Lower Nob Hill, the wedge of San Francisco bound by Nob Hill, the Tenderloin and Union Square, is one of the city’s most dynamic neighborhoods.
The “TenderNob” is a place where immigrant-owned eateries stand tall, where restaurants and lounges regularly break the mold, and where music, theater, and mid-century dive bars make for one of the liveliest nights out in town.
The 'hood “has always felt, and still does feel, like old-school San Francisco,” says April Storm, co-owner of Liholiho Yacht Club, which first opened in the Tendernob in 2015.
But the pandemic still has its claws in here, leaving the streets quieter than they once were. “With fewer conferences and less people in offices downtown, we don’t get the crowds after work anymore,” Storm explains. “We can’t count on walk-ins like we used to [at Liholiho].”
Despite the tumbleweeds, Lower Nob Hill’s eclectic collection of restaurants and bars are bright beacons that are well worth visiting regularly—especially when shorter walk-in waitlists mean that you’ll be seated with a drink in hand in a fraction of the time you would in the Mission.
From long-standing icons like Grubstake, Edinburgh Castle and the Redwood Room, to outstanding newcomers like Ox & Tiger, Finders Keepers, and Gusto Pinsa Romana, the TenderNob is chockfull of can’t-miss gems—most of which are independent and family-owned and operated.
“It’s what makes Lower Nob Hill so special,” says Storm. “It’s crucial now more than ever to support them, and to keep this neighborhood thriving and as unique as it’s always been.”
The Best Restaurants in the TenderNob
One of SF's best restaurants, Liholiho Yacht Club, calls the TenderNob home.
After a lengthy pandemic hiatus, Liholiho Yacht Club (871 Sutter St.), one of the best restaurants to open in SF in recent years, is back and better than ever, with a renewed commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion, plus a lively redesigned interior. One thing that hasn’t changed? Chef Ravi Kapur’s creative, Hawaiian-inspired cuisine, which includes dishes like duck liver with banana bread and pineapple, swordfish katsu, and a rum-spiked banana cream tart. // Ox & Tiger (552 Jones St.) chefs Hitomi Wada and EJ Macayan intertwine their Japanese and Filipino heritage to execute dishes that pull from both traditions. What was quickly hailed as one of SF’s best pop-ups now calls a tiny slice of Jones Street its own, with monthly rotating four-course menus served at the eight-person counter Thursday through Sunday. // Neapolitan-style pizzeria Del Popolo (855 Bush St.) wood-fires crispy pies loaded with classic toppings so good that Michelin gave them a Bib Gourmand. // In a minimalist, wood-paneled space, Kuma Sushi + Sake (1040 Polk St.) carves up the day’s freshest catch into delightful nigiri, rolls, and small plates like iidako karaage (crispy baby octopus). // Homestyle Thai, including hard to find dishes like pork palo and northern khao soi, are on the menu at Ben Thai Cafe (1331 Polk St.), where exposed brick walls and bright colors lend a cheery comfort. // Matador (679 Sutter St.), a sweet little taco bar and tequilaria, has more than a dozen classic (quesabirria, carnitas) and not so classic (fried avocado, lobster) taco varieties. Behind the bar, a centerpiece tiled in floral and set with sleek wooden stools, they stock more than just tequilas and mezcals, but ordering a flight of either really makes the meal. // Miller’s Rest (1085 Sutter St.) bills itself as a neighborhood restaurant, and with good reason: With comfort food like meatballs and chicken pot pie, and cozy-chic cabin-like digs, it’s exactly the sort of place where you’ll feel right at home whether you live down the street or on the other side of town. // The blue-toned, subterranean Ryoko’s (619 Taylor St.) has occupied this spot just outside the bustle of Union Square for over 30 years, serving fresh sushi, rolls, and teriyaki made with organic ingredients, along with highballs and sake. // Fino Ristorante (624 Post St.), a classic Italian joint with white-tablecloth sophistication and a warming fireplace, has an extensive menu of Mediterranean favorites, from linguine frutti di mare to veal Milanese, and a solid wine cellar stocked with bottles from Italy and California.
