Move over Zagat! The Sbicca List for San Francisco

Contributed by Jennifer Sbicca, MD
Dermatology Resident
University of Southern California

A West Coast dermatology resident and foodie gives the scoop on San Francisco dining for residents attending the AAD Annual Meeting.


Jennifer Sbicca, MD

I‘ve lived all over the San Francisco Bay Area: San Francisco (Mission District), Oakland, Berkeley, Santa Clara, and Campbell. I now live in Los Angeles and am a second-year dermatology resident at University of Southern California. When AAD Meeting News asked for my top 10 restaurant suggestions, I put down my fork, picked up my pen, and scribbled down my thoughts on local dining.

Best and Closest to Moscone Center — Trou Normand and Super Duper Burgers. Need a place for a quick bite with an old friend close to the conference? Two blocks away is Trou Normand, with a great to-go menu of sandwiches for $15. Even better is to dine in and enjoy the back patio and stylish, high-ceilinged, minimalist-Deco space. Did you just make it through a three-hour seminar on female alopecia? Reward yourself at Super Duper Burgers with 100-percent Niman Ranch beef burgers and a perfect ratio of meat-to-bread and cheddar cheese.

Best Neighborhood Nooks — Frances and Nopa. Perfect for a catch-up dinner with a friend, Frances is helmed by James Beard-beloved chef Melissa Perello. Always begin with her bacon beignets and finish with a slice of her rich apple lumberjack cake. Nopa is a neighborhood staple that gets it all right: seasonal food, not too pricey, delicious cocktails, friendly wait staff, and long hours. Book early or go late.

Best Mexican — Cancun, El Farolito, and Papalote. All located in the Mission. Cancun is my favorite at all times of the day, which is a good thing because it’s open until
3 a.m. El Farolitos is a close second for its delicious, authentic Mexican burritos and plates. Papalote is a more modern/fresh California style, and it makes an incredible Chipotle sauce you’ll want to bring home. Ask for the sauce that comes freshly made in jars with no label.

Best Coffee — Blue Bottle and Tartine. San Franciscans are obsessed with Blue Bottle, and you can find locations all over the city. However, there is only one Tartine, with perfectly poured coffee and incredibly delicious pastries (get the bread pudding). Make an afternoon of it: Get some baked goodies at Tartine, stroll past Delfina (you might want to come back for the pizza), and head into the Bi-Rite Market for a bottle of screw-cap wine. Then pick a spot on the grass in Mission Dolores Park to lounge with the locals while enjoying a sip and one of the best views in the city. Before you catch an Uber home, wait in line for Bi-Rite’s ice cream (worth it).

Best Asian — Burma Superstar and House of Nanking. Both are long-time San Francisco institutions with lines around the block that move fast enough to be worth it. If you don’t know what to order, ask the waiters to bring out whatever they like. Some of the best food I’ve ever had, go hungry!

Best places to impress — Gary Danko and The Slanted Door. Gary Danko has loved and lost his Michelin star, but don’t be caught up in the pretense; the food is just as good as ever. The menu is high-end with large, rich entrees and innumerable options so everyone will find something they like. It even has a private room for the inevitable presentation. The Slanted Door has a great view over the Bay Bridge, is close to the Annual Meeting, and is just delicious, evidenced by the fact that it is California’s highest-grossing, independently owned restaurant.

Best Vegetarian — Greens and Verbena. Greens is the San Francisco vegetarian classic. It opened in the ’70s as a Zen Buddhist center and was exclusively staffed by its Zen students. Now it hires all comers, and most of its produce comes from the SF Zen Center’s Green Gulch Farm. The food is bright, fresh, and delicious, and the location can’t be beat — on a pier overlooking the barking sea lions, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Alcatraz. Verbena is livelier, hipper, and a crowd-pleaser for all palates with its (mostly) vegetarian menu that makes vegetable-centric food delicious.

Most starred — Benu and Saison. The first time the Michelin guide came to San Francisco in 2006, it snubbed the city and gave only one restaurant three stars — Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry, in Napa. Now, you don’t have to drive to wine country to enjoy a three-star meal. On its most recent visit in late 2014, it gave Benu (helmed by Corey Lee) and Saison (helmed by Joshua Skenes) three stars. Despite these chefs’ traditional French training, both restaurants are Asian-influenced and offer only prix fixe menus, starting prices are $195 at Benu and $248 at Saison.

Best Dim Sum — Yank Sing. San Francisco is known for its Dim Sum, an image that to me immediately calls to mind carts of steaming food rolling over ’90s patterned carpets. Yank Sing will not disappoint, the xiao long bao and custard tarts are exemplary, and the carpet very patterned.

Best Brunch — Foreign Cinema and Monsieur Benjamin. Foreign Cinema takes the cake on best brunch in the city, but get ready to wait in line. The ambiance is charming — two-story ceilings, exposed white brick, and a generous outdoor patio. Start with a Persian Bloody Mary and don’t miss the homemade pop tarts. A new spot I just discovered (and has no line) is Monsieur Benjamin. Opened by Corey Lee of Benu, this is his imagination of a modern French brasserie. Everything is meticulously thought-out, its brunch is delicious, and I’ve heard lunch is excellent. One of Corey Lee’s favorite books as a child was Le Petit Prince, and if you look closely you’ll notice a small cartooned-fox adorns every plate and menu.

Getting hungry?  Check these out on Yelp and enjoy a good meal!

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