Donut Pizza: Pizza or Pastry?
Your go-to destination for damn good Detroit-style pizza
When it comes to pizza, we are equal opportunists. But after years of thin crust Neapolitan-style pies ruling the scene in SF, we’re thrilled to welcome the pan-baked deep-dish deliciousness that is the Detroit-style pizza at pop-up-turned-brick-and-mortar Square Pie Guys. The name is actually a misnomer since the pie and “slices” at Square Pie Guys are rectangular, but let’s not get caught up in semantics when we could instead get caught up in the dough that is both crispy, crunchy, and chewy. As far as toppings go there are, of course, some playful options, like a buffalo chicken pie and “Don’t go bacon my heart,” a version with marinated kale, cherry tomatoes, and smoky bacon. Our favorite, however, was the classic pepperoni. The menu goes beyond pizza with salads, sandwiches, and wings, and your only option is to show up hella hungry because you’re definitely going to want to order the house Szechauan dry fried wings (trust us), and, if you have a sweet tooth, the crispy sugar shell monkey bread made with the pizza dough and topped with fleur de sel and stone fruit. One pleasant surprise considering we were at Square Pie Guys to eat pizza was the cheeseburger (double grass-fed patty, American cheese, grilled white onion, pickles, shredded romaine, special sauce, and mayo on a brioche bun). Is it weird to order a burger at a pizza joint? Maybe. Do we care? No. Two final things: there’s a decent selection of local wine and beer, and all of the pies can be made with gluten-free dough and/or vegan cheese.
Jewish deli favorites meet Israeli street food at this AL’s Place spinoff
AL’s Deli is the Mission’s hot new fast casual spot for a couple of reasons. First, the playful spin on Israeli street food-meets-East Coast Jewish deli fare concept comes from chef Aaron London, the guy behind one Michelin-starred AL’s Place. Second, the open and airy corner spot is very Instagram-friendly with bright blue walls and tiles, pops of pink throughout, lots of lush green plant life, and a bathroom with flamingo wallpaper. The menu is pretty straightforward: sandwiches served in a pita with garlicky sauce, tahini, pickles, and sumac onions, “crispy, crunchy things,” like a potato latke pocket stuffed with cream cheese, smoked salmon, and red onion caper and falafel corn dog bites, sides (chicken soup with pita chips, creamy hummus, etc.), and “not sandwiches,” like a pound of smoky brisket and a shawarma-spiced rotisserie chicken. Full disclosure: Where we think AL’s Deli really shines is in the more traditional executions, like the brisket, the rotisserie chicken, and the “fluffy” falafel sandwich we will definitely be back for.
The first U.S. location for the popular Australian brewery
There is new construction popping up left and right, including One Mission Bay, a huge condominium development just steps from the ballpark that is home to the first stateside outpost of Little Creatures, a popular Australian craft brewery known for its hop-driven Pale Ale. The industrial-style taproom is enormous (6,300 square feet), which means there will be ample seating on game days, although we imagine the patio with views of the scoreboard inside of Oracle Park will be a hot commodity when it’s completed. Our favorite spot is at the bar that wraps around the tank-to-tap beer system where you can start with a flight of four of the eight beers (plus one cider) -- and there are plans for more beers in the near future. Little Creatures also offers an all-day menu of pizzas, sandwiches, and salads with a few Aussie twists, like the seasoned and battered russet potato wedges that you dip in sour cream and sweet chili sauce instead of ketchup.
This historic saloon is a true hidden jewel in West Marin
It’s a bit of a drive to this casual restaurant and inn near the coast, but it’s well worth it to experience a delicious meal (and maybe an overnight stay in one of the inn’s four recently remodeled rooms) in Marin County’s oldest saloon (originally established in 1877). Your first order of business is to take a seat at the 100-year-old mahogany bar and order one of the cocktails. After, ask to be seated in the restaurant (or the outdoor patio if the sun is shining) where you’ll feast on dishes made with amazing local ingredients, sourced from nearby purveyors with an emphasis on seasonality and sustainability. Must-orders include the baked oysters with bacon, fresno chili butter, and cojita, the seafood chowder (which is lighter than your average chowder), the Stemple Creek burger with Highway One cheese, and a side of street corn. And whatever you do, save room for the homemade pie… and maybe one more post-meal drink at the bar.
