Diners have a special place in the American psyche. Divey enough to come as we are, hearty enough to cure what ails us, they are as comforting as they are nourishing.
And even though San Francisco has never had the same frenzied love affair with the greasy spoon as L.A. or New York, a good diner still draws a crowd morning, noon, or in the wee hours of the night.
From the Outer Mission to the Marina, here are seven can’t-miss classic diners in San Francisco.
Pork Store Cafe
There are two Pork Store Cafes in SF but, if you ask us, only the Haight Street location, which opened in 1979, rises to diner status. We couldn’t tell you whether it’s the small, eclectic dining room wallpapered with Haight-Ashbury posters or the stained-glass windows and long kitchen-facing counter that does it for us. But whatever it is, it’s working, just like the menu, which includes massive plates of everything from biscuits and gravy (or veggie gravy!) to patty melts and pork chops.
// Pork Store Cafe, 1451 Haight St. (Upper Haight), yelp.com
St. Francis Fountain
One of SF’s oldest restaurants, this Outer Mission diner and soda fountain has perfected the art of classic Americana. Although St. Francis Fountain’s interior is stuck in time somewhere around the mid-20th century (when the restaurant was already more than 50 years old), recent updates to the menu have added a few plant-based and pescatarian options to the list of chicken clubs, Reubens, and Philly cheese steaks. Even if you manage to resist ordering a chocolate malt for dessert, the novelty candy at the register will make sure you don’t walk away sugar-free.
// St. Francis Fountain, 2801 24th St. (Outer Mission), stfrancisfountainsf.com
This Inner Sunset hole-in-the-wall is a beloved neighborhood institution. Art’s Cafe has all the hallmarks of a good diner: a long counter lined with vinyl stools, a kitchen built for efficient flapjack flipping, and a touch of nostalgia in travel postcard form. In addition to the expected breakfast and lunch fare, they also serve a handful of Korean specialties—bulgogi, dakgogi, and bibimbap—in a nod to the heritage of its Korean-American owners.
// Art's Cafe, 747 Irving St. (Inner Sunset), sfartscafe.com
When Orphan Andy’s opened its doors more than 40 years ago, the Castro was a very different place. But this diner is a survivor. Through the AIDS crisis, gentrification, and the pandemic it has thrived, never losing its vibrant charm. Colorful mobiles still hang from the ceiling and mini-jukeboxes still take up precious table real estate in the booths. But best of all, Orphan Andy’s still serves up a huge selection of breakfast plates, sandwiches, burgers, and desserts around the clock—at least Thursday through Saturday, when they’re open 21 hours a day.
// Orphan Andy's, 3991 17th St. (Castro), restaurantji.com
Pinecrest Diner is Union Square’s last, a pale-green-upholstered, wood-accented classic straight out of 1969. While most diners focus on breakfast and lunch, this old-school darling has a massive menu that includes a variety of midcentury-era dinner plates—think country fried steak and gravy, chicken piccata, and pasta carbonara. Belly up to the counter and watch the short-order cooks wield their spatulas, or snag a cozy booth against the windows where the people watching makes for excellent entertainment morning or night.
// Pinecrest Diner, 401 Geary St. (Union Square), pinecrestsf.com
A Divisadero mainstay for 50 years, no-frills Eddie’s Cafe is the quintessential greasy spoon, complete with red vinyl bar stools and booths. Pop in for basic, hearty breakfasts accompanied by housemade biscuits, or lunch fare like burgers and BLTs. Order coffee or tea and they’ll deliver it in a ceramic gem from their wide collection of fun, funky, and downright ridiculous mugs.
// Eddie's Cafe, 800 Divisadero St. (NoPa), eddiescafesf.com
With its checkerboard floor and U-shaped counter, the Chestnut effortlessly nails the classic diner vibe. Thanks to 17 different styles of omelets, plus a slew of burgers and sandwiches, the menu is no slouch either. Whether you’re up at 7:30am or noon, this Marina joint is just what your hangover ordered.
// Chestnut Diner, 1312 Chestnut St. (Marina), yelp.com