While celebrity-backed flagships and hipster havens may get a lot of attention, there are literally hundreds of other off-the-beaten path neighborhood restaurants in San Francisco serving up high-quality, Californian-fresh food in inviting, if not splashy, digs. Check out some of our favorite off-the-beaten-path restaurants (including reader picks and recommendations from some local food bloggers) in the slideshow below, and let us know your under-the-radar gems.
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Noe Valley/Glen Park: La Ciccia
It may be hidden in the hinterlands straddling the sleepy 'hoods of Noe Valley and Glen Park, but La Ciccia, a cozy family-run Sardinian spot, is Grand Central on any given night. Local writer Marcia Gagliardi (aka The Tablehopper) calls it the quintessential neighborhood gem. "It's on a quiet street, totally unpretentious and so very delicious." But the piece of resistance, Gagliardi adds, are "the owners" (she's the front of house, he's the chef and wine wizard), who "are so welcoming, they exhibit such true hospitality." "And wow" she adds, "what a rocking wine list." Just know this -- you won't recognize much on the menu or the regional wine list (no fettuccine Alfredo and Chianti here). And don't bother showing up without reservations -- it's a small space. Read more about Gagliardi has to say about La Ciccia here.
The Details: 291 30th St.; 415-550-8114
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Bernal Heights: Piqueos
Star chefs like Gaston Acurio and others hog the Lima-light, but reader Helen Simon recommends Piqueos, an unpretentious, reasonably priced Peruvian squirreled away in bite-sized Bernal Heights storefront where Carlos Altamirano (also of Mochica and La Costanera) serves up "fantastically flavored" ceviches, crudos and other small plates plus two types of paella.
The Details: 830 Cortland Ave.; 415-282-8812
Pacific Heights: Sociale
Reader Nancy Kivelson, who works for The Kivelstadt Vineyard & Qualia Wines, writes in to say tell us that her beloved neighborhood gem is "hidden" Pac Heights haunt Sociale, located "down a little alley with outdoor seating all year-round," where the owner always "greets regulars" and the kitchen turns out Northern Italian specials such as "fresh pastas with intriguing sauces" at "prices to fit a nice neighborhood bistro" but "of a much higher caliber." She's not alone -- Sociale is packed day and night.
The Details: 3665 Sacramento St.; 415-921-3200
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Russian Hill: Luella
You'll find Luella mostly packed mostly with locals -- after all, parking is impossible and what self-respecting San Franciscan is going to hop a cable car to go out to dinner (the car stops right out front)? Still, Cooking with Amy blogger Amy Sherman reveals its one of her favorite spots with a "great friendly vibe" and great classics like "crispy polenta fries and short-rib lasagna that never come off the menu." Wanna act like a real regular? Sherman suggests you ask your waiter about the "off the menu specials like the divine marrow burger."
The Details: 1896 Hyde St.; 415-674-4343
Mission: Blue Plate
There's no shortage of hipster restaurants in the city, and Blue Plate has all the usual elements: PBR, adult mac 'n' cheese and tattooed staffers. Still, the low-key spot (look for the vintage EAT sign) serving up gussied-up, sustainably sourced New American comfort food, along with serious wines, is that proverbial neighborhood spot for a certain foodie demographic living on the south side of the city. Bonus points for its secret garden.
The Details: 3218 Mission St.; 415-282-6777
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When tourists want French food, they usually head Downtown to the better known addresses, but locals who live west of Van Ness know the real deal can be had at Chapeau! where gregarious chef/owner Philippe Gardelle still regales les dames with kisses on both cheeks, les monsieurs with a firm handshake and everyone with textbook bistrot classics and well-priced vins including a can't be beat early-bird and weekday prix fixe. This long-running venture used to be in an even more obscure Richmond locale, but now it's a firmament on the Clement Street drag where you can walk off your cassoulet.
The Details: 126 Clement St.; 415-750-9787
Most city folks are just getting word of this far-flung Dogpatch neighborhood, but the local artists, artisans and other free-minded residents who've been turning around this up-and-coming neighborhood off Third Street have long depended on Piccino for sustenance. Even since moving to its much larger Yellow Building digs, the Cal-Italian, which turns out delightful ingredient-driven, thin-crust pizzas, salads and one helluva a meatball, gets packed to the gills most hours of the day.
The Details: 1001 Minnesota St.; 415-824-4224
North Beach: The House
A welcome respite in the land of red-sauce restaurants and red-light strip clubs, The House, this low-key Asian-fusion beckons North Beach locals and anyone else tired of Italian to its tiny blonde wood digs where pioneering chef Lary Tse's turns out colorful, architectural creations like miso-marinated cod and roasted unagi, proffered by a skillful, yet friendly staff. It often gets cramped and noisy at night, but things are less hectic at lunch.
The Details: 1230 Grant Ave.; 415-986-8612
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Outer Sunset: Outerlands
It's truly located on the outermost edge of the city and largely dominated by surfer types in the daytime who carbo-load up on the incredibly fresh-baked bread and hearty sandwiches, but there's way more going on at Outerlands, a stealth wood-lined neighborhood haunt in the Outer Sunset where come nighttime, former Coi vet Brett Cooper crafts progressive ingredient-driven Californian dinners, which can be matched with farm-fresh cocktails. No reservations means long lines in the fog, though a scheduled winter expansion that will double the amount of seating should help alleviate some of that. In the meantime, just put your name of the list, grab a drink and deal with it. P.S. lunch is now served via table service.
The Details: 4001 Judah St.; 415-661-6140
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Noe Valley: Firefly
Most people generally don't venture this high up on Noe Valley's 24th Street unless they're heading to the park with their kid or dog, but Brad Levy's quirky eclectic neighborhood fixture Firefly has consistently been packing in the locals (and foodies who do their homework) for almost 19 years. There's plenty to lure them -- the quaint decor, the friendly service and the years-ahead-of-its-time locally sourced, global comfort menu that takes equal care of vegetarians, gluten-intolerants and omnivores alike. Oh, and did we mention a crazy low three-course early bird prix fixe (Sunday-Thursday), the fried-chicken-of-your-dreams and Jewish holidays dinners that beat the pants of your Bubbe's?
The Details: 4288 24th St.; 415-821-7652
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