Throw a rock and you'll hit a restaurant serving up seasonal Californian cuisine—kale salad and avocado toast, anyone?
But San Francisco is also a metropolis, and that means we have a diversity of flavors when it comes to food.
You already know where to get Korean barbecue, Japanese izakaya, and Sri Lankan fare; how about tasting the iconic dishes from the U.S. of A.? Here's where to get Texas barbecue, Tennessee fried chicken, and more out-of-state signatures here in SF.
Good Ole Texas Barbecue
Head over to Native Sons BBQ's next pop-up (usually announced on their Facebook page) in the Bay Area for some authentic Texas-style barbecue. That means lots of beef—especially the signature brisket—salt-and-pepper-rubbed, and super-slow smoked. No sauce. Expect to wait in line, order the brisket, and also try the three-meat combo for $25.
Need your 'cue fix now? Pull up to Gorilla Barbecue (2145 Coast Highway 1), the Pacifica food truck seen on Diners, Drive-ins & Dives. There's no seating here, so expect to eat yer ribs on the hood o' yer car.
Flaming Hot Tennessee Fried Chicken
Hard Water (Pier 3, The Embarcadero) is known for its whiskies, so you shouldn't be too surprised to find flavors of the American south at Charles Phan's waterfront watering hole. Know what goes great with a shot and a beer? Spicy, Nashville-style fried chicken. It's marinated, floured, and fried before being coated with a spicy paste of cayenne pepper, and then served with pickle chips and white bread.
Prefer to eat your chicken picnic-style? Head to Hotbird at Off The Grid's Presidio Picnic, 11am to 4pm Sundays.
The Iconic New York Bagel
New Yorkers take their bagels seriously. For a taste of the real deal without boarding an Alaska Airlines flight, House of Bagels (5030 Geary Blvd, Outer Richmond) touts the perfect Brooklyn-style recipe—pre-gelatinized, boiled, and then stone-baked to ensure a chewy interior.
World Famous Chicago Deep Dish Pizza
You're heard of destination eateries. Legit deep dish pizza might actually be worth the trip to Chi-Town. But that's not necessary thanks to Little Star (multiple locations in SF and Albany) and The Star (multiple locations in the East Bay), where the thick cornmeal crust, pressed into a high, pie-like pan, hugs in a crush of sauce, cheese, and toppings, making New York– and West Coast–style versions look positively puny. Messy is everything.
Sweet Louisiana Beignets
If you've been to New Orleans, you've likely been to Cafe Du Monde, the legendary, always-packed spot where locals and tourists alike line up for the famous chicory coffee and baskets of beignets. If you've never had a beignet, think of it as the tastiest sugar donut imaginable: fluffier, crispier, and with a handful of powdered sugar dusted on the top. Also drawing a line on weekends is SF's Brenda's French Soul Food (652 Polk St, Tenderloin), which may have the best beignets this side of the Mississippi. Not a sweets person? Try the savory version stuffed with spiced crawfish.
Creamy Massachusetts Clam Chowder
There's perhaps nothing more San Franciscan than ordering up a sourdough bowl at Fisherman Wharf's historic Boudin Bakery (multiple locations), but that piping hot clam chowder inside takes a page from the East Coast. The white soup (not to be confused with Manhattan-style red chowder) has a base of diced potatoes, onions, and celery. Make the most of this moment by heading to the original factory location on the wharf where you can watch the bread bowls being made.
Classic Philly Cheesesteak
Thinly sliced beef. Gooey melted cheese. A crispy-doughy roll. In truth, there's not that much to Philadelphia's famous sandwich, but cheesesteak, originally created in the 1930s, is still heartily satisfying after all these years. The Pennsylvanians we know here in SF say the best local cheesesteak can be found in North Beach, at Buster's Cheesesteak (366 Columbus Ave.), where just three ingredients come together in perfect harmony.