Food & Drink

Meet the Women Who Rule SF's Best Kitchens

Published On 10/19/2016 Published On 10/19/2016
Melissa Perello
Melissa Perello | Aubrie Pick
melissa king | Albert Law
Belinda Leong | Vanessa Yap-Einbund
Melissa Perfit | Rebecca Goberstein/Menu Stories
Brenda Buenviaje | Rebecca Goberstein/Menu Stories
Nicole Krasinski | Ed Anderson
Gabriela Camara | Marcus Nilsson
Pim Techamuanvivit | Eric Wolfinger
Dominique Crenn | Stephanie Hua
La Cocina | Rebecca Goberstein/Menu Stories
Jennifer Puccio | Jennifer Puccio/Marlowe
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1. Frances 3870 17th St, San Francisco, CA 94114 (The Castro)

Located on a quiet residential block in the Castro, Frances is a tiny Michelin-starred restaurant helmed by the superbly talented chef Melissa Perello. The seasonal, market-driven menu changes often but you can always expect an appearance from Perello's smoked bacon beignets, a house signature featuring delicately fried balls of dough studded with bacon and served with a creamy maple creme fraiche dipping sauce.

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2. Octavia 1701 Octavia St, San Francisco, CA 94109

Much like The Empire Strikes Back only made you appreciate “Star Wars” that much more, Octavia, the sister restaurant to Frances, will make you appreciate Chef Melissa Perello the most. The concept is similar: refined home cooking. In this case, home cooking just means simple, without any fancy tricks, and utterly delicious. The menu changes every day, but look/plead for things like chilled squid ink pasta, Atlantic sea scallops with crispy prosciutto, and chili-doused deviled eggs.

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3. B. Patisserie 2821 California St, San Francisco, CA 94115 (Pacific Heights)

You may have noticed that buttery, sugary Breton pastry, kouign amann, in just about every bakery these days. Well, you can thank B. Patisserie's Belinda Leong for introducing it to pastry-crazed San Franciscans several years ago. Beyond said sweet standout, you can also hit this Pac Heights institution for other Gallic treats like colorful macarons and impeccable croissants (plus more American creations like key lime tarts and chocolate banana bread). Feeling more savory? Tartines like mushroom ragout with goat cheese or ham and gruyere are equally covetable.

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4. Juhu Beach Club 5179 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609 (Oakland)

Lined with frilly pink wallpaper and framed Bollywood posters, this north Oakland restaurant juxtaposes a dolled-up atmosphere for its grungy menu of Indian street food-inspired food. Spiced up dishes like guju chili and manchurian cauliflower harken to authentic, lesser-known flavors native to India, while other items like Pav compare to familiar American sliders. Wine is on tap, but diners are encouraged to pair their savory meals with a glass of refreshing local beer.

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5. Bar Crudo 655 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117 (Alamo Square)

If Nopa made the Divisadero neighborhood what it is today, Bar Crudo solidified its status as a golden dining destination. For over a decade, Bar Crudo has been serving up a seriously good happy hour and dinner that’s ideal for family visits. It’s perpetually packed and one of the city’s most underrated restaurants, with a bumping happy hour that features dollar oysters, fish tacos, and sumptuous seafood chowder. Don’t miss the crudo sampler, uni avocado toast, and lobster burrata salad at this small restaurant that packs a punch.

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6. State Bird Provisions 1529 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94115 (Fillmore)

State Bird Provisions opened in the Fillmore in 2013, won the James Beard Award for best new restaurant, earned a Michelin star, and has been one of city's hottest spots ever since. After you score a reservation, State Bird will likely be one of your most memorable meals ever thanks to the fact that creative Northern California small plates are served from dim sum carts. The atmosphere is fun, the food is affordable (plates range from $3 to $20), and the dining experience is anything but ordinary.

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7. The Progress 1525 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94115 (Western Addition)

With lines out the door every night at State Bird Provisions, it’s no wonder the team launched a follow-up to the perennial hotspot spot. If State Bird is all about small plates, The Progress emphasizes communal eating. Snag a seat at the lazy Susan-equipped Balcony Table that perches above the restaurant and get ready for a six-course, family-style feast of classic Californian food.

