From stellar sushi to elegant Mexican, here are our favorite dining spots in the city
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Liholiho Yacht Club
San Francisco’s fetish for fresh ingredients and elevated fusion meets laid-back Hawaiian comfort food. The Liholiho Yacht Club forgoes tacky island décor for minimalist white and blue. The cocktails are sophisticated riffs on tiki standards, and, yes, they make their own version of spam (not on the menu, so ask for it). $$$; 871 Sutter St.; liholihoyachtclub.com.
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This petite corner spot in SoMa has a modern butcher shop aesthetic, a famous hand-ground burger (with caramelized onions, cheddar, bacon, and horseradish aioli), and an enviable location just 4 blocks form the ballpark. Even if you think you don’t like Brussels sprouts, order the Brussels sprout chips with lemon and sea salt because, trust us, it will change your mind. $$; 500 Brannan St.; marlowesf.com.
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Thomas J. Story
This spot (pronounced Aa-CHAY), opened in 2015, has made a name for itself among foodies. Its Basque-influence tapas menu is heavy on classics like jamón, cheese and shellfish and the cocktail menu, (known for its multiple variations on the gin and tonic) is as much a draw as the food. A communal table is reserved for walk-ins. $$$; 2174 Market St.; aatxesf.com.
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Humming since 1979, the labyrinthine Zuni Cafe is a San Francisco classic and one of the birthplaces of California cuisine. The roast chicken for two is worth a trip to San Francisco but don’t miss the oysters; the lemon drop cocktail made with fresh squeezed Meyer lemons; and the espresso granita for dessert. The famous Zuni burger is served only at lunch and after 10pm. $$; 1658 Market St.; zunicafe.com.
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AL’s Place won the coveted Bon Appetit 2015 Restaurant of the Year Award and many of its fans would most likely attribute it the French fries, which are lightly pickled and fried twice and unlike any fries you’ve ever tasted. The 48-seat restaurant is bright and cheery with an open kitchen and an innovative menu influenced by Southeast Asia, Sonoma County, and nearly every place in between. Reservations can be tough but 30% of tables are set aside for walk-ins. $$; 1499 Valencia St.; alsplacesf.com.
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4505 Burgers & BBQ
The restaurant outpost of this popular butcher and farmers market fave is a temple to sustainable, delicious BBQ. The outdoor picnic-table seating goes perfectly with the no-fuss plates of brisket, sausage, ribs, pork shoulder or smoked chicken. Still have room? Give the Frankaroni (crispy fried mac-and-cheese with a house-made, bacon-studded hot dog inside) a try. $$; 705 Divisadero St.; 4505meats.com.
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This is celebrated Mexico City chef Gabriela Camar’s first restaurant north of the border and its take on classic Mexican dishes like quesadillas, tostadas and tamales are fresh, inspired and heavily influenced by local foods. Start with a mescal margarita and some local oysters and then move on to things like squid and ling cod frito mixto, mussel tamal with chile serrano and leeks, or the Manilla clams al chipotle. $$; 149 Fell St.; calarestaurant.com.
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Courtesy of Kusakabe
Kusakabe earned a Michelin star with its kaiseki-style multi-course tasting menu that takes its inspiration from 5 senses, colors, tastes and cooking methods. The $95 fixed price meal is a journey through a world of Japanese cooking and sushi techniques that most American sushi bars never approach. The long counter, where you can watch the chefs at work, has the best seats in the house. $$$$; 584 Washington St.; kusakabe-sf.com.
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1601 Bar & Kitchen
You don’t have to be familiar with Sri Lankan food to appreciate chef Brian Fernando’s contemporary take on his native cuisine. The small plates enable you to try a bunch of dishes, a good thing since each one—duck lamprais with eggplant and preserved Bing cherry, or lobster fricassee with barley, English peas, spring onion achcharu, and coconut oil—is more colorful and delicious than the next. $$$; 1601 Howard St.; 1601sf.com.