The Irish have been extremely influential to the city of San Francisco. They came, settled, became prominent politicians and businessmen, established Catholic churches and schools throughout the city, helped build the city’s transporatation system – and brought in their baked goods.
Every city has their standard Irish pubs, but the Sunset, San Francisco’s largest neighborhood, and one with a traditionally hefty Irish presence, is sprinkled with authentic Irish restaurants and markets.
Danis points out that though many of the Irish have left the San Francisco neighborhood, the handful of Irish establishments stand tall in the area to remind passerbys of the Irish who contributed so much to the city.
If you find yourself in San Francisco jonesing for a nice slice of warm Irish brown bread, a meaty shepherd’s pie or even just a nice Irish point, here are eight Irish eateries that can satisfy your craving:
John Campbell's Irish Bakery
5625 Geary Street
Master baker John Campbell traveled all the way from Belfast, Northern Ireland to bring his treats to the US. His store sells classic Irish baked goods including scones, soda bread and brown bread. Meat pasties--chicken curry or ground beef--and shepherd's pies are very popular savory baked goods. The clear must-haves are the blueberry scone, soda bread and the chicken curry pastie. The scones are light, buttery and inexpensive; they rank as some of the San Francisco's best. Though technically in the Richmond, John Campbell's supplies smaller Sunset markets with scones and Irish bread, and prepares brunch goods for its neighboring bar, the Blarney Stone. If a pint and pastry isn't Irish, I don't know what is.
2240 Taraval Street
The Copper Kettle Bakery and Café in Central Sunset, offers an array of Irish breakfast foods to start your day. If your stomach is up to the challenge, The Copper Kettle features a Irish breakfast complete with white and black pudding and a ton of sausage. For people who enjoy a lighter fare in the morning, the bakery has a small selection of traditional pastries, brown bread, oatmeal and doughnuts. The real favorite here is the Irish Breakfast roll, bangers (Irish sausage), rashers (Irish bacon), potatoes and eggs piled into a soft baguette roll. Jokingly referred to as the “perfect hangover cure” the breakfast rolls is a full traditional breakfast on the go. The Cooper Kettle’s lunch menu features classics like Irish stew, fish and chips, shepherd's pie and curry chips.
Buena Vista Café
2765 Hyde Street
Fisherman’s Wharf - Ghirardelli Square
So many things draw tourists and locals to San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf. Though better known for the fresh seafood, people also flock to Fisherman’s Wharf for the best Irish coffee around. The Buena Vista Café, a small restaurant famous for its Shannon-style Irish coffee, sticks out amongst the nautical cuisine of the area. But for people looking to taste a bit of the Emerald Isle on the Pacific, you’ll find it at the Buena Vista Café. The story of Buena Vista’s famous Irish coffee dates back to 1952, when then-owner Jack Koeppler, was challenged to make a traditional Irish coffee. After many trial and errors, Koeppler discovered that a combination of frothed cream and strong whiskey made the best Irish coffee. To this date, the Buena Vista Café serves over 2000 Irish coffees a day, and holds the Guinness World Record for the biggest Irish coffee made.
142 McAllister St
Though some people think that the best coffee comes from Boston or Seattle, the Celtic Coffee Company in the heart of Civic Center is proving that the Irish are best at the brew. Recently acquired by Irish owners, the small coffee shop features a variety of specialty coffees and teas, direct from Ireland. Along with fresh baked goods and delicious homemade soups, the Celtic Coffee Company is the perfect place to have a bite to eat. People rave about the friendly service and Irish décor, which makes the Celtic Coffee Company a great find. Sorry folks, no Starbuck-ese spoken here, but maybe some Gaelic. Slainte!
Crown and Crumpet
900 North Point
Sugar and spice and everything nice. The Crown and Crumpet tea room in Nob Hill, San Francisco brings a touch of royal elegance to the California coast. Decorated with fancy tea kettles, dainty table clothes and napkins, crystal chandeliers and pink everything, the Crown and Crumpet would be the perfect place to treat your little Irish princess to a real British tea party. The Crown and Crumpet features more than 38 varieties of English and Irish teas and delectable pastries. Finger sandwiches and traditional treats like clotted cream, jam and lemon curd are perfect compliments to the teas. The Crown and Crumpet is the perfect place to feel pampered like royalty for an afternoon.
The Plough and the Stars
116 Clement Street
There are three things that make a pub an Irish pub: endless Guinness on draft, great pub food and live music every night. In the Richmond section of San Francisco, the Plough and the Stars on Clement Street is the perfect pub. Described as a small pub with big character, the Plough and the Stars is very traditional. It sticks with the basics of good food, good drinks and a place to make good friends. There’s not a cartoon leprechaun or ‘kiss me I’m Irish’ button in sight. And the Plough and the Stars is one for the only place in the Bay Area where you can get your trad music fix. Session nights are Tuesdays and Sundays, but there’s traditional entertainment every night. The décor and relaxed atmosphere of the Plough and the Stars would make you think you’re in Ireland, without ever stamping your passport.
Johnny Foley’s Irish Pub and Restaurant
243 O’Farrell Street
Any place that has Murphy’s Stout on tap has my vote for best Irish pub! Johnny Foley’s in Union Squareis right in the middle of the highly trafficked tourist part of San Francisco. The pub’s name sake, Johnny Foley is a San Francisco ledgend and an Irish renaissance man; being a athlete, newspaper writer, a singer and a troublemaker from Waterford. Though you may not immediately think you’re in the mood for an Irish meal while sightseeing, as soon as you walk into Johnny Foley’s, you’ll be ready for a hearty shepherd’s pie and a pint. Spacious and recently renovated, Johnny Foley’s is a great place to have a party or special occasion. Johnny Foley’s also has a modernized menu, which takes tradition Irish meals and brings them to the California coast. But many traditional pub characteristics can still be found, like dark wooden furniture, old family pictures on every wall and snugs (small private seating areas, where in 1800’s Ireland, women would sit to enjoy the pub, but ignore the men!).
Martin Mack’s Restaurant and Bar
1568 Haight Street
When traveling thought San Francisco, you have to visit historic Haight-Ashbury streets. In the 1960’s, hippies and beatniks from across the country flocked to the epicenter of peace and love. And while walking past the protest site and music shops, I can only wonder that if 40 years ago, some hippie had the same thought I have, “man, I could go for a Guinness right now.” Martin Mack’s on Haight Street has solved that problem. Recently renovated, Martin Mack’s makes for a nice place to have a traditional Irish dinner or to stop in and have a pint. Martin Mack’s not only has good food, like fish and chips and Irish stew, but there’s table quiz and football and rugby on the bar TVs. Martin Mack’s may be the only place in Haight where you can escape jam bands for the Bothy Band.