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Marcia Gagliardi

San Francisco's Top 2017 Restaurant Openings

Posted by Marcia Gagliardi on December 19, 2017
the art deco-interior at Gibson in San Francisco, picture
Photo credit
Photo Courtesy of Alison Christiana
Photo caption
At art deco–inspired Gibson, an exceptional cocktail list accompanies the reasonably priced tasting menu.

San Francisco’s dining scene spans from stylish and spendy—with pricey menus built for tech expense accounts—to fine-casual in the way the City by the Bay does so well, using quality and seasonal ingredients. See which of this year’s new restaurants deserve top billing on your must-try list.

Robin

Sushi lovers who are open to a playful and creative omakase experience should try to snag a seat at the counter of this high-energy restaurant in Hayes Valley with a hip-hop soundtrack. Chef-owner Adam Tortosa and his talented team utilize an innovative palette of flavors such as blood orange kosho (a Japanese paste traditionally made with yuzu, chile, and salt) and foie gras “snow” accenting sustainable, local, and überfresh seafood. The beverage options are also tops—kanpai

China Live

The most high-profile opening of the year, this ambitious “Eataly of Chinese Food” from George Chen features a market restaurant with an extensive and seasonal menu inspired by many regions of China—from the silky, Sichuan “working hands” boiled wontons to Cantonese crackling skin chicken. There’s also a downstairs bar, swank upstairs bar (Cold Drinks), tea café, and culinary retail market. The vivacious restaurant is best with a group, but even solo diners can enjoy a bowl of Taipei beef noodle soup perched at the counter.

Eight Tables by George Chen

Tucked upstairs from China Live is Chen’s high-end dining concept, with just eight tables. The intimate experience is based on si fang cai, or “private chateau cuisine,” offering an elegant, and yes, expensive, tasting menu ($225) served in a secluded and residential setting. It’s a transporting experience—the minimalist design by AvroKO is so thoughtful and calming—while the first course of nine essential Chinese flavors will awaken your senses.

Gibson

Downtown has landed quite the spiffy new restaurant. The art deco–inspired spot boasts one of the city’s best new cocktail lists, and then there’s chef Robin Song’s downright inspired tasting menu (just $65—go now before the price jumps!). Warm bone marrow flan with uni and wild nettles should give you an idea of what to expect from the kitchen. Song’s style is NorCal seasonal meets European sophistication, all done with top-notch ingredients, while somehow remaining affordable—and fun.

Uma Casa

San Francisco finally has a Portuguese restaurant that can help assuage any pangs for pasteis de bacalhau (salt cod fritters) and caldo verde (potato, greens, and sausage soup). Chef Telmo Faria, who was born in the Azores, opened this welcoming restaurant with an airy seaside look in Noe Valley. Uma Casa is priced so right and truly offers something for everyone, including fresh seafood at the raw bar, a pleasant brunch, and fantastic wines and sherry-based cocktails thanks to partner Nora Furst.

three dishes and a cocktail at Villon in San Francisco, picture
Photo credit
Photo: Andrea D'Agosto
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The menu at Villon, in Mid-Market's Proper Hotel, features an eclectic menu of refined dishes.

Ardiana

Another Noe Valley charmer is this Cal-Med-Italian number from Sharon Ardiana (Gialina, Ragazza), who knows how to give the people what they want. In this case, it’s fresh-from-the-oven pita bread with an array of dips (order the Whole Shebang to try as many as possible), tasty seasonal salads, pizzas—including an homage to New York-style and one with Brussels sprouts and bacon—and homey main dishes such as lamb shoulder. It’s casual, busy, and over-delivers for the price.

Rooh

This flashy, progressive Indian restaurant in SoMa has the talented chef Sujan Sarkar at the helm, turning out beautiful dishes—from rustic stuffed kulcha (a naanlike flatbread) to paneer pinwheels—with sophisticated flavor and presentations. The tasting menu ($80) is the way to go, but you can’t go wrong with inventive cocktails and snacks at the bar while parked at bright cobalt blue chairs for happy hour (Mon.–Fri., 4–6 p.m.) or Saturday brunch.

Villon

Definitely one of the most stylin’ locales to open this year, at Villon, your meal begins with your eyes. The loungey, bohemian-chic space is in Mid-Market's recently opened Proper Hotel, so you can come by for a breakfast meeting, weekend brunch, lunch date, or group dinner. (Primo cocktails at the swank bar are also recommended.) Chef Jason Franey offers a sophisticated menu of (mostly) smaller and refined plates, from chicken liver mousse to squid ink tagliatelle to steak tartare.

Duna

Chefs Nick Balla and Cortney Burns (previously of Bar Tartine) are behind this temporary Mission restaurant inspired by Central Europe, with freewheeling and flavor-packed dishes that feel a bit NorCal hippie thanks to seasonal influences (bring on the fermented vegetables). Start with an array of dips and smoked-potato flatbread before moving onto hearty soups or spätzle. The atmosphere is casual and affordable, and special dietary needs are handled with graciousness.

RT Rotisserie

San Francisco is having a rotisserie chicken moment, and Evan and Sarah Rich of the Michelin-starred Rich Table are preparing one of the better birds at their fine-casual offshoot in Hayes Valley. Order a juicy whole or half chicken, and round things out with sides such as rotisserie fat rice, market vegetables, or the RTR salad loaded with herbs. There are also truly excellent sandwiches, including the famed fried chicken with charred cabbage and chipotle yogurt.

the Cubano at Media Noche in the Mission, picture
Photo credit
Photo: Molly DeCoudreaux
Photo caption
Traditional Cubanos are a major draw at the tropical-feeling Media Noche.

Quick Bites

San Francisco didn’t have a place for porky Cubanos and other Cuban favorites until the tropical-feeling Media Noche opened in the Mission. It’s a happy place. 

Destination-worthy Glena’s in Dogpatch features quality tacos (such as al pastor) and a satisfying pozole (all made with organic meats), and killer margaritas. 

At Namu Stonepot, the Lee Brothers are now slinging their signature Korean stone pot dishes in Nopa, plus $12 lunch specials. The fried chicken and Korean tacos are built for late-night hours. 

Casey’s Pizza started as a pizza truck. Now it’s a casual Mission Bay pizzeria, where you can tuck into Casey Crynes’ superior Neapolitan-meets–New York pies, alongside craft beers and local wines. 

Downtown workers are smitten with the New American luncheonette–style of City Counter. Try the tuna melt or the Cobb salad. 

Hit up Dumpling Time for modern fusion takes on traditional dumplings such as the tom yum xiao long bao made with coconut milk and beet wrappers, and green tea and milk buns. Shrimp toast, a classic, is also delicious.

Find more amazing food and things to do in San Francisco.