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8. Cala 149 Fell St, San Francisco, CA 94102

For your upscale Mexican needs, book a table at Civic Center’s Cala, a trailblazing & authentic spot. So, so much more than a taqueria, Cala hails from renowned Mexico City Chef Gabriela Camara and features fresh, exciting dishes that focus mainly on seafood. The gorgeous, spacious, and light-filled space will delight you with fresh ceviches, tostadas topped with salmon, smoked trout croquetas, and, of course, mezcal margaritas and palomas. Don’t miss its casual back-alley taqueria, either, which serves weekday tacos for lunch.

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9. Kin Khao 55 Cyril Magnin St, San Francisco, CA 94102 (The Tenderloin)

Located above the Wyndam Parc 55 Hotel, Kin Khao might be hard to locate, but its menu of even harder to find Thai dishes justifies the journey. The kao mun gai features the single best taste on the menu: a profound chicken consommé that will solve your sniffles and brighten your Tenderloin walk home. But also worth a try are the sour gaeng som curry and rare Crab sen chan made with Dungeness crab and rice noodles. The low-ceilinged space is furnished with austere wood tables and burgundy carpeting, evidence that even familial, homey restaurants like Kin Khao are worthy of a Michelin star.

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10. Atelier Crenn 3127 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94123

A meal at the Michelin star-earning, fine-dining establishment Atelier Crenn is more than a culinary stop -- it's an artistic experience, a journey through a poetic collection of flavors as titillating to the taste buds as to the eyes. Diners here are escorted through 14 to 17 French dishes, each amounting to little more than a bite or two. A meal might start with caviar-topped banana bread, then progress to trout with salmon roe, and braised cauliflower. While the base of each course might seem basic, chef Crenn enrichens the meal by masterfully teasing out new flavors and textures. And it's not a fine dining experience without suited servers, who indulge your every curiosity and contribute to a perfectly orchestrated event.

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11. Petit Crenn 609 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA 94102 (Hayes Valley)

This Hayes Valley restaurant looks more like an American cafe than a French spot, but that's kind of the point. Pulling from the freshest farmer's market and seafood spoils of the day, Petit Crenn offers an accessible, all-day menu of French food, consisting of courses like grilled market fish, french onion soup, and butter bean casserole that'll make you nostalgic for the Parisian childhood you never had. The airy, all-white interior mirrors the food with a serene, pastoral feel, while putting the spotlight on the artistically plated dishes.

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12. Brown Sugar Kitchen 2534 Mandela Pkwy, Oakland, CA 94607 (Oakland)

If waffles had their own branch of physics, the waffles at this west Oakland soul food spot would break every law. Brown Sugar’s feather-light, darkly caramelized waffles are made of cornmeal batter, and served with a sweet and sour apple cider syrup and brown sugar butter, alongside other finger-licking dishes like BBQ shrimp & grits and buttermilk fried chicken. Befitting the comfort fare, the warmly-colored space reflects a diner-like intimacy, with long counter seating and close rows of square tables that accommodate chattery locals.

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13. SPQR 1911 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94115 (Pacific Heights)

In the early days, SPQR was A16’s forgotten sibling, but then Matthew Accarrino arrived and conquered the creative Italian narrative with Caesar-like gusto. Now you get a Michelin-starred tour de force of pasta artistry that has ignited a storm of followers nationwide. Bucatini “straw and hay” graces your table, as do pasta species you’ve never encountered made with cacao nib or Meyer lemon. Get the chicken liver pâté and something with pig ear, or, if you’re feeling adventurous, go for the pasta tasting menu (that’s five courses of, you guessed it, pasta).

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14. A16 2355 Chestnut St, San Francisco, CA 94123 (The Marina)

More than any other restaurant, this Campania by way of Marina stalwart helped transform San Francisco into an Italian-crazed city a decade ago. A typical night at A16 starts with burrata, includes a few orders of the Neapolitan-style pizzas and infamous pork meatballs, and ends with a cheese plate. Add Shelley Lindgren's wine program, which wins dozens of awards yearly, and you've got one of the best pizza, pasta, and wine combos in the city by the bay.