You know those days when you're wading through social media and the travel FOMO washes over you like the Mediterranean waves on your friend's IG story?
Or when whatever's happening in the news gets you fantasizing about your Escape From America? Okay, it's a smidge dramatic, but it happens.
Fortunately, a few of our favorite San Francisco establishments offer a semblance of international departure. Whether your ideal vacation is sipping mai tais on a remote island or dancing with Berbers in the Sahara, there's no shortage of global flavors, ambiance, and experiences for all SF-bound travelers.
Zazie: A Francophile's Quaint Cafe Dream
(Courtesy of Zazie)
If you've read the steamy fanfics that are Zazie brunch reviews, then you know the miracle pancakes are otherworldly, the patio is arguably the cutest in SF, and it is actually worth the hour-but-sometimes-longer wait. Now, let us put you on to the star that is dinner at Zazie. The smell of butter and herbs hits you like a train when you walk in. The French-driven dishes change their ingredient outfits with the seasons, keeping the menu consistent yet diverse enough that you can try something new every time you go (even though you'll probably just keep going back to the bourride). With its vintage posters, French tiled floors, and ever-flowing wine options, you'll forget you're in SF faster than you can say s'il vous plaît. // 941 Cole St. (Cole Valley), zaziesf.com
El Mansour: A (Short) Trek to Morocco
(Courtesy of @elmansour_sf)
El Mansour is a shiny North African gem tucked into the fog-riddled streets of the Richmond. While the cuisine and decor are enough to transport you to the Kingdom of Morocco, this Saharan oasis goes the extra mile with its nightly belly dancing shows. The stained-glass lanterns complement the billowing ceilings wonderfully, creating the perfect backdrop to scarf down some spice-packed tagine and mint tea (and yes, they pour the tea several feet above your cup, so you know it's legit). The five-course meal is the best way to approach their menu as it gives you a little taste of everything, from lentil soup to couscous to baklava. Pull up a pouf, and experience it for yourself. // 3119 Clement St. (Outer Richmond), elmansour.com
Caffe Trieste: Benvenuta in Italia!
(Courtesy of Wikipedia)
One of life's greatest pastimes is sitting on a sidewalk patio, people-watching while guiltlessly enjoying a cappuccino and cannolo. While Italy might be the real deal place to partake in such activities, North Beach is our next best option. This quintessential Italian cafe in San Francisco has been slanging rich coffees, decadent pastries, and live music for 66 years. And in line with its vibrant history, the space feels like a familiar time capsule. The black-and-white photos covering the walls, the jukebox, the older Italian gentleman smoking cigars at the outdoor tables—all signs point to the perfect spot to pretend you've run away to Europe. // 601 Vallejo St. (North Beach), coffee.caffetrieste.com
Rintaro: Irasshaimase to Japan!
(Courtesy of Rintaro)
Anytime you want to forget about your dumpster-fire work week and pretend you've fled to one of the world's most peaceful countries, Rintaro is the answer. Step inside, and you'll find yourself surrounded by Japanese lanterns, wooden beams, and flowing bottles of sake. This go-to izakaya serves such flawlessly executed small plates in a perfectly serene atmosphere that we feel grateful we live close enough to eat here. Everything on the menu is top-notch, but nothing will carry you to heaven faster than the housemade udon noodles, yakitori tsukune, and hojicha panna cotta. // 82 14th St. (Mission), izakayarintaro.com
Good Good Culture Club: A Laidback Tropical Vacay
(Courtesy of Good Good Culture Club)
With flavors of Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands, Good Good Culture Club isn't your ticket to any one particular country; it's its own destination. The colorful Mission District restaurant hosts a variety of cuisines, all wrapped up into one unique package. With hot pink accents, lively green plants, and a bright blue neon sign asking "Did you eat yet?", it's impossible to be in a bad mood here. Next time you're itching for a tropical getaway, consider if what you really need is a tall glass of Pink Flamingos (vodka, lychee, kumquat, pomegranate-hibiscus tea, lime, coconut milk… need we say more?). // 3560 18th St. (Mission), goodgoodcultureclub.com
Peña Pachamama: South American Spice
(Courtesy of Peña Pachamama)
Step one: Walk into Peña Pachamama. Step two: Never look back. This energetic vegan-Bolivian joint is a haven for world music lovers and foodies alike. It's tucked onto a side street between North Beach and Chinatown in what used to be SF's Latin Quarter, but the vibrant menu and weekly live performances keep the block just as exciting as its Columbus Avenue neighbors. From salteñas to the aji de fideo, the menu is traditional yet exciting and sure to satisfy even the biggest meat lovers. Next time you find yourself scouring Google Flights for a one-way to South America, cure those travel blues with a night of plant-based Bolivian tapas and live flamenco fusion instead. // 1630 Powell St. (Russian Hill), pachamamacenter.org
Last Rites: Get Lost in Polynesia
(Courtesy of Last Rites)
Imagine this: You're eight hours and 17 episodes of Friends into an overseas flight when the plane has to crash land, leaving you stranded on a remote Polynesian island. You disembark and are greeted with one of the best cocktails you’ve ever had. This is the vibe you can expect at Last Rites. Be sure to try the Zombie Killer, a hefty blend of overproof rum, coconut, pineapple, and other tropical flavors that is equally delicious and strong (limited to two per person kind of strong). Complete with fog, lightning, thunder, and enough rum to hold you over until rescuers come, this theatrical tiki bar is a must-do experience in the city. // 718 14th St. (Duboce Triangle), lastritesbar.com
Bissap Baobab: Eats + Beats from West Africa
(Courtesy of Bissap Baobab)
African eateries are few and far between in San Francisco, so we're grateful to have Bissap Baobab breathing unique life into the Mission's bustling food scene. Since 1998, Little Baobab (their original space down the street) has been a sweet escape for locals looking to eat, drink, and dance. And with a newer, bigger space on Mission Street, there's more room for everything that makes this West African retreat so special: live music, Afrobeat nights, and "teranga," warm, Senegalese-style hospitality. Pop by for a ginger-infused beverage and a boogie on your next night out. // 2243 Mission St. (Mission), bissapbaobab.com