The dining scene in San Francisco is expansive and multicultural, and provides endless opportunities for culinary escape. Here are seven San Francisco restaurants that serve less well-known cuisines that you need to try. Let the journey begin!
1. 1601 Bar & Kitchen — Sri Lankan
1601 Bar & Kitchen marries flavors from Sri Lanka with fresh produce from California. Chef Brian Fernando recently introduced a multi-course degustation menu for diners who want to experience a wider range of his dishes. Whether you go this route or a la carte, an essential order for the table is the traditional egg hopper, a rice flour crepe with a creamy Jidori egg in the middle.
2. Prubechu — Guamanian
Shawn Naputi’s Prubechu is the first restaurant to introduce cooking from the island of Guam to San Francisco, via the Mission district. However, he’s not taken the most obvious approach, instead choosing to have fun with traditional flavors combined with the bounty of ingredients available locally. An alternative to the a la carte items is the excellent five-course tasting menu.
3. Anar — Iranian
The family-owned Anar is another restaurant that will give you a strong taste of hospitality from a different culture. In this case, it’s Iran, a cuisine resplendent with kebabs and beautiful vegetarian dishes. Anar means pomegranate, so don’t miss the ash anar, a warm and comforting pomegranate-based soup.
4. Champa Garden — Laotian
Tucked away in Mount Davidson Manor is Champa Garden, which specializes in Laotian cooking. Order an appetizer sampler to start, which includes a tasty fried rice salad. The menu also features classic Thai dishes for those who want to play it a little more familiar. If you're in the East Bay, the original Champa Garden is in Oakland.
5. Helmand Palace — Afghan
Warm and friendly service meets delicious home cooking at Helmand Palace, which offers a taste of Afghanistan. Vegetarians and meat eaters alike can find hearty options, but both should try the kaddo—a delicious dish of baby pumpkin, served with or without ground beef, that is anything but basic.
6. Radio Africa & Kitchen — Ethiopian
Chef Eskender Aseged’s permanent Bayview restaurant is one of the great success stories of the San Francisco pop-up dining scene, of which he was an early trailblazer. Aseged still changes his menu about as frequently as he did when he hosted weekly events—but it's always going to be informed by his roots in Ethiopia, and cooked with passion.
7. Burma Love — Burmese
Food from Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, was essentially introduced to San Francisco by the Inner Richmond restaurant Burma Superstar, which has recently been joined by a new family member in the Mission called Burma Love. The latter offers generally spicier fare, but the must-order item at both is the Rainbow Salad, a gorgeous, 22-item creation of vegetables, noodles, and crunchy condiments mixed together at your table.