San Francisco’s Best New Bars and Restaurants of January

San Francisco

San Francisco’s Best New Bars and Restaurants of January
San Francisco’s Best New Bars and Restaurants of January

Courtesy of Little Gem
Courtesy of Little Gem

If this month’s crop of new openings is any indication of how 2016 will go... just give up on any weight loss aspirations now. It was a meaty month -- both in quality and in, well, the kind you eat, as SF gained a much-anticipated BBQ joint and a massive Brazilian steakhouse. In between all of this, interesting and indulgent menus, new bars, and one resolution-friendly option make up this month’s notable highlights.

Little Gem

Hayes Valley

Even those hopelessly devoted (or addicted) to simple carbs, dairy, and sugar will find the food flavorful and satisfying at this gluten-free, dairy-free, and sugar-free “fine-casual” spot thanks to exceptional ingredient sourcing and execution by Thomas Keller alums. If you don’t believe me, try the lemon custard -- if this was always what clean eating was about, our Instagram feeds and waists would look a lot different. Prices at this counter-service spot are a step above casual (it’s what happens when you eat more sustainable and healthful food) but the space has enough style, with its concrete floors, copper touches, and spacious corner real-estate to still feel like a treat. And the food tastes like it too.

Courtesy of Tory Putnam



Connected to the jazz bar we wrote about recently, comes this ambitious sister restaurant from the owner of Lower Haight gem Maven. Design-centric elements such as the claw-like booths and light-lined walls mingle with luxe touches like faux-fur backed seating to create a sexy mid-century vibe that may have you reconsidering how that pretty co-ed bathroom should go to use. It’s certainly a date spot, but how serious of one depends on where you sit. The main dining room offers a four-course reservation-only pre-fixe menu that runs $49/person and affords you the opportunity to say “we’ll have one of everything” -- if you bring a date and agree to split the two options (one is entirely vegetarian). Chef Joey Elenterio’s (Wayfare Tavern) detailed new-California dishes get a little more playful in the communal bar area and cozy tea-cup booths where elevated dishes like sturgeon, and its caviar are offered alongside bar-faves like ricotta dumplings with smoked Brussels sprouts, Indian fry bread, and roasted spicy cauliflowers. Meanwhile yummy culinary cocktails and Mr. Tipple’s Nosh Mix make this a worthy spot to drop in for a casual drink to take in the ambiance... and to use the bathroom.

The Wooden Nickel


Bucking the fancy cocktail bar trend that is now just what we call “life,” a trio of female bartenders from the likes of Zeitgeist, The Homestead, and Southern Pacific Brewery, are bringing back the basics with this new neighborhood hang. Broke-ass Stuart is already a fan of its beautiful simplicity that features pool, a jukebox, and bar bites from the same caterer that served Dear Mom. In other words, it’s a bar and you will like it.

Courtesy of Black Bark

Black Bark BBQ


With a few exceptions, San Francisco is not generally known for its BBQ. However, the husband-wife team behind 1300 Fillmore hopes to shift that perspective with the first BBQ joint to hit the Fillmore in decades. 1300 Fillmore’s executive chef and owner, David Lawrence, turned to the nation’s BBQ greats and brought on a Texas native to ensure the dry rubs and traditional sides (including a delicious bourbon mac & cheese) are as authentically Texas as Willie Nelson in a pick-up truck. He’s also blended in techniques from Carolina and Kansas City to create what he calls SF-style ‘cue. The concept is fast-casual -- think the BBQ version of Super Duper -- but 1300 on Fillmore fans will recognize Lawrence’s famed ribs and cornbread served with pepper relish. Get there early (or go during an El Niño downpour). They’ve been known to sell out before the dinner rush.

Fogo de Chao

Fogo de Chão


In other meat news, international Southern Brazilian steakhouse, Fogo de Chão, opened its  second Northern California location in late December in the former Chevy’s space. If you’re not familiar with the Brazilian steakhouse concept, here’s how it works: there’s a massive buffet featuring veggies, charcuterie, traditional Brazilian stew, and other sides that, while good and surprisingly not over-cooked, you don’t want to get too overzealous with. You’re here for the meat, and lord is there meat. Brazilian-trained gaucho chefs butcher meats (everything from chicken breast to sirloin to filet mignon) in-house, roast them over an open fire, and then carve each cut tableside. Servers come around with huge skewers until you beg them to stop... or you know, flip over the cards on the table to the red/mercy side. You hold the power here so let’s hope you have more self-control than we did. The whole space is big and grand with giant glitzy chandeliers, elaborate ropes on the wall, and fire encased in glass. It’s fairly expensive for dinner, and cocktails start at $15, but the bar area offers loads of ambiance for happy hour, and there’s a paired down version of the experience during lunch for Brazilian-style power lunches.

Courtesy of Volta



Restaurateurs Umberto Gibin and Staffan Terje (who own FiDi institutions Perbacco and Barbacco) will make you want to eat pickled fish. Turning their talents from Italian to an exciting new concept that blends French classics and Scandinavian dishes inspired by Chef Terje’s heritage, the pair has fashioned a stylish brasserie-style restaurant that showcases both classic favorites (like beef bourguignon), and more unusual delicacies (like herring prepared five ways). The atmosphere is also a bit of a departure from the dark, masculine interiors of the Fidi restaurants as wire light fixtures, white marble bar, and a graphic tiled floor lend a modern, convivial vibe.

Fort Point Beer Co. Ferry Building Kiosk


This month, Fort Point Beer Co. opened its first retail space in the new, heated, outdoor Ferry Building kiosks. It joins Marla Bakery and Blue Bottle Coffee in the new structure. The kiosk features six taps with a rotating selection of beer delivered daily from the Crissy Field brewery. Drink onsite or buy a six-pack or growler to go.

