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San Francisco jury duty: Here are the best places to eat near Superior Court

A crowded restaurant interior.
Guests have lunch at Chao Pescao, a Latin Caribbean restaurant, in San Francisco, on June 8, 2023. People tasked with jury duty at The San Francisco Superior Court at 400 McAllister St. are often looking for lunch at restaurants nearby. | Isaac Ceja/The Standard | Source: Isaac Ceja/The Standard

Many people regard jury duty as a colossal ordeal, somewhere between a trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles and a lung transplant. Although California may increase the paltry $15 rate it pays its jurors, it’s still widely considered one of the bummers of life in a society with free and fair trials.

San Franciscans periodically receive a postcard informing them it's time to perform this vital civic service. But weighing a verdict isn’t the only decision jurors are called to make, either: There’s also the slightly less pressing matter of where to eat.

For anyone who’s never been called, San Francisco directs potential jurors to one of two places: Superior Court at 400 McAllister St. in Civic Center or the Hall of Justice at 850 Bryant St. in SoMa. A representative confirmed to The Standard that courtrooms are assigned randomly, and there’s a roughly 50-50 chance of being called to one building over the other. 

Just how long of a break jurors have to eat depends on the judge. Fortunately, both buildings have excellent food options, either for lunch or an after-trial drink, within a couple blocks.

Two men eat.
City Attorney of San Francisco David Chiu, left, and Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Richard Bloom, right, have lunch at Chao Pescao, a Latin Caribbean restaurant on June 8, 2023. | Isaac Ceja/The Standard | Source: Isaac Ceja/The Standard

Superior Court of California, 400 McAllister St.

Chao Pescao
Buoyed by its empanadas, this phenomenally colorful Cuban-Colombian restaurant opened in a challenging neighborhood in the middle of the pandemic and has managed to thrive ever since—politicos like City Attorney David Chiu have been spotted there. Chao Pescao’s mostly gluten-free menu wins hearts through hearty dishes like Tajín fried chicken and a chimichurri-covered ribeye sandwich. It’s got a lock on the plant-based set, too, with inventive meat alternatives like vegan ropa vieja made with jackfruit. Whatever you get, get it with sweet plantains.
📍 272 McAllister St.
🗓️ Opens at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday-Friday, closed Mondays

Jin Mi Korean Cuisine
Few things are more satisfying than a bowl of bibimbap so hot that the rice crisps on the inside of the bowl. The Tenderloin’s Jin Mi Korean Cuisine may be the definition of unassuming, but it offers tons of bulgogi, spicy stews and under-$20 lunch specials. Further down, the menu has lots of harder-to-find dishes, like the Korean seafood pancakes known as pajun and golbaengi somyeon, or spicy freshwater snails served over noodles. 
📍 366 Golden Gate Ave.
🗓️ Opens at 10:30 a.m. Monday-Friday

Two people eat at Brenda's French Soul Food.
Alan Eskildsen, right, has lunch with Ailey Simpson, left, at Brenda’s French Soul Food on June 8, 2023. | Isaac Ceja/The Standard | Source: Isaac Ceja/The Standard

Brenda’s French Soul Food
For more than 15 years, Brenda Buenviaje’s Polk Street outpost has been the gold standard by which every New Orleans-style restaurant in San Francisco has been measured. Enormous portions of shrimp-and-grits or an andouille-and-cheddar omelet dominate the menu alongside California classics like a Hangtown fry. Don’t sleep on the beignet flight—three sweet options plus the crawfish beignet, for $14.50—but the sweet watermelon iced tea is unmissable.
📍 652 Polk St.
🗓️ Opens at 8 a.m. daily

Max’s Opera Cafe
The diner inside Opera Plaza has a massive menu, spanning comfort foods like nachos, matzo ball soup and a french dip along with more contemporary fare like poke bowls and a tofu and soba noodle salad. Or just fill your belly with huevos rancheros and other breakfast-for-lunch options. Got a few minutes to kill after finishing that Reuben? There’s a Books Inc. directly across the way.
📍 601 Van Ness Ave.
🗓️ Opens at 11 a.m. daily

A person enters the storefront of Saigo Sandwich.
An exterior view of Saigon Sandwich, eternally one of the best lunch deals anywhere in San Francisco. | Isaac Ceja/The Standard | Source: Isaac Ceja/The Standard

Saigon Sandwich (no website)
One of San Francisco’s eternal lunch deals, the banh mi at Saigon Sandwich is also one of the most un-improvable. Lines extend out the door and down Larkin Street from this takeout-only spot where a crew of no-nonsense women cranks out roast park, roast chicken and special combination (ham and pate) Vietnamese sandwiches, all stuffed with carrots, jalapeños and cilantro. And those baguettes: Sourced from Bakers of Paris, they envelop the contents with the perfect crunch.
📍 560 Larkin St.
🗓️ Opens at 7 a.m. daily

Smuggler’s Cove
Dealing with a grisly murder case? Consumed with legal minutiae in a boring property dispute? Don’t risk being held in contempt of court by tippling Bulleit from a flask. Head to Martin Cate’s rum-centric, three-time 50 Best Bars in America winner in Hayes Valley for an after-trial Fog Cutter made with rum, pisco, gin, lemon, orange, housemade orgeat and oloroso sherry. With more than 1,000 premium rums in stock, you may find yourself happily sequestered at Smuggler’s Cove.
📍 650 Gough St.
🗓️ Opens at 5 p.m. every day

Hall of Justice, 850 Bryant St.

Turtle Tower
Dining options are considerably sparser in this largely industrial section of Central SoMa. But the broad selection of Northern Vietnamese pho at Turtle Tower is worth a summons to the Hall of Justice. Broth from free-range chickens and freshly made noodles form the basis for these nourishing bowls of soup, along with the porridges and rice plates that make this family-owned operation such a favorite.

Tragically, the other Turtle Tower location was on Larkin Street, not far from Superior Court, but it closed in September 2023.
📍 501 Sixth St.
🗓️ Opens at 11 a.m. daily

Dinosaurs
The SoMa location—one of four in all—of this Vietnamese spot more or less caters to the judicial-industrial complex, feeding pork and meatball banh mi to Hall of Justice staff on weekdays. Other sandwich options abound, from shaking beef to roasted portobello, as well as tofu and taro spring rolls. If you ever tire of Vietnamese iced coffee, there’s always an intriguing Avocado Shake.
📍 18 Boardman Place
🗓️ Opens at 10 a.m., Monday-Friday

Kiss My Seoul
Two words: Kimcheese smashburgers. Having begun a decade ago as a catering company, Kiss My Seoul’s brick-and-mortar is now practically a destination, albeit not the easiest one to find. Short rib bowls, galbi bowls, bulgogi bowls—all the staples of Korean lunch food are here, but it’s the smashburger with grilled onions and kimchi mayo and a side of crinkle-cut fries that really put Chef Alex on the map.
📍 15 Boardman Place
🗓️ Opens at 7 a.m. Monday-Friday

Mars Bar
If nothing else, SoMa is the land of dive bars. But there are only so many that serve both food and upscale cocktails and can boast about an outdoor patio, all while managing to maintain the friendly vibe that makes a great dive. Virtually every element of a good bar menu—nachos, burgers, mozzarella sticks, pulled pork sliders—can be found at the surprisingly spacious Mars Bar. But what sets this place apart are the “tachos,” tater tot nachos slathered with guacamole and pico de gallo.
📍 798 Brannan St.
🗓️ Opens at 11:30 a.m., Tuesday-Friday, closed Mondays

This story has been updated to note that Turtle Tower on Larkin Street closed in September 2023.