With the great scything-down of 2008 well past us, San Francisco's restaurant industry sent up hundreds of blooms, some of them quite brilliant. Yet competition, normal restaurant-world pressures, and the lingering malaise afflicting the economy killed off a number of significant restaurants. Here are the 10 SFoodie mourns most keenly, listed in alphabetical order:
1. 1550 Hyde.The Weekly called this Russian Hill wine bar and bistro a charming blend of Paris and classic San Francisco when it opened in 2004.
2. Bacar. "Bacar isn't just a restaurant; it's an extravaganza ... with a big budget, an all-star cast, mezzanine seating, and multiple subplots," the Weekly wrote in 2001; the restaurant changed directions rather radically after that, but the epic scale of the place remained.
3. Bruno's. The first official review of my tenure at the Weekly. The Mission bar hasn't closed, but after contracting out food service to Katharine Zacher and Ryan Ostler for a spell it stopped serving dinner (again). Those biscuits! The smoked ribs! Dammit, this one hurt bad.
4. Le Cheval. How could a successful, much-loved Vietnamese restaurant, one of the anchors of the downtown Oakland food scene, close down? It's a rather sordid story, actually ― and not Le Cheval's fault. We wish the owners luck finding a new location.
5. Locanda da Eva. SFoodie editor John Birdsall praised former Weekly
critic Robert Lauriston's South Berkeley restaurant for "tweaking the
Cal-Ital formula in interesting ways, circling wide to scoop up
ingredients well off the Oliveto-Delfina road map." However, the
restaurant closed after only five months.
6. Mi Lindo Yucatan. San Francisco's second-most successful Yucatecan
restaurant to date (the first being Tommy's in the Richmond), Mi Lindo Yucatan
opened in 2004, spawned a Noe Valley branch, and then folded.
7. Mission Burger. SFoodie loved Danny Bowien's burger stand in the Duc Loi Market. Loved it lots. We mean it. Really. (Yeesh.) Then Bowien moved on to start up Mission Chinese Food with Anthony Myint. We all seem to have moved on.
8. Poleng Lounge. When this pan-Asian supperclub closed in January, co-owner Desi Danganan told SFoodie, "We inadvertently became the standard-bearers of Filipino cuisine." Chef Tim Luym moved on to be the opening chef at San Mateo's The Attic, while Danganan opened The Summit this fall in the Mission.
9. RNM. "It's been a while since a restaurant made as dazzling a first impression on me as RNM," wrote former Weekly critic Greg Hugunin in 2002, just after Justine Miner's Lower Haight bistro opened. Miner closed the restaurant this year and took time off to look out for her next project.
10. Roland's Bakery. Many of us at SFoodie thought Philip Roland's bagels were amazing. But the Lower Haight bakery closed after only six months; the baker did a short stint at Terra Bakery, but that didn't work out. Where are you, Philip Roland? Just text us sometime to let us know you're alive and baking.
The most notable closure of the year ― if "notable" means protracted and well covered ― turned out to be more of a stimulus package for its owner. We're talking about Ike's Place, of course. Evicting the 16th Street sandwich shop didn't kill Ike's. Like a hydra, when the city cut off one head, three Ike's locations popped up in its place.
Also: My list of Top 10 Most Significant Openings of 2010.