South American food isn't new in San Francisco, but recently there’s been a surge of new restaurants delighting in the continent's culinary traditions.
In just the last six months alone, two new spots, Uptown Oakland’s Parche and Mission Bay’s Cavaña, have joined the ranks of enticing family-run cafes, chef showcases, and steakhouses on both sides of the bay—and we could not be more here for it.
Serving the irresistible snacks of the Colombian and Venezuelan highlands, the coastal ceviches of Peru, and the grilled and marbled meats of Argentina and Brazil, these 13 restaurants bring the best of South America to SF and Oakland.
Michelin added Parche to its recommendations in 2023.(Courtesy of Parche)
This vibrant restaurant in Uptown Oakland celebrates the culinary heritage of Colombia from coast to coast. There is joy not just in Parche’s playful, color-drenched dining room but in the food itself, which includes addictive takes on patacones (smashed, crispy plantain), carimañolas (stuffed yucca fritters), and arepas (stuffed cornmeal cakes). Michelin thought so, too: It added Parche to its list of 2023 recommendations within just months of opening. From the creative ceviches and curados to cocktails kissed with tropical inspiration, Parche will lift your spirits and leave you craving more. // 2295 Broadway (Oakland), parcheoak.com
Mochica’s contemporary take on traditional Peruvian dishes and ingredients is lick-the-plate delicious. The bright, friendly restaurant’s richly marinated ceviches and anticuchos (meat skewers), zippy chimichurris and tiraditos, and hearty mains like pork belly chaufa (Peruvian fried rice) and pescado a lo macho (coconut-laced seafood bouillabaisse) have a main character energy you might not expect to find in the relatively out-of-the-way Potrero Hill. At happy hour, classic Peruvian cocktails, piscos, South American–inspired margaritas, and Inka Cola-spiked sangria pair flawlessly with satisfying bocaditos like chicharron pollo and fried halibut ceviche. // 1469 18th St. (Potrero Hill), mochicasf.com
Anticuchos de pollo at rooftop South American spot Cavaña.(Courtesy of Cavaña)
This new cocktail bar and restaurant at the tippy top of Luma brings refined tropical flair to Mission Bay. With an interior hung with woven light fixtures and a balcony edged in geometric tiles, Cavaña serves tapas and bites like chifles (green plantain chips), Brazilian pastel de carne, and Venezuelan chicken tamales. Artisan cocktails, meanwhile, teem with yerba mate, purple corn, uchuva, and other quintessentially Latin American flavors. If you’re looking for a party, check them out on Friday and Saturday nights, when bossa nova–spinning DJs and live bands whip the crowd into a rhythmic rooftop frenzy. // 100 Channel St., 17th Fl. (Mission Bay), cavanasf.com
This longtime North Beach restaurant located in the base of a historic speakeasy has the exclusive feel of an underground supper club. At Peña Pachamama, traditional Bolivian cuisine gets a plant-based twist, with vegan takes on dishes like pique macho (made here with meatless chorizo, bell pepper, and roasted potatoes), portapancho (made with tempura portobellos), and salteñas (Bolivian empanadas). But tasty Latin American fare isn’t the only reason to stop by. On weekends, the little restaurant erupts with flamenco dancers and live Andean folklórico, igniting a celebration at which Robin Williams once claimed “even the Amish would dance.” // 1630 Powell St. (North Beach), pachamamacenter.org
The Mission's Argentinian steakhouse Lolinda.(Courtesy of @lolindasf)
Lolinda isn’t your average steakhouse. With Argentinian roots and California creativity, the warmly lit, two-story restaurant is a dramatic send-up to all things indulgent. As you might expect, the menu revolves around wood-fire grilled beef, chops, and sausages done Argentinian style, but it doesn’t stop there. Healthy helpings of empanadas, croquetas, and grilled veggies, and a drinks list full of glitzy cocktails, classic highballs, and Iberian and South American wines, have kept the crowds coming to this Mission mainstay for over a decade. // 2518 Mission St. (Mission), lolindasf.com
At Mägo, contemporary Colombian cuisine meets casual fine dining. Chef Mark Liberman combines wood-grilling expertise with fresh seasonal produce and Latin American flavors to come up with an ever-changing tasting menu ($75-$105/person) stacked with dishes like churros with chicken liver and fig leaf zatar, swordfish escabeche, and carne asada with turnips and poblano au poivre. Recommended by Michelin’s critics for its unpretentious, undeniably delicious preparations, this North Oakland restaurant won’t let you down. // 3762 Piedmont Ave. (Oakland), magorestaurant.com
Argentinian-style empanadas from Javi's in Oakland(Courtesy of @javiscooking)
