Big 4 Restaurant: It takes its name from the four powerful storied railroad tycoons of San Francisco history, and has a suitably old-boys-club feeling, with dark wood paneling and memorabilia on the walls. The menu does feature the big steaks you'd expect at a place like this, as well as the occasional wild game entrée special, but also makes room for creative contemporary dishes. With nightly piano music in the bar. 1075 California St.
Café Bean: Dig into Dutch pancakes and breakfast omelettes, in addition to hot and cold sandwiches and other standard café fare at this cozy corner coffee shop. 800 Sutter St.
Fleur de Lys: Veteran chef Hubert Keller has returned to his Alsatian roots with a new, fixed-price menu, giving an elegant turn to homey fare. The extraordinary four-star meals are $65 for three courses, $72 for four and $80 for five. The atmosphere is top-notch as well: Dining under the velveteen tent is a magical, slightly exotic experience, transporting diners to another world, a thousand miles away from the urban hustle and bustle right outside the door. 777 Sutter St. (between Taylor and Jones)
Gallery Café: Located across from the Cable Car Museum, this bright, spacious café is a good place to refuel on fresh sandwiches, coffee and pastries. It also offers a great view of the cable cars coming back to the barn. 1200 Mason St.
Grubstake: Though at heart it's simply a diner, there's a lot that stands out about Grubstake, not least its memorable name. Part of the restaurant is housed in a rail car, a remnant of the Key Line, and the menu lists a number of Portuguese dishes along with its burgers, milkshakes and breakfast fare. Best of all, considering its proximity to the Polk St. night spots, it's open until 4 a.m. 1525 Pine St.
Il Cartoccio: When you need a pasta fix and are far from North Beach, this petite restaurant off the lobby of the Nob Hill Hotel is your ace in the hole. The gnocchi in lemon cream sauce in particular is to die for. 835 Hyde St.
Le Colonial: Le Colonial isn't a place to hurry. The sexy, plantation-style surroundings are designed to be soothing and to promote lively conversations, fueled by some exotic drinks and innovative food. Main courses start at $23 for lemongrass roasted chicken and rise to $33 for the grilled lamb chops. Sea bass in banana leaves and crisp spring rolls are classics, while the duck is an exceptional new addition to the menu. The dessert fondue with rum makes a light-but-indulgent ending. 20 Cosmo Place (between Post and Sutter)
Miller's East Coast West Delicatessen: Homesick New Yorkers unite at this taste of the Big Apple. Look for mile-high pastrami sandwiches, baseball-sized matzo balls and some of the chewiest, crustiest bagels in town served with a classic Nova lox platter. The interior is reminiscent of an East Coast deli, with long counters and unadorned tables. Grab a dozen potato knishes to go, or at least one black-and-white cookie for the ride home. 1725 Polk St. (near Clay)
Nob Hill Café: Choose from pastas, pizzas and entrees at this neighborhood restaurant, a traditional Italian establishment consisting of a subdued dining room and a louder café room. 1152 Taylor St.
Polk Street Station Diner: A hybrid of an old-style diner and a contemporary restaurant, Polk Street Station keeps the best of the old, such as burgers and generous breakfast plates, while updating the formula with menu items such as fresh fish dishes, hearty pastas and uncommon entrees like fried quail. The pervasive train theme harkens back to a bygone era, with historic photos dotting the walls and a model train clattering overhead on a suspended track. 1356 Polk St.
Slider's Diner: One bite of a juicy 8-ounce grilled-to-order burger will make you forget the down-at-the-heels environs. Sliders' also offers other diner classics such as grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, chili and thick-cut fries. Save room for a milkshake, too. 1204 Sutter St. (at Polk)
Swan Oyster Depot: This venerable seafood counter has been in business since 1912, and owned by the Sancimino family since 1946: it's safe to say Swan knows its daily catch. Pull up a stool (or wait in line for one), and feast like a king in this eminently casual establishment, where the only seating is a marble counter stocked with lemon wedges, Tabasco sauce, oyster crackers, and other seafood essentials. Choose from seafood salads and cocktails, lobster, Dungeness crab and, of course, Swan's signature mollusk. You can also pick up some fresh fish to cook at home. 1517 Polk St.
Venticello: Rustic and warm-hued, this Tuscan country restaurant serves interpretations of comforting classic Italian dishes. Two levels of dining offer views across the city, spanning to the Bay Bridge. A wood-fired oven trimmed in blue tile turns out fresh focaccia and roasted portobello mushrooms. 1257 Taylor St.