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San Francisco’s 5 Most Unusual Places to Eat a Meal

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 Forbes Island 2 PicmonkeyForbes Island at Pier 39By Marcia Gagliardi

For those looking for something a little different in San Francisco, here are five unique places to eat at that offer plenty of atmosphere, from the funky to the fantastic.

Forbes Island (PIER 39)

It’s true, this restaurant is on an island (a manmade one, but still, it’s an island in San Francisco Bay). You’ll even be picked up on a little boat for a quick jaunt to the island (say hello to the sea lions) and be sure to climb the lighthouse for a great view. The main dining room is underwater (there are a few portholes where you can see the water). The set menu is Continental/American, with options including a tasty mushroom ragout and lamb lollipops.

Tonga Room (950 Mason St.)

A Polynesian classic, this iconic San Francisco location in the Fairmont Hotel has been pouring Tonga Mai Tais since 1945. There’s a lagoon in the center of the room where the band will play on a thatched barge, and it periodically rains and thunders throughout the evening. Large (and boozy) Tiki cocktails and pupu platters will quickly get you into an island groove. www.tongaroom.com

Farallon (450 Post St.)

Walking into this Union Square restaurant is like entering an underwater fantasy, with aquatic elements throughout. The Jellyfish Lounge is a playfully designed place to come by for happy hour and oysters from the raw bar, while the dining room is high on drama, but still elegant. As you’d expect, the menu highlights seafood, but here it’s also sustainable and top of the line, featuring the best of what’s in season. Pro tip: don’t miss the carrot cake for dessert. www.farallonsf.com

AsiaSF (201 Ninth St.)

Things are not quite what they appear to be here. The female performers at this SoMa club are actually transgender (and absolutely, utterly gorgeous)—the ladies perform a few shows on a runway while guests dine on Cal-Asian dishes and drink cocktails. This place is bachelorette and birthday party central, but small parties are welcomed too. www.asiasf.com

Foreign Cinema (2534 Mission St.)

One of the most atmospheric venues in the city, this Mission pioneer has a huge patio where they screen films on the back wall while you dine (there are also drive-in style speakers at the tables so you can listen to the movie in the background). The Cal-Med menu includes quality charcuterie, oysters, seasonal dishes, and if you’re lucky you’ll find their incredible fried chicken too. You can also just come by for acocktail. www.foreigncinema.com

Marcia Gagliardi writes a popular insider weekly e-column, tablehopper (www.tablehopper.com), about the SF dining and drinking scene.