Whenever people dismiss chains, I remind them about Hillstone (formerly Houston’s). With a chic, dark-wood interior featuring comfy booths, a bar that serves terrific cocktails, a menu of dishes that will satisfy everyone, and attentive service, Hillstone is better than many “nonchain” restaurants. You can even dine al fresco on the front patio in front of the fireplace (the front patio is also dog friendly) or on the larger back patio while people watching along the Embarcadero. Start with the kale salad, a mix of kale, green cabbage, and fresh herbs tossed with a surprisingly light peanut vinaigrette and topped with crunchy peanuts. The house-made veggie burger — an oak-grilled, smoky patty of brown rice, beets, black beans, and oat bran basted with sweet soy glaze and topped with Jack cheese, served on a toasted house-baked bun — is the best veggie burger in town. Hillstone also takes the prize for the best French dip I’ve ever eaten: a generous portion of medium rare, tender, thin-sliced prime rib piled high on a soft roll served with rich, perfectly salty, beefy au jus to dunk it in.
Tip: No wine corkage fee
Not to miss: Prime rib French dip, house-made veggie burger, kale salad, oak-grilled artichokes, barbecue pork ribs, prime rib
1800 Montgomery Street (at Embarcadero)
Monday–Thursday & Sunday 11 a.m.–10 p.m.; Friday–Saturday 11 a.m.–11 p.m.