Best Food & Drink

BEST TEMPORARY SPOT (THAT’S STILL OPEN)

Doors Open
1707 Powell St., doorsopenproject.com

When a fire tore through five North Beach businesses on the evening of St. Patrick’s Day, the tight-knit neighborhood sprang immediately into recovery mode. Mere weeks later, Doors Open opened its doors as a sort of temporary food hall, serving menu items from Tuk Tuk Thai, The Salzburg, Rogue Ales Public House and others. Having already been the site of an Xmas-themed cocktail bar and the future home of Lillie Coit’s, Doors Open was the logical choice to become a three-month fundraising operation to make sure the displaced employees’ lives don’t fall apart. Co-owner Nick Floulis and his partners pulled off a genuine feat, and our reward is delicious larb tacos and Fernet cheesecake, available until July.


 

THE ‘WE’RE SO GLAD TO HAVE YOU BACK’ AWARD

Boogaloos
3396 22nd St., boogaloossf.com

There were no locusts or frogs, but a 2016 flood and a quadrupling of the rent forced Mission brunch favorite Boogaloos to go into hibernation for a while. Things looked grim, but surprisingly, the landlord later reconsidered, and Boogaloos’ management used the hiatus to give its interior a refresh. Having reopened in April, 24 years after the former pharmacy began serving its mimosas and Desayuno Typico, it’s once again our favorite temple of spuds.


 

BEST PLACE WITH KILLER VIEWS

Mersea
699 Ave. of the Palms, Treasure Island, mersea.restaurant

One of the best things about San Francisco is leaving it in order to look at it. Granted, Treasure Island is technically part of the city, but when you eat some short-rib spaetzle under the heat lamps at Mersea, the geographical distance is mesmerizing. A food-and-drink complex built from shipping containers, Mersea achieves what few waterfront places can: It’s menu-driven and affordable. In particular, the Jersey Girl sandwich (an $11 McMuffin variation with a Taylor pork roll, kimchi, arugula, and a fried egg) keeps us coming back even when the city is obscured by fog and haze.


 

BEST NEW BAR

True Laurel
753 Alabama St., truelaurelsf.com

We can’t really decide if True Laurel is as casual as it claims, or if it’s only casual in relation to its fore-”bear,” David Barzelay’s Michelin-starred, nightly communal dinner party Lazy Bear. Whatever the case, this Alabama Street bar marries superlative cocktails to upscale pub food, and the result is both more original and more fun than that concept might sound on paper. Come for Nic Torres’ Nordic-tropic A-Dilla (made with aquavit, dill, and tropical fruits) and stay for the baked potato loaded with miso butter, scallions, bacon, and bonito flakes.


 

BEST NEW DELI

The Board
1077 Mission St., theboardsf.com

Cleveland native Adam Mesnick has been running SoMa’s Deli Board for years, but he felt the need for a more experimental outlet. When a space opened up around the block, he took it, and the result is The Board, an East Coast deli with California sensibilities that celebrates “everything between buns.” The only thing cheekier might be the grilled hot dog with “habakraut,” onion, and brown mustard. If it’s not hot enough, put some Haba Reaper sauce on it. But if you want a proven Eye-talian classic, there’s the #1, made with Genoa salami, capicola, mortadella, provolone, cherry peppers, “shredduce,” salt and pepper, onion, and an Italian dressing.


 

SUREST LOCK FOR A MICHELIN STAR

Eight Tables
8 Kenneth Rexroth Place, chinalivesf.com

In its scale and precision, the multi-station food hall China Live is impressive in its own right, but when the alternative-timeline Shanghai cocktail lounge Cold Drinks followed it, we began to grasp that the last piece of the puzzle, Eight Tables, was going to make an even deeper impression. Well, George Chen and co. pulled it off, from the discreet decor to the wine list to the jiu gong ge, or “nine essential flavors of Chinese cuisine.” The Michelin tasters are notoriously rigid regarding which cuisines they favor, but if any contemporary Chinese restaurant can win their favor, it would be Eight Tables. In the meantime, it’s likely to become the spot for dignitaries and grandees visiting from Asia.


