This month, we got one of our dearest dive bars back, a Marina favorite doubled down on its success with a fresh FiDi location, and no fewer than 25 bars threw a variation of some decidedly tart pumpkin ale on their taps. Here are 11 places you should get to know right now before every 22-year-old trick-or-treater from The Mission shows up and steals all your Halloween candy.
If Inner Richmond’s The Corner Store had a baby with an oyster bar and decided to raise it near the ballpark, it’d be this barstaurant comprised of a team from some of the very best spots in the city. Bartender-to-know Dustin Sullivan (of Fog City and Picco) is behind the bar slinging gloriously named cocktails like the Cobra Kai and the Laser Beam. And Exec Chef Nick Adams -- from The Corner Store -- is in the kitchen making sure the food (read: avocado toast and open-faced sandwiches) is on par with the ultra-fresh, window-displayed oysters that’ll no doubt catch your eye as you’re heading to a game or getting off work.
Dat Spot opened a legit casual rotisserie/comfort food eatery in the former Chez Maman space in late September. Expect simple, reasonably priced fare that’s perfect for those nights when you want a home-cooked meal but don’t want to actually cook. In addition to the brined and slow-roasted chicken you can order by the bird or half-bird, other highlights include steamed artichoke, fondue, baby back ribs, a pork chop, fish & chips, and yes, even waffle sandwiches.
Exactly like what you’ve come to know and love on Chestnut, but with the advantage that FiDi professionals won’t have to ride the Muni Beauty Bus (the 30x, in case you don’t know) across town to satisfy cravings for Roman-style pizza, craft beer, Italian and Californian wines, and delicious craft cocktails. Right now it’s open seven days a week for happy hour and dinner but the team is thankfully adding lunch soon.
This isn’t a new one, but when Ha-Ra closed its doors, we feared the SF dive bar world was over as we knew it. Thankfully it reopened this month and still passes our rigid dive bar test (most of the time): there’s still the old-timey TV that doesn’t work, the red velvet walls, vintage chandeliers, and the original pool table. There are also a couple of new touches that take it just outside of dive bar territory, such as the phone-charging station in the old photo booth -- but that’s the sort of change we can get behind.
If you can get over the fact that you have to enter the Abercrombie-smelling maze that is the Westfield Shopping Center, your holiday shopping woes will be relieved thanks to the super-fresh lobster rolls that took up residence in the food court in late September. Expect traceable, sustainable lobster on par with what you’d get off the coast of Maine, just with significantly less crisp ocean air and significantly more 13-year-old girls Snapchatting their food.
When you go to a wine bar, it’s only a matter of time before you inevitably break down and crave a snack. And that snack should be French fries. Those lightly salted potato slices that’ve been complementing your beers since the 1800s are now being paired up with some bubbly -- and it’s delightful. Eschewing the idea that Champagne is solely reserved for special occasions (and expensive cuisines), each bottle of bubbly is interesting, unique, and reasonably priced. Bottles all go for under $100 and glasses range from $8 to $16 on the current menu. Though the concept is simple, the mayos that come with the fries are incredibly creative and delicious. Think flavors such as Earl Grey and peach, grapefruit, and curry, and artichoke and nutmeg. Purists will rejoice to know that house-made ketchup is also available -- upon request, naturally.
One of Mexico City’s most renowned chefs makes her stateside debut with this gorgeous high-end Mexican spot. Cala’s not only catering to symphony and ballet enthusiasts... but really anyone in the mood for seafood-centric Mexican dishes, like a seasonal ceviche, tostadas topped with salmon or trout, and black cod marinated in traditional spices and wrapped in a banana leaf. While dinner is strictly seafood, the newly added brunch service has plenty of other meaty options on the menu (think chicken chilaquiles and tortas with carnitas).
Golden Gate Park’s beloved soft-serve truck has found a brick-and-mortar home, packing a full-service ice cream parlor into a tiny, bright storefront that offers tons of charm with its handcrafted soft-serve, inventive sundaes, fresh fruit ice lollies, and old-fashioned ice cream sodas and floats.
One of the Bay’s favorite food trucks finally opened a new shop in the Inner Richmond, meaning you no longer have to track down the roaming kitchen before waiting in the absurd lines for one of its cult favorites: the KoJa (a Korean-Japanese “burger” served on crispy garlic rice buns). The restaurant has a few extras as well, such as rice bowls, tacos, and even a secret menu. The mystery!
