10 SF Restaurants You Need to Try This Year
In the past year, we’ve seen a lot of closures of old standbys (RIP, Elbo Room and Chow). But closings always mean new openings, and we’re excited about more than a few. From a chicken-and-waffles resurrection to burgers and shakes with a cult following, there’s plenty to keep you satiated. Start making your reservations and studying up on the menus at these hot spots now.
Eastern Mediterranean fare gets the upscale treatment, courtesy of Lazy Bear cofounder John Litz and chefs Laura and Sayat Ozyilmaz, who have worked at such high-end establishments as Saison, Mourad and Eleven Madison Park. The former pop-up turns brick-and-mortar in a gorgeously designed Lower Pac Heights space on Fillmore Street that’s serving up kebabs, Turkish flatbreads, spreads (hummus, red pepper muhammara and warm baba ghanoush) and “chubby” pita sandwiches in Souvla-esque dishware.
2001 Fillmore St.; 415-231-5985 or nooshsf.com
The shiny Salesforce East building gets tropical with the addition of a Hawaiian restaurant and bar from the Michael Mina team. James Beard–nominated Hawaiian chefs Michelle Karr-Ueoka and Wade Ueoka of Honolulu’s MW Restaurant highlight island culture with a menu of noodle and rice dishes, dim sum and sashimi. Think porchetta laulau made with kalua pig; ginger and scallion Kona kampachi; heart of palm sunomono salad with king crab and macadamia nut; and Spam musubi (which is actually mochi-crusted smoked pork arabiki meatloaf). And we’d be lying if we said we didn’t have our eyes on the tropical cocktails—perfect for sipping on the patio under heaters and café lights.
350 Mission St.; 415-625-5445 or michaelmina.net
We’ll take lightly dressed Shigoku oysters with a glass of wine any day of the week, and that’s exactly what you’ll get at new seafood haven Ayala. A showcase of the West Coast’s finest seafood, the restaurant inside Union Square’s Hotel G may be best known for its raw bar, but don’t sleep on the seafood charcuterie—a shareable board of cured, locally sourced fish—and the nori spaghettini. There’s also a great cioppino to satisfy more traditional palates.
398 Geary St.; 415-374-7971 or ayalarestaurant.com
Michael and Lindsay Tusk, the owners of Quince and Cotogna, have turned the American wine bar concept on its head. Meant to be more like a festive drinking den, Verjus is an informal, drop-in, dining-counter concept alongside a retail wine shop. In the spirit of Europe’s pintxos bars and cicchetterias, it’s ideal for after-work drinks and weekend gatherings, with a wine list emphasizing lesser-known varieties and traditional French charcuterie. Just plan to get there early—this place fills up fast.
528 Washington St.; 415-944-4600 or verjuscave.com
Last year, it was all about the opulent Villon and rooftop bar Charmaine’s at Mid-Market’s Proper Hotel. This year, the city’s brand-new Virgin Hotel uses the same formula for its in-house restaurant Commons Club and forthcoming rooftop bar. Chef Adrian Garcia (Quince, Benu) designed an all-day menu with fancy grain bowls and “gypsy toast” (spiced pumpkin bread, butternut squash, maple and cinnamon) for breakfast and lunch, and sophisticated entrees like mushroom tortelloni and Sonoma duck for dinner.
250 Fourth St.; 415-534-6500 or virginhotels.com
MANUFACTORY FOOD HALL
The food scene at SFO just got a lot more interesting. With the opening of Manufactory Food Hall in the international terminal, travelers finally have a reason to get to the airport early. The celebrated chefs behind Tartine, Cala and Kin Khao have teamed up to bring you local, seasonal dishes that feel less like fast food and more like fine dining to go. From Tartine’s famous morning buns to Cala’s popular all-day tacos and tostadas to Kin Khao’s beloved chicken curry, you’ll actually want to embrace airport food. Did we mention there will also be cocktails?
San Francisco Airport, International Terminal; flysfo.com
BROWN SUGAR KITCHEN
The city shed a collective tear last year when Tanya Holland closed her West Oakland restaurant, which had served the East Bay’s best soul food brunch to hungry diners for ten long years. But her famous chicken and waffles are finally back—at not one but two new locations. At SF’s Ferry Building, emphasis is on fast-casual to-go fare, while Uptown Oakland features the same tried-and-true dishes (think shrimp and grits, gumbo and blackened catfish) in a large, elegant space.
THE VAULT (COMING APRIL 2019)
Your prospects for power lunches and corporate-card dinners in the Financial District are about to improve. The Vault, named after its former life as a bank, is the forthcoming fine-dining concept by the folks behind beloved Trestle and Fat Angel. Located at the base of the Bank of America building, it will no doubt be the new hot spot for the building’s Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs employees—who will have access to private liquor and wine lockers to store their top-dollar bottles. For the rest of us, it’ll be a place to see and be seen.
555 California St.; hineighborsf.com
SHAKE SHACK (COMING SOON)
In-N-Out is about to have some stiff competition: The city will finally get its very own Shake Shack later this year. The people have spoken and they want a taste of the juicy, all-natural burgers, frozen custard and crinkle-cut fries that have a cult following on the East Coast. Shake Shack will make its SF debut in the former Real Food Co. space in Cow Hollow, and if the popularity of the Palo Alto outpost is any indication, the lines will be long (but the wait will be worth it). There’s also a location slated for the Marin Country Mart later this year.
3060 Fillmore St., San Francisco, and 2257 Larkspur Landing Circle, Larkspur; shakeshack.com
AMARA (COMING SOON)
The lights in the former Aziza space in the Outer Richmond will flicker to life once again. Chef Mourad Lahlou will breathe new life into the beloved restaurant, which he’s been hard at work on for the past three years. Lahlou plans to take the menu in a new Moroccan-Mexican direction, and if his Mourad concept is any indication, it’s going to be good. Think dishes that are a mash-up of both cultures—the place where Mexican sopa de fideo meets Moroccan seffa in an entrée of noodles, broth, chili and warming spices.
5800 Geary Blvd.