golden gate bridgeWhat better way is there to acquaint yourself with a new city than by eating out in some of its restaurants? If you pick up your rental car in San Francisco and just drive around, you’ll find thousands of places to eat in and around the city. Almost every kind of cuisine imaginable is available, from drive-thru’s serving up large portions of traditional American fare, to highly trained chefs offering delicate platters of sushi. But with such a wide selection on offer, choosing somewhere to enjoy your first stateside meal can be overwhelming.

Before joining Holiday Autos, I worked as a flight steward and have spent many hours in San Fran just killing time between flights. I could recommend the cheapest or most exclusive restaurants that are worth a visit, but thought instead that it would be more fun to tell you about some of the most unique, quirky and unusual places to eat that you can visit within twenty minutes of the airport which will guarantee to make your first holiday dining experience a memorable one.

Foreign Cinema, Mission District – Distance from Airport: 12 Miles

This large converted industrial building manages to feel spacious and intimate all at once, because the interior is divided into different sections and offers you something unique in each. By day, large glass walls make this a bright and airy place to enjoy a bite to eat, but in the evening, the large covered courtyard outside is transformed into a romantically lit cinema as films are projected onto the rear wall which means you can enjoy a meal and a movie at the same time. Inside, you’ll find the ‘Modernism West’ art gallery, and if after all that relaxation you feel refreshed, after dinner drinks are served in the Laszlo bar where DJ’s play until late so you can kick of your flight socks and hit the dance floor.

El Toreador Mexican Restaurant, West Portal – Distance from Airport – 13 Miles

This small restaurant packs a punch, not only with its hot and tasty Mexican menu, but with its décor. Almost every inch of every surface, including the ceiling, walls, placemats and diners chairs are brightly painted or decorated with all sorts of knick-knacks and oddments which will give you plenty to look at and talk about. You could eat here every day and still feel as though you haven’t seen everything, but be warned; you will get a crick in your neck if you stare at the ceiling for too long! You can find the restaurant on West Portal Avenue and street parking is available right outside.

Forbes Island Restaurant, Forbes Island, – Distance from Airport: 16 Miles (plus water taxi)

Why eat on the mainland, when you can dine on an island in the San Francisco Bay and share a view of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge with the harbour’s resident seals? Forbes Island sits just off the coast and can be accessed from pier 39 thanks to a speedy shuttle-boat service the restaurant provides. Once there, you’ll find a number of dining spots to choose from, including their Island Bar, patio tables under palm trees in the sand, or even underneath the waves in one of their underwater rooms, each complete with portholes so you can watch what goes on in the Bay.

If you follow my advice and eat in any of these restaurants, please let us know and send us a photo – we’ll add it to our photo gallery. Or even better, if you find somewhere equally unusual or unique to eat, tell us about it and we’ll add it to our guide. Bon Appetit!