 

BEST HOTEL RENOVATION

Hotel Kabuki
1625 Post St., jdvhotels.com

Pouring $31 million into guest lodgings should automatically yield impressive results — unless you hire the world’s crookedest contractor — but the bar at Japantown’s Hotel Kabuki blew us away with its book-filled lobby and stunning menu. A Joie de Vivre property, it’s now the home of a stellar okonomiyaki and karaage chicken, plus Stephanie Wheeler’s impressive cocktails, among them the Tsuchi (maitake-washed Suntory Toki, lemon, black pepper syrup, shisho, and yuzu liqueur). The Kabuki is now a place for locals and guest to commingle, a rare feat.


 

BEST NEW FULL-SERVICE CAFE

Noon All Day
690 Indiana St., noonallday.comnoonallday.com

A pita sandwich called a “pocket melt” that comes with braised beef ragu, fontina, caramelized onion, and sauerkraut is just one of the many assertive, thoughtful menu items at this Piccino spinoff in brand-new building near I-280 in the Dogpatch. And the menu only gets better from there, with roasted carrot salads and taro coconut danish pushing it out in savory and sweet directions. The conceit of breakfast all day sounds like it’s tailor-made for your inner child to run amok in a ball pit filled with Fruity Pebbles, but Noon All Day is nothing if not adult in palate and aesthetic — well, with soft-serve, too.


 

MOST NOTABLE NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCE

Wicked Grounds
289 Eighth St., wickedgrounds.com

Western SoMa is about to get a Leather Cultural District that will include bars like the Lone Star and the Eagle, but a few blocks east, a financially troubled cafe popular with the kinkster set nearly died over the winter — until a Patreon campaign put it on surer footing. To many people, a San Francisco without Wicked Grounds would be like a San Francisco without City Lights, and we’re delighted it’s here to stay. As owner Mir Bilodeau put it at the time, “We’re ‘kink concierges’ first. The real value is not the food and beverage, or even the books and toys. The real value of Wicked Grounds is connecting with people.”


 

BEST SPOT TO EAT LIKE YOU’RE IN SANTA MONICA

Kitava

The wellness cult that endeavors to get us addicted to superfood serums and dubiously restorative tonics plays on our anxieties and, all too often, inspires a genuine fear of food. Inside a former Mission McDonald’s, the successor to food-delivery startup Mealmade opened Kitava, a very Angeleno-sounding restaurant that’s nowhere near vegetarian but “100-percent free of gluten, dairy, corn, soy, peanuts, refined sugar, and seed oils.” Kitava isn’t for people with boutique aversions; it’s for people with genuine health concerns, and it’s full of tasty items, like a Cuban bowl, an avocado mash, and butternut squash hummus. You don’t even have to get stuck in terrible traffic on Wilshire.


 

BEST NEW COFFEE SPOT

Pentacle Coffee
64 Sixth St.,

Longtime industry vet Bobby Valentino Sanchez didn’t consecrate his SoMa cafe using dark energies channeled from the beyond. Rather, the pentacle in question refers to the tarot, where it augurs good fortune in the material world — and the ace of pentacles governs new beginnings. This Third Wave cafe, with an art gallery in back, is also a new beginning for what used to be the San Francisco Barber College, something Sanchez further updated by commissioning Nathan Rapport to paint a mural of two robed male mystics about to kiss. Sixth Street can be a hard place, and Pentacle is a respite with damn fine coffee.


 

BEST ADULT SLUSHIES

Foxsister

They’re beginning to proliferate widely, but now that summer is practically here, it’s time to look closely at one of the best reasons to be an adult in 2018: boozy slushies. The 24th Street Korean spot Foxsister has deliciously inauthentic dishes like kimchi nachos, and to balance out the anju (or food that you eat while drinking) are plenty of frozen soju beverages. The frozé tastes like raspberry, while the even better one is the watermelon ginger-lime. They’re light, silly, and perfect for cutting through the fried chicken that is basically a mandatory order at this rock ’n’ roll restaurant.


