To me, food and dining is such a visual experience. There’s something so magical and all-encompassing when a dining experience can awaken your sense of sight as well as your taste buds. My husband and I travel to San Francisco a few times a year for work, and we’ve grown to love some restaurants that have gorgeous spaces, as well as incredibly creative and outstanding food. The food at any one of these places would be just as amazing enjoyed in any environment — but the interiors they’re set within can’t help but inspire. Here are the best San Francisco restaurants for the design lover.
From the team behind State Bird Provisions (located next door), husband-and-wife duo Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski lead the brilliant and innovative team at the Michelin star rated The Progress. Creating New American food using locally sourced ingredients, dishes are designed to be shared family style. The space that is now The Progress was once a thriving San Francisco theatre. Modern furnishing, neutral ceramics, and funky lighting make this space the perfect balance of past and present.
Area // Fillmore District
Must Order // The menu is ever-changing with seasonality, but anything with crispy beans will be fantastic
Located in the lobby of the absolutely stunning Proper Hotel, Villon’s striking interior is a perfect match for the flare and creativity of the food it serves. Designed by the famed Kelly Wearstler, the space somehow blends funky patterns, vintage art, and crushed velvet perfectly. Once seated at Villon, you’ll be met with Chef Jason Fox’s menu that celebrates San Francisco-based purveyors, seasonal vegetables, and a twist on California cuisine.
Area // Tenderloin
Must Order // Roasted chicken with meyer lemon + nettle porridge
Also located at the Proper Hotel, this Kelly Wearstler-designed rooftop bar is truly an experience. There are surprising and stunning design features at every corner, mini fire pits at outdoor seating pods, and sprawling views. The space was designed to feel like a luxury living room of a royal cat lady. All the cocktails are named after movie-famous cats, and the bar’s matchbooks feature their pink cat logo. Cat lover or not, this is a space you’ll want to come back to again and again.
Area // Tenderloin
Must Order // Angels + Cowboys Rosé
Led by Mexico City’s star chef Gabriela Cámara, Cala is an upscale Mexican restaurant with a highly creative menu that leans heavily towards seafood. Cala’s modern industrial space bursting with leafy accents and bohemian lighting is the perfect place to enjoy mezcal cocktails, natural wines, and innovative salsas. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cala’s space transitioned to be the temporary home of SF Refettorio, part of Michelin-starred chef Massimo Bottura’s non-profit organization, Food for Soul, aimed at providing job training and community meals. While the future of the Cala space doesn’t seem solidified, it will certainly be put to good use, either by Bottura or Cámara.
Area // Hayes Valley
Must Order // Trout + Avocado Tostada
Serving Chinese food with a Bay Area accent, the space at Mister Jiu’s is just as stunning as the family-style food it serves. Adorned with giant golden lotus chandeliers, Mister Jiu’s has one of the most memorable dining rooms in the city. The dining room overlooks Chinatown and is sophistically understated with modern oak and black matte furniture. Equally impressive is the menu, full of traditional Cantonese dishes like Peking duck, sourdough scallion pancakes, and pork buns, all with a unique California twist. Between the stunning interior and incredible food, Mister Jiu’s is one of my favorite places to eat in San Francisco.
Area // Chinatown
Must Order // Peking duck