This Restaurant Gives Brunch a Punjabi Twist
One of the year’s most anticipated restaurants from a few of the folks behind Nopa and Liholiho Yacht Club
As Dar Inga’s website says, “Dear Inga is new old world cooking.” What does that mean exactly? It means Eastern European comfort food with a focus on fermentation, smoking techniques, live-fire cooking, and dishes like smoked fish, pork and beef stuffed cabbage, a Hungarian fried bread, and three types of sausage. The space has a rustic/industrial thing going on that we haven’t seen in a while, which is elevated with a white marble bar with Prusian blue tile on the front, and moments of gold throughout. The wine list features lots of Georgian wines, which are having a real moment in SF, and there’s also a full bar and cocktail program.
Modern Moroccan cuisine makes its return to the Outer Richmond after a three-year hiatus
Aziza, the Cal-Moroccan restaurant from renowned chef Mourad Lahlou that shuttered temporarily (and was then thought to be gone for good when Lahlou decided to replace it with Moroccan-Mexican fusion restaurant), has come home thanks to the stars aligning. The soulful, rustic menu is much the same, which means you can finally enjoy the beef cheek tagine, chicken basteeya, and the hand-rolled couscous once again, but there are a few new additions as well, including some larger format dishes and a sticky date cake that Instagram hasn’t stopped raving about. The biggest change is to the space itself, which now has higher ceilings, more light, and a gorgeous teal-tiled concrete bar. Welcome home, Aziza.
A beer hall that feels the way Fort Point’s beer cans look
Fort Point beer and their oh-so recognizable cans have become a mainstay in San Francisco restaurants in the few short years since the brewery opened, but the taproom situation was a tiny kiosk in the Ferry Building. That’s still there, but now you can get Fort Point beer AND really tasty food at its new 3,000 square-foot beer hall with bold electric blue walls and neon signs on the walls. The food is all meant to be eaten with your hands (though you can ask for utensils if you’re the kind of person who eats your burger with a fork -- why?!) and includes options like a pork chop bun, Dungeness crab rangoon, and lobster toast. There are 12 Fort Point beers on tap, including most of their best sellers as well as a couple of limited-run styles, as well as 10 wines by the glass.
The Hamptons come to the Marina at this new spot from the Big Night Restaurant Group
We’re huge fans of Marlowe (just read any burger list we’ve ever published), but its spinoff, Cow Marlowe, just didn’t make sense in Cow Hollow, a neighborhood with more exercise destinations than one can count and people who look like they actually utilize them. The food was too indulgent and the space a little too brooding. Now, it’s reopened as The Greenwich, a complete 180 from its predecessor and a much better fit for the area. The interiors went from dark and moody to airy and bright and the light bistro fare is much more inline with a neighborhood joint. Our favorite dishes are the crispy lemon chips and avocado dip, the perfectly-cooked piece of pan seared Alaskan salmon, the side of potatoes with all the fixins, and the chicken milanese that is going to end up being problematic in how often we order it. The Marlowe Burger is still on the menu, of course, but we’re more excited about the Lil Leo Burger, a petit take on the original so you can take the whole thing down without even the pretense of splitting it. There’s also a great cocktail menu, and brunch (which is sure to be an instant hit) is on the way.
The iconic Starlight Room got a much-needed makeover, and she looks damn good
The Starlight Room on the 21st floor of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel always had amazing views and was a fun place to grab a drink with an out-of-town friend, but it was also tired and teetering towards garish versus grand. Also red. So much red. A recent remodel, however, declared red to be dead and breathed new life into the space which is now sleek and sexy, and the kind of place we’d go on a first date or to grab drinks and a bite with friends. The robust cocktail menu is complemented by “high-luxury” shareable plates with a few larger options. We loved the avocado toast, which has somehow not yet stopped appearing on menus (we’re fine with that), the caviar cannoli (yep, that’s a thing), and the lobster fritters. We haven’t had the seafood sausage or burger yet, but we’ll be back to take ‘em down. Whereas you’re likely to find mellow live music at Lizzie’s Starlight (whose name and design are inspired by the alleged affair between Sir Francis Drake and Queen Elizabeth I) on weekdays, it’s the weekends that create more of a nightclub vibe with touring DJs getting people onto the dance floor.
