The 15 Best Fun Restaurants in San Francisco in 2023
California’s food scene is always a step ahead of everyone else, and the sheer number of fun restaurants in San Francisco is just one example of that. Many people come to San Francisco for popular tourist sites like the Golden Gate Bridge or Alcatraz, but the food scene alone is reason enough to make the hop. In a city where Yelp reviews read like professional food critiques, you know you’ve stumbled across something special.
Tired of the same old tourist trap fish houses and gimmicky restaurants with mediocre food? You won’t find that here. Some of the most fun restaurants in San Francisco also serve top-notch dishes. Who would have thought you could be entertained by aerial performers while dining at a Michelin-starred restaurant? A quick search of fun restaurants in San Francisco reveals that the choices start from the minute your wheels touch down (Terminal A frequently makes “best of” lists) and don’t stop until you just can’t handle another bite.
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Find the Best Restaurants in San Francisco
When you start researching the food scene in a new city, it’s a good idea to figure out if there are key foodie neighborhoods. Food tours in San Francisco can give you a taste of some of the key spots, from the Mission District to the Pier to Chinatown, where you can tour the San Francisco fortune cookie factory among other delicious attractions. With so many fun restaurants in San Francisco to choose from, you might want to book more than one tour to get the full experience.
Top 15 Fun Restaurants in San Francisco
1. Foreign Cinema
There’s a reason that Foreign Cinema makes every food writer’s list of fun restaurants in San Francisco. When a restaurant has survived more than 20 years in business, including a pandemic, you need to pay attention. This truly unique eatery pays homage to the art of cinema by projecting old film classics on the walls of their dining room while you enjoy simple, elegant cuisine. This iconic spot is so beloved by its city that September 18 was declared Foreign Cinema Day.
Foreign Cinema has it all. Indoor dining with soaring ceilings, outdoor patio dining with perfect date-night romance vibes and the service to complement both. This fun restaurant in San Francisco draws an intelligent crowd that appreciates all forms of art, from food to film.
What to Order
Being able to source locally is a true thing of beauty for this fun restaurant in San Francisco. Farm fresh arugula and Sonoma little gems are often the base for their salads. Try the lavender-scented goat cheese baked on a fig leaf or local halibut ceviche with watermelon aguachile as a starter. There are wonderful choices for fish or pasta entrées, but word on the street is that this fun restaurant in San Francisco is known for its Madras curry sesame fried chicken.
Foreign Cinema | 2534 Mission St., San Francisco, CA 94110 | $$$
2. Eight Tables by George Chen
Sometimes the most fun restaurant in San Francisco is the one with the most coveted reservation. Eight Tables by George Chen consistently makes “world’s best” lists around the globe for its unique dining concept, so you’ll need to plan well in advance to experience it. This fun restaurant in San Francisco celebrates the classic Si Fang Cai Chinese dining style, which loosely translates to “Private Chateau Cuisine.”
The transportative experience at this fun restaurant in San Francisco begins when you arrive via elevator into the reception area. It feels like you’ve just stepped into a private Asian retreat. As you may have guessed, Eight Tables has a total of eight tables, each in its own private alcove. Instead of the traditional flute and fountain music, light jazz sets the tone for an evening of sophistication. It’s the epitome of classy dining, so dress the part.
What to Order
This fun restaurant in San Francisco serves omakase-style, meaning a fixed price for a multi-course menu. Dishes are “hyper-seasonal,” with a heavy emphasis on seafood and vegetables. Expect every course to be artfully presented with exceptional attention to detail. Eight Tables has the wine selection that you’d expect to match a restaurant of this caliber.
Eight Tables by George Chen | 8 Kenneth Rexroth Pl., San Francisco, CA 94133 | $$$$
3. The Pawn Shop
Not every fun restaurant in San Francisco is what it seems from the outside. The Pawn Shop, disguised as an actual pawn shop complete with a neon “Money Loaned” sign, has a deceptive storefront that leads to a speakeasy-style backroom bar serving top-tier cocktails and tapas.
