With tens of thousands of world leaders, CEOs and international journalists descending upon San Francisco this week for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, the existential question remains: Where are they all going to eat?
Many VIPs will be ensconced at private parties, but to feed everybody else, San Francisco Restaurant Week has been extended by four days to align with APEC—through Nov. 16—and now includes over 200 participating restaurants, with menus at a range of price points to accommodate the increased influx of diners. The city is marketing itself to attendees as a global dining destination like never before (and even making custom ice cream: Humphry Slocombe’s Born & Bread sourdough flavor is a nod to one of the city’s famous culinary exports).
For Randale Conner, general manager of Oren’s Hummus, APEC has provided more stress than support. He and other local business owners within the security zone petitioned Mayor London Breed unsuccessfully for grants to cover lost income.
“The city is going to see the money, but local businesses are not,” Conner said, noting he had to reroute his commissary trucks and wouldn’t be able to access the vehicle that he usually parks nearby for three days.
“We love the attention APEC is bringing to the city and are very excited,” said David Cohen, chef and CEO of local restaurant the Grove. “We just hope the security fence is handled correctly.”
The hassle makes supporting local restaurants all the more important. So when—not if—you go out, here are 12 spots you won’t want to miss, organized from splurge-worthy to affordable. Most are within walking distance of Moscone Center or are destinations close to Downtown.
Directly behind the Moscone Center, the Michelin-starred Aphotic is about as close as you can get to the APEC action. The restaurant, which also has a Green Star denoting sustainability, has a 10-course tasting menu for $165. Aphotic serves “best practice seafood,” meaning chef-owner Peter Hemsley sources his fish directly from the fishermen.
With a Restaurant Week menu that includes everything from Cheeto powder to milk bread, grape foam to tempura crispies, Tenderheart emerged as a Downtown hot spot from its inception in September 2022. On the ground floor of the Line SF hotel, Tenderheart embodies contemporary Asian fusion, with signature dishes like a cacio e pepe made with chow mein noodles. The $45 Restaurant Week menu with an optional $25 wine pairing should be enough to lure people back to the neighborhood.
As one of Chinatown’s glitziest restaurants, Empress by Boon is the perfect place for entertaining visiting dignitaries. After being whisked up to the sixth floor by elevator, you will see the surroundings are designed to impress: expansive views of the cityscape, a refuge-like lounge and a gilded bar and lounge. Helmed by Michelin-starred Ho Chee Boon, the restaurant has exclusive tables for APEC attendees. A place to impress guests, Empress is where you can order a $150 martini and nibble on fish- and squid-shaped dumplings in broth and wagyu Mongolian beef. For a less upscale alternative, Boon also opened the Blue Whale in the city’s Marina District earlier this fall.
One of the newest additions to the Downtown dining scene, Corzetti became an emblem for Union Square’s renaissance when it opened in August. A project from prolific local restaurateur Adriano Paganini, San Francisco’s acknowledged master of approachable, affordable dining, the bright and cheerful Corzetti cranks out coastal northwestern Italian food like spaghetti with clams, penne with shrimp or the eponymous pasta, enticingly plated with pancetta, hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, butter and sage. Note to early risers: there’s an entire American breakfast menu, too.
A visit to San Francisco wouldn’t be complete without a trip towards the waterfront, and dining at Nancy Oakes’ eternally elegant French restaurant Boulevard is the perfect destination. Inside the breathtaking and historic Audiffred building, the restaurant is celebrating its 30-year anniversary—no mean feat in San Francisco. The oyster- and caviar-studded New American menu remains among the pillars of this city’s sterling global dining reputation.
The 450-seat Japanese-Peruvian (or “Nikkei”) restaurant Chotto Matte has been open less than a month, but it’s already the city’s buzziest dining destination owing to the exuberant topiary, elegant rooftop dining and truly adventurous cocktail menu. Given the restaurant’s club-like capacity, you may be more likely to score a table here when other restaurants are booked solid, and you’ll be able to brag you feasted in only the second U.S. location of Kurt Zdesar’s acclaimed restaurant group.
Beloved Burmese restaurant Burma Love has a Downtown outpost—and it’s only a 12-minute walk from the Moscone Center. In historic Mint Plaza, the restaurant has both lunch and dinner specials for Restaurant Week. The former includes salad, rice, a drink and mains like fiery eggplant or ginger chili pork. The dinner menu includes a cocktail and the restaurant’s famous tea leaf salad, as well as an entree and dessert.
Thad Vogler’s James Beard Award-winning Bar Agricole relocated from its longtime home on 11th Street to more sedate digs in a luxury high-rise last year, but the innovative cocktail menu and elevated bar snacks remain as strong as ever. A little over a mile from the Moscone Center, Bar Agricole continues to spotlight fresh, clean ingredients to match its spartan interior. At $45, the Restaurant Week dinner menu at the famed dining destination is a comparative steal.
A one-of-a-kind dining destination, the Mission District’s Foreign Cinema has been serving elevated American fare from its open-air patio for more than two decades. Famous for its movie projections on the side wall (the restaurant will be screening Steven Spielberg’s con man film Catch Me If You Can during APEC), the restaurant also abuts the cozy, sepia-toned Bar Laszlo, the perfect spot for having a cocktail while waiting for a table—or to keep the party going when you’re finished eating.
The staff of what’s arguably San Francisco’s best Greek restaurant take the concept of philoxenia—or hospitality—seriously. You may enter a stranger into this Financial District dining establishment that’s laced with the smell of rosemary and roast lamb, but you leave as a friend. The service is on par with the food—flawless. Named for a fishing village on the island of Samos, the menu includes a robust offering of seafood and game.
In business for 25 years, the Grove is a San Francisco institution offering a full breakfast, lunch and dinner menu. The cozy restaurant is known for its great coffee, homemade desserts and fun cocktails. The Grove will be open its regular business hours during APEC, and though it’s not planning a special menu, it will have a happy hour drink special specific to the summit.
Don’t let the name fool you—the menu at Oren’s Hummus goes way beyond the beloved chickpea puree, and the $25 lunch special for Restaurant Week includes dip, sandwich or salad and a housemade lemonade or Samovar iced tea. Only a 5-minute walk from the Moscone Center, it’s a solid option for a fresh and zesty lunch.
Julie Zigoris can be reached at email@example.com