When you’re on a city break or backpacking around the USA, it’s easy to get sucked into only eating in fast food joints, or paying loads for drinking in tourist trap bars. But why pay more when a cheaper and more authentic option could be right under your nose?
Luckily our friends over at Offbeat Guides are experts in tracking down the best places to drink and dine, whether they’re local institutions, or hip hangouts only the cool kids know about. Forget seeking out those local secrets on your own, with Zain Iqbal’s pick of offbeat eats in San Francisco…
San Francisco is noted for its excellent and varied cuisine, but there are also some hidden gems that aren’t always known outside of the city. Just to make sure we had our bases covered, we also asked our followers on Twitter to give us one more unique place just for good measure. Bon Appétit!
1. The Tonga Room – While some may scoff at this San Francisco institution as being too kitsch, there’s no denying that the Tonga Room is an experience to behold. No-nonsense bartenders serve up strong Polynesian-themed cocktails in a tiki lounge setting in front of a massive pool. Strap on a pair of dance shoes for the live music on weekends.
2. Medjool Sky Terrace – This restaurant in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission district is among our favorites because of the amazing 360° view of the city from their rooftop, especially now late summer has finally arrived. And there’s lots of opportunity to meet interesting dining buddies from around the world with the Elements Hotel, a San Francisco hostel right next door.
3. Forbes Island – You’ve eaten on terra firma in San Francisco, so how about dining on a floating island? Forbes Island is a floating wooden island complete with a lighthouse, waterfall, and palm trees. The dining room is partially under water and portholes give you a underwater view from your table. It’s moored about 100 yards from the sea lions at Pier 39 and a pontoon ferry takes you to and from the Fisherman’s Wharf.
4. Sam’s Anchor Café – Ok, so we’re cheating here; because while this restaurant isn’t exactly offbeat, it’s certainly off the beaten path, especially for visitors. Sam’s, as it’s known by locals, has been serving up Bloody Mary’s, Eggs Benedict and their famous Ramos Fizz’s since around 1920 in the village of Tiburon, north of San Francisco. Take a Blue and Gold Ferry from Fisherman’s Wharf and enjoy the views of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge on your way across the bay.
5. Dottie’s True Blue Café (a Twitter-follower fave!) – Two of our fans pointed this restaurant out and we shocked ourselves when we realized we forgot it. Dottie’s is located in San Francisco’s hard-luck Tenderloin district, but don’t let the seediness keep you away. This extremely popular breakfast spot serves up amazing pancakes, French toast, sausage, and jalapeno cornbread. Expect to stand in line; you’ll find it worth the wait!
Zain Iqbal is no stranger to offbeat destinations, whether he’s attending weddings in Uzbekistan or heading on a surfing trip to Costa Rica. In between travels, he writes for Offbeat Guides, the first online, personalized travel guides.