Est. 2018 | Jackson Square
A European wine bar and bottle shop from the folks behind Quince
This wine bar, bistro, and bottle shop from the restaurateur duo behind three-Michelin star Quince and the oh-so popular Cotogna found instant popularity with a SF crowd that didn’t even realize it was craving a Paris-meets-San Francisco-via-Downtown Manhattan wine bar that manages to represent the best aspects of both casual and fine dining. When we first wrote about Verjus, we noted that the good news was that you don’t need a reservation, nor can you even make one. Unfortunately, that’s now bad news as it has quickly become one of the most popular eating and drinking spots in the city. Still, if you can find a seat, you’ll be able to enjoy natural wines, an ever-changing menu of house-made charcuterie, cheese, the already very famous pate en croute, as well as larger plates like a pithivier (a glazed puff pastry filled with varying types of shredded meat) and steak slathered in the perfect amount of butter (meaning: a lot), before popping into the retail shop before you leave to grab a bottle or two to enjoy later.
Est. 2018 | Mission
An adventurous new bar and restaurant from the guys behind Trick Dog. What more do you need to know?
Josh Harris and Morgan Schick of BVHospitality and The Bon Vivants could have opened this much-anticipated bi-level Mission spot without a whimsical narrative to explain the thought process behind the vintage treasures, exotic animal sculptures, giant disco ball, tropical cocktails and artwork, and menu of Chinese food, but that wouldn’t be very on brand for the creative duo whose other Mission bar was recently named to the “World’s 50 Best Bar” list for the fifth year in a row. These guys don’t do anything without a story.
In the case of Bon Voyage, Harris says the inspiration is “a guy who lives in a hotel and travels throughout Southeast Asia and Africa in the 1950s, moving his way across the world, collecting art and mementos from his journey who ends up in 1970s Palm Springs, where he buys a house to fill with his worldly treasures and throws killer disco cocktail parties and serves Chinese food.” Specific? Absolutely. But it makes perfect sense when you’re ensconced in your seat at the downstairs or upstairs bar, on the back couches in the mezzanine, or at one of numerous hi-tops and tables throughout, sipping expertly crafted cocktails, and enjoying Chinese dishes “from the wok,” as well as an assortment of dumplings and buns. Don’t skip the pork belly baozi, the glazed pork riblets, or Szechuan green beans. Best of all? You can order it all -- the drinks and the food -- until 2am.
Est. 2018 | Embarcadero
A casual seafood-centric spinoff from the team behind Saison
Chef Joshua Skenes is known for being one of the best in the Bay Area, but until recently, in order to eat his food, you had to be willing to drop $298 for the tasting menu at Saison. Now, with the opening of Angler, a “sea-life focused” restaurant that revolves around a 32-foot, wood-burning fireplace, anyone who’s willing to spend $12 to $28 for appetizers and $20 to $48 for mains (everything is a la carte) can savor locally sourced seafood and meat served raw (try the antelope tartare) or “simply roasted over the embers.” There are two dining rooms in the spacious restaurant, both with great views of the Bay Bridge, but only one with a taxidermy bear.
