At Trestle, a lofty sliver of a restaurant in Jackson Square, $38 buys you a lovely, simple three-course supper. The menu, which changes nightly, might include spicy red pepper soup; nutty, crispy-skin trout; and chocolate cake with banana mousseline and smoked peanuts, an homage to Elvis Presley’s beloved peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches. For an after-dinner espresso, the landmark Caffe Trieste, onetime hangout of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, is just three blocks away.
Nearby, Michelin-starred Quince deserves its accolades, but so does its low-key sister trattoria next door, Cotogna (which means “quince” in Italian). Rather than embark on the formal culinary odyssey offered at Quince, you can make a meal at Cotogna of an antipasto ($15), a seasonal pizza ($20), or an à la carte order of the celebrated raviolo ($23) that originated at Quince: a perfectly poached egg yolk nestled in ricotta and wrapped in a delicate pasta skin, the whole plate-size package drizzled with brown butter. After dinner, enjoy a five-minute stroll to the base of the Transamerica Pyramid, the vintage icon of the city’s skyline.
Likewise, you can hit Michael Mina’s lavish namesake restaurant for the $145 prix-fixe dinner—or you can opt for the Mina Test Kitchen in the Cow Hollow neighborhood, just east of the Presidio, where a six-course meal sets you back $39. In 2015, Mina opened the Test Kitchen as a research lab for developing new concepts, and the theme at this cozy eatery changes every few months. Mina has explored the cuisines of Bombay and Little Italy in collaboration with chefs from around the world. Most recently, diners have sampled ceviches, moles, and tamales inspired by the regional dishes of Mexico. A meal here feels exciting, because you’re in on the creation of something. Mina’s barbecue pop-up with Food Network star Ayesha Curry, International Smoke, opened permanent digs south of Market Street.