Union Square is packed with restaurants - some great, some so-so. Here's a list of places even locals love.
For the ultimate upscale hamburger and a view of Union Square, check out Burger Bar, where a Kobe beef burger comes crowned with a slab of sauteed foie gras and shaved truffles and the buffalo burger dons a mini spinach salad. It's all part of the internationally acclaimed chef Hubert Keller's deluxe Burger Bar concept, which originated in Las Vegas and recently opened in Macy's Cellar. If beef isn't your thing, go for the turkey burger with cranberry sauce on Ciabatta or the Vegas vegan option. Wash it all down with a glass of wine, beer, or customized milkshake.
Address and phone: 251 Geary St. (on the 6th floor of Macy's; 415-296-4272
The Rotunda at Neiman Marcus
The setting at the Rotunda alone is worth a visit. Perched on the fourth floor of the department store, the dining room sits under a magnificent stained-glass dome. Picture windows look out onto the bustle of Union Square. White table linens, plush banquettes, and fresh flowers on every table lend an air of elegance. Meals begin with a tiny cup of consume and puff pastry nibble. Oversized popovers, for which the Rotunda is famous, are served steaming hot with plain and strawberry butter. Among the decadent delights on the menu are a lobster club sandwich piled with apple wood smoked bacon and served on toasted brioche; a char-grilled Angus burger, and the seafood cobb salad studded with local Dungeness crab. Read full review.
Address and phone: 150 Stockton St.; 415-249-2727
An offshoot of the flagship Slanted Door restaurant in the Ferry Building, this basement eatery manages to feel like an intimate destination despite being in a food court. The owner and chef, Charles Phan, was born in Vietnam and raised in San Francisco. He draws on family recipes and seasonal ingredients to create such rustic, bright dishes as shaking beef (cubed tenderloin served with red onion and lime dipping sauce), clay pot chicken with caramel sauce and chili, and fresh spring rolls with peanut dipping sauce. The wine list, famous for its unusual selection of hard-to-find Rieslings, is as revered as the food.
Address and phone: 845 Market St. (concourse level); 415-541-9913
Any Francophile visiting San Francisco should have a meal – or at least a drink – at Café Claude. Although the food is here is serviceable to good but not outstanding, Café Claude’s atmosphere is especially charming and convivial. Banquets line the mirrored walls and tables spill out onto the sidewalk when the weather is warm. Stick to basics on the traditional menu or come for an aperitif at the lovely zinc bar to hear live jazz in the evenings.
Address and phone: 7 Claude Lane; 415-392-3505
The Bar at Campton Place
The bar at the upscale Campton Place Hotel is one of Union Square’s hidden treasures. Tucked away off the lobby, this cozy space is open all day for coffee, drinks, and casual fare. Unlike at the hotel’s more formal, Michelin-starred restaurant, no reservations are needed and patrons are free to linger as long as they like over a single class of wine. This is a great spot for lunch or cocktails after shopping or for a light post-theater dinner. Among the standout menu options are one of the best hamburgers in the city, classic roast chicken, and oysters on the half shell when in season.
Address and phone: 340 Stockton Street; 415-995-5555.
Farallon is both a gastronomic and visual feast. Named for the Farallon Islands west of the Golden Gate, Farallon specializes in seafood drawn (mostly) from local waters. You might find dishes such as Louisiana shrimp parfait or cornmeal fried local squid on the inventive menu. Designed to resemble an underwater fantasy, with hand blown glass jellyfish fixtures and scalloped-shaped booths, Farallon has garnered rave reviews from Gourmet and Bon Appetit Magazine. This is a special occasion or expense account dining room, with superb food, service, and atmosphere.
Address and phone: 450 Post St.; 415-6969
Emporio Rulli's Il Cafe at Union Square
Emporio Rulli’s Il Café at Union Square may not be the most economical place to buy a cup of coffee downtown, but it is worth the markup to sit outside in the park and enjoy one of the bakery’s classic Italian pastries and a steaming espresso. The café also offers light lunch fare and wines by the glass. Seating is indoors or out.
Location and phone: East side of Union Square Park; 888-88-RULLI