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The Most Locals-Only Restaurants in San Francisco and San Diego

It’s easy to pick up on once you’re there: the realization that a restaurant or museum is swarming with out-of-towners, without a local in sight. But how do you know ahead of time where only the locals go?

Yelp is a great tool for finding local hidden gems, whether you live in a place or are just visiting. We dug through Yelp data to see which local restaurants are visited primarily by the people who call San Francisco and San Diego home and which are most popular among visitors to the cities.

I ranked restaurants in both cities by the percentage of Yelp users who are located in the same city as the restaurant — according to the location information they share in their profiles — and who have either reviewed the business, added photos, or checked in on Yelp. Among the findings: Tourists in San Francisco far outnumber locals at Fisherman’s Wharf eateries, and locals in both cities tend to go to chain businesses more than visitors.

For San Francisco, locals appear to indulge in the occasional Domino’s pizza more often than visitors, and they also hit up Guerra’s Quality Meats and other businesses in the Parkside neighborhood more often.

San Francisco’s 10 Most Touristy Restaurants:

Luigi’s Pizzeria, Fisherman’s Wharf
Boudin Sourdough Bakery & Cafe, Fisherman’s Wharf
Chowder Hut Fresh Grill, Fisherman’s Wharf
Fisherman’s Wharf Chowder and Crab Sidewalk Stands, Fisherman’s Wharf
Boudin Bakery & Cafe, Fisherman’s Wharf
Alcatraz Landing Cafe, Embarcadero
The Crepe Cafe, Fisherman’s Wharf
Boudin Bakery & Cafe, Fisherman’s Wharf
Pier Market Seafood Restaurant, Fisherman’s Wharf
Cafe 8, Fisherman’s Wharf

San Francisco’s Top 10 Restaurants for Locals Only:

Domino’s Pizza, Outer Sunset
Guerra Quality Meats, Parkside
Sushi Shoh, Forest Hill
Taco Bell, Parkside
Gene’s Liquor, Parkside
Menkee Wonton, Outer Sunset
Saigon BBQ, Portola
Al’s Super Cafe, Bernal Heights
Round Table Pizza, Miraloma Park
Noriega Produce, Outer Sunset

In San Diego, visitors flock to Quality Coast Gourmet Street Kitchen while they’re downtown, and locals visit restaurants in the Mira Mesa neighborhood more often than tourists.

San Diego’s 10 Most Touristy Restaurants:

Quality Coast Gourmet Street Kitchen, Downtown
Roast Coach Coffee Bar, Gaslamp
Shipwreck Reef Cafe
Redfield’s Sports Bar
The Broken Yolk Cafe, Gaslamp
Mama Stella’s Pizza Kitchen
Vela at Hilton San Diego Bayfront
Tequila Bar & Grille
Seaview Restaurant
Table 509 Bar & Kitchen, East Village

San Diego’s Top 10 Restaurants for Locals Only:

The Habit Burger Grill, Mira Mesa
Subway, Mira Mesa
Krispy Krunchy Chicken, Clairemont
Jersey Mike’s Subs, Rancho Penasquitos
The Fancy Fish, Mira Mesa
Carl’s Jr., Mira Mesa
Mr. Spicy
Harvest International Market, Clairemont
Wingstop, City Heights

It makes sense that visitors to a city want to visit the areas and restaurants they’ve heard about before, while locals are more likely to frequent lower-price restaurants, including fast casual spots, than are tourists, many of whom are looking for a unique dining experience. In the future we might extend this analysis with additional factors in play, like restaurant quality and ability to make reservations on Yelp.

In the meantime, with a little extra effort, Yelp users can click through from a business listing to reviewers’ profiles on to see if they’re local to the area and take that into consideration.

Rachel Youngblade contributed to this blog post.

Are you a journalist or researcher who’d like to learn more about this data or get your hands on Yelp data of your own? Please contact me at