San Francisco has received accolades for its exquisite cuisine for years. Its location in a climate where fresh ingredients can be grown almost year round doesn’t hurt, but the cultural influence of the city helps as well. Local San Franciscans love good food, and, as such, that is what they get. This is why the Bay Area had 38 Michelin-starred restaurants in 2014 and why most of these restaurants have almost a 2-month wait list to get a table. While the food is inventive and always changing, the wine is equally as good, and most of it is produced in nearby Napa or Sonoma counties. While there are several choices, foodies with excellent palates better make a reservation at one of these five Michelin-rated restaurants quick.
Benu, an Asian fusion restaurant in the heart of San Francisco’s SoMa district, offers a tasting menu that ranges in number of courses, leaving customers feeling delightfully full. Past dishes have included oyster, pork belly and kimchi or salt and pepper squid. The wine and beverage menu offers everything from delicious wines and sake to local, artisan beers that complement the cuisine. The décor also plays on the modern Asian experience with indoor plants adding greenery from the ceiling and stenciled drawings hanging on the walls.
Coi Restaurant, located in San Francisco’s historic North Beach district, offers one menu nightly based on the area’s seasonal ingredients. It earned two Michelin stars for its cuisine that incorporates global flavors and menu items. The always changing menu has featured Dungeness crab and ham hock soup and steamed morel-potato dumplings, as well as a more playful sno-cone, made with blood orange ice and pink peppercorn. The restaurant only seats 30 patrons at a time, giving it a more intimate, personable feel that lives up to its name, "coi," which means tranquil or quiet in French.
Atelier Crenn — named after Chef and Owner Dominique Crenn — takes customers back to the owner’s French roots using locally sourced Bay Area products. Crenn’s self-described "culinary poetry" tempts the palate, while also visually appealing to the customer. In fact, the menu uses poetic lines of verse to describe each dish instead of actual ingredients. Crenn uses a variety of colorful flowers and plants to make her dishes look like artwork crafted from the very workshop she created. The chandeliers hanging in the restaurant look like woven baskets, adding to the earthy, whimsical tone the chef sets.
Located north of San Francisco in Napa Valley’s Yountville, The French Laundry earned its perfect score of three Michelin stars for its French-inspired American fare made with fresh NorCal ingredients. Every day, the restaurant features two, unique 9-course tasting menus: a chef’s tasting and a tasting of vegetables. The nine courses throughout the meal consists of smaller, focused dishes in which no single ingredient is ever repeated. True to Thomas Keller’s belief in food, all of the ingredients are fresh, and dishes are based on the season. For instance, spring brings in an abundance of English peas, Sacramento Delta asparagus and green garlic that return, making the 2-month wait and hefty price tag well worth the truly unique experience.
Also located in Napa Valley, The Restaurant at Meadowood gives The French Laundry a run for its money. It offers the same multicourse experience at a more reasonable rate. While it has earned three Michelin stars, it offers a much more casual, almost gazebo-like feel with a wall of bay windows. It, too, offers a menu using fresh, flavorful ingredients, which allow the chef to make creative California cuisine that is always colorful and aromatic. With its location in wine country, the wine selection is just as noteworthy with more than 1,200 bottle selections in the cellar — most of which are made locally.