Est. 2018 | SoMa
One of the best tasting menus in San Francisco
This fine dining restaurant from chef/owner Chris Bleidorn (Saison, Atelier Crenn, Benu, Alinea) was one of SF’s most anticipated openings of the year and it absolutely lives up to the hype. Bleidorn’s goal is to look to cooking techniques of the past as a way to understand and bring back those methods that have been transformed or lost. That means lots of open fire and smoke, dry-aged meat (which hangs in a glass meat locker in the downstairs bar and dining area), and different fermenting techniques. So what will you find on your plate? Heritage cuisine inspired by the Pacific Northwest like Pacific scallops, creek-raised trout, and wild boar. You’ll even get a chance to watch your meal get cooked as the light and homey space has one of the most open kitchens we have ever seen in a restaurant. (Pro tip: Get a seat at the chef’s counter). Right now Birdsong only offers a 13-14-course tasting menu ($168), but like the menu, you can expect that to evolve, as there are plans to offer a la carte options once the restaurant really finds its groove.
Est. 2018 | Western Addition
Rustic, casual Italian that’s worth the month-long wait for a reservation with “San Francisco style” pizza.
San Francisco has an abundance of excellent Italian and pizza restaurants, but there’s always room for one more, especially when that one more is Che Fico (“Kay-Feeco”), a new restaurant on Divisadero from Matt Brewer and chefs David Nayfeld and Angela Pinkerton. Pro tip: Line up before it opens to grab a spot at the communal tables or bar or go late night. Reservations are NOT easy to grab. The menu at Che Fico is all about rustic, casual Italian fare with a heavy California influence throughout. That means “San Francisco style” pizzas, including one with pineapple, red onion, and fermented chili (all fired in an oven imported from Naples). Try this regardless of your feelings about pineapple on pizza.
There’s also insanely delicious pastas that are categorized by handmade, machine-made in-house, or dried, and a selection of “Cucina Ebraica,” small plates that are reflective of the Jewish-Italian tradition, like chicken hearts and gizzard salad and grilled chopped duck liver. Still not convinced? Try the caciocavallo and realize it’s the best (and most bizarre) deconstructed version of a grilled cheese sandwich (it’s fried) you’ve ever had in your life. And remember: don’t expect to walk in without a wait -- luckily, there’s plenty of standing room at the 15-seat bar.
Est. 2017 | Mission
A cocktail bar with craveable food from the folks behind Lazy Bar
The focus at True Laurel is on the drinks -- which makes shelling out $14 or $15 for each one bearable. And what makes it even more bearable is that the food -- which we lovingly describe as elevated stoner food -- is absolutely affordable. None of the dishes (which average around $12 or $13) are huge, but if you get a couple to share, you’ll be set. The problem will be choosing which ones to order. Whatever you do, don’t skip the Dungeness crab and aged Cheddar fondue or the TL Patty Melt (which has a special sauce). And save room for warm chocolate chip cookies (with a side of milk for dunking) for dessert.
Est. 2016 | SoMa
If you can’t make it to Spain, you can at least get a sample of the country at Bellota
This Spanish-inspired restaurant, the latest from The Absinthe Group (Absinthe Brasserie & Bar, Boxing Room, Comstock Saloon), is already a huge hit with SF diners who are making it clear that they’re ready for more glamorous dining experiences. At 5,300sqft, the former warehouse space is quite sizable, and is able to offer the best of all worlds: counter seating for those who want to watch the action in the open kitchen, where there’s a wood-fired oven and spit for roasting meat; cozy booths for people who want a more intimate experience; and a bar and lounge area with a large U-shaped bar and live music on the weekends. You really shouldn't come here without ordering one of the four kinds of paella, or from among the huge selection of imported charcuterie and cheese. There’s also an all-Spanish wine list, but before you order from that, try one of the Spanish-focused cocktails, including one of the three "Gin Tonics."
Est. 2015 | Lower Nob Hill
Strong drinks, food unlike anything you’ve ever eaten, and a reservation book that fills up fast
You probably don’t even know it, but when you use the phrase "California cuisine," you’re totally describing the food at Liholiho Yacht Club, despite the fact that chef Ravi Kapur’s menu is heavily influenced by his Hawaiian heritage. It may sound confusing, but when you take your first bite, it’ll all make sense. Oh, and it’s also the only SF restaurant to be nominated in the 2016 James Beard Awards Best New Restaurant category... which, yeah, means you’re going to have a hard time getting in.
