They are places that embrace and reflect both the old and new traditions of the city.
Visitors must wade through the throngs of Fisherman's Wharf tourists gaping at the giant crab-boiling vats, past the children tossing sourdough to pigeons, and through the sidewalk food stalls along Taylor Street before they reach Nick's Lighthouse.
And once at the restaurant's door, they're welcomed by a man in a navy chef's jacket stained with ocean salt and told to wait by the tank brimming with live lobsters.
It now holds two Michelin stars, a distinction that chef Suzette Gresham (who's been there since the beginning) shares with only two other women in the entire U.
Those of us who live in the Bay Area once considered the San Francisco waterfront either a tourist haven or a place to avoid.
Yet, in the past decade, it has evolved into a world-class destination and a place where locals want to be.
So today we begin a weekly series looking at the Port of San Francisco restaurants.
Steaming baskets of extra sour bread are brought to every table, and just about the only non-San Franciscan thing in the restaurant is hidden in the closet-size kitchen, where the chef pulling tails off Maine lobsters has the gall to wear a Raiders hat.
"I might have given him some grief for that if I had seen it," says Niners fan and longtime restaurant owner Jeffrey Pollack.
Luckily for him, a group of six jersey-wearing Niners fans didn't notice as they noisily burst through the doors to celebrate a recent close win.
Restaurant history runs deep in San Francisco, a city that originated to everything from cioppino to the Mission burrito, and which even has a city project dedicated to identifying and preserving historic dining establishments.
To kick off Classics Week, we've compiled our 25 favorite restaurants that have unquestionably impacted the Bay Area dining scene.