Rich curries and savory tandooris have made Lahore Karahi (612 O’Farrell St.) a long-standing favorite for comforting, crowd-pleasing Indian and Pakistani cuisine. // At the vibrant Chisme Cantina (882 Sutter St.), they serve up tacos, burritos, and bowls overstuffed with mahi mahi, chipotle steak, and plantains. Wash it down with Mexican lagers and a rotating selection of Bare Bottle on tap. // At the modest Halal Dastarkhan (1098 Sutter St.), the food is anything but. An ambassador for Uzbek and Central Asian cuisine, its menu is an outstanding introduction to hearty lamb and beef soups, kebabs, and difficult to find dishes like manti (dumplings) and the traditional rice dish sofi osh (plov). // Get your doner, pide, and gozleme fix at the TenderNob’s Turkish go-to, A La Turca (869 Geary St.). // Dried sourdough and a perfectly measured mish-mash of flours make Gusto Pinsa Romana’s (1000 Bush St.) Roman-style pizzas crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. Order up an amatriciana or a spicy diavola to take home or devour in the slim, geometrically tiled space.
Late Night Delights
One of the most iconic restaurants in SF, the Grubstake (1525 Pine St.) cable car is arguably still the absolute best place in the city to dig into classic diner food and homestyle Portuguese dishes—and the only one open until 4am (Thursday through Saturday). // When the craving for satisfying ramen, sushi, or robatayaki hits, The Public Izakaya (700 Post St.) is open for business. // A newer addition to the neighborhood, the minimalist Linglong (704 Post St.) specializes in Japanese unagi-and-rice dishes, xiaolongbao, and other delicious dim sum ‘til the clock strikes midnight (1am on Friday and Saturday). // The new owners of Wen’s Kitchen (1150 Polk St.) do classic Sichuan with exceptional flavor and service into the wee hours. Load up on mountains of beef chow fun and beautifully braised pork belly until 1am. Your hangover will thank you tomorrow.
Coffee + Quick Bites in the TenderNob
Crostini & Java is a neighborhood go-to for coffee and pastries
(Courtesy of @crostiniandjava)
Coffee, Cafes + Bakeries
Wake up with a French lavender latte and toasted salmon and dill crostini, or grab a roast beef and caramelized onion sandwich to go at Crostini & Java (899 Hyde St). // Jane on Larkin (925 Larkin St.) has a decade of practice crafting much loved breakfast sammies, fresh salads, and healing teas in this bright, modern space. // The stylish, postage stamp-sized Scullery (687 Geary St.) has a streamlined menu of artisan coffee and loaded toasts. // At the lovely French patisserie Maison Danel (1030 Polk St.), indulge in delicate pastries, croques and caviar, and a signature afternoon tea with all the sweet and savory fixings. // Breakfast classics, sandwiches, and smoothies are on the menu at the affordable, no-frills Cozy Cafe (965 Sutter St). // New kid on the block SF Breakfast Cafe (901 Sutter St.) is one of the only places in the city for a traditional Turkish breakfast complete with deep fried feta rolls, sujuk, and walnut acuka.
Mexican meets Korean at Tacorea (809 Bush St.) where the burritos are crammed with kimchi, bulgogi, and spicy pork. // Burly breakfast sammies and wagyu beef burgers from Bandit (683 Geary St.) come on toasted brioche buns with creamy housemade aioli. // Cantoo Latin Asian Rotisserie (572 O’Farrell St.) fuses Venezuelan, Chinese, and Filipino flavors for an eclectic, global cuisine studded with croquetas, noodle soups, and roasted meats. // Craving fried chicken? Get it hot and sweet or marinated with soy garlic at Korean chicken joint Kokio Republic (711 Geary St).
The Best Bars in the TenderNob
The eclectically vintage, semi-hidden basement bar Finders Keepers.
(Courtesy of @finderskeepersbarsf)
Speakeasies + Throwback Bars
The speakeasiest of all of San Francisco’s Prohibition era-inspired bars, Bourbon & Branch (501 Jones St.), with its password-protected entrance, hidden passageways, Victorian decor, and vintage cocktails, is a portal to the past. // A speakeasy inside a speakeasy, the dimly lit Wilson & Wilson’s (505 Jones St.) is a hard-drinking, hard-boiled detective’s fever dream. // The legendary Redwood Room (inside the Clift Hotel,495 Geary St.) has been lovingly restored to its original Art Deco glory, with floor-to-ceiling wood paneling and glamorous, early 20th century cocktail lounge vibes. // Dedicated to post-Prohibition SF, Stookey’s Club Moderne (895 Bush St.) has 1930s style, history-making cocktails, and live jazz on Thursday nights. // Tucked beneath the swanky supper club Members Only, Finders Keepers’ (1000 Larkin St.) dark, vintage style and neon glow is a semi-hidden homage to peculiar decor and classy cocktails.
