132 The Embarcadero, Embarcadero
Angler is where you go when you want a laid-back dinner by the waterfront in a place that puts all the attention on the food.
1548 Stockton St., Embarcadero
While the name may suggest otherwise, at Tacolicious the drinks and the scene are the main draw. Take the margaritas: there are several on the cocktail list and each one is good enough to order by the pitcher. That said, the tacos are solid, as are the salads and guacamole. There's also a location in the Marina and the Mission.
Out the Door
#5 Ferry Bldg., Embarcadero
This is the Slanted Door's more casual but equally delicious offshoot. At this location, take-out is the only option. In Pacific Heights, you can actually sidle up to a communal table or counter for an excellent lunch of Asian-inflected small plates or a weekend brunch (the 5-spice scramble is pretty special). None of the dishes feel too heavy and all go really well with a glass of house wine.
Pier 5, Embarcadero
Chef Michael Chiarello does traditional tapas in a totally new way. For one thing, the portions are hearty and filling, not the miniscule bites you might be used to; the ingredients lean heavily on what's in season rather than what's expected. For dessert, get the churros—served with drinking chocolate and a sci-fi-looking berry powder. While you wait for a table (call ahead for reservations), the outdoor bar is a fun scene to grab a drink.
Hog Island Oyster Co.
1 Ferry Building 11A, Embarcadero
Fresh off a major expansion, which doubled capacity and added outdoor seating, this Ferry Building mainstay draws a consistently big crowd for its oysters. The cooked food menu is pretty enticing as well: The clam chowder is creamy but doesn’t weigh you down after just a few bites and the shrimp and grits is the ideal share plate. But back to the oysters. There are three different variations of grilled oysters in addition to an oyster po’ boy that actually rivals the original.
1 Ferry Building, Embarcadero
The first thing you notice about this San Francisco standby are the views. Ever since The Slanted Door moved into the Ferry Building from its original Valencia street location, the bay has become a welcome addition to the minimalist interior (same goes for the sleek private dining rooms upstairs). But one thing hasn’t changed: this is still the place for Vietnamese. The emphasis is on fresh and organic ingredients. If you’re wanting a quick fix, you can also pick up food to-go at their Out the Door counter in the Ferry Building marketplace. Slanted Door also has a few sister restaurants including Out The Door on Bush Street, which is where the crowds are flocking these days.
101 Spear St., Embarcadero
This is the best place to go for authentic Dim Sum as the offering is vast, including every dumpling choice you can imagine. The dining room doubles in capacity on the weekends in order to accommodate the crowds while the menu decreases in size, meaning weekdays are definitely the best time for a meal. There's a nearby location on Stevenson Street, too.