Because it’s a subsidiary of a French tire manufacturer, the Michelin star system theoretically works like this: one star for places that are good stopping at if you drive by them, two stars for restaurants that are worth a detour, and three stars for those that are worthy of a destination in their own right.
Of course, restaurants with even one Michelin star aren’t exactly everyday affairs — nor are they found on any two-lane byway, particularly outside of France. So they have the Bib Gourmand ratings, which are awarded to quality restaurants that represent a good value, specifically two courses plus a glass of wine or a dessert, all for under $40. Six months earlier than usual, Michelin has announced 151 Bib Gourmand winners for 2020, of which 72 are in Northern California.
There are several new names. The only San Francisco additions to the list are both Chinese restaurants — Harborview in the Embarcadero Center and Z&Y Bistro in Chinatown — but the roster is worth scrutinizing because any eatery listed on it is by definition ineligible for a Michelin star. Atelier Crenn’s elevation to three Michelin stars for the 2019 guide means the most conspicuous slight in the city is now the baffling refusal to recognize George Chen’s Eight Tables — if not the larger China Live on top of which it sits. So we can reasonably deduce that Eight Tables is getting at least one star for 2020. Of course, Eight Tables is quite rarefied, so there’s no way it would quality for a Bib Gourmand’s price stipulations. But then again, you would have a tough time getting out of Anchor Oyster Bar, Comal, or Delfina without spending at a minimum of $40 per person unless they had a specific prix fixe option.
Only five restaurants fell off the list this year, like Chapeau!, Yuzuki, and Napa’s Two Birds/One Stone — although again, this could indicate a downgrade or an upgrade to a proper star. Hong Kong Lounge II is also off because of a destructive fire, and SHED Cafe in Healdsburg closed.
Additionally, for next year, Michelin will cease publishing a guide for Wine Country and the Bay Area, folding it into a larger California edition with increased attention paid to L.A. and other cities, notably Sacramento.
See the full list of Bib Gourmand winners below, new additions in bold:
Anchor Oyster Bar
El Molino Central
Farmhouse Kitchen Thai
Glen Ellen Star
Lai Hong Lounge
Luna Mexican Kitchen
Orchard City Kitchen
Pig in a Pickle
1601 Bar & Kitchen
Teni East Kitchen