WWDC Food Guide 2015
All of these restaurants can be found on Yelp. Yelp is a San Francisco native, so San Franciscans have very enthusiastically reported all of their restaurant findings to the Internet so that you may get an idea what to expect. Yelp is a great resource for finding information about local businesses in SF.
All of the block distances are from Moscone Center West.
Breakfast in the area
• Mo'z Cafe - 1 block away
A simply laid-out breakfast café with a surprisingly quality menu. Serves both eat-in and takeout, at a very low cost. Awesome breakfast option before WWDC, since it's just a block away on 5th Street. Also a good coffee / barista service for those of you tired of Starbucks.
• Sears Fine Food - ~7 short blocks away, in Union Square area
It's farther away from Moscone Center, but opens at 6:30 AM for the early birds. It's widely considered a San Francisco staple, a must-visit hotspot. The food is very high quality standard American fare, a wide selection of savory and sweet options. Old-fashioned San Francisco style at its best. If you're willing to commit to a ~10 minute walk and a potential wait on the weekend, it's worth it. Early morning before the conference shouldn't see a line, though.
• Dottie's True Blue Cafe - 2 long blocks away from Moscone Center West
It's also a farther walk down Market, and the line will escalate into unreasonable lengths quickly, but for good reason. It's one of the best breakfast locations in San Francisco, known for their special cornbread and jalapeno jelly, superb scrambles, and amazing breads and baked goods. They open at 7:30 AM, so if you're willing to get up early and arrive before it opens, you'll certainly get a seat at one of the best-liked places in SF.
• La Boulange - 3 blocks away in Yerba Buena
Good for both Breakfast and Lunch. A Bay Area chain with French-style breakfasts, pastries, and baked goods. Tasty non-Starbucks coffee beverages, well-crafted savory food, and lots to take to go. Also serves lunch (and dinner), so if you want to come back later or bring something with you into the conference, there's lots of good options here.
• The Grove - 3 blocks away in Yerba Buena
Good for both Breakfast and Lunch. American food - pancakes, waffles, sandwiches, pasta, and pot-pies with a decent beer menu and cocktail list. Order and pay at the counter and wait for your food at the table, so it's a solid casual choice.
And of course, there's at least 6 Starbucks locations within three blocks. There's a Peet's Coffee a few blocks away. Local coffee shops are pretty hit-and-miss; I encourage you to check Yelp reviews if you're of discriminating coffee taste.
Lunch in the area
• Super Duper Burger - 1 block away
A new rising popular burger franchise in SF. Classic burger for a very simple menu, but dripping with flavor. Offers eat-in and take-out, great for those of you in need of a quick lunch during the conference (and tired of the free offerings). They're popular for lunch and dinner for good reason.
• Samovar Tea Lounge - 1 block away
It lives up to its name, but offers a great tea service as well as lunch meals. Amazing selection of international teas, both sandwiches and worldly tea service cuisine. Good for both an international-style meal as well as a lounging area for after the conference. May be a bit too lengthy of a meal for a lunch during the conference, but it's a great place to kick back if you have some time.
• Westfield Mall Food Emporium - 2 blocks away
It's the food court of the nearby mall. Offers a little bit of everything, but higher-than-average food court fare (at expectedly slightly higher prices, it's San Francisco after all). Burgers, sandwiches, pizza, Italian, Mexican, sub sandwiches, Thai, Korean, vegan/vegetarian, seafood, crepes, ice cream... It's an easy place to go if you can't decide or don't want to commit to a sit-down meal. Lunch time can be crowded on weekends, but is usually somewhat lighter during the week so finding a free table and quick food should be pretty easy.
• Nordstrom Bistro - 2 blocks away
Farther side of the Westfield Mall
The Bistro is better than you'd think, with a fantastic lunch menu. On a weekday, it's not usually very crowded. The crab bisque is really worth a visit for that alone. The food is French casual French style cooking, with a decent cocktail selection and some enjoyable entrees.
• Blondie's Pizza - 3 blocks away on Powell St
Not a restaurant, but offers one of the best slices in the entire neighborhood. There is seating available downstairs, but it's extremely casual. Blondie's is widely considered one of the staple pizza-by-the-sice sources in the city, and worthy of a visit at least once on your trip.
• Split Bread - Across the street
Large hot artisan sandwiches for about $10 each. Simple and efficient ordering system lets you order from the center of the restaurant, or at your table with a smartphone. The fries are delicious, the lemonade is made fresh, and the sandwiches are messy. It can be crowded at lunch-time, especially since it's across from the conference center.
• Tropisueño - One block away
Delicious Mexican small-plates. Tamales are good, the tacos are better, and the tequila is the cherry on top. Super-popular for good reason, as it's delicious and cheap, but the crowds build quickly when Happy Hour kicks in. I've had success eating here at lunch without waiting, during the conference (which surprised me), but dinner may requires reservations. Seating at the crowded Happy Hour bar is first-come first-serve, so it's sometimes hard to accommodate groups.
