Winter in San Francisco is all about warming drinks, rich ingredients, and red-wine meals — and ordering the stew that might also be nice on a chilly summer night, but is actually best enjoyed when it's raining outside.
With that in mind, and depending on your comfort level with indoor dining — which will maybe evolve in the coming weeks as this (hopefully final) COVID surge dies down — SFist brings you a handful of our favorite cozy dining destinations around town, including a couple of classic bistros and neighborhood spots, a beloved 43-year-old date spot in North Beach that came back from the brink last year, and one relative newcomer that is already a neighborhood touchstone.
After fears arose in the early pandemic that tiny North Beach soufflé restaurant Café Jacqueline (est. 1979) might be gone for good — with its then-83-year-old chef owner hospitalized at one point with a non-COVID infection — we were heartened to learn from Tablehopper in October 2021 that the place had reopened for business. The voicemail greeting said the restaurant was fully booked through December, but now is your chance to lock something down for Valentine's Day or a different date night — because there's no place else in the city to have some divine French onion soup, a lobster soufflé to share, and a dessert soufflé after that, like chef Jacqueline Margulis's heavenly lemon or chocolate soufflé. And while we pray she will be, Margulis may not be in the kitchen whipping up her egg-y 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 an easy-going neighborhood vibe, 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 that aren't currently being offered (it's dinner only for now), Pearl is best enjoyed after the sun sets anyway. 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 coziest of Mission District restaurants made it through the pandemic selling pizzas and wine to go, and they're back offering one of the best prix-fixe deals in town — three courses for $55, or $85 with wine pairings — as well as a selection of simple and satisfying dishes to get you through the winter. Don't miss the gnocchi with fennel sausage, or the cioppino — which these days comes with Dungeness crab rouille. And, being owned by a sommelier, this should be a go-to spot for any wine connoisseur looking for some weeknight sips.
2500 Folsom Street, reservations here
Out in Presidio Heights, you'll find a neighborhood restaurant beloved by some SF's most well-heeled residents. But it's also a solid date-night or special-occasion spot for when you want some simple comforts — like meatballs with grilled toast, or the house classic chicken Milanese with mashed potatoes. Chef Scott Sasaki also does a mean pork sugo, and the place has a solid cocktail menu with an emphasis on the classics. The best part: This is more of a grandparents' kind of place that's not really on the radar for the influencer set.
347 Presidio Avenue, reservations here
Named for the classic slate chalkboard used by Parisian bistros to write their daily menus, this Duboce Triangle hideaway is well loved by its neighborhood and has been for decades. Chef Thierry Clement turns out consistently great bistro fare, and this is one of the go-to places in the city for coq au vin, duck confit, and a perfect steak frites. It's not always easy to get in, despite this place being 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