Est. 2015 | Lower Pacific Heights
An elegant, yet casual spot with a fresh rotating menu
Sara Hauman (Huxley, Mister Jiu's) recently took over as chef de cuisine at the Melissa Perello-led Pacific Heights restaurant, and she’s knocking it out of the park with dishes that are somehow both refined and rustic, as well as elevated yet approachable. The menu changes often, but if the calamari with kimchi is available, it’s a must-order, though truly everything on the menu at this small, elegant neighborhood spot is worth a try.
Est. 2012 | Hayes Valley
California cuisine at its finest and one of the best dining experiences in SF
It can be hard to get a reservation at this Hayes Valley spot, but it’s worth planning ahead of time to dine there. The space and vibe is totally casual, but the California cuisine is beyond inventive (our favorites include the sardine chips, porcini doughnuts, and any pasta that’s on the menu) and all in all, it’s consistently one of the best dining experiences in SF.
Est. 2011 | Fillmore
A very popular, very hip restaurant where dishes are served up dim sum-style
Your best shot at getting into this incredibly popular restaurant is as a walk-in right when the doors open at 5:30pm. Just be sure to arrive hungry and with an open mind: The food lives up to the hype, but the dining experience is anything but traditional (in a good way). Servers roam the dining room with pushcarts and platters of delicious small bites dim sum-style, which means you get to try lots of different dishes, many of which won't be familiar, but all of which will be delicious. No matter what, don't miss the CA state bird with provisions… otherwise known as fried quail.
Est. 2006 | Western Addition
Home to SF’s most popular burger and fantastic cocktails
Everything’s really good at nopa, but there’s a reason it's famous for its hamburger, and that’s because it’s one of the best in the city. If you go for brunch, order a piece of the custard French toast to share with the table. Trust us on this one.
Est. 1998 | Mission
One of SF’s best Italian restaurants… that always books well in advance
Go here for the spaghetti with plum tomatoes, garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, and pepperoncini. Does it seem crazy that we’re recommending you pay $15 for a plate of what sounds like very basic spaghetti? Totally. But once you taste Delfina’s signature dish, you’ll be a believer. After all, there’s a reason it’s been on the menu for 16 years.
Est. 1979 | Hayes Valley
An SF staple with a passion for fresh, local ingredients withstands the test of time
Zuni Cafe is a 40-year-old San Francisco classic that hasn’t changed much since Judy Rogers became a partner in 1987, but whereas for most restaurants that would be a death sentence, at Zuni, it’s what makes a reservation just as hard to get in 2019 as it was 30 years ago. Housed in a bi-level flatiron-shaped building with huge windows and tons of natural light, there’s no bad seat in the house, although we prefer the first floor bar for a first date and the upstairs balcony for a third. As far as what to order, it’s predictable but for good reason. For dinner try the Caesar salad and the chicken for two that’s roasted in the wood-fired bread oven and served over a warm bread salad, and at lunch opt for the house-ground burger on grilled rosemary focaccia (add Cheddar, grilled onions, and a side of shoestring potatoes). Sure you could deviate from that order, but why?
Est. 1912 | Lower Nob Hill
You can’t call yourself a San Franciscan unless you’ve eaten at Swan
There’s always a line down the street to get into this tiny seafood market and lunch counter, but this is one (up to two-hour) wait that’s worth it... assuming you like super-fresh crab, oysters, shrimp, lobster, clams, and uni that is. Good luck deciding what to order, though you can’t go wrong with one of the seafood salads, the Sicilian sashimi (not on the menu), and the seafood cocktail. Seriously though, you really can’t go wrong with anything because again: super-fresh seafood. Even the hot chowder, which we only ever skip because great chowder's pretty easy to find in SF.