One of the things that makes San Francisco beautiful is the colorful collection of people from many corners of the world who contribute to the eclectic melting pot of a city. Generations of settlers have brought the rituals, arts and foods of their home countries, connecting travelers and visitors with different cultures just within the Bay. When you stay at our HI USA hostels in San Francisco, you’re submerged within neighborhoods with cool histories and good, budget-friendly international eats, which may inspire your future travels or bring you a little closer to home.
Check out the “foreign” foods you can discover during your stay at each of our hostels, then grab some fellow adventurers to share a great meal with while celebrating differences and discovering similarities.
HI San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf: Italian in North Beach
After the 1906 earthquake, many Italian immigrants moved and settled in North Beach, bringing the traditions of the old country to the new one. Informally known as San Francisco’s “Little Italy,” the neighborhood is the go-to for anything from a simple slice of pizza to a hearty plate of pasta at a nice restaurant. You’ll find delis with delicious sandwiches, bakeries wafting the comforting smell of fresh focaccia and casual spots serving inexpensive homemade pasta. The area is also known for its vibrant nightlife and was home of the beatniks (Jack Kerouac and company) in the ‘50s, so once you’ve eaten you can keep exploring.
HI San Francisco City Center: Vietnamese in the Tenderloin
Warm bowls of belly-filling pho in the wintertime and crisp-breaded banh-mi for picnics in warmer weather, and you don’t even have to buy a plane ticket to Vietnam? Little Saigon in the Tenderloin neighborhood consists of a couple of blocks packed with hole-in-the-wall authentic eateries, markets with exotic foods and colorful canopies with Vietnamese writing. You’ll feel as if you’ve wandered onto a whole new continent for a little while, and if you’ve never tried this type of food before, this is a good way to dip your toes into something new while getting to learn about a different culture.
HI San Francisco Downtown: Indian in Downtown
If you’ve got a craving for something hearty and spicy, you’ll most likely find it near Union Square in downtown San Francisco, where there’s a sprinkling of Indian and Pakistani restaurants. You’ll probably smell the sweet and savory combination of cardamom, cumin and turmeric coming together in a delicious curry before you see the eateries themselves, and if you’re a vegetarian, you’ll be delighted by the host of options. Your best bet is to definitely go for the lunch buffet, where you can try multiple dishes at once and eat until you’re stuffed like naan without having to blow your budget.
BONUS: Mexican in the Mission
At this point the giant Mission burrito is more of a California delicacy than a Mexican one, but you can still find plenty of old-school taquerias serving real-deal tacos and yummy plates. This neighborhood is a reminder that the Golden State was a part of Mexico many moons ago, and the influence and population of families from south of the border, as well as other Latin American countries like El Salvador and Guatemala, still remains. Keep an eye out for neighborhood events, including Carnaval, the Cesar Chavez Holiday Parade and Dia de los Muertos, and experience the rich history of the Mission along with its lively present.
HI USA Tip: If you’re looking to discover more of San Francisco through its food, we have a few awesome hostel activities you can join that will having you falling in love through your taste buds.