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Five of San Francisco’s Most Underrated Restaurants

Acquerello

Artichoke-filled egg tortellini with lobster bisque and peas at Acquerello; photo © 2013 Marc Fiorito, Gamma Nine Photography.

In a town that thrives on what’s the latest/hottest/buzziest place to eat at, sometimes you need a reminder of some restaurants that are quietly making their magic in the background. Here are five quality spots with chefs doing some very tasty work—you should swing by, they’d love to feed you. And you actually have decent odds of scoring a reservation, how novel.

Acquerello

I’m always surprised at how few people have eaten here. Sure, it’s on the higher end of the dining scale, but everyone has a special occasion to celebrate at some point, hello. For a memorable and simply exquisite Italian meal, with some of the best service (and wines) in town, here’s your spot. Really, you need to check this one off your list.

Blue Plate

Diners adore the fried chicken and famed meatloaf here, but there’s a lot more that’s going on with chef Sean Thomas’s seasonal menu that changes daily. Get ready for a date with delicious. Humina humina. There’s also a good wine list, with some interesting European selections that are well-priced. Rockin’ it since 1999.

Canteen

Chef Dennis Leary is one of the hardest working cats in the biz. His cuisine is well-executed, never showy, always on point. Right now, the tiny kitchen is running a series of 100 menus—one each week—inspired by Robert Courtine's 1971 book, The Hundred Glories of French Cuisine. The menu usually puts you back around $50, and there are seatings at 6 and 8 pm. Great spot for a date.

Contigo

One of the city’s best neighborhood restaurants, and Brett Emerson’s Spanish cuisine over-delivers in quality and sabór. It's also an easy pick for meat eaters and vegetarians to coexist over a meal. The room is welcoming and energetic, and the back patio is a bonus. And hey, have fun exploring the Spanish wine list like a conquistador.

Nojo

Chef Greg Dunmore and his crew keep evolving their menu of Japanese izakaya dishes with California ingredients (whether it comes on a stick or not). The food tastes clean and is well-priced considering the excellent sourcing. Extra points for the convenient Hayes Valley location and tasty beers. Oh yeah, and the awesome Nojo sundae.

 

Marcia Gagliardi is the founder of the weekly tablehopper e-column; subscribe and get more food news and gossip at tablehopper.com. Follow her on Twitter: @tablehopper.