Planning to board a plane or two over the holidays? In the wake of a terrible year for flight delays and cancellations, and as the era of pandemic flight deals officially ends, Bay Area travelers departing from San Francisco International Airport can only hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
Should you find yourself hangry after navigating interminable TSA checkpoints, conversing with clueless clerks and encountering unexpected baggage fees, you can take comfort in the fact that The Wall Street Journal has named SFO the best large US airport of 2022—in no small part due to the quality of its restaurant offerings.
The Standard recently sifted through online reviews and scouted locally owned eateries and bars with airport outposts. We organized our list of SFO’s culinary gems by terminal with the aim of helping you make an informed decision without too much anxiety-inducing analysis paralysis.
Safe travels and bon appétit!
Goldilocks Filipino Cuisine
📍 Near Gate B18
🕑 3:30 a.m.-11:30 p.m.
☎️ (650) 821-0522
Founded by two sisters in the Philippines in 1966, Goldilocks is now a California mainstay for Pinoy staples like lumpia and pancit noodles. The breakfast bowls are much more substantial than anything you’ll find at Sbux and, as a bonus, Goldilocks wakes up before the first flight of the day.
📍 Near Gate B13
🕑 5 a.m.-11 p.m.
☎️ (650) 821-8211
Locally owned chain for chicken fried to a golden crisp. The breading is gluten-free, so it won’t weigh you down once you reach cruising altitude.
📍 Near Gate B3
🕑 6 a.m.-10 p.m.
Filling fare from a locally owned fast-casual Vietnamese spot with two SF locations. They specialize in pho, egg rolls and, of course, their namesake sandwich, which is served on crunchy French bread. The rice bowls may induce a food coma that could last through your red eye.
📍 Near Gate B7
🕑 Mon.-Fri.: 5:30 a.m.-10 p.m. | Sat.-Sun.: 7 a.m.-10 p.m.
Bay Area restaurant magnate Michael Mina makes his mark on Terminal 1 with a sleek public house for thirsty wayfarers. The menu is pretty conventional—burgers, sandwiches and tacos—while the bar is well-stocked, which is all you really need in an airport pub.
📍 Near Gate A1
🕑 Sun.-Fri.: 6 a.m.-1 p.m.
Local third-wave roaster Ritual unveiled a shiny crimson espresso machine in the Harvey Milk Terminal this past October. Expect the same espresso drinks and pastries just when you need them—before that crack-of-dawn flight.
Napa Farms Market
📍 Near D Gates
🕑 4:30 a.m.-10 p.m.
☎️ (650) 821-9312
It’s not exactly a country farmstand, but when you’re travel-weary, Napa Farms’ selection of bougie local products—among them, Acme bread and Tcho chocolate—are certainly a sight for sore eyes.
📍 Near Gate C4
🕑 6 a.m.-11 p.m.
☎️ (650) 821-1037
Though it’s unclear when Terminal 2 became the farm terminal, fictive Farmerbrown has cornered the market on down-home Southern airport fare, with jambalaya and po’ boys pairing well with a short but sweet cocktail menu.
Dolores Park Cafe
📍 Near Gate C5
🕑 5 a.m.-6 p.m.
Mission Dolores coffeehouse wisely capitalizes on the uncaffeinated masses at SFO, armed with a bright pink La Marzocco espresso machine. Also on offer are juices, pastries, sandwiches and salads.
📍 Near Gates F11-F22
🕑 6 a.m.-11 p.m.
Locally owned fried chicken joint serves it up three ways—fried, flipped or “fake”—as a sandwich, a salad or an entrée with a side salad and a buttermilk biscuit.
Koi Palace Express
📍 Near Gates F11-F22
🕑 7 a.m.-7 p.m.
Bay Area dim sum staple has a cafeteria-style outpost at SFO where they ladle out noodle soups, dumplings and other Canton-style specialties.
📍 Near Gate F16
🕑 7 a.m.-11 p.m.
☎️ (650) 821-8975
A pre-flight swirl and sip is, admittedly, a slippery slope if you’re making a tight connection, but depending on what stressors may greet you at arrivals, it may be worth the risk. Don’t sleep on the smoked salmon on a pretzel bagel, either. Plus, SF Uncork’d made Fodor’s list of the best bars in the busiest airports in 2019.
📍Near Gate G4
🕑 8 a.m.-11:30 p.m.
🔗 (650) 821-8899
If you have a long layover—or Dad made you arrive three hours in advance—this diminutive sushi bar is one of SFO’s most elegant dining options, serving sashimi, nigiri, rolls, rice bowls, noodles and teriyaki.
Sarah Holtz can be reached at [email protected]