• Wise Son's Deli at the Contemporary Jewish Museum - One block away
Can't go wrong with authentic Jewish hot pastrami or corned beef sandwiches, chocolate babka, and hot matzo soup. Museum access is not required, but they do close at 4pm and aren't open on weekends. Probably the best pastrami sandwich you'll get in the entire neighborhood.
• Show Dogs - ~6 blocks down Market
Hot dogs! Not just your usual hot dogs, but more of the fancy kind of hotdogs you'd expect in San Francisco. Bit of a rock-concert-nostalgia vibe to go with your sausages, but the homemade spicy ketchup is a great flavor to add to anything. They rotate some in-house flavored sodas as well as keep beer on tap.
• Bun Mee - 5 blocks, or one stop on the Muni rail
Some of the best Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches in the city. Also good for Vietnamese-style salads and noodle bowls, but the sandwiches are where the magic is at. The Braised Kurobuta pork belly sandwich is one of my favorite bites of food in San Francisco. It's a bit of a walk from Moscone if you want to make it during lunch, so might be better to come here for dinner.
Dinner in the area
These are just nearby places. If you're willing/wanting to travel a little farther out, see the next section.
• M.Y. China - 1 block away in Westfield Mall
One of the better upscale Asian restaurants I've ever been to. Menu is pricier compared to most, but the food is delicious and portions are good. They've recently started offering prix-fix lunch options that are awesomely good deals. A fantastic mix of Chinese food with various pan-Asian influences cooked in a modernist style with classical presentation. It's a popular spot, so call to check on the wait.
• Buca di Beppo - 3 blocks away
Banquet-style Italian food. Definitely good for groups of 4+, as all dishes are large and meant to be served family-style. Classic Italian family food with a good bar as well, with old fashioned style. Better to make a reservation if you've got a big group, but can pretty easily accommodate 4-6 people without too much of a problem.
• Lefty O'Douls - ~7 blocks away in Union Square
Classic American sports bar with an extremely delicious hof brau / sandwich line. Come for the devotion to baseball, stay for the incredible corned beef sandwiches au jus, blueberry pie, and potato salad. Casual nature with a low price to match, with a fully stocked cocktail bar and an adequate beer selection. Best to visit at lunch, because the bar picks up at night and it may get crowded.
• Amber India - 1 block away
Classy dining ambience, good service, and delicious Indian food. They do offer a lunch buffet as well, but their dinner menu provides a lot of great food that just begs to be shared among friends. The nice wine-list really rounds out the experience. Great spot for vegetarians too.
• Katana-Ya - ~7 blocks away in Union Square
Some of the best ramen in the neighborhood. The sushi is a good snack, but really meant to accompany the ramen. The place is small and fills up fast, so it can be a wait on busy nights.
• Burger Bar - 3 blocks away in Macy's 6th flr
Fancier burgers than Super Duper, led by celebrity chef Hubert Keller. If you're looking for a much fancier (and more expensive) burger construction engine, the half pound kobe beef patty with ailoi and truffle oil can't be beat. Also a great beer selection to go with their full bar.
• Cheesecake Factory - 3 blocks away in Macy's 8th flr
If you want big-plate quintessential American food, this is the place. Incorporating elements from all cuisines, there's something for everyone here - and a lot of it. No reservations and often full of tourists, so there can be a wait on weekends and nights, but if your home city doesn't have one, it's worth a visit at least once.
• The Chieftain Irish Pub - 4 blocks
Exactly what you'd expect for an Irish Pub in the busy downtown area. British and Irish beers, traditional Irish pub food (but tastier than the average pub) like pot-pie and fish & chips. Good for groups and Happy Hour visitors.
Dinner in the city
There are obviously plenty more options. San Francisco is considered by many to be the restaurant capital of the world, so there's an amazing selection of local food that just can't be found anywhere else. It's a cultural melting pot of all good things if you have the desire to go look for it. We're at a conference, but there's a good 5 hours between the last session and a reasonable bed time, which is all the time you need to get into all sorts of fun (and trouble) in a city like SF.
Local watering holes
No surprise San Francisco has some rather nice drinking establishments of various kinds - sports bars, wine bars, beer havens, trendy bars and lounges. Obviously I can't list them all, but here are some that I'm fond of:
• Thirstybear - 4 long blocks away in SoMa
One of the better local breweries in the city, with pretty phenomenal Spanish tapas food to go with it. Come for the paella, stay for the golden vanilla beer. Works for groups and parties as well.
• Johnny Foley's - 7 blocks away in Union Square
If you want the top-end selection of whiskey, scotch, and expensive liquor, this will be your stop. They have upscale Irish pub food as well - shepherd's pie, prime rib, and bangers & mash. Gets crowded at happy hour and dinner time, but the bar space has lots of room if you aren't interesting in sitting down for a full dinner. On weekends, they have dueling pianos in the basement, which may either entice you or make you run screaming in the other direction.
