For those of you who skipped reading all of our San Francisco restaurant content this year in hopes that we'd just round up the best stuff at the end of the year: you're all assholes. Very, very smart assholes. Here are the 11 best restaurant openings in SF in 2014:
This modern French bistro is a little on the pricey side (main plates range from $18.50 to $36), but the fresh ingredients, careful preparation, and interesting dishes (beef tongue Dijonnaise, sweetbreads Grenobloise, rog legs en aigre doux...) make it well worth the trip. And don't worry, if you're not feeling super adventurous, the Fully Dressed hamburger has you covered. It comes with bone marrow marmalade, which is all you need to know.
This burger and BBQ joint from the creators of 4505 Meats is a welcome addition to the Divisadero Corridor. It has one of only three wood-burning smokers in all of SF, mouth-watering smoked meat plates (each comes with two sides, pickles, and a roll), and one of our favorite cheeseburgers in the ENTIRE COUNTRY (two years running!), appropriately named The Best Damn Cheeseburger. Bonus: beer garden-y patio. Double bonus: beer to drink on the beer garden-y patio.
This modern izakaya and sushi bar -- a collaboration between Chef Ken Tominaga and Michael Mina -- is one of the year's biggest hits, and deservedly so. The service is impeccable, the fish is fresh, the cocktails are carefully crafted, and even the dessert is worth ordering. Oh, and they have 14 Japanese whiskies, all of which are delivered with a ceremony (the bartender pairs each whisky with a spice or fruit and, using tongs, rims the outside of the glass so that you smell the pairing as you imbibe). And it certainly doesn't hurt that you can end up at next-door The Ramen Bar for second dinner.
Traci Des Jardins took a former military mess hall and turned it into a sleek, modern space that focuses on California cuisine with a Spanish influence. This is California, so it should be no surprise that the menu is driven by sustainable ingredients sourced from local farmers or that it includes delicious hand-crafted cocktails (try the Highland Cooler: Scotch, ginger, lemon). The must-orders here? Pork meatballs and the clams with chorizo. And be sure to save room for dessert. One word: churros.
Lazy Bear was one of SF's most popular pop-ups; now it's one of SF's most popular restaurants. And the wait to get into one of the two 40-person seatings every Thur-Mon is proof. Thing is, it's still well worth your time to try to get into this communal-style dining experience because the modern-American food is really just that good. And the dinner party vibe is really just that fun.
We've already raved about how Causwells' burger is one of the best in the city, but the burger isn't the only reason to visit this American bistro (although, seriously: order the burger). If you go for dinner, get the pork belly confit and deviled eggs to share. If you go for lunch, get the buttermilk biscuit with sausage gravy. If you go for any reason whatsoever, get the "All Star" donut bread pudding.
This Parisian-style brasserie with dark wood, red leather banquettes, textured walls, and chandeliers serves French classics with a Northern Californian twist that takes the word "classic" very literally. The grilled entrecôte steak is a dinner must, whereas the PEI mussels a la Normande are light (but filling) enough for lunch. There's also a bar menu if you want something less heavy to pair with one of their high- or low-octane cocktails.
The people from Magnolia are behind this Dogpatch outpost that serves smoked-in-house BBQ options (conceptualized by one of the Namu Gaji guys) like chopped pork and Wagyu brisket, plus there's a huge, on-site brewing system that can produce 30 barrels (oh, and a full bar).
French bistro fare, but with a twist. Try the Hiro sandwich (meatballs, roasted bone marrow, jalapeño) and the duck liver mousse with nectarine compote (twiiiiiiiist!), or order the Urchin Fixe menu ($50 for four courses and $38 for the wine pairing). Want a drink? Yeah, you do: The Champs Elysees (Cognac, Green Chartreuse, lemon, Angostura, served up) is our favorite.
Plin is all about eating Italian and seafood in a way that's not traditional or expected. The menu is divided into two sections: "Explore" and "Discover". You really can't go wrong, but the fried Chilean seabass, the seafood risotto, and the seared Hokkaido scallops and salumi are all the can't-go-wrong-est options. And unlike most Italian restaurants, Plin also has a good selection of beer and craft cocktails.
Two new restaurants from Traci des Jardins in one year? Sometimes life is just that good. Located inside the Presidio Officers' Club, this Mexican-themed restaurant serves delicious upscale (of course) tacos and even more delicious margaritas. Sit on the heated patio for a view of the outdoor comal used to make tortillas.
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Daisy Barringer is Thrillist's SF Editor and she's totally okay with the fact that almost half of the restaurants on this list have deviled eggs on the menu. Because, seriously, you can't go wrong with deviled eggs. Follow her on Twitter @daisy.
