh corgi.

A Welsh corgi dog

Panchitas pupuseria

3091 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103.

Before this visit to San Francisco, I had never eaten or heard of dolls, a Salvadoran roast full of joy. This trip changed me. Now I only promise loyalty to the students. If you need more persuasiveness than “fried bread stuffed with meat and / or cheese” I can’t help you.

Pupusas Panchitas Pupusaria Salvadoran Mexican Food Tour to San Francisco

Try saying “Panchitas Pupuseria” three times quickly.

When you’re hungry in the Mission District, Panchitas Pupuseria is a popular spot that serves delicious, authentic Salvadoran food. Stop by for a student or five, I promise you will thank me.

Pier market

If you go to Fisherman’s Wharf and you don’t have chowders, have you really been to Fisherman’s Wharf? I am pretty sure you have. I am a vegetarian and I still remember vividly going there.

Whoever invented the bread bowl should be canonized.

Whoever invented the bread bowl should be canonized.

However, my seafood companions at Pier Market assured me that the New England Clam Chowder tasted worthy of being crowned “Best on Fisherman’s Wharf.” This lovely waterfront restaurant has been serving high quality, sustainable seafood since 1983 and is still deeply committed to protecting the ocean and fishing.

Hard to beat seafood on a pier.

Hard to beat seafood on a pier.

TOGETHER

I have been to the US several times, but unfortunately I have never been to an IHOP before this trip. I’ve been to paradise too, but I’ve never been inside myself.

ihop food USA American restaurant San Francisco travel

Where all your breakfast dreams come true.

IHOP (or International House of Pancakes) is the epitome of the American pancake house chain, a breakfast establishment that has served eggs and coffee 24 hours a day since 1958. Sure, the eggs are rubbery and the coffee is bitter, but since there are four types of pancake syrup (blueberry, strawberry, buttered pecan, and old-fashioned) so it’s all taken.

An IHOP restaurant in Nashville, Tennessee.

IHOP Pancake House International House of Pancakes San Francisco Breakfast Diner Food Travel Coffee

Unfortunately, it seems that the IHOP website is banned in Australia so you can’t indulge in its fame online, but I am thinking about running this whole writing business and opening a franchise here.

The author was a guest of the San Francisco Travel Association.

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