The best oyster you'll ever eat, a new project from a Michelin-starred chef, a buffalo-nickel-covered buffalo skull, a boozy Thai slushy machine, an art gallery you can eat in, and one of the most anticipated restaurant openings of the year... yeah, THAT all happened while you were busy trying to keep your super-dumb New Year's resolutions.
Time to play catch up, friends.
Since most people in the city don't love going to Oakland, Chef James Syhabout did us a huuuuuge favor and opened a second Hawker Fare in the Mission. The restaurant is his way of bringing the experience of dining in Thailand to San Franciscans. That means you should come with a group, share a ton of dishes, and be ready to use your hands to eat.
And don’t worry about navigating the menu; it’s broken down by category (snacking dishes, grilled items, etc.) and even written phonetically so you can (try to) pronounce everything. Also: dude, the bar (both in the restaurant and Holy Mountain upstairs). There are some crazy rum drinks, Thai bottle service -- which is offered in the form of Mekhong Thai whisky served family-style with seltzer and ice -- and daily specials from the slushy machine. Yeah, you read that right: slushy machine.
Californios describes itself as Mexican cuisine, but don’t go expecting guacamole and enchiladas. Rather, Chef Val M. Cantu (known for his work at Sons & Daughters and his pop-up dinners around SF) has created a tasting menu that’s more Mexican-influenced and all about flavor, texture, color, and shapes. In an interesting twist that seems to be popular in the city these days, Californios only offers a tasting menu. The $57, seven-course tasting menu changes every day depending on ingredients and whimsy, and can accommodate vegetarians (although that would mean you’d miss out on the best oyster you’ll ever eat).
A couple of things to note: the spot is dark and intimate, but not, like, so romantic that you can’t go there with a friend. And you definitely want to get the beverage pairings (but you knew that), and the vanilla bean foie gras ice cream (but you knew that too!).
Atlas Tap Room is the perfect place to go when you want to chill out in a cozy space with a glass of something delicious and a superlative snack. So... basically... every day. They have eight rotating beers on tap -- all from California -- plus cheese, charcuterie, ahi poke, ceviche, salads, pickles, olives, and bacon deviled eggs.
Sexily appointed Mourad, the second project from Michelin-starred chef Mourad Lahlou (of Aziza), is a massive Moroccan spot with a dinner menu (lunch is coming) that's stacked with a la carte items like duck with squash, granola, black garlic, and huckleberry ($38), and chicken wings with persimmon, mustard, and wild onion ($17). There’s also a 10-course, $150 tasting menu that, as of right now, starts with caviar, moves into lamb shoulder, and finishes with a honey and almond dessert. You can add wine pairings for an additional $75, so do that. Or pre-party. Or both!
If there’s one thing the guys from Tonic, Bullit, Soda Popinski's, Wild Hare, Lightning Tavern, and Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem know, it’s bars. So, even though it's totally different than anything they’ve done before, you can pretty much guarantee you're gonna love the two-story Buffalo Club. Sexy dark wood, red stools, communal tables, and a buffalo-nickel-covered buffalo skull set the scene for a menu with extra-classy-for-these-guys stuff like Humboldt Fog Bruschetta ($10), prosciutto + Parmesan croquettes ($8), and a margarita pizza with vermouth tomato, basil, and fresh mozzarella, plus specialty cocktails ($10) and good old-fashioned $6 draft beer.
Formerly Café La Taza, Bar Vero is a new Latin fusion restaurant-cum-coffee shop in the Castro with all of the Highwire coffee and pastries you could ever want, but also breakfast burritos (yum) and lunch options as well. The goal is to be open for dinner, but that won’t happen for another couple of months. Oh, and don’t worry, they also serve beer and wine.
Sure, technically Manos Nouveau was open before, but we’re including this in our best new openings because before Manos Nouveau was just a chill neighborhood spot and now it’s an upscale, chef-run restaurant that serves new and inventive French/Central and South American food that you’ll eat while surrounded by rotating paintings and sculptures made by local artists. Yup, basically it’s an art gallery you get to eat in. In addition, Manos Nouveau has an awesome wine list that features unique small-batch vintages from Latin America and the Iberian Peninsula. You won’t find any of THAT at the de Young.
