5 Solid San Francisco Restaurants To Take Out-of-Town Relatives

It’s that time of year again; parents, aunts and distant cousins flock to town to celebrate Thanksgiving, then Christmas, then winter break and New Year’s Eve. They look up to you, the mighty local. Having lived in the city long enough, you’re now their unofficial tour guide, a beacon of hope and familiarity in a city where, should they turn the wrong corner, picturesque can quickly be replaced by a dose of real-life harshness.

The relatives will want you to take them out to eat. “Somewhere interesting” they’ll say, but mean it with caution; what they really want is a delicious evening to remember San Francisco by. Where to take them? Surely, not to your favorite hole-in-the-wall spot or the super-dark, super-loud bar which also serves a killer hamburger. What you need is a pleasant, user-friendly dining experience, fit for a variety of target audiences. We got 5 of those.

Brunch-ish at the Riddler

With parents and elderly relatives, going out and drinking options have to be modified creatively. How about, then, a brunch at a champagne bar, in broad daylight but still with plenty of bubbles to share? The Riddler, Hayes Valley’s champagne gem, is making this possible with its new ‘brunch-ish’ menu, which incorporates a seasonal fruit salad, a choice of chia pudding with earl grey or a savory grain bowl, and a selection of pastries from Jane Bakery. All the elegance of a bar, minus the late hours, and a very affordable $24 price to pay for a grown-up mommy and me date.

528 Laguna St

Tasting menu at Aina

Which restaurants do parents love most? That’s right, the ones with good lighting and conversation-friendly acoustics. Aina, the new-ish Hawaiian haven tucked away in the Dogpatch, has both, plus culinary excitement to spare. To make things even more exciting, treat your folks to the restaurant’s new tasting menu, available at the chef’s counter. For $60 a head, six beautiful dishes will dazzle and delight, from a very non-traditional poke to perfectly roasted pork belly, evoking all the best memories from past Hawaii family vacations.

900 22nd St

Lunch at One Market

The Embarcadero area, which you know most visitors would want to see, isn’t abundant with good food options. However, enter One Market, to find a solid choice with even more solid views. While the restaurant itself celebrated its 25th anniversary this year, chef Mark Dommen keeps things fresh with light dishes like chickpea fries with harissa, but also delivers crowd-pleasers like Wild Gulf Shrimp “Louis” with avocado and quail egg. The $25 lunch menu will keep the bill in check.

Throughout November, One Market will also offer a special dessert that you can eat there or take one home for the holidays. This star-shaped, freshly-baked gingerbread cake is served with cream cheese frosting, graham cracker streusel, and caramel sauce. It’s decadent yet a little less guilt-inducing since it’s for good cause with 100% of the revenue from the sale of the dessert benefits the Greater Bay Area Make-a-Wish Foundation.

1 Market St.

Dinner at Gibson

Occasionally, it’s nice to take out-of-towners to a place you’ve never been to yourself; discovering things together can that bonding material your long-distance relationship needs. Gibson, the new and impressive restaurant at Hotel Bijou, is a good candidate for such occasion, offering lavish interiors and open-fire cooking everyone can love. Chef Robin Song (Hog & Rocks) is behind dishes like Trout Grilled on the Bone with roasted fennel, and Sonoma Duck Smoked Over the Grill. The creative cocktails will open the door to the juiciest family gossip.

111 Mason St.

Taiwan "Must Loved" Lu Rou Fan Braised Minced Pork Rice Bowl, Bok Choy

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Counter-hopping at China Live

There’s no arguing about Chinatown’s attraction in the eye of the tourist. After sampling a few local bakeries and eateries, show your guests another side of the area by taking them to China Live, where they can happily try different dumplings, slurp a variety of soups, sample oolong teas and shop for souvenirs to take home. For a truly elevated experience (and if a special occasion presents itself), go for Eight Tables, the upstairs dining experience like no other.

644 Broadway St.