Cocktail tasting menus and elegant bites upstairs from ABV
In 2017, ABV launched an ambitious pop-up concept called Over Proof: four different restaurants in one year, each with a focus on a specific spirit. Now, a few years later, they’ve made that a permanent concept in the intimate loft space inside of ABV, and it’s here to stay. Over Proof 2.0 is basically the perfect third date spot. Opt for the cocktail tasting (three or six tasting-sized cocktails) to enjoy along the seafood-centric menu (we drank all six and feel like that was the best decision we made that week). Also get the oysters, the caviar with house-made potato chips (this alone is worth showering for), the halibut crudo, and, of course the uni. Then, assuming everyone’s on the same page, go home and have sex.
A destination-worthy steakhouse from a revered master of meat
Adam Perry Lang is a celebrated pitmaster whose first restaurant, APL in LA, was an instant hit when it opened in 2018. That doesn’t help us much, until now. Lang decided to open his second eponymous restaurant, an approachable steakhouse with a stylish, masculine vibe, in the charming town of Yountville inside of the historic Groezinger Estate House on the property of Estate Yountville (which is also a fabulous place to stay if you’re making a weekend of your dinner plans). Like APL, the grilling guru’s menu is focused on his one-of-a-kind dry-aged meat (there’s even a dry-aging room with floor-to-ceiling windows), as well as some barbecue classics and a burger that we would sit at the bar and eat once a week if not for the fact that Yountville is a bit of a drive. The wine program, which features a mix of premium regional selections (it is Napa, after all), is worth spending some time with, but we advise enjoying one of the delicious cocktails first.
The world’s only Michelin-starred ramen spot is now in San Francisco
Previously, if you wanted to slurp Tsuta’s famous Shoyu Soba ramen, an indulgent bowl of noodles with char siu and a savory black truffle sauce, you had to fly to Asia. Now, you can just head to the Metreon and wait in line along 4th Street. Tsuta has gotten a lot of hype and the ramen lives up to it. The bowl we had was comforting and indulgent, with an abundance of umami. And, while sometimes ramen can leave you feeling too full, we left feeling happily sated but not gorged. We suspect it has something to do with the fact that Tstua’s ramen is made without any MSG and employees only premium ingredients. And probably because the beer and wine license hasn’t come yet, so we just drank tea. While ramen is the hero of this story, heroes are only better when accompanied by a good sidekick. In this case, it’s the Tori Karaage, fried chicken served with house-made Japanese mayonnaise. If you don’t order it, you’re making a mistake.
Vegan food that even carnivores will like
Wildseed encourages you to “Eat like you give a f♲ck,” which is a concept we can get behind. Who doesn’t want to eat healthily whilst helping the planet? We’re not giving up burgers or anything crazy like that, we’re just also down with local plant-based food that’s incredibly delicious. And apparently we’re not alone, as the restaurant was packed when we went in (vegan friend in tow) to check it out. We ate our way through as much as possible and can say our favorites are the beet and orange pate with grilled sourdough, ceviche of king trumpet mushrooms, mexican corn cakes, and warm chocolate cake (although “we” did not get much of the latter because the aforementioned vegan friend “accidentally” took the whole thing down before we even had our fork raised off of the table). Wildseed is in the old Belga space, and while it has the same footprint, there are now tons of plants throughout, mixed wood tones (including a new wood floor, which helps with the noise), and gold and brass accents. Between the welcoming atmosphere, the friendly staff, the superb cocktails (order the Holy Basil), the delicious and nourishing food, and the fact that it will align with many a Marina girl’s healthy diet, Wildseed is destined to be a neighborhood hit.
