San Francisco is a lively destination in which to celebrate Halloween. Elaborately costumed revelers can be found at many parties in clubs and bars around town. San Francisco also offers a diverse and innovative restaurant scene, making the city a hub for foodie travel. Here are five top restaurants to sample during your haunted holiday.


Straw, in Hayes Valley, is a carnival-themed diner that will fit right into a Halloween getaway. The menus, written in children’s books, are filled with outrageous items, such as “The Ringmaster,” a hamburger made with two glazed donuts in place of traditional buns. The drinks here are also full of character. For example, if you order a cotton candy cocktail, your server will give you a tableside presentation and pour a vodka-infused sake and champagne mix over a brightly colored nest of cotton candy.

The carny theme at Straw goes well beyond the food. There is a tilt-o-whirl carriage turned into a booth where you can sit. The atmosphere is boisterous. Without a doubt, this unique dining experience will make your Halloween trip memorable.

Brenda’s French Soul Food

Because New Orleans is considered by some as one of the best Halloween destinations, it’s only natural to feature Brenda’s, known for its New Orleans-inspired menu. Chefs at this French soul-food restaurant serve up hearty breakfasts and brunches; Brenda’s is best known for beignets. These airy pockets of deep fried cake come plain or can be filled with sweetened apples, Ghirardelli chocolate, or spiced crawfish.

Feeling devilish on a recent visit, I ordered the chocolate-filled beignets. Covered in a layer of powdered sugar, they made a mess on my hands. But they sure tasted good dunked in my coffee.

Also on the menu at Brenda’s are classics such as French toast, pancakes, omelets, and Benedicts. You’ll also find Louisiana staples such as shrimp and grits or gumbo. Brenda’s also serves lunch and dinner in case a hankering hits you later in the day.

Viewfinder Tip: The Mission neighborhood in San Francisco is a culinary hotspot; it is where you’ll find some the newest, most innovative restaurants in town.

Trick Dog

Get the Halloween festivities started at Trick Dog, a trendy Mission drinking establishment where patrons can order French-inspired tapas, as well as excellent cocktails, wine, and beer. You can eat at the bar downstairs or head to the loft space upstairs for a sit-down dining experience.

On my last visit, I ordered the duck rillette with toasted bread and stone fruit mostarda—a comforting and tasty dish. Later in the meal, I enjoyed a decadent bowl of fries, cooked three times and topped with a spicy mixture of cheddar cheese, a white cream sauce, and smoked paprika.

As for drinks, Trick Dog bartenders strive to create unusual and balanced flavors, sometimes adding surprising ingredients such as mustard or cinnamon. Sometimes they even incorporate liquors such as shortbread tincture or strawberry vermouth. When I visited last, I ordered the Fort Point, a pineapple juice-based drink with cucumber, lime, and Cel Ray. It was tangy; not too sweet, but just right.

The menu changes every six months at Trick Dog. Go early; as the evening gets into full swing, seating becomes scarce.

A look into the kitchen at flour + water

flour + water

Fuel up before a long night of freakish fun at one of my favorite restaurants in San Francisco: flour + water (yes, it’s really spelled that way). This is an eatery to which locals flock for homemade pasta, thin-crust pizzas and other tasty Italian dishes. The menu here changes daily, and features local, seasonal produce.

On my most recent visit, I sat at the bar and ordered the eggplant triangoli pasta with brown butter and peppers. The triangle-shaped raviolis were delicate and slightly al dente, while the eggplant filling was cooked in such a way that it was rendered sweet. All of these flavors played well against the syrupy sauce of brown butter and mild red peppers. The experience made me want to come back to try something new the next night. And I will on my next trip through town—maybe even on Halloween!

Greens Restaurant

Open since 1979, Greens Restaurant was one of the very first vegetarian establishments in the city (and, for that matter, the entire country). I recommend a trip to Greens when you are ready to wind down and detox after all your ghoulish adventures from All Hallow’s Eve. If you’re a meat-eater, don’t let the V-word dissuade you. The food is only half the attraction here.

The restaurant is situated in the Marina District with one entire wall made of windows. Through these windows you can see boats docked in the harbor and the towering Golden Gate Bridge.

Almost all of the produce served at Greens is purchased at the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market, just a few minutes away. For brunch, I had a delicious Pain de Mie (a thick slice of spongy, brioche-like bread) topped with gruyere, a pesto smear, and plump slices of sweet heirloom tomatoes. The dish also came with a fried egg, and was accompanied by an arugula and artichoke salad. What a delectable mix of flavors.

Greens is open for all three meals, seven days a week. On Saturdays chefs prepare a fixed-price meal for approximately US$60 per person.

For what do you look in dining experiences when you travel?