The Pawn Shop is the true essence of fun restaurants in San Francisco simply because it is a true hidden gem. You’ll find a throwback 1920s Havana vibe inside, so most diners are dressed smart casual. It’s a relatively small spot, making it perfect for intimate occasions. A trip to The Pawn Shop tops the list of best first date ideas in San Francisco.
What to Order
Go for wine and cocktails, stay for a cheese and charcuterie board or the pulpo.
The Pawn Shop | 993 Mission St., San Francisco, CA 94103 | $$
4. Urban Putt
Everyone loves a good round of mini-golf, but you’ve never seen it done like this. At Urban Putt, indoor golfing gets doused in neon Day-glo with putting green features that look like something off of a Broadway stage in New York. Best part about this fun restaurant in San Francisco? Cocktails and food are available while you putt.
The vibe is very upbeat at this fun restaurant in San Francisco. Great place to gather with friends but also a good choice for a date. It does get packed, which is why the strategically placed food and cocktail tables are so handy. You don’t want to get thirsty waiting until you’re up.
On a typical night, completing the course takes about an hour, so plan to pace yourself. You can also just make a dinner reservation and enjoy your meal without having to strut your mini-golf stuff.
What to Order
The menu at this fun restaurant in San Francisco is typical pub grub, but the reviews are strong, with pizzas getting the most attention. Save room for the box of beignets or a cookie ice cream sandwich for dessert.
Urban Putt | 1096 S. Van Ness Ave., San Francisco, CA 94110 | $$
5. The Tonga Room & Hurricane Club
If you miss the themed Chinese restaurants of the 80s and wish you could still get your pupu platter on, head down to The Tonga Room & Hurricane Club. This is one of the most fun places to eat in San Francisco because the dining room was built around the former guest pool of the Fairmont Hotel. A Polynesian-style platform boat has been anchored in the water, making for a unique performance stage that hosts live entertainment complete with tropical winds and the occasional rainstorm.
The Tonga Room is one of the most fun restaurants in San Francisco, especially if you’re an 80s/90s music lover or a fan of the tiki bar. Reservations are only available for guests of the hotel, so plan to wait for a table if you’re not. Because you’re getting entertainment in addition to dinner, there is a $15 cover charge per person.
What to Order
This fun restaurant in San Francisco is a Chinese food lover’s delight. The Tonga PuPu Platter includes vegetable spring rolls, Ahi tuna poke tostadas, green chili pepper chicken wings, house-made Spam and edamame. The fried rice gets rave reviews. Need we say more?
The Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar | 950 Mason St., San Francisco, CA 94108 | $$
When it’s time to let your hair down and find the most fun restaurant in San Francisco for a memorable occasion, AsiaSF is ready to deliver. It’s not your typical low-brow drag show. You’ll be entertained by truly talented transgender performers while enjoying trendy cocktails and shareable plates. Whether you're there for a girl’s night out idea, a guy’s night out, bachelor parties or birthdays, AsiaSF sets the perfect backdrop for a good time with friends and plenty of opportunities for an Insta-explosion.
This fun restaurant in San Francisco feels like a disco club, so pull on your best sequin leisure suit and step into your platforms. You’ll never look as good as the performers who use the bar as their runway, but you might as well try.
What to Order
Small groups are served the ménage a trois three-course menu, and large groups get a separate family-style menu. Dishes include chicken satay and potato samosas for starters. Mains include miso salmon, Malaysian scallops or a vegan orange tofu on coconut rice.
AsiaSF | 201 Ninth St., San Francisco, CA 94103 | $$$
7. Dumpling Time
There is just something about food packaged in little round balls that makes eating fun. That’s why Dumpling Time is one of the most fun places to eat in San Francisco. There are no shortage of dumpling spots in the city by the bay, but not all have the bragging rights of Dumpling Time. The creators behind this concept are also affiliated with Michelin-starred Omakase and Niku Steakhouse.
Each location for this fun restaurant in San Francisco is simple, clean and modern, with both indoor and outdoor seating. Dumpling Time does a robust takeout business too, so don’t feel like you have to skip if you want to enjoy your dumplings in the privacy of your own home. They are also one of the best values for San Francisco foods if you’re eating on a budget.