 

BEST DUMPLINGS

Dumpling Time
11 Division St., dumplingtimesf.com

As it approaches its one-year anniversary and prepares the debut of the A5 Wagyu beef gyoza, let us pause to reflect on how Omakase and Okane offshoot Dumpling Time has changed our lives for the better. There is the xiao long bao so massive you have to drink its contents through a straw, the Beijing noodles so thick they’re nearly in a Bolognese sauce, and the tom yum goong, XLB made with shrimp in addition to pork plus enough beet to taint the skin hot pink. The moms of owner Kash Feng and of Omakase executive chef Jackson Yu offered their recipes and expertise, and we can only assume they approve.


 

BEST NEW HYBRID CREATION

Bagel Dawgs at Wise Sons
537 Octavia St., wisesonsdeli.com

Move over, cronuts, cruffins, and tacros. There is a hybrid bread product that doesn’t lead with a portmanteau: Wise Sons’ bagel dawgs. While hot dog meat has certainly risen in stature these past few years, most buns remain puffy, air-riddled, and flavorless — so proprietors Leo Beckerman and Evan and Ari Bloom had the epiphany of sheathing the meat in bagel dough, made with the same yeast. The result is $5 and only available at the Hayes Valley location.


 

BEST NEW PLACE KEEPING 24TH STREET REAL

Alma Cocina
2801 Folsom St., almacocinasf.com

The stretch of 24th Street between Mission and Potrero is at serious risk of becoming Valencia 2.0. Among the many affordable Latin American eateries that have been around for decades is this newcomer, a Peruvian spot with Japanese accents. Rotisserie chicken, chicharron de cerdo, arroz chaufa — they’re all here, bundled with an assortment of inventive ceviches, tied up with some excellent cocktails, and packaged affordably. This soul kitchen was wise to construct itself around its predecessor’s grill, and consequently, Alma Cocina might be the ideal neighborhood restaurant.


 

BEST PLACE THAT’S KIND OF A CHAIN AND WE DON’T CARE

Top Round Roast Beef
2962 24th St., eattopound.com

We don’t really want to see San Francisco in chains, but we’re not totally dogmatic about it, either — because sometimes, things are popular for good reason. Too many burger joints these days rip off either Double Doubles or the Super Duper/Shake Shack models, but retro-futuristic L.A. import Top Round Roast Beef doesn’t even use ground beef at all. Further, it introduces S.F. to such oddities as Provel, a processed cheese much-loved in St. Louis, and beef on weck (a roast beef sandwich famous in Buffalo that comes with with “atomic” horseradish and a caraway-and-sea-salt bun). Plus there are fries loaded with more toppings than we’ve ever seen anywhere. Top Round might aspire to coast-to-coast ubiquity, but we can make our peace with that.


 

MOST EXUBERANT OMAKASE SENSATION

Robin
620 Gough St., robinsanfrancisco.com

The burst of chef’s-choice menus in sushi restaurants appears to have quieted down in recent months, but only after coming to a climax in Hayes Valley. Chef Adam Tortosa’s Robin is a rule-breaking wonderland of fresh fish, where a chef might ask you how you feel about an “uni intermission” while barely able to suppress a smile. Having taken several years and nearly three-quarters of a million dollars to realize, Robin is a heavy-hitter, a place for A5 Wagyu tartare, bluefin tuna, and enough torchon that you might think Edward Scissorhands was shaving an ice block into a sculpture. Just surrender: Omakase, after all, means “to entrust.”


 

BEST PLACE FOR A FIRST DATE

Petit Marlowe
234 Townsend St., petitmarlowesf.com

When Leo’s Oyster Bar opened a couple years ago, we fell in love with it as a place for the occasional liquid lunch amid haute-fab ambience. And SoMa “oysterette” Petit Marlowe builds on that legacy — along with another Big Night Restaurant Group project, The Cavalier — upping the romantic quotient just enough. You can bet there are oysters and effervescent cocktails, a conceit made sturdier through chef Jennifer Puccio’s Parisian dishes, like a lemony, peppery côte de boeuf tartare with buttery porcini mushrooms. Voulez-vous manger avec moi, c’est sois?


