Living in San Francisco comes with a unique blessing/curse: There are too many wonderful restaurants and specialty food shops. Here are some of my favorites:
Dosa This South Asian restaurant located on the Valencia Street restaurant row can be extremely noisy but some of the food is breathtaking. The Dahi Vahda starter (lentil dumplings topped with cool Strauss organic yogurt, piped with tamarind, mint and gently spiced) is one of the most exquisite dishes I have ever tasted. It was so good that I ordered a second one instead of dessert!
Eric's A very popular Chinese restaurant just outside of Noe Valley that serves excellent Hunan and Mandarin-style dishes. Very loud acoustics and there can sometimes be a wait for a table. Well worth the experience.
Eliza's Many people come to San Francisco thinking that the best Chinese food they can eat will be found in Chinatown. Wrong! Many of the "authentic dives" in Chinatown have food that is far too salty served in ambience that makes a high school cafeteria seem upscale. Contrast that dismal dining experience to a meal at Eliza's where the restaurant is decorated with magnificent blown glass sculptures that make you feel like you're eating in a modern art museum. On top of that the food is excellent, perhaps it should be called "California Chinese" because of its healthy preparation and elegant presentation. The irony is that this is basically just a neighborhood restaurant in Pacific Heights where prices are extremely reasonable and you leave feeling like you had a sophisticated gourmet experience.
Espetus If you love meat or are looking for a low-carb experience -- this is the place for you. It's all you can eat of wonderfully lean meat served by men dressed as gauchos (satisfy your uniform fetish and your appetite at the same time). Great salad bar as well.
Fattoush Wonderful Mediterranean food in a charming atmosphere close to Noe Valley. Big portions, delicious mint tea.
Tangerine My favorite restaurant for brunch as well as dinner. Superb Thai fusion cuisine, beautifully presented by an extremely friendly wait staff. You will never have a bad meal in this place.
Koi Palace One of the more amazing dim sum experiences to be had in the San Francisco Bay area.
Old Krakow A rare treat: Polish food that is so authentic my friend Judith Marshall gave her approval to the chef and said "This is as good as my cooking!" A comfortable, warm and homey retreat in the West Portal area of San Francisco. Excellent dumplings.
Old Jerusalem Great Middle Eastern food, especially the falafel stuffed with pine nuts. You don't come here for atmosphere. You come here for a good, solid meal.
Poleng Lounge An interesting venue specializing in Asian street food. Very tasty dishes in a laid-back environment.
Bi-Rite Market This evil source of temptation is right around the corner from my apartment. Those who are about to dine, we salute you -- proceed at your own risk!
Max's Opera Cafe Very convenient for dining in the Civic Center area. An extravagant menu with large portions -- but who ever heard of a deli that doesn't serve kishke and knishes?
Pasta Pomodoro Who said a good Italian meal can't be healthy, elegant and inexpensive? This local chain of Italian restaurants has gone a long way to bury a silver stake in Chef Boy-Ar-Dee's heart. It's also one of the only places I've ever found that really knows how to prepare brussels sprouts.
Troya A tiny delight at the corner of Clement and Fifth. Deliciously prepared Turkish food. They also have a happy hour mezes (small plate) menu. For dessert, although the baklava is excellent, if you have any interest in chocolate you won't want to miss their chocolate pot de creme. Better than an orgasm!
2223 Restaurant A long-time favorite in the Castro. Great California cuisine, charming wait staff. The acoustics can get a little too bright at times, but don't let that stop you from enjoying a delightful meal.
Delancey Street Restaurant Good food at very reasonable prices. Great ribs and sweet potato pie. More important is the history of how this restaurant was created and the purpose it serves in the community.