What to Order
In addition to dumplings, this fun restaurant in San Francisco offers many vegetable dishes and hand-cut noodles. The char-siu roasted pork belly bun is the classic bao and goes perfectly with their Maine lobster siu mai. Check out the bun options wrapped in beet skin or the wagyu gyoza. Finish it off with a green tea and milk bun bao.
Dumpling Time | Multiple Locations | $$
8. China Live
San Francisco has always been a cut above when it comes to authentic and upscale Asian cuisine. China Live is an excellent example of that. This fun restaurant in San Francisco is part dining room, part bar and part food market. Time Magazine once rated this family-owned business one of the World’s Greatest Places, so it is a must to check out. They are experienced in hosting large parties and special events, so count on them for your next function.
It feels more like a trendy gastro pub than a Chinese restaurant and market. Basic wood tables and chairs are interspersed with the retail part of the business, giving it interesting energy as people flow about. Don’t miss the upstairs bar at this fun restaurant in San Francisco.
What to Order
This is not your typical fried rice and General Tsao’s menu. Shareable starters at this fun restaurant in San Francisco include a Peking duck chopped salad or Dungeness crab and shrimp spring hand rolls. Move on to potstickers and dumplings. Family-style dishes include tamarind-laced sweet and sour basil glazed pork ribs or an Indochine seafood claypot with turmeric and herbs.
China Live | 644 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133 | $$$
Hazie’s is a relative newcomer to the dining scene but is making a huge splash in a neighborhood already filled with top-notch options. Serving thoughtfully prepared small plates and shareables, this Hayes Valley menu is approachable and has something for everyone.
Trendy but casual neighborhood gathering spot. No fancy digs required to sit back and enjoy this fun restaurant in San Francisco.
What to Order
The menu at this fun restaurant in San Francisco is eclectic, with a selection of many addictive options like roasted eggplant with lemon tahini or latkes with Bodega Bay smoked salmon. The duck carbonara is the most photographed dish on the menu, but the braised brisket sandwich with Sicilian pepperoncini salsa and provolone cheese is not to be missed. They are also open for brunch, where they serve a more traditional menu.
Hazie’s | 501 Hayes St., San Francisco, CA 94102 | $$
10. Lazy Bear
If your definition of a fun restaurant in San Francisco is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, Lazy Bear will more than check that box. This two-Michelin-star restaurant sells tickets instead of taking reservations, which sets the tone for the fact that it is an entire dining experience, not just a meal. It’s the kind of exclusive experience that you reserve for an extra special occasion, ideally when you’re not paying the bill.
The dark walls create a somewhat cavern-like feel without being claustrophobic. The décor is black on silver, minimalist and refined, but very much an immersive experience as the kitchen is fully visible. Smart dress is expected at this fun restaurant in San Francisco.
What to Order
It is a fixed-price-per-person menu serving a multi-course meal with options for wine pairings and the add-on “dinner den” experience for dessert. Dishes are described as “American nostalgic,” and diners are provided with a journal where they can make tasting notes. No two menus are ever the same at this fun restaurant in San Francisco, and the food is presented so beautifully you almost hate to eat it. Have your smartphone ready, but try to be discreet.
Lazy Bear | 3416 19th St., San Francisco, CA 94110 | $$$$
11. The Game Parlour
If the most fun restaurant in San Francisco is a place where you can linger with friends on a budget, The Game Parlour is your best bet. This simple café-style spot boasts an impressive collection of board games and unlimited playing time for just $7.
It’s the perfect place for game nerds, whether you want to play throwbacks like Chinese Checkers and Battleship or more modern addictions like Dune. Paired with a comfy sweater and good company, it’s the perfect afternoon diversion on a rainy day.
What to Order
This fun restaurant in San Francisco serves an unexpectedly fun menu, too. You weren’t expecting the extensive latte menu (including a cookies and cream version or the black sesame and honey) nor the build-your-own mochi waffles and waffle sandwich choices when you walked in.