 

MOST HEDONISTIC FOOD FESTIVAL

SF Beer Week
Feb. 9-18, sfbeerweek.org

February isn’t the most thrilling month — it’s probably the third-worst, after November and Smarch — but it brings the return of both Russian River Brewing’s Pliny the Younger and SF Beer Week. This year, the 10th anniversary of winter’s most hedonistic festival included almost 1,000 separate events, starting with an opening gala and continuing onto Fieldwork’s Dog Day Afternoon at Lucky 13, Star Wars Night with Lagunitas at Hogwash, and Hazefest at Old Devil Moon. That’s basically 10 straight days of mild-to-moderate inebriation, one of which happened to be Valentine’s Day. Sorry, sweetie, we promise to make it up to you in July.


 

BEST NEW POZOLE

Papi’s
846 Geary, papissf.com

How is it possible that pozole can warm you up and make you feel as satisfied as the thickest stew? In this follow-up to Hayes Valley’s Papito, the pozole anchors everything from between several mural-covered walls, a pork-and-hominy soup full of cabbage and radish. You could get the rotisserie chicken or the duck-confit burrito, but we’re sticking with the pozole. The fact that a new restaurant in the Tenderloin didn’t go the four-dollar-sign route is almost as comforting.


 

BEST SPOT TO FULFILL YOUR LATE-NIGHT PIZZA CRAVING

Golden Boy
542 Green St. goldenboypizza.com

While you normally should not eat pizza past midnight, an exception can be made if you find yourself at Golden Boy Pizza, the quirky, red-tiled North Beach pizzeria famous for delicious, square-shaped slices of Sicilian-inspired focaccia pizza (which the founders dubbed “Sanfrancilian”) The menu is simple and budget-friendly, since a slice of their famous clam-and-garlic pizza only costs $3.75. This old-school joint hits the right spot for any night owl (be on the lookout for the neon finger pointing at the restaurant).


 

BEST VARIETY OF HOUSEMADE MOCHI

Benkyodo Co
1747 Buchanan St. benkyodocompany.com

Family-owned and operating for more than 100 years, Benkyodo Company everyday makes divine mochi, manju, and other unique Japanese confectionaries. Be sure to take someone unfamiliar with Japanese desserts to see their awestruck reaction of the variety of colorful, tasty treats you are unlikely to find anywhere else in the city. Benkyodo rarely has the same selection of mochi twice, and their seasonal flavors make multiple visits necessary.


 

BEST NEW AL PASTOR TACO

Glena’s Tacos and Margaritas
632 20th St., glenassf.com

Chef Michael Gaines and wife Stephanie, who cut their teeth at restaurants like Manresa, Flour + Water, and Kin Khao, opened their Dogpatch taqueria Glena’s in mid-2017 as an homage to their SoCal roots, and a deep and abiding love for Cal-Mex cuisine shines through all of the menu here. Can’t-miss menu items include the fried chicken torta (which sidelines just about every other version of this sandwich in town) and the surprisingly amazing tofu taco — and we should mention the can’t-miss off-menu quesadilla as well. But the star of the taco show, as it often is at taquerias worth their tortillas, is the al pastor — an expertly marinated version of the pork shoulder classic, served with pineapple, charred onions, and salsa verde. Gaines’ al pastor, though it might not be shaved off a spinning vertical grill, rivals the best of Mexico City’s holes-in-the-wall, and those who’ve been know that’s saying a lot. Also, the margaritas and alomas here are muy perfecto.


 

BEST MICHELIN-STARRED CALLION PANCAKE

Mister Jiu’s
28 Waverly Place, misterjius.com

In the two years since it opened, chef Brandon Jew’s modern culinary love letter to Chinatown, Mister Jiu’s, has morphed from offering a banquet-only, prix fixe menu, to offering an eclectic and inventive, seasonal a la carte menu at all times. There are delicious takes on stir-fried vegetables and hot-and-sour soup, some downright sensational orange chicken wings, and a couple of large-format dishes like a Peking-style roast duck and a salt-baked whole trout that are best shared. But you could easily make a dim-sum style meal here any night of the week, replete with excellent cocktails, a cheeky twist on the pork bun with “Dutch crunch” dough, and an excellent, deep-fried, puffy and crispy, crave-worthy scallion pancake — served here with a deconstructed sauce soubise with crispy onions on the side, because this isn’t just average Chinese food, this is Michelin-starred Chinese food.


