One of the draws of moving to San Francisco was the world-renowned food scene. Diane and I place a huge priority on food quality. Coming from Northern New Jersey, where much of the produce in the grocery stores is labeled “from California” we were excited to have fresh local options for doing what we do most – cook at home.
Farmer’s market hauls mixed with Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s staples make up 90% our meals.
But, when we are looking for lunch or dinner out on the town, San Francisco offers some pretty amazing options, even for those of us with specific dietary restrictions like gluten. There’s no possible way to list all of the paleo-friendly/gluten free options in the city. There are countless places we’ve never even made it to yet. But, since the city by the bay is such a popular stop for visitors, I thought I write out a few of our favorites so far.
Casual Dining – (lunch and/or less than $20/person)
Souvla – Greek style fast casual. The menu is limited, but when what’s on the menu is so freaking good, you don’t need a lot of options.
Doc’s Rec: Pork Salad and Greek Fries with “granch” sauce.
Roam Burgers – The owner pays a lot of attention to sourcing. The patties come on optional gluten free buns or lettuce wraps and are grass fed beef, pastured elk or bison from local ranchers. The farmer’s market salad is enormous, changes based on seasonal availability (like rainbow carrots and goat gouda) and at $11 is one of the best values in the city.
Doc’s Rec: Double Heritage Beef, gluten free bun and mini market salad; or full market salad with two elk slider skewers (6 mini patties).
Little Gem – Nestled in hip Hayes Valley, this 100% gluten-free treasure pays attention to details, using seasonal ingredients to build a menu of home-style flavors that feel like a warm hug in a cool city. Free wi-fi and a spacious dining room beg you to bring a laptop and stay awhile.
Doc’s Rec: Curried Cauliflower & Sweet Potato Rice Bowl with Slow Roasted Pork. Bonus – Smoked Brisket on gluten free Flatbread.
Tacko – I’ve tried a lot of tacos in the city. My favorite Mexican food will show up in the last section below, but when you just need some street style tacos that won’t rough up your digestion or wallet, this mid size place in the Marina is a great stop.
Doc’s Rec – Street style mixed tacos (pollo, asada, carnitas), chips & guac, Golden State Hard Cider.
Spinnerie – Serving up Mary’s organic rotisserie chicken with two flavor options (Mediterranean and spicy Peri-Peri) alongside well-sourced sides. One of our go-to options during busy times is getting a whole chicken to-go.
Doc’s Rec – Half Peri-Peri, truffle mashed potatoes, beet salad with goat cheese.
Fine Dining (Dinner and $$$)
Bar Tartine – easily the best meal I’ve had in the city is the weekend tasting menu at Bar Tartine in the Mission. Chef Cortney is hip to paleo & gluten free diners. Not just removing offending items, the kitchen goes the extra mile to make you feel welcome. One of the gluten free subs at our meal was one of my favorite bites in life – black garlic smoked potatoes. Keep in mind this wasn’t even on the regular menu. That’s how good this place is – their substitutions are better than most other’s main offerings.
Doc’s Rec – Reserve a table for the tasting menu and let them know your restrictions…you will not feel restricted.
Liholiho Yacht Club – Before this trendy Hawaiian inspired small-plates gem showed up on nearly every “best-of” list in the country, we ‘accidentally’ indulged in the 10-course tasting with a large group of varied eaters. The kitchen deftly dodged our restrictions, serving up specially prepared bites like rice flour fried oysters and twice cooked pork belly & pineapple.
Doc’s Rec – Get a group of 8-10 and book the Ohana Table for $55/person. You’ll roll away happy. Aloha.
Foreign Cinema – an iconic experience in the Mission, this long-standing SF tradition has everything you’d want in a memorable meal. Amazing atmosphere (there really is a film playing on the wall in the outdoor setting), smart takes on west coast fair, and plenty of options for conscientious eaters.
Doc’s Rec – Try the Pork Chop or Bavette steak, Scallops (which Diane declared her favorite ever), some good wine and friends.
La Mar – This traditional Peruvian eatery near the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero is one of the few places big enough to cater to last minute decisions. For ceviche lovers, the tiradito is exactly as it should be – bright, fresh, with plenty of citrus. The free appetizer is a never-ending bowl of warm house made plantain and potato chips. Need I say more?
Doc’s Rec – Ceviche, Pernil Crocante (bone in crispy-skin pork shank), Pisco Chilcano (kind of like a South American Mule).
Octavia – This smaller spot is just around the corner in Pacific Heights and perfect for a special occasion. It has a romantic, quiet vibe and excellent farm-to-table style specials. The menu is small and seasonal, so make sure to check that you have options before making a reservation.
Doc’s Rec – Deviled eggs, Roasted Beets, Pork Loin
Spruce – For the wine inclined, Spruce’s enormous library in Presidio Heights will make any connoisseur more than content. Their farm-to-table menu is easily navigated for gluten free eaters and is worth the expense.
Doc’s Rec – Dress up, order a bottle of wine from the knowledgeable staff. Charcuterie board, Heirloom Tomato Salad, Duck Breast. Their brunch is also one of the best around.
Heirloom Cafe – A great spot for a family dinner, the subtle farm-to-table style is elevated with exquisite care to excellent ingredients and a phenomenal wine list.
Doc’s Rec – Heirloom Tomato Salad with feta, capers, olives and roasted fennel, Liberty Duck Breast with figs, chevre & fried potatoes.
Other – (Couldn’t decide where to put these)
Mamacita – The best mexican food I’ve had…maybe ever. Duck Carnitas Tacos with cabbage-carrot slaw are mind-blowing. Ceviche is surprisingly great.
Doc’s Rec – Reserve a table during happy hour and order half-priced Carnitas tacos (generous portion) with chips and guac and a Mamacita Cadillac Margarita. Day made for $25.
Sol Food – kill two birds with one drive by heading over the iconic Golden Gate Bridge to picturesque Mill Valley (Tyler Florence has a restaurant here, if you’re so inclined) for the best Puerto Rican food this side of San Juan. Many items are marked “wheat free”, including the optional giant Tostones (smashed and fried plantain) which act as buns for sandwiches.
Doc’s Rec – Cubano on a Tostones gluten-free “bun” or grilled shrimp plate with rice, avocado and sweet plantains.
I hope that gives visitors and locals alike a few great gluten free / paleo-friendly dining options in San Francisco. If you end up at one of these places, tag me on Instagram @fullbodyfix and use / check the hashtag #practicalpaleotravelsf.
Yours in Health,
I’d love for you to take advantage of the subscriber only coupon for $10 off my video rehab program – The Full Body Fix.