1. Monsieur Benjamin451 Gough St, San Francisco
2. 4505 Burgers & BBQ705 Divisadero, San Francisco
3. PABU101 California St, San Francisco
4. The Commissary101 Montgomery, San Francisco
5. Lazy Bear3416 19th St, San Francisco
6. CauswellsChestnut Street, San Francisco
7. Gaspar Brasserie185 Sutter St, San Francisco
8. Smokestack at Magnolia Brewing2505 3rd St, San Francisco
9. Urchin Bistrot584 Valencia, San Francisco
10. Plin280 Valencia St, San Francisco
11. Arguello50 Moraga Ave, San Francisco
The options can get a little pricey at this Hayes Valley French spot, but they're worth the price for a pleasant ambience and tastes that definitely live up to the hype, such as their "fully dressed" hamburger and steak frites.
An offshoot of the original 4505 Meats, this burger and 'cue shack is one for the Divis books. This butcher-owned and operated spot takes meat and barbecue seriously, with loaded platters of pulled pork, smoked ribs, and hot sausage, and quarter-pound grass-fed burgers. No matter if your main is in the form of a sandwich or platter, don't overlook the fixin's -- the fried mac & cheese with a hot dog inside is an insanely delicious creation.
When you think of Japanese whisky bars, you think of Nihon Whisky Lounge. But Pabu is a solid surprising contender: they have a secret Japanese cocktail menu, plus traditional Japanese whisky service. Each of the 14 Japanese whiskies offered are served with a complimentary food item that's blowtorched in front of you, meant to bring out the complex flavors of the drink.
This former Montgomery St barracks mess hall in the Presidio is brought to you by award-winning chef Traci Des Jardins, and features Spanish-influenced California cuisine.
Lazy Bear, which began as a pop-up dinner party, is a whole new kind of dining experience. Though its since gone brick-and-mortar (and earned a Michelin star), the Mission restaurant still feels like an intimate party. Tickets must be bought in advance for one of two, 40-person seatings a night. The communal seating means it's a great place to mingle with strangers, but it's not a bad place to impress an epicurean date either. They've also got a mixed drink pairing that blends cocktails, wine, and beer.
This casual bistro from Alvin Garcia (Delarosa, Lolinda, Don Pisto's) and Tom Patella (California Wine Merchant) boasts classic American fare, like a deviled egg trio and pork belly confit, but the real star of the show is the the American Burger. The two patties have dry-aged fat in the mix, and are topped with American cheese, secret sauce (it's a mixture of Thousand Island and Worcestershire), and pickles. If that burger isn't enough to get you to the Marina, though, plan your meal around a visit to the Presidio Theater, which is located next door.
This Parisian-style brasserie in FiDi is the kind of place you'd bring a date if you wanted that date to go on for hours. For starters, the dark wood interior, red leather banquettes, textured walls, and chandeliers practically ooze sex appeal. The downstairs restaurant serves a menu of classic French food with a Northern California twist, but there are some pure bistro staples like Croque Monsieur and steak frites. Upstairs in the Cognac Room bar, you'll find the largest selection of brandy drinks in San Francisco.
The folks behind Magnolia Brewing Company expanded their beloved operation with this hip warehouse-style brewpub in Dogpatch (exposed pipe and reclaimed wood abound), which not only boasts a huge, on-site brewing system that can produce up to 30 barrels, but also -- across the room -- smoked-in-house BBQ offerings including sausage, brisket, and Wagyu beef ribs. There's even a full-of-surprises cocktail program that slings exceptional whiskey concoctions like the Dutchman's Flat with rye, ginger, honey, lemon, toasted Nori, and beef bouillon (didn't see that one coming, did you?).
Urchin Bistrot's serving French bistro fare, but with a twist (the steak tartare comes with fried oysters, and the spaghettini is served with sea urchin and yolk). The cocktail menu is equally creative, with drinks like the Champs Elysees (Congac, Green Chartreuse, lemon, angostura, served up).
Plin is all about the seafood, but there's not one thing on the menu that feels traditional or expected, which explains why two of the sections are named "Explore" and "Discover". Like any Italian restaurant, Plin has an extensive wine list, but there is also a focus on cocktails and a full bar.
Located inside the Presidio Officers' Club, this Mexican-themed restaurant from Traci Des Jardins dishes out upscale tacos, seafood, and a number of other south-of-the-border dishes. Sit by the fire pits on the patio and sip your margaritas or mescal cocktails while enjoying the outdoorsiness of it all.