Courtesy of Michael David Rose

Just over a  year ago, Causwells burger was the cheeseburger you didn't even know you needed in your life. We fixed that and since then this cheesy double-patty of deliciousness has reached burger fame, spinning off with its own brick and mortar. Come March, Popsons will open in Mid-Market, but you needn't wait even a second longer for a mid-day burger fix. A pop-up version of the restaurant moved into the former Marlowe space. It's starting with just lunch service and adding dinner on February 1.

Courtesy of Doug Dalton



When the SF dive institution Dave’s lost its lease on New Year’s Eve, you may have found yourself wondering, Is this it? Will this cause the uprising? But on January 1st, all was quiet in post-apocalyptic San Francisco, and you were left with no choice but to sign your exorbitant rent check as a single tear dropped and smeared your weary signature. The first day of forever without Dave’s was here. Then, two and a half weeks later, Dave’s reopened as The Lark. And it’s pretty much the same thing.

The Future Bars (the guys behind Bourbon and Branch, Local Edition, and other favorite fancy cocktail bars) took over the space and gave it a good wash, but they’re doing their best to retain its dive bar status. While the staff and signage have changed, the jukebox, cheap beer, and even cheaper cocktails -- a low $5-$7 -- are still there. The story of Dave’s (and the other fallen dive bar soldiers last year) is certainly a sign of the times, but I think we can all agree that... it’s hard to mess up chili. Which \ the bartender still has simmering in the crock pot right now. 

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Amy Copperman is a regular Thrillist contributor and she still has the meat sweats, which have likely led to feverish post-apocalyptic fantasies. Follow her at @acoppergirl.

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1. Cadence 1446 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94102 (Soma)

"Progressive American fare" rules at this chic mid-Market resto. Cadence's elegant, fresh plates (try miso-braised beef cheeks with toasted green onions) by Wayfare Tavern ex-chef Joey Elenterio pair perfectly with new classic cocktails. We love bar director Chase Williamson's take on an Applejack old-fashioned, the Apple Thief, made with apple brandy, cocchi americano, amer, and pickled apple.

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2. Wooden Nickel 1900 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94103 (The Mission)

Bucking the fancy cocktail bar trend, a trio of female bartenders from the likes of Zeitgeist, The Homestead, and Southern Pacific Brewery, brought back the basics with this neighborhood bar. Its beautiful simplicity features all the dive bar essentials, like a pool table, a jukebox, and bar bites from the same caterer that served Dear Mom. In other words, it’s a bar and you will like it.

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3. Black Bark BBQ 1325 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94115 (Western Addition)

Low, slow and smokey... that's how the folks at Black Bark BBQ cook their meats, and boy does it show (and is it delicious). This counter service spot in Western Addition's got all your braised meats on tap, as well as many flavorful sides and sandwiches to choose from. The woodsy, industrial decor provides a solid setting for tucking into a fresh BBQ feast.

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4. Little Gem 400 Grove St, San Francisco, CA 94102 (Hayes Valley)

When a restaurant is named after a type of lettuce, you'd better believe there'll be a whole lot of veggies in the mix. This entirely gluten-free bistro and cafe will ensure your daily serving is met, and then some, with tasty dishes like kale burrito bowls, pork and pickled carrot wraps, and of course, salads upon salads. Come by for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

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5. Fogo de Chao Brazilian Steakhouse 201 3rd St Ste 100, San Francisco, CA 94103 (Soma)

Beloved Brazilian steakhouse chain Fogo de Chao is best known for its endless list of fresh and tender meats and its superb service. Spring for the full churrasco experience to have all you can eat impeccably cooked meats delivered and sliced right at your table. The experience also grants diners access to the market table, filled with vegetables and sides to balance out the notoriously filling meal.

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6. Volta 868 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94108 (The Mission)

From the chef and owner of the acclaimed Perbacco and barbacco restaurants comes Volta, a concept French/Scandanavian inspired modern brasserie. Nordic shellfish dishes and country pate platters dominate the apps side of the menu, while the entrees are firmly rooted in reinventions of the old classics: cote de boeuf, poulet vert, and steak frites.

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7. Fort Point Beer Company 644 Old Mason St, San Francisco, CA 94129 (The Presidio)

Now in the front of the classic SF Ferry Building, Fort Point one of the finest places to geek out on local brews. Their modest menu has simple yet effective beer companions like hot dogs and soft pretzels. Try the Wanderer, a crushable IPA and the Manzanita, a uniquely smoked red lager. On a sunny day, the crisp and delicious KSA Kolsch is an absolute must.

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8. Popsons 330 Townsend St, San Francisco, CA (Soma)

Popsons Burgers on Townsend has attracted a lot of comparisons to the most esteemed names in the burger business and they repeatedly seem to stand firmly on their own. With a simple menu in a minimally industrial space, Popsons grills up thin, crisp patties on fluffy, but stable buns served in a white paper baggie. Options include basic, chili cheeseburgers, and blue cheese and bacon burgers with a side of naked, seasoned, or chili cheese fries. Beer, wine, and milkshakes round out the Popsons experience into one very happy meal.

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9. The Lark 4068 18th St, San Francisco, CA (The Castro)

Formerly Dave’s, a San Francisco dive bar institution, The Lark is a modern reincarnation of the old classic, from the jukebox to the cheap drinks. You can order quality cocktails from the same bartenders who shake them up at Bourbon & Branch, but with less of the pretension and price tag. After your beer you can head into Future Bars-owned Cask next door to stock your home bar.