A favorite celebrity haunt is the beautiful Ana Mandara in Ghirardelli Square. The sprouting foliage, grand curving staircase, expansive high ceilings, multi-tiered dining room, and gorgeous upstairs bar will make you feel like you've just stepped into Indonesia. But warm ambience and decor shouldn't distract you from your main purpose-the exquisite dining. A menu of modern Vietnamese cuisine with French accents includes delicacies such as spiced Mekong basa fish. Close out with crispy mango spring rolls with coconut or imported Vietnamese coffee or tea.
891 Beach St., Ghirardelli Square
Those who care to make the trek to the trendy Mission District will find a number of noteworthy restaurants including the Iberian-oriented Andalu. The eclectic, ever-changing tapas-style menu, with dishes such as crisp-sauteed skate with garlic mashed potatoes, green salad with duck confit and hot polenta fries with a tomato dipping sauce, is perfect for sharing. The restaurant, open for dinner only, is long and narrow and is generally crowded and noisy, just the way you'd expect of some of the more fashionable and festive places.
3198 16th St.
Those looking for an unforgettable dining experience should head to nearby Berkeley to partake of Alice Waters' famous cuisine at Chez Panisse. There are actually two restaurants set on two floors here and both are excellent. Downstairs is a more formal experience with one prix-fixe menu that changes daily and increases in price toward the weekend. The upstairs cafe is more casual with a variety of food and lower prices. Waters is famous for making simple dishes with the freshest ingredients available. Try penne with arugula and sheep's milk cheese, fresh figs or sliced tomatoes in vinegar. Reservations are a must for downstairs and waits can be quite long for the cafe.
1517 Shattuck Ave.
If you are in the mood for a little jazz, a fun atmosphere and casual, eclectic dining, head right to Coda, a supper club located at the edge of the Mission District. The menu is filled with American fare, appetizers to please and enough variety to keep everyone happy. Locals come here for the excellent local wines, which are half price from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and the great nightly jazz. There isn’t a bad seat in the house, which consists of a high, wood-beamed ceiling and slate floors, to enjoy the music and the cuisine.
1710 Mission St.
Foreign Cinema was one of the first places to attract visitors to the Mission district. There is some very good California/Mediterranean bistro cuisine on the menu and delicious foreign and independent film classics being screened in the courtyard. Sit in the large dining room or at a communal table in the courtyard where drive-in movie speakers have been set near the tables. Chefs John Clark and Gayle Pirie have done wonders with the menu. Chances are good you won't even miss the popcorn.
2534 Mission St.
Restaurant Gary Danko is living proof that San Francisco's high-end dining experience is alive and well. Danko, who has won nearly every top chef's award since opening his upscale eatery, continues to create prix fixe menus that promise to make an evening here sublime. Scallop mousse, juniper spiced venison, roast lobster, and a decadent chocolate souffle are some examples of what's in store. Dress up for this special occasion restaurant. Make reservations far in advance; it's a sure bet everyone else did.
800 North Point
Whenever you reserve tickets to the San Francisco Opera House, make a pre- or post-performance dinner at Jardiniere part of your plans. This Traci Des Jardins restaurant has been famous for a long time and may be absolutely packed in the hour or so before the opera begins. Crispy chicken with applewood bacon, foie gras terrine, venison chop, and a very complex cheese plate are some of this well-known chef's specialties. The decor is playful with an avant garde curvaceous design and wavy iron railings. A jazz trio plays during prime dinner hours.
300 Grove St.
Masa's sexy floor to ceiling white, gauzy drapes, red Chinese silk lanterns and white leather chairs offer visitors a tasteful and vibrant atmosphere in preparation for a positively pleasant dining experience. The highly regarded team, featuring executive chef Gregory Short and master sommelier Alan Murray, create Masa's blend of French and Mediterranean cuisine with a Californian kick. Masa features tasting menus that may include such favorites as chilled Maine crab, duck leg confit, or the vegetarian stylings of Ronde de Nice and Cepe "Mille Feuille." In all, it's superb food in a setting that is more exciting than ever.
Hotel Vintage Court
648 Bush St.
One Market offers upscale California cuisine at its finest, serving visitors cleverly presented plates and priceless scenery of the Bay Bridge from within the financial district. The New American fare emphasizes fresh fish and shellfish and products homegrown by local farmers and ranchers. Try to reserve a seat at the chef's table in the kitchen for a special tasting menu.
1 Market St.
Owner/chef Gerald Hirigoyen warmly welcomes guests to this Basque inspired setting, where red, white and blue runners line each table, the oak floors shine and the menu encompasses authentic Basque food. Al fresco dining is available year-round at Piperade in a sheltered outdoor patio, a nice idea when weather permits. The Basque region, bordering France and Spain, is on display in the Basque classic dishes, which include braised veal sweetbreads with Madeira, seafood and shellfish soup (ttoro), duck confit with braised green lentils, and roasted pork tenderloin with braised cabbage and figs. There are plenty of fish dishes to enjoy in this comfortable, chic restaurant.
1015 Battery Street
Postrio Cafe and Bar
The Union Square icon Postrio was reinvented for its many fans in 2009 as the Postrio Cafe and Bar. The California cuisine with Mediterranean influences is served in elegant, low-key ambiance. Try the grilled baby octopus as a starter or the decadent macaroni and cheese made with five cheeses, pulled prosciutto and a Parmesan crust. The mains include a hickory smoked baby back rib dish or go for the signature wood-fired pizza—prosciutto and fig or smoked salmon with an Asian flair
545 Post St.
The Slanted Door has a Vietnamese and Southeast Asia bent, and chef Charles Phan cooks up fresh spring rolls, green papaya salad, caramelized shrimp, and steamed bass cooked with just the right amount of spice. The dinner menu changes weekly to reflect the best seasonal offerings and to keep the cuisine as fresh as possible. The stunning Bay Area views and stylish, simple decor with a high-ceiling dining room and green-stained wood tables will make you feel as if you're dining in the tropics. Delicious!
1 Ferry Plaza, #3