San francisco restaurants

18 Essential San Francisco Restaurant Cookbooks

For San Franciscans who crave the convenience of their favorite restaurant as they stroll through the city, there’s a way to experience them at home: cookbooks. The best restaurant cookbooks celebrate iconic dishes, from Zuni’s roast chicken to Slanted Door’s crab and cellophane noodles, capture the chef’s voice, give readers insight into the kitchen and bounce the heat from the dining room to eat. Far from exhaustive, here is a short stack of cookbooks that capture the hearts and bellies of San Francisco diners.

While it can be tempting to have the books delivered with a Panic Treasure from Amazon, consider buying these titles at local neighborhood bookstores. Omnivore Books, Green Apple Books, the Booksmith and more all accept online orders, and many offer free local delivery.

The Zuni Coffee Cookbook

Zuni’s tome is a classic, looking back over 40 years at the quintessential California restaurant, in the voice of the late, great Judy Rodgers. The recipe for the iconic Roast Chicken with Bread Salad is five pages long, but we all have time on our hands, don’t we? Advice to skimmers: salt poultry at least 24 hours in advance.
To buy: Zuni Cafe | Bookstore | Amazon

The Greens Cookbook

Born out of the serenity of the San Francisco Zen Center and founded by earth goddess Deborah Madison herself, Greens is an iconic vegetarian restaurant, and her cookbook remains a vegetarian authority. This writer loves the nostalgia of the original 1987 edition – the retro-fabulous nut bread! The timpani in shape! But also, nourishing lasagna and gratins.
To buy: Indiebound | Amazon

We are La Cocina

La Cocina isn’t a restaurant, it’s the kitchen incubator that has launched many across the city, specifically supporting immigrants, women, and people of color. From Mexican tamales to Nepalese dumplings, from Arabic flatbread to Cambodian noodles, this book captures incredible portraits of food entrepreneurs, along with their personal stories and recipes.
To buy: Cocine | Bookstore | Amazon

The cookbook of foreign cinema

Foreign Cinema celebrated its 20th anniversary last year, and the cookbook captures what’s so extraordinary about this restaurant, from the patio glittering with old movies and twinkling lights, to the great drama of oyster towers, lavender pork chops and cinematic cocktails. The pop tart on its own is a brunch legend, and it’s just as delicious enjoyed in pajamas, homemade bellini in hand.
To buy: Foreign cinema | Bookstore | Amazon

My Mexican kitchen

Gabriela Cámara celebrated restaurants in Mexico City and San Francisco, but let’s claim her like a local. His book finally came out last year, and it brings the hippie beach party home, complete with whole fish slathered in green and red chilies, trout tostadas with curly leeks and tender tortillas.
To buy: Cala | Bookstore | Amazon

A16: Food + Wine

A16 has always been known for its blistering pizzas, fresh pastas and award-winning wine list, led by Shelley Lindgren, and his book marries these passions, pairing food with wine. Word nerds also love having hired former cook Kate Leahy as a co-author to write and test the recipes, and it was her first cookbook project, which later launched her into a career as a cook. as one of our most successful local cookbook authors.
To buy: IndieBound | Bookstore | Amazon

Flour + Water Pasta

When the going gets tough, tough guys crave pasta, preferably eaten from a bowl while sitting cross-legged on the couch. For anyone missing the all-pasta tasting menu at Flour + Water, these photos of tortellini will go the way.
To buy: IndieBound | Bookstore | Amazon

Rich table

Michelin-starred chefs Evan and Sarah Rich make diners feel at home in their cozy dining room, and their seasonal California recipes translate well to home kitchens, too. Adventurous cooks, consider this a golden opportunity to finally try popping a sardine through a slice of potato and frying it like a potato chip.
To buy: Rich array | Bookstore | Amazon

The slanted door

Charles Phan blazed the trail for California-influenced Vietnamese cuisine in San Francisco, and his cookbook is every bit as modern, minimal and beautiful as his bayside restaurant. Spring rolls, papaya salad and the iconic crab-and-cellophane noodles all bring bright flavors to gloomy days, and there’s comfort in duck porridge and fried shallots.
To buy: IndieBound | Bookstore | Amazon

State Bird Provisions

The Michelin-starred restaurant shook up the San Francisco restaurant scene by launching dim sum and small plate carts nearly a decade ago. The cookbook is just as unexpected as the restaurant, and yes, it includes California’s state bird, this buttermilk fried quail.
To buy: IndieBound | Bookstore | Amazon

Burmese Superstar

Burmese cuisine has a devoted following in the Bay Area, and Burma Superstar was the restaurant that introduced many diners to the delights of tea leaf salad, fiery tofu and garlic noodles.
To buy: IndieBound | Bookstore | Amazon

Nopalito

Nopalito is Nopa’s little brother, and chef Gonzalo Guzman’s Mexican home cooking is nearly impossible to resist. There’s no better time than the present to whip up a big batch of carnitas, mash up some fresh salsa, and start mixing margaritas.
To buy: Nopalito | Bookstore | Amazon

Eat something

Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen has finally released a cookbook, subtitled “for jews who love food and foodies who love jews,” and it’s delicious and hilarious, full of old bar mitzvah snapshots. Former Eater SF restaurant critic Rachel Levin scored this co-author gig, and she argued with the chef about the bacon (they left it out), as well as the recipe for chocolate babka that bakers have been waiting for.
To buy: Indiebound | Bookstore | Amazon

Toasts

The award-winning bakery has fallen on hard times in recent months, from being shut down by the health department to clashes with workers’ organizing efforts. (Hey chef, maybe shelving the union busting stuff now that we’re facing a global health crisis?) But with all due respect, Tartine has changed sourdough bread around the world, and it doesn’t. There may never be a finer loaf of bread than when Chad Robertson was still in the Guerrero Street kitchen, personally shaping just 125 loaves a day. Of all the Tartine cookbooks, and there may be too many, this writer loves Bread. From the surfer-guy sourdough bromance between chef Chad Robertson and photographer Eric Wolfinger, to the 68-page deep dive into how to make a staple country sourdough, it’s so San Francisco.
To buy: Indiebound | Bookstore | Amazon

Crumb

The Miette cookbook has been selling like hot cakes since its publication nearly a decade ago, and it’s no wonder: it’s a treat. The cakes are as cute as the boutique packaging, with fluted ginger cookies, pastel buttercreams, and tomboy cakes topped with a single rose.
To buy: Indiebound | Bookstore | Amazon

Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones

The Bi-Rite Deli has its own solid cookbook, but the Creamery has the real scoop, with all those delicious flavors of ice cream, from legendary salted caramel to chocolate spiced milk to chai. You haven’t lived until you’ve tried homemade graham crackers, which are easy to scoop and stir.
To buy: IndieBound | Bookstore | Amazon

make chocolate

Chocolate lovers, this is the kind of bedside reading that makes you dream. Artisan chocolate innovator Dandelion has full-color illustrations that beautifully illustrate every step of the bean-to-bar process. Plus, Chef Lisa Vega’s s’mores and chocolate chip cookie recipes.
To buy: Chocolate Dandelion | Bookstore | Amazon

Smugglers’ Cove

Conjure cabin fever with a cool cocktail. Smuggler’s Cove, the little tiki bar that looks like the belly of a pirate ship, has an encyclopedic rum-packed cookbook. And pineapple juice to prevent scurvy.
To buy: Smugglers’ Cove | Bookstore | Amazon