Kimberley Lovato is the author of Unique Eats & Eateries of San Francisco, a tasty guide seasoned with all you need for an unforgettable edible exploration of one of the world’s most food-savvy cities.
1. True Laurel
The award-winning team behind the ticketed dinner-party restaurant known as Lazy Bear are branching out with this cocktail bar and restaurant. No reservations or advanced purchase required, which can be tough in the 36-chair space. Helmed by Lazy Bear’s David Barzelay and Bar Director Nicolas Torres, True Laurel focuses on innovative sharable dishes that pair well with the creative and creatively-named cocktails.
The must-grab seat will be the cocktail tasting bar (reservation needed), slated to open early 2018, where guests will enjoy a menu of five cocktails with food pairings to match. Being a barfly at True Laurel has its perks!
Adriano Paganini’s Back of the House restaurant group might have 22 restaurants in its folio (including Super Duper, Belga, and Starbelly), but this is their first Spanish tapas concept. The airy dining spot transports diners to Spain, where the preferred dining style is grazing.
Simple yet expansive, the authentic Spanish tapas menu is divided into hot and cold items that are substantial enough to make a mix-and-match meal, or be a nibble before the show, and are always just right for a meet up with friends. Wash them down with a selection of cocktails and Spanish wines.
3. Manufactory Food Hall
The International Terminal at SFO offers foodies a big inducement to check in early this summer when four beloved local chefs—Pim Techamuanvivit of Kin Khao, Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson of Tartine, and Gabriela Cámara of Cala—join forces to open the 3,000-square-foot Manufactory Food Hall in Boarding Area A.
The fast-casual collaboration will feature grab-and-go bites such Tartine’s fresh sandwiches and salads, and their morning buns and seasonal tarts. Camara will bring a taste of her native Mexico City via breakfast tortas and her famous street Tacos Cala, while Techamuanvivit delivers tasty Thai specialties such as rice bowls and noodles to travelers. Bon voyage, indeed!
4. Eight Tables by George Chen
Perched like an Empress of Heavenly Food above China Live, the Eately-style marketplace that opened in Chinatown in 2017, George Chen’s serene and elegant new dining oasis has laid out a gold-threaded welcome mat, from the back alley private entrance to the elevator that opens on an elegant and intimate room reminiscent of a private club.
The highbrow experience is based on si fang cai, or private chateau cuisine of the Chinese elite. For diners, that translates to an expensive but outstanding 10-course tasting menu, a stunning work of art that dazzles deep pocket visitors and locals alike.
5. The Board
Once a deli sandwich lover, always a deli sandwich lover. That’s been the case for Adam Mesnick, owner of the popular Deli Board, whose meaty and monstrous creations draw a devoted following, as do his daily specials listed online. Mesnick’s new Central Market restaurant pays homage to those specialties that never found a permanent menu home.
The new space will open for breakfast and lunch, and will have more room for diners who can order homemade soups, salads, and sandwiches that are simpler and less gargantuan (and therefore less pricey) versions of Mesnick’s signature sandos.
If you need proof that the third time’s the charm, head to Noe Valley where Chef Sharon Ardiana opened her eponymous (and third) restaurant in August 2017. With its massive oven and a solid know-how gleaned from her other restaurants (Regazza and Gialina), it’s no surprise that the pies here set the bar for pizza lovers.
Making a good case for returning again and again are the menu’s Mediterranean and Italian small and large plates, such as the Di Stefano Burrata, Fuyu persimmons, and pistachio butter; roasted pepper-walnut dip with lemon oil and Greek yogurt; and lamb shoulder with couscous, oranges, dates and feta.
7. Dumpling Time
An instant hit when it opened, in no small part because of the xiao long bao (soup dumplings), Dumpling Time specializes in the pleated pillows popular with locals. Watch cooks hand make a variety of dumplings, including the Instagram-ready King-Dum, a grapefruit-sized soup dumpling served with a straw. The thin-skinned (in a good way) gyoza are delicious, too.
Choose from a variety of fillings, from traditional pork and scallions to a surprising char-siu roasted pork belly with a touch of peanut butter found in the bao (steamed buns). A couple of noodle dishes round out the simple but satisfying menu.
Mexican food is practically a signature cuisine of San Francisco. Some might argue we have guacamole running through our veins. This Dogpatch neighbourhood taqueria has the magic touch. Run by chef Michael Gaines, who worked at the lauded Manresa in Los Gatos, the compact restaurant packs in the flavor on its small menu specializing in tacos and margaritas.
Other not-to-miss standouts are the fried chicken torta and the pozole, the likes of which are hard to find elsewhere. Add in the cool neighborhood and the fine-dining skill heading up the kitchen, and Glena’s is as good as it gets for affordable and casual Mexican.
One dining rite of passage in San Francisco is a meal at the three-Michelin-star Saison (if your pocketbook can take the heat). However, with a new year comes a new restaurant, and an opportunity to taste the magic of Chef Joshua Skenes and his team.
With a fantastic view of the Bay Bridge on the Embarcadero, Angler is scheduled to open in summer 2018 in the former Chaya Brasserie space and will lean on local seafood, with a raw bar and a grill. Guests can order a la carte as opposed to Saison’s more formal multi-course tasting menu.