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Dish from Nari Thai
Photograph: Courtesy Nari Thai

Where to find the best Thai food in San Francisco

This way to the spicy, sour, and lime-spiked best Thai food in San Francisco to perk up your palette

Written by
Clara Hogan
Contributor
Lauren Sheber
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SF is a hotbed for Thai food, from buzzy Michelin-starred restaurants to food trucks and authentic, family-run mainstays. Whether it's a hole-in-the-wall or a high-end establishment you're looking for, these restaurants serve the best Thai food in San Francisco, where you can find favorites like pad see ew and khao soi as well as innovative fusion dishes packed with flavors from Southeast Asia.

No matter what pocket of the city you're in, we've got a spot for you. The Tenderloin is the best neighborhood to find family-run joints, from the original Lers Ros (a local Thai legend) to Thai Idea and House of Thai. For more modernized takes on traditional fare, head to one of the many new and trendy restaurants in the Mission, where spots like Farmhouse Kitchen and Hawker Fare are whipping up contemporary spins on classic dishes in party-like settings. And then there's Kin Khao, a Michelin-starred masterpiece that will take your tastebuds on a journey you won't soon forget.

Whatever your style, the best Thai food in San Francisco ventures far beyond pad thai and green curry, and these are the restauarants to try right now. 

RECOMMENDED: The best restaurants in San Francisco

Best Thai food in San Francisco

  • Restaurants
  • Thai
  • Tenderloin
  • price 2 of 4

From the decor to the bold curries, everything is colorful and informal at this Michelin-starred Thai restaurant. Kin Khao – which translates to 'eat rice' – is the passion project of chef Pim Techamuanvivit, who was born and raised in Bangkok. (Her stated mission: 'To liberate her beloved Thai cuisine from the tyranny of peanut sauce.') All of  Techamuanvivit’s produce, meat and seafood is sourced from local Northern California purveyors. The dishes are shareable and generously spiced, from the 'pretty hot wings' glazed with fish sauce, garlic marinade, tamarind, and Sriracha to the dry-fried Duroc pork ribs in a turmeric curry paste. Don’t miss Kin Khao’s modern spin on curries, like the rabbit green curry or the mackerel gaeng som sour curry.

  • Restaurants
  • Thai
  • Outer Sunset
  • price 2 of 4

Chef Chai Siriyarn opened the first Marnee Thai in 1986, well before Thai food became the takeout staple it is today. Siriyam grew up in Bangkok and learned how to cook from his mother; her influence is evident in the traditional flavors and bold spices of his dishes. Today, Siryam’s two restaurants – one in the Inner Sunset, the other in the Outer Sunset – specialize in aromatic, tongue-tingling dishes from central Thailand. Specialties include the kao soi chicken and mussamun chicken curry.

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  • Restaurants
  • Thai
  • Mission
  • price 2 of 4

This inviting Mission restaurant has a festive vibe, from the glinting penny tiles to the upbeat soundtrack. Even the food is vivid: The popular fried chicken is served alongside blue rice (colored by the blue pea flower) and yellow potato curry. Co-owners Ling Chatterjee and husband Kasem 'Pop' Saengsawang are the same duo behind Kitchen Story in the Castro and Blackwood in the Marina. Of the three, this spot serves the most authentic Thai fare. The pair focuses on high-quality ingredients and locally-sourced produce. The beef short rib, braised until it falls off the bone then slathered in Panang curry, is a stand-out.

  • Restaurants
  • Thai
  • Tenderloin
  • price 2 of 4

Lers Ros has been a Thai food mainstay since chef-owner Tom Narupon Silargorn opened his original location in the Tenderloin in 2008. He’s since expanded his scope to oversee three modern, stylishly-appointed outposts in the city. A native of Thailand, Silagorn is known for serving authentic, unapologetically spicy dishes. (You won’t find sugary-sweet curries or limp pad thai here; even the chile paste is made in-house.) Opt for hearty, flavorful dishes like the pork ribs, nuer tod (fried, dried beef), and bone-in fried eel.

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  • Restaurants
  • Thai
  • Tenderloin
  • price 2 of 4

Vegetarians and vegans rejoice: This popular Thai restaurant is entirely meat- (and fish sauce) free. The space is casual, but comfortable, with dark wooden booths and dim lighting. Though the menu focuses on vegetables, there are also plenty of meatless substitutes for chicken, shrimp, catfish, lamb and beef. The faux-meat skewers, samosas, and 'wing bombs' (deep-fried veggie-chicken wings) are popular appetizers, while the curries – ranging from pumpkin to fish-free–'seafood' – are recommended mains.

Opened in 2019 by the team behind Kin Khao, Nari Thai is one of the newest and most exciting Thai restaurants in SF. While Kin Khao is more of a relaxed, party vibe, Nari leans toward the more sophisticated side of the spectrum. Located in Japantown's Hotel Kabuki, the large and elegant dining room features greenery, large windows and banquettes with Thai-inspired fabrics. The menu at Nari – which translates to 'woman' – is vibrant and varied, with appetizers like a spicy mango salad and seafood curry grilled in a banana leaf. Main entrees rang from a wok-tossed chicken in a bright curry paste to a tender lamb shank in massaman curry. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Thai
  • Civic Center
  • price 2 of 4

House of Thai has been serving classic, unpretentious food for nearly two decades. Shunning Americanized Thai fare, the menu is spicy and wide-ranging, from curries and noodle dishes to rice plates. Start with specialties like the ka moo (a fiery pork-leg stew), the moo grob gra praw (sauteed pork belly flavored with chili, onion, peppers, and basil), or the deep-fried catfish. The latter comes topped with shiitake mushrooms, carrots, onions, peppers, and ginger and is doused in a house-made plum sauce.

  • Restaurants
  • Thai
  • Mission Dolores
  • price 2 of 4

Chef James Syhabout is perhaps best known for Commis, his Michelin-starred prix-fixe restaurant in Oakland. But this colorful, casual Lao Issan restaurant is his passion project, serving recipes inspired by his mother’s cooking. The dishes are sour, spicy and salty, from blistered green beans tossed with curry paste and smoked bacon to the Isaan BBQ chicken, which is brined for 24 hours, rubbed with lemongrass and turmeric, and served alongside chili garlic and tart tamarind dipping sauces.

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  • Restaurants
  • Thai
  • Lower Nob Hill
  • price 2 of 4

The food at this Nob Hill cafe seamlessly melds traditional Thai, Chinese and Indonesian influences in inventive flavor combinations. (The brother-sister co-owners borrowed many of the complex recipes from their Thai parents.) The menu spans sauteed dishes, seafood, wok-tossed noodles and curries from all over the map. There’s an American-Thai inspired oxtail soup stewed with carrot, tomato, and cabbage; a Northern Thai khao soi (egg noodles, chicken, and crispy pork skin in a red and yellow coconut curry), and a Chinese-Thai–influenced roasted duck soup packed with hearty, fatty strips of meat and thick, chewy noodles. Start with the crispy crab pancake, which is served alongside a pungent vinegar dipping sauce.

  • Restaurants
  • Marina District

Authentic, it is not. But Blackwood does serve some seriously delicious fusion fare. The vibe is stylish and upscale, from the pillow-laden banquettes to the fireside tables out front. The menu offers traditional favorites, like pad thai, fried rice, and egg rolls with a modern twist. It also delivers some unexpected options, like the fried chick, a crackly fried chicken breast served with yellow curry, and a Thai-inspired burger topped with asparagus, bell peppers, heart of palm, basil, khao jee, and green curry sauce. Wash it down with a selection from the impressive beer and sake list.

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