Winter in San Francisco is about warming up drinks, rich ingredients and red wine meals – and ordering the stew that may also be nice on a cool summer night, but which is actually best enjoyed when it rains outside.
With that in mind, and depending on your comfort level with indoor dining – which may evolve in the coming weeks as this (hopefully final) COVID wave subsides – SFist brings you a handful of our favorite cozy eateries around town , including a couple of classic bistros and neighborhood spots, a beloved 43-year-old dating site in North Beach that came back from the brink last year, and a relative novice who is already a quarter of a block away.
In the early pandemic, fears arose that the small North Beach soufflé restaurant Café Jacqueline (est. 1979) could be gone forever – with its then 83-year-old chef owner hospitalized at a time with a non-COVID infection – we encouraged to hear from Tablehopper in October 2021 that the place was reopened for business. The voicemail greeting said the restaurant was fully booked for December, but now’s your chance to lock something for Valentine’s Day or another date night – because there is nowhere else in town to get a divine French onion soup, a lobster souffle for part, and a dessert souffle after that, like Chef Jacqueline Margulis’ heavenly lemon or chocolate souffle. And while we pray that she will be, Margulis may not be in the kitchen whipping up her egged creations forever, and this place is a must-try for all non-vegan San Franciscans.
1454 Grant Avenue – call 415-981-5565 for reservations
With great cocktails, consistently delicious food and a relaxed neighborhood vibe, the Pearl 6101 had already established itself as a new classic in the Richmond district before the pandemic began. While its Yelp page is filled with pictures of Dutch baby pancakes and other brunch items not currently on offer (it’s only dinner so far), Pearl is still best enjoyed after the sun goes down. Dishes like roasted cauliflower with black tahini hummus and handkerchief pasta with white Bolognese are perfect in any SF season, but the roasted Mt. Lassen trout and lamb sugo with ricotta cavatelli are best enjoyed in winter (and the menu changes with the seasons).
6101 California Street, reservations here
This cozy restaurant in the Mission District came through the pandemic of selling pizzas and wine, and they are back and offering one of the city’s best prix-fixe offerings – three dishes for $ 55 or $ 85 with wine combinations – as well as a selection of simple and filling dishes to get you through the winter. Do not miss the gnocchi with fennel sausage or cioppino – which these days comes with Dungeness crab rouille. And since this is owned by a sommelier, this should be a go-to place for any wine connoisseur looking for some sips in the evening.
2500 Folsom Street, reservations here
Out in Presidio Heights you will find a neighborhood restaurant that is loved by some of SF’s most affluent residents. But it’s also a solid date night or a place for special occasions when you want some simple amenities – like meatballs with grilled toast or the house’s classic chicken Milanese with mashed potatoes. Chef Scott Sasaki also makes a mean pork sugo, and the place has a hearty cocktail menu with an emphasis on the classics. The best: This is more of a grandparents kind of place that is not really on the radar of the influencer set.
347 Presidio Avenue, reservations here
Named after the classic slate blackboard used by Parisian bistros to write their daily menus, this hideaway in the Duboce Triangle is much loved by its neighborhood and has been for decades. Chef Thierry Clement consistently proves excellent bistro dishes and this is one of the best places in town for coq au vin, duck confectionery and a perfect steak fries. It’s not always easy to get in, despite the fact that this place is well established and off the radar for many – but it’s a great, cozy destination for any winter night, now with ample outdoor seating and plenty of heat lamps as well.
151 Noe Street, reservations here