Buenos Aires–born chef Javier Sandes channeled his early love of cooking into some of Oakland’s best Argentinian empanadas. At his humble West Oakland shop, Javi’s Cooking, he brings together the essential elements of an excellent empanada—light, flaky dough; slow-cooked fillings; and plenty of spice—and stuffs them with traditional and not-so-traditional fillings like carne and queso (meat and cheese with Argentine sauce), puerco (pulled pork with fresh pineapple), and datiles (dates, bacon, and blue cheese). In addition to pastries fresh out of the oven, the kitchen also sells them frozen so you can stock up for unexpected empanada emergencies. // 3446 Market St. (Oakland), javis-cooking.square.site
La Mar Cocina Peruana
With a top-notch location on the Embarcadero and a patio that stretches all the way to the bay, La Mar is a swanky spot for delightful Peruvian-inspired eats. The extensive menu ranges from sushi and ceviches braided with touches both Japanese and Californian (think local halibut in sunchoke leche de tigre) to layered potato causas, grilled seafood and meat anticuchos, and portly empanadas. Order them a la carte, along with cocktails drenched with pisco and agave spirits, or go all in with a five-course, family-style tasting menu ($99/person). A range of bright cocktails like the choclo colada (rum, fresh corn, coconut, pineapple, lime, and averna), crispy taquitos, and house specialties are also on order at the freshly renovated La Mar Bar, which now has a sophisticated lounge vibe with moody lighting and nods to the ocean deep. // Pier 1 1/2, The Embarcadero N. (Embarcadero), lamarsf.com
Pucquio draws its contemporary take on Peruvian cuisine from the artistry and traditions of its country of origin. To its no fuss dining room and kitchen-front bar, the restaurant delivers favorites like aji de gallina and arroz con mariscos with creative and unexpected details like olives, walnuts, and parmesan cheese. On the dessert menu too, riffs on Peruvian pastries like sweet potato donuts filled with dulce de leche and rice pudding brulee with purple corn sorbet are memorable deviations from the norm. // 5337 College Ave. (Oakland), pucquio.com
The menu at this sweet little (and we do mean little) spot in the Marina combines three separate cuisines—Venezuelan, Colombian, and Californian—into one. That fusion makes for a well-rounded meal of crunchy salads, habit-forming Latin American snacks like arepitas and maduros (fried sweet plantains), and robust entrées like crujiente de pollo (crispy skin chicken thighs over polenta) and pescado Caribe (pan-seared cod over a crispy patacon). With its petite size and limited hours (MaMo is only open Friday through Sunday but serves lunch and dinner each day) you’ll want to make a reservation if you plan to take a seat inside or at the restaurant’s parklet. But never fear: Even if you can’t snag a table, you can take your meal to go, along with sangria, beer, wine, and soju cocktails. // 3659 Buchanan St. (Marina), mamosf.com
Get your fill of grilled meats at Espetus Churrascaria.(Courtesy of @espetus)
The first Brazilian-style steakhouse in the city, now in its 20th year, Espetus Churrascaria is still considered the best of the bunch. Here, you’ll get the full churrasco experience with servers who parade through the dining room with 14 different types of meaty flame-rotisserie skewers, shaving off slices on demand. A single lunch ($42/person) or dinner ($71/person) order is a ticket for all you can eat, which includes more than a dozen buffet and salad bar items ranging from charcuterie and cheese to feijoada (Brazilian black bean stew). Dessert is an equally decadent affair, but the passion fruit mousse and tres leches cake will cost you extra. If you’re outside of the city, check out Espetus’ second location in San Mateo (710 South B St). // 1686 Market St. (Hayes Valley), espetus.com
A Bernal Heights favorite since 2007, Piqueos is a light-hearted Peruvian tapas joint with a warm neighborhood feel. Their small plates—dishes like pastelito de choclo (Peruvian corn cake), costillita de cancho (crispy pork spareribs), and bolitas de yucca (crispy yucca balls stuffed with ham and cheese)—are a riot of bold flavors and crowd-pleasing indulgence. Add classic mains like lomo saltado and arroz con mariscos and you’ve got an unforgettable family-style feast to make any night of the week feel special. // 830 Cortland Ave. (Bernal Heights), piqueos.com
Arepas Latin Cuisine
At this adorably eclectic 16th Street cafe, arepas are an all day affair. From 11am to 10pm, they serve Venezuelan-style tostones (twice fried plantains) heaped with meats and veg, cheese-stuffed tequeños, and so many arepas. Heartier fare includes traditional dishes like pabellón (rice, black beans, plantain, shredded beef, egg), cachapas (sweet corn pancakes with cheese), and Colombian recipes like bandeja paisa (minced beef, chorizo, chicharron, arepa, plantain, rice, red beans, avocado). There’s also coffee for sharpening up, beer, wine and cocktails for kicking back, and coffee cocktails if you can’t decide which you need most. // 3198 16th St. (Mission), arepasfco.com