Lower Nob Hill
One of the most anticipated openings of the year, Liholiho Yacht Club (which is not a yacht club, but is definitely Hawaiian-inspired, which is just as good, if not better) is another pop-up that found a brick-and-mortar home, much to the happiness of many San Franciscan foodies. The eats are a mashup of Asian-inspired Hawaiian and Californian cuisine with dishes like fried game hen, cashews, tamari glaze, flowering kale ($32.50); or pork shoulder steak, cabbage, miso honey mustard, turnips ($26.75). And you definitely want to save room for dessert, 'cause: chocolate cake, macadamia nut, roasted white chocolate, and buttermilk ice cream ($10). Oh, and before you say something dumb, know that the portrait of the gorgeous lady above the bar is Chef Ravi Kapur's Mom, circa 1975.
1. Hawker Fare680 Valencia St, San Francisco
2. Californios3115 22nd St, San Francisco
3. Atlas Tap Room606 Mission St, San Francisco
4. Mourad140 New Montgomery St, San Francisco
5. Buffalo Club2331 Mission St, San Francisco
6. Bar Vero4230 18th St, San Francisco
7. Manos Nouveau3970 17th St, San Francisco
8. Liholiho Yacht Club871 Sutter St, San Francisco
The Mission outpost of this beloved Oakland eatery turns up the heat with spicy Thai-style street food and Tiki cocktails. The Thai-Issan menu features coconut milk curries and grilled meat dishes, as well as spicy salads and sides like chicken fat rice and fermented mustard greens. The family-style portions, picnic tables, and massive space make Hawker Fare an island oasis perfect for a group dinner.
This elegant Michelin-starred spot in the Mission is a take on Mexican food unlike you've ever tasted. The hallmark of Californios is the multi-course tasting menu and the additional wine pairing. The menu is always changing, but you can expect lots of seafood, meat, and if you're lucky, foie gras ice cream. Reservations are hard to score but once you do, you're in for an intimate night (the restaurant has only 22 seats including a chef's counter) of truly haute Mexican food.
This surprisingly calm spot steps from Montgomery Street Station offers a rotating selection of eight beers and a handful of wines on tap. Good for lunch or happy hour (weekdays until 6pm), Atlas is a less-crowded alternative to its sister restaurant next door, Archive. Nosh on ahi poke, charcuterie and bacon deviled eggs, or feast on a large Cuban sandwich before ducking back into the office.
Mourad Lahlou is one of the best chefs in the country. The Iron Chef America alum opened the Michelin-starred Aziza in 2001 and in 2015, took a step up with Mourad, which now also boasts a Michelin star. This is fine Moroccan cuisine, cross-pollinated with the best of what California has to offer. The Moroccan family-style dining dishes (La’Acha), like a 72-hour braised short rib, are a memorable experience.
From the guys behind Tonic and Soda Popinski's, dark wood, red stools, communal tables, and a buffalo-nickel-covered buffalo skull set the scene for a menu with extra-classy-for-these-guys stuff like Humboldt Fog Bruschetta and a Margarita Pizza with vermouth tomato, plus specialty cocktails ($10) and good old fashioned $6 draft beer.
Formerly Café La Taza, Bar Vero is a Latin fusion restaurant-cum-coffee shop in the Castro with all of the Highwire coffee and pastries you could ever want, but also breakfast burritos (yum) and lunch options as well. Oh, and don’t worry, they also serve beer and wine.
Manos Nouveau is an upscale, chef-run restaurant that serves new and inventive French/Central and South American food that you’ll eat while surrounded by rotating paintings and sculptures made by local artists. Yup, basically it’s an art gallery you get to eat in. In addition, Manos Nouveau has an awesome wine list that features unique, small-batch vintages from Latin America and the Iberian Peninsula.
Liholiho Yacht Club is a pop-up restaurant that found a permanent home in Nob Hill...and isn't a yacht club by any means. The kitchen serves a mash-up of Hawaiian, Californian, and Southeast Asian flavors, led by dishes like poppy seed steamed buns with beef tongue, tuna poke on a nori cracker, and twice-cooked pork belly. Aside from an à la carte menu, there's a family-style tasting dinner that's served at the Ohana Table, a communal table in the front of the restaurant.