We’ve got a pretty big handful favorite SOMA restaurants in San Francisco now due to the facts that, first, we always stay at The W Hotel with a perfect walkable location in the coveted South of Market district, and secondly, we like to explore and eat. From home base at The W, it’s easy to get to Union Square, the financial district, North Beach, the Embarcadero, and as an added bonus, it shares a wall with the SFMOMA.
Here’s a list of places we’ve eaten and liked, or loved, and we recommend them all. There’s a pretty wide range of old and new San Fransisco eateries represented, and prices notwithstanding, we deliberately eschewed fine dining. There are a few walkable out-of-SOMA outliers as well. I’ve divided them roughly into morning, midday, and evening meals, but there’s overlap at most of these. And we have comfortably and safely walked to all of them, with just one exception to which we recommend you taxi.
If you prefer, jump to the bottom of the page for a Google Maps version of the list for your next San Francisco trip.
SOMA restaurants for breakfast, brunch, and coffee
Cafe Madeleine – a sweet French cafe that serves up high quality ingredient breakfast and lunch items. You can have quiche, breakfast biscuit sandwiches, entree salads, sandwiches, muffins, croissants, and more. I particularly love the the avocado toast with bacon before a day at the SFMOMA or the hot chicken with dijon, Jack cheese, artichoke hearts, and sliced apples for brunch before heading farther into the City for the day.
Sana’a Caffe – skip the busy Starbucks on 3rd street. You’ll have a much more tasty and meaningful visit to the Yemeni coffee shop on New Montgomery, brand new as of summer 2023. You can find premium Yemeni coffee and Adeni chai as well as chai latte. Try a not-too-sweet treat like baklava and a type of honeycomb bread topped with seeds and served with honey.
Mel’s Drive-In – this homage to mid-20th century diners was founded in San Francisco long before American Graffiti. It’s open all hours, but I’ve only ever been here for brunch – big plates of poached eggs with hash browns or BLT sandwiches piled high with bacon. It’s a fun spot, kitschy in all the right ways.
SOMA restaurants for lunch and supper
Bird – fast food fried chicken with fries or tots tucked into a small space on New Montgomery. You can get a salad as well, but really, if you’re going to go, just lean into the fry. It’s delicious, and the house made apple slaw is a nice counterpoint.
Garage 475 – go for the food and go back for the decor, a mashup of rock posters and vintage automotive signs and artifacts. I love the street style chicken and steak tacos; my partner always goes for the chicken tostada salad, and you can’t go wrong with a side of the Rancho Gordo black beans.
Lemonade – Lemonade is a Southern California based chain that features a fresh, upscale twist on cafeteria food. I confess to have only eaten here once, with my son after a Bloomingdale’s and SFMOMA day, but the fennel salad and brisket mac ‘n’ cheese were to die for.
Sammy’s on 2nd – Sammy’s showed up on a list of the best sandwiches in the City, so I picked one up for us to try after we rolled into town. It’s more of a bodega-type market than a restaurant, and by necessity the sandwiches are to go. We tried the Hoagie, a New York Style sub piled with mortadella, salami, ham, and cheese on a thick sourdough roll.
Sammy’s also serves breakfast to go.
Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen – We’d been wanting to try the house-cured pastrami at Wise Sons for a long time. It was worth the wait. The pastrami was lean, savory, towered high on the toasted sourdough we special ordered with mustard and a single slice of cheddar cheese. Their house made lemonade was a great balance of sweet and tart. I’d ordered online and walked to pick it up from the window at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, and we sat outside at the Yerba Buena Center to enjoy. Be sure to ask for napkins if you need them – they make a laudable conscious effort to reduce waste.
SOMA restaurants for dinner
Pazzia Ristorante Italiano – Authentic Tuscan food at a family-owned. The vegetables on the seasonal menu have always been prepared to perfection – I’m still dreaming about the asparagus we had there. And the polpette (meatballs) in zesty tomato sauce is a definite highlight. It’s high end food and service in a friendly, welcoming setting and seems packed with locals.
Hog Island – Hog Island isn’t in SOMA, but it’s an easy walk down Mission to the Embarcadero, where Ferry Building is only a block to the left. I love the smaller oysters, the crudo, and the intricate salads of baby greens and in-season fruit. Oh and the grilled cheese with house made pickles. Everything about Hog Island is incredible, and we can’t eat here often enough.
The Fly Trap – We ended up here because there was really not much of a choice that particular day for a quick lunch on a Sunday just after Covid restrictions were lifting, and I’m glad we found it. It’s one of the oldest restaurants in the city and has that dark old-school bar vibe inside with a sweet patio brightened with skylights. The fly swatter decor is a little off-putting, maybe, but the historic menus on display are really cool. We had ravioli and a big salad and enjoyed listening to the conversations at surrounding tables. It’s a great spot to find a little of the old-timey San Francisco vibe.
Leo’s Oyster Bar – another one outside of SOMA, but it’s got to go on your list for the oysters as much as the decor. Plan on sitting at the bar with a glass of champagne, a dozen oysters or some prawn cocktail, a some of their hot lemony fries and enjoy the swoony palm tree decor. You’ll probably need a reservation for a table for dinner, but the bar might be even better.
54 Mint – One trip we’d spent some time searching for a new, highly-reviewed Italian restaurant and chose 54Mint because it was close to the hotel and seemed a bit under the radar. We sat outside and feasted on beet salad, fennel and tangerine salad, scaloppini, truffle risotto tiramisu. It’s a fantastic Roman-inspired trattoria in a cool space. I highly recommend it, with the caveat that you absolutely take a taxi or Uber/Lyft instead of walking.
Cocktails and mocktails
Trace – I’d be remiss if I didn’t include Trace, the bar at The W Hotel. It’s always great to sit there with a burger and a glass of wine, or a plate of olives, or a big Caesar salad. Clay and the rest of the bar staff are personable, the food is tasty, and if you’re staying at the hotel, it’s a delicious way to eat up that destination fee.
Novela – a bar for lovers of both books and cocktails. It’s nondescript on the outside but bursting with literary love inside. They feature punch on tap, the ingredients of which change seasonally, like the mango lychee rum punch we tried. Their mixologists are world-class, the drinks are balanced, and it’s a great spot to begin, or end, your evening.