Cocktail Lounges, Wine Bars + Gastropubs
Wave the white flag at Peacekeeper (925 Bush St.), a chic cocktail spot wrapped in natural wood, dripping with greenery, and crowned with a massive skylight. // At the Bottle Club Pub (555 Geary St.), whimsical vintage whisky bottles and hundreds of other spirits line a revolving wall that gets rolled and reassembled as the drinks get made. // At the Spanish wine and tapas bar El Lopo (1327 Polk St.), stop by for an evening of cava, sherry cocktails, and mussels steamed in albariño, or join the unique subscription club that treats its members like family. // At SF’s first cider house, Upcider (1160 Polk St., 2nd fl), fruity fermentations from all over North America and Europe pair perfectly with gastropub fare. // Friendly neighborhood bar The Royale (800 Post St.) is a local gathering spot for a stiff drink and live music with no cover charge on the weekends. // With its lush rooftop patio, 620 Jones (620 Jones St.) is a popular urban oasis for cocktails, upscale bar eats, and boozy weekend brunches.
Dives + Classic Bars
In the cavernous Edinburgh Castle (950 Geary St.), the English pub vibes have a divey veneer that’s packed full of drunken camaraderie. // It doesn’t get much divier than the historic Ha-Ra Club (875 Geary St.), which hasn’t changed much since it opened back in 1947. // A deliciously infamous dive, The Geary Club (768 Geary St.) wins the prize for the city’s second smallest bar. // A Tendernob classic, The Owl Tree (601 Post St.) has dark wood paneling, bohemian quirk, and an upstairs hideaway.
Where to Catch a Show + Shop in the TenderNob
The beautiful beaux-arts theater The Regency Ballroom welcomes musicians large and small.
(Courtesy of @theregencyballroom)
Music + Theater
A turn-of-the-20th-century beaux-arts beauty, The Regency Ballroom (1300 Van Ness Ave.) calls musical acts large and small to its stage. // SF’s most illustrious homegrown theater company, the American Conservatory Theater (415 Geary St.), stages engaging, diverse stories from up-and-coming and classic playwrights alike. // Catch the hottest touring Broadway and off-Broadway shows from luminaries like Stephen Sondheim, Andrew Lloyd Weber, and Leonard Bernstein at the Curran Theatre (445 Geary St). // At the jewel-box Marrakech Magic Theater (419 O’Farrell St.), magician, mentalist, and comic Jay Alexander delights and amazes audiences with his unique brand of eye-catching entertainment. // The San Francisco Music Hall of Fame Gallery (1353 Bush St.) is devoted to artists who’ve made a splash in the Bay Area, from the Grateful Dead to Sly and the Family Stone. Tour their extensive collection of portraits, photos, and history to the tunes of a curated Spotify soundtrack, or join the daily 4pm guided tour.
Art + Shopping
At Spoke Art Gallery (816 Sutter St.), limited edition prints and original artwork by creators from around the world highlight pop culture, film, and the absurdity of the human experience. // Get into the stacks at Argonaut Book Shop (786 Sutter St.), a store devoted to rare and early tomes on California and the American West. // Although Kayo Books (814 Post St.), a repository of vintage paperbacks, pulps, comics, and memorabilia, no longer keeps regular hours, when their door is open so is their spellbinding perspective on print’s past. // Like its name suggests, Low Key Skate Shop (679 Geary St.) is a laid-back spot for stocking up on skate gear and graphic apparel. // Sidle up to the flower bar at Love These Flowers (542 Mason St.) and design an arrangement of your own. They’ve got everything from hanging plant pendants to vases, and an extensive inventory of technicolor blossoms, to make your vision bloom.
Where to Stay in the TenderNob
(Courtesy of StayPineapple)
Fresh renovations at The Clift Royal Sonesta (495 Geary St.) have revived this historic hotel at the edge of Union Square. Clean lines and modern furnishings in room, an elegant champagne-toned lobby, and a beautiful restoration of the Art Deco Redwood Room are ushering The Clift into its next hundred years. // At the playful, boutique StayPineapple (580 Geary St.), cheery hospitality and affordable rooms make for a charming stay. // Hotel Emblem (562 Sutter St.), an Urban Retreat by Viceroy, is a creatively curated riot of color and flair. From the typewriter-stocked writer’s alcove to the eclectically comfortable guest rooms, the Emblem has more than a few surprises in store.