 

BEST NEW TAPAS

barvale
661 Divisadero St., barvalesf.com

Locally prolific restaurateur Adriano Paganini and his Back of the House Restaurant Group debuted not one but two new restaurant concepts in 2017, and both were immediate hits in their respective neighborhoods. First there was A Mano, the value-oriented, pasta-and-pizza spot in Hayes Valley that’s doing Paganini’s earlier restaurant, Beretta, one better on the Italian front, drawing lines just about every day. Then, in December, came barvale, the group’s first attempt at Spanish cuisine, in the former La Urbana space at Divisadero and Grove. As pintxos and tapas in S.F. go, you’re not going to find many finer examples than what’s on offer from chef Patricio Duffoo — don’t miss the perfect and petite croquetas de jamon, and the excellent olive-oil poached prawns — with a well-balanced array of original cocktails to boot. And Duffoo shows his skills with the more Californian spins on the menu as well, as with a “bagna cauda”-style chicory salad topped with manchego and almonds.


 

BEST NEW FANCY DATE SPOT IN THE ‘LOIN

Gibson
111 Mason Street, gibsonsf.com

There are plenty of cheap date spots (and dates!) to be found in the Tenderloin, but as the neighborhood ever so slowly gentrifies at its edges, there are some pricier options as well, including the new restaurant in the refurbished Hotel Bijou, Gibson. Chef Robin Song, who won the Chronicle’s Rising Star honor a couple years back for his work at Hog & Rocks, has been toiling patiently for two decades waiting to craft a unique menu like this on his own — including previous stints in the prestigious kitchens of Ame, Plum, Central Kitchen, and Copenhagen’s Ralae. You can sit at the bar with a signature Gibson (there are three versions on the menu) and snack on house-made bread and spreads (including duck liver mousse, and fresh goat cheese with seaweed and trout roe), or you can sit in the elegantly adorned dining room and put things in Chef Song’s hands with a nightly tasting menu. There are a la carte options as well, most of them cooked over a live fire, including a smoky grilled Sonoma duck, and fire-roasted brassicas with potato and fermented radish.


 

BEST PHO COMPETITION

Kevin’s Noodle House
1833 Irving St., kevinnoodlehouse.com

Pho Phu Quoc PPQ Beef Noodle House Restaurant
1816 Irving St., ppqsf.com

Karl the Fog makes steamy, comforting pho a staple in San Francisco, and fortunately, we have plenty of options. Two of the best, Kevin’s Noodle House and Pho Phu Quoc, sit on opposite sides of Irving Street near 19th Avenue, turning a pho excursion into agonizing indecision. Do you go to PPQ, where they’ll know your favorite order in due time and where you can find distinct types of pho, like coconut curry? Or do you go to Kevin’s, which has six locations in the Bay Area and noodles consistently cooked to tender perfection despite the briskly run operation? Frequent Irving Street often enough, and you can have the best of both worlds.


 

SADDEST RESTAURANT CLOSURE

Pizza Orgasmica
3157 Fillmore St.

Local chain Pizza Orgasmica shuttered its final location on Fillmore Street after 22 years of business. Troubles began in 2015, when its spot in Inner Richmond closed and one of the company’s co-founders renamed the Embarcadero location to Gochees Pizza. Last summer, the San Rafael location also closed up shop after six years. Reviews of the actual pizza were mixed, but patrons on Yelp loved Pizza Orgasmica most as a late-night pit stop and for its veggie options, with one congratulating them on making broccoli taste great on pizza. “I have never eaten this pizza sober, but have also never been disappointed,” one Yelper said. A basic goal, but one the pizzeria consistently met.


 

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