• Roy's Hawaiian Restaurant - 5 long blocks or one stop on the Muni train to Montgomery
Upscale Asian-influenced Hawaiian cuisine with a fancy cocktail list and even fancier wine. The miso butterfish and lobster pot stickers are some of my favorite dishes, and the seasonal offerings paired with beers and wines have never disappointed me. Offers one of the best happy hour deals in the area.
• City Beer Store - ~12 long blocks
No food here, but without a doubt the best imported beer selection in San Francisco. While it's definitively a store to purchase beer, for a corkage fee of $1 (plus the bottle...) you can drink anything they sell in the shop. They have rotating taps to try out and a very relaxed, chill atmosphere to try them in. Closer to a quiet European beer haven than any of the more rowdy bars around.
• Pink Elephant - ~3 blocks A new arrival on the scene featuring lots of imported European beers as well as some craft. Huge collection of flavored margaritas / fruit-themed alcoholic beverages served out of giant glass boot-shaped punch bowls. Offers food options as well. It's only a block or two away from Thirstybear, so a good spot to add to a bar crawl.
SF hot spots#
• Off The Grid Food Trucks - cab/Uber/Lyft to Fort Mason One of San Francisco's finest creations is the Off the Grid food truck collection, an organization devoted to fair sustainable food truck operations. They have several weekly hotspots for lunch and dinner, but the Fort Mason parking lot gathering on Friday nights (5 - 11 pm) is their biggest location. You'll see about two dozen food trucks / local carts serving food of every kind, along with beer, wine, spirits, and homemade beverages. Every Off the Grid vendor takes credit card, so don't worry about cash. If you want a truly local San Francisco foodie experience, don't miss this!
• Fang - 3 blocks
Chinese cuisine that you don't get in takeout containers. This is the real deal here, with some modern influences on traditional Chinese style. Come with a buddy and tell the server that you've never been here before, they'll provide you with a series of dishes highlighting their most popular items for about $40. More than enough food to share with a friend. If you don't like surprises, the menu is descriptive and thorough - and everything is delicious.
• House of Nanking - take a cab/Uber/Lyft (~20 blocks)
One of SF's most well-known and famous traditional Chinese restaurants. Popular and often crowded, and also next door to the dangerous-for-your-appetite-and-wallet Dumpling House, both of which may have lines out the door. Some say the quality has gone down since their meteoric rise to fame, but the history of the place can't be denied. If you're going to make the trek, better call ahead.
• Osha Thai - 3 blocks
Top-tier Thai cuisine with a nice bar of fancy cocktails. They're usually easily willing to accommodate large groups (last year we had about 20 show up and they seated us right away, AND split the checks!), and the food is both delicious and shareable.
• Le Charm - 6 blocks
French cuisine, as you'd expect. Bring your wallet and your empty stomach and leave satisfied with classical French cooking. Probably the closest high-end French restaurant in the neighboorhood.
• Farmer Brown - 6 blocks
Modern-style soul food. The full bar and cocktail list is a nice addition to modern takes on traditional soul food recipes. Lots of flavor, loud atmosphere, and attentive servers.
• Colibri Mexican Bistro - 8 blocks in Union Square
Modern-style Mexican cuisine. This isn't a taqueria, so don't expect tacos and burritos - this is a classically-trained chef and a skilled waitstaff. The made-at-the-table guacamole is worth the visit by itself, and the margaritas and mezcal are an exciting addition to any meal.
Burritos, because this is SF and the Mission-style burrito was invented here#
Worth the cab rides, as they aren't within walking distance unless you're training for a half marathon.
La Taq sets the gold standard for Mission burritos, and it's been bearing the torch for decades. There's a reason the line is out the door: this spot is the worst-kept secret in town. La Taq's carne asada super burrito is like a religion, and the restaurant's policy of using no rice in their burritos produces a streamlined, taste-concentrated slab. The only controversy? Whether La Taq's burritos or tacos are the superior order.
• Papalote Mexican Grill - 24th & Valencia, two blocks away from 24th St & Mission BART
They can't stop winning awards for having the best burritos, so that's something worth noticing. In addition to being delicious, this place is also great for vegetarians. Who can say no to a burrito bigger than your face?
If you're willing to take the bus / streetcar, the Embarcadero has a great selection of nicer restaurants. If you want to walk a bit, the Soma area (south of Market) beyond Moscone is known for its rising new hotspots and fantastic selection of bars, restaurants, and eateries.
Chinatown is also a bus ride away, so if you're hankering for some real dim-sum, Korean fare, or Japanese food, there are plenty of options within reach.
The Mission is an easy BART (subway) ride from Powell to 16th Street and 24th Street Mission stops, and offers the best selection of true Mexican food you'll get north of the Border.