Polk St’s best spot for homestyle Thai food sadly closed this month, but it was ultimately replaced by another Thai kitchen we’re committed to giving a fair shot. Its small, but solid beer selection (including locals like Almanac), daily happy hour, and Thai-style brunch just so happen to make it a little easier for us. All your takeout favorites are there (the green curry is great and doesn’t skimp on the eggplant), as well as new family recipes that you likely haven’t heard of -- but soon will once the sweet, earnest owners aggressively sell you on them. Make it easy on yourself and just order whatever the mother-and-son team tells you to.
Mid-Market’s newest cocktail bar, The Forgery, expanded next door and is offering a 14,000sqft industrial nightclub to a city starved of huge spaces to dance in and super-dark corners to get weird in. The former printing press features a 20ft white marble bar, 15 speakers with six subwoofers, and two levels of private tables (with bottle service for up to 20 people) that encircle the dance floor.
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Amy Copperman is a regular contributor to Thrillist. If you need her, she’s probably at her new home away from home, The Fine Mousse -- maybe even in her pajamas.
1. Lord George555 2nd St, San Francisco
2. Dat Spot1453 18th St, San Francisco
3. Delarosa37 Yerba Buena Ln, San Francisco
4. Ha-Ra Club875 Geary St, San Francisco
5. Lobster Me845 Market St, San Francisco
6. The Fine Mousse1098 Jackson St, San Francisco
7. Cala149 Fell St, San Francisco
8. Twirl and Dip1717 17th St, San Francisco
9. Koja Kitchen343 Clement St, San Francisco
10. Ben Thai Cafe1331 Polk St, San Francisco
11. Verso1525 Mission St, San Francisco
With Nick Adams (The Corner Store) at the helm, this SoMa cocktail/oyster bar offers open-faced sandwiches, meat and cheese boards, six wines on tap, and inventive mixed drinks in refined digs.
Known for the open kitchen making delicious comfort foods, this spot is great for those nights when you want a simple and home cook style meal. They have rotisserie chicken and plenty of sides to choose from like macaroni & cheese and chicken fat potatoes.
A part of excellent local restaurateur Adriano Paganini’s restaurant group, Delarosa is a Roman-style pizzeria serving up accessible takes on Italian classics in the bustling Financial District. Get down with reasonably priced kick-ass cocktails like the pisco and roasted pepper-based Redwood and a traditional margherita pizza.
A dive through and through, this mainstay has been hydrating the Tenderloin since 1947.
This is but a stop in the food court of the San Francisco Centre Mall, but worth the trip in for lunch when you have a crustacean craving. Lobster rolls are obviously what they do best -- in fact, they do them in four different preparations. Try the Beltway style with Old Bay and shallot-chive mayo, topped with butter toasted Panko.
Eschewing the idea that Champagne should solely be reserved for special occasions (and expensive cuisines), The Fine Mousse in Nob Hill might be the only sparkling wine bar in San Francisco. There are six different types of bubbly by the glass, more by the bottle, and a full draft beer list. Perhaps the best thing about The Fine Mousse is that it pairs its wine with fries, all of which are served with a wide range of mayo dips -- think flavors like Early Grey and peach, grapefruit, curry, and artichoke. House-made ketchup is also available upon request.
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.
Whether served in a housemade cone or in a cup, the ice cream here is superb. Try the specialties like Mitchell's pistachio ice cream with butterscotch, toasted coconuts, whipped cream, and a Luxardo cherry.
Formerly a favorite food truck in the neighborhood, Koja transformed in October 2015 into a stationary restaurant, but it continues to serve up its inventive Korean and Japanese fusion creations, like kimchi topped fries and burgers with rice buns.
This simple Thai kitchen stands out among the saturation of Asian restaurants on Polk St for mixing standard fare with experimental dishes most diners likely haven't heard of. The green curry is great, and so are the family recipes that the mother-and-son team will probably suggest you order. Ben Thai has a small but sold beer selection (including local brews like Almanac), daily happy hour, and Thai-style brunch.
You might miss it if you’re not looking hard enough, but this two-level dance club is definitely there, tucked in the corner of an all-brick building. Owned by the local Plumpjack group, Verso opens up on Friday and Saturday nights to welcome mid-tier DJs while serving as a charming spot for private events on all other nights. The sexy white marble bar gives it a Vegas feel, as does the bottle service.