The Game Parlour | 1342 Irving St., San Francisco, CA 94122 | $
One of the most fun places to eat in San Francisco is Berber. This Moroccan restaurant has not only earned two Michelin stars for its delicious food but offers Cirque du Soleil-quality aerial performances while you dine. It is truly a one-of-a-kind high-flying dinner entertainment experience.
The dining space at this fun restaurant in San Francisco has a tasteful North African feel to it. Once the lights go down, your eyes will be focused on the performers that take center stage while you dine, so décor is not important. That said, this is a Michelin-rated restaurant, so proper attire is a must.
What to Order
Berber serves refined Mediterranean cuisine. Mezze options include grilled octopus with charred lemon, baby fennel and potatoes or the duck bastilla with golden raisins and cinnamon. A properly-prepared lamb tagine is on the entrée menu at this fun restaurant in San Francisco, but the saffron chicken is the star.
Berber | 1516 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94109 | $$$
For those who are vegetarian or vegan, eating out isn’t always fun. Wildseed is one of the most fun places to eat in San Francisco when you don’t want to have to ask for accommodations to stick to your preferred diet. This 100% plant-based restaurant and cocktail bar proves that giving up meat doesn’t mean you have to give up flavor or choices too.
This fun restaurant in San Francisco has a clean and fresh vibe. Great place for the girls to grab lunch or brunch. They also have an outdoor parklet when the weather cooperates.
What to Order
The orrechiete alla pugliese is a pasta dish combining Beyond hot Italian sausage with broccolini, garlic, chili flakes, coconut and Parmesan. The result? The sense of having deliciously indulged despite the lack of meat. The Mexican corn cakes are a crowd-pleaser at this fun restaurant in San Francisco, and their squash pizza featuring a truffled faba milk béchamel, grilled squash, cashew mozzarella and chili oil will satisfy even the biggest skeptic.
Wildseed | 2000 Union St., San Francisco, CA 94123 | $$
14. Off the Grid
What’s more fun than a food truck rally? When you want to find the most fun restaurants in San Francisco, you’ll need to go Off the Grid. The creators of Off the Grid wanted to help support street food vendors by organizing events where they can congregate and be part of the larger cultural scene. Off the Grid hosts over 60 public market events per week in the Bay Area and has recently expanded to catering, where they are available for private parties and work events.
Food brings people together, and Off the Grid wants to encourage human connection through food. Events take place in iconic locations across the city, from parks to waterfront to concert venues.
What to Order
There is a reason that food trucks are so popular. It’s the promise of indulging in a little guilty pleasure or the excitement of trying something new that draws us in and keeps us coming back. In a foodie city like San Francisco, you can expect the unexpected at Off the Grid events.
Off the Grid | Multiple Locations | $$
15. Ferry Building Farmers Market
Sometimes the most fun restaurant in San Francisco isn’t a restaurant at all. The Ferry Building Farmers Market at the iconic San Francisco Pier is a feast for the eyes and the belly. This is where you go when you are hungry but can’t quite put your finger on what it is that you’re craving. A couple of loops around the fresh produce and prepared food vendor stalls is all it takes to hone in on the perfect solution. Attending the Ferry Building Farmers Market is one of the best things to do in San Francisco for visitors and locals alike.
This is one of the most extensive outdoor farmers markets in the country. Bring your recyclable shopping bag for sure, but with the potential for so many great finds, you might want to consider a wagon instead.
What to Order
The great thing about a farmers market is that there are almost always free samples. Weave in and out of the vendor's stalls and let your nose tell you where to go next.
Ferry Building Farmers Market | 1 Ferry Bldg., San Francisco, CA 94111 | $-$$
San Francisco is truly one of the best foodie destinations in the country. With so many ethnically diverse cuisines and options from budget to splurge, you’ll never run out of inspiration. Whether you are in the mood for quiet and romantic, artistically inspired or good-old takeout, there is a fun restaurant in San Francisco waiting to satisfy you.
For even more ways to explore San Francisco and beyond, check out other experiences happening on Cozymeal.