Est. 2018 | Dogpatch
Soulful Indian food in a fun and hospitable environment
Besharam opened up last year as a partnership between Daniel Patterson’s Alta Group and chef Heena Patel, but it wasn’t until Patel, an alum of SF food incubator La Cocina, cut ties with Patterson and took over creative control a few months ago that the food and vibe at Besharam (roughly translated to mean “shameless”) really started to sing. Patel started to cook professionally later in life, but one would never know, as the way she translates the bold flavors from the traditional Gujarti food prevalent in her childhood come across as though she’s been doing this her entire life. Standout dishes include the drunken pani puri, crispy semolina puffs with curried peas; dahi vada; urad dal dumplings; saag paneer with spinach, mustard greens, fenugreek, fresh paneer; the arugula salad with chicories, roasted corn, pistachio, fried garbanzo beans, tamarind ginger vinaigrette; and the hand-rolled parathas served with myriad dips and chutneys. Everything can be ordered a la carte and is served family style, but the best way to really experience the food is with the new prix fixe menu served to the entire table, which is Patel’s way of saying “let me cook for you,” and just so happens to be vegetarian. Though had we not told you, you likely wouldn’t notice. Of course, if you don’t go that direction, we must tell you to get the grilled half rack of lamb with gunpowder rub and aloo methi. Besharam also has a fun cocktail list and a couple of fun Instagrammable moments thanks to an expansive mural and playful plateware with satirical quotes designed by HateCopy’s Maria Qamar.
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. 1999 | Mission
Twenty years after it first opened, this classic Mission mainstay continues to delight diners with its romantic atmosphere and California-Mediterranean fare
People flock to Foreign Cinema for special occasion brunches because of its open air courtyard, quality oyster selection, house-made pop tarts, and madras Bloody Marys. But this beautiful restaurant, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, is equally as delightful at night when the long walk through the entry corridor into the various dining spaces feels like a journey into a magical world. And, indeed, it is, especially if you can get a seat in that aforementioned courtyard where you’ll be able to watch classic films on the back wall under twinkling lights while sipping on wine from a phenomenal list, enjoying shellfish from the raw bar, and eating one of the best pork chops in all of San Francisco.
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. 1949 | Nob Hill
A San Francisco institution known for its -- you guessed it -- prime rib
There’s only one thing to order when you go to the House of Prime Rib, a traditional English-style restaurant that’s been a go-to destination for San Franciscans and tourists since 1949, and that is the fish of the day. No, no it is not. It’s the prime rib obviously, which is carved tableside to your specification (there are four cuts to choose from depending on how much you want and how you like your roast beef sliced). Every dinner is served with a salad (also prepared at the table), mashed potatoes and gravy or a baked potato, Yorkshire pudding, creamed spinach, and fresh horseradish sauce, and, if you still have room, you can ask for seconds on your prime rib, which is just the type of gluttony that makes this old school spot so popular. Arrive a little before dinner and enjoy a martini at the bar; just beware: it comes with a sidecar, so that one martini is actually two. It’s just another example of the type of decadence that makes it so difficult to get a reservation.
Est. 1947 | Western Addition
A beloved hofbrau serving up affordable plates of meat
What you see is what you get at this no-frills cafeteria-style joint known for its colorful mural, neon sign, and crazy affordable fresh-carved hot meat sandwiches and dinner platters. You may have to wait in line, but it moves quick, so you’d better know what you want before you get to the counter. We’re fans of the BBQ brisket platter with mashed potatoes, salad, and bread and butter ($12.90) and all of the “great big sandwiches” ($8.80) that are piled high with meat and that’s it (you can add cheese, lettuce, tomato, bacon, or sauerkraut for a little extra). You’ll want to pair your meat with a beer or a cocktail, and don’t worry if you’re on a budget because those are also incredibly affordable ($3.50 bottles and $4.50 well drinks). Best of all? Tommy’s is open until 2am, a more-than-solid option for when you leave the bar and don’t want pizza.
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.