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10 Hottest New Restaurants in San Francisco

By Virginia Miller
October 13, 2014
Photo by: Virginia Miller

It's been another fine season of new restaurant openings with a wide range of notable newcomers. From a ticketing-system communal dinner to an idyllic, Parisian-inspired cafe from one of the country's great sommeliers, here are 10 of the most exciting openings of recent weeks.

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    Lazy Bear

    Why It's Hot: Its initial opening weeks sold out immediately from their unique ticketing system akin to Alinea and Next in Chicago. Lawyer-turned-chef David Barzelay launched his underground pop-up, Lazy Bear, hosting imaginative tasting-menu dinners that gained a huge cult following (and had long waiting lists). He takes it to the next level in his new brick-and-mortar location in the Mission's former Hi Lo space, which opened at the end of September. Start upstairs with punch cocktails and fine-dining-quality bites in the midcentury-meets-modern loft, then head downstairs to two long communal tables for a unique, shared dining experience.
    Must-Order: It's an ever-changing prix fixe menu of 12-18 courses at $120 per person, with the bread course one of the many highlights (a sample dinner experience here).
    Insider Tip: Tickets are nonrefundable (but transferable) and are released monthly — purchase tickets here.

    3416 19th St.; 415-874-9921

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    Les Clos

    Why It's Hot: Lucky SoMa workers and residents now have the idyllic, Parisian-inspired, all day wine bar/cafe/retail shop which opened late September. Multi-award-winning sommelier Mark Bright of neighboring Saison opened the kind of place he'd want to hang out in, the kind he felt was missing from the neighborhood. He brought on Saison cohorts Chef Shawn Gawle (Saison's pastry chef) and Cellar Master/Sommelier Cara Patricia Higgins to oversee the kitchen and for-purchase wine list respectively.
    Must-Order: Frisée aux lardons ($8/12) salad, perfect French omelet ($12), croque monsieur ($12) on a croissant.
    Insider Tip: Order a glass of fantastic Txomin Etxaniz rosé, crisp and lively with a welcome hint of funk, or a superb red Burgundy, a 2011 T&P Matrot Bourgone Rouge that exemplifies affordable Burgundian Pinot Noir at its best.

    234 Townsend St., 415-795-1422

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    Urchin Bistrot

    Why It's Hot: From the owners of St. Helena's Terra and Bar Terra and Ame in SoMa, Hiro Sone and Lissa Doumani opened the more casual Urchin Bistrot in the former Wo Hing General Store space in the Mission on August 4th. Chef Michael Morrison and GM Susan Naderi Johnston are running the restaurant, having worked with Hiro and Lissa at Ame.
    Must-Order: It's dinner only for now (note the reasonable $50, five-course prix fixe option — $38 for wine pairings — in addition to the à la carte menu), but we'd love to see this as an all-day bistro. Don't miss the mussels treated like escargot in butter and herbs and served in an escargot dish. Here are some other dishes to watch for.
    Insider Tip: The cocktails, some heavy on French spirits, are a highlight, as is the reasonable French-centric wine list.

    584 Valencia St.; 415-861-1844

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    Quince

    Why It's Hot: Fresh off the heels of a summer-long closure, the mighty Quince reopened at the end of September with a complete remodel by local designer Douglas Durkin. Along with a renovated kitchen — now boasting a chef's counter — the revamped space includes two new private dining rooms, an intimate champagne bar and lounge, plus a warmer color scheme and romantic tone. In addition, chef Michael Tusk has launched several new menus, including two prix fixe dinners as well a salon option that offers à la carte dishes priced between $14 and $38 for walk-in guests (an early look at the new space and menus here).
    Must-Order: Caviar service or dishes from the caviar menu; any of Tusk's rightly famed pastas, like a recent fluffy ricotta gnudi with slivers of beets, Sicilian pistachio and horseradish.
    Insider Tip: Don't miss a pour of amaro or Maidera chosen from a cart post-dinner.

    470 Pacific Ave.; 415-775-8500

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    Loló Cevicheria

    Why It's Hot: When Loló relocated to a larger space on Valencia Street, Loló​'s owners took their months-vacant space and opened Loló​ Cevicheria, complete with vibrant, tropical bird-tinged decor and a Mexico-meets-Peru food theme. It's now a mellower alternative to their bustling Loló​ around the corner. A few of the classic dishes are available at the Cevicheria, namely the taco tropical and tuna tacon, while the rest of the menu is a mix between Mexican and Peruvian dishes, the latter thanks to assistant general manager Roberto Bocanegra, whose mother shared her ceviche recipes.
    Must-Order: Tacos de chicharron are heartwarming, made with fresh corn tortillas cradling slow-cooked pork belly in tart, roasted tomatillo salsa over mashed black beans. All three versions of causas — crab, shredded chicken and panko-crusted shrimp — each on a whipped mound of potatoes of different flavors and colors, are a Peruvian standout.
    Insider Tip: Don't miss agave wine "margarita slushies" in changing flavors like tamarind with a salt rim.

    3230 22nd St.; 415-913-7898

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    ABV

    Why It's Hot: Cocktail experts Todd Smith, Ryan Fitzgerald and Erik Reichborn-Kjennerud soft-opened ABV in the former Tokyo Go Go mid-July, featuring a 16-cocktail menu organized by spirit.
    Must-Order: Chef Kevin Cimino, formerly of St. Vincent, is playing with his Southern roots — and many other global inspirations — in the likes of a drool-worthy pimiento cheeseburger and Southern pulled-pork tacos (unofficially dubbed South Carolina carnitas). There are many cocktail highlights, but don't miss the Pina Verde: Tapatio blanco tequila, lime, genepy, pineapple and house orange fennel bitters. Most of the finger foods and cocktails are priced at $10 or less.
    Insider Tip: Another late-night win — hours are 2 PM-2 AM daily.

    3174 16th St.; 415-400-4748

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    Tradesman

    Why It's Hot: Open at the end of July, The Tradesman is East Mission's latest neighborhood bar with upscale food from Zarin Gollogly and Spencer Lafrenz of Harrison Woodworking + Design (they've done custom work for Hog & Rocks, for one), who have been planning this restaurant/bar for years as a locals' hangout. Hog & Rocks’ Scott Youkilis assisted them on creating the menu, while Bryan Baker (of, you guessed it, Hog & Rocks) is the chef.
    Must-Order: Standard-setting peanut butter cheddar burger ($16), fried chicken nuggets ($12) in a Thai chile fish sauce, "broccoli and cheese."
    Insider Tip: GM Curt Polikoff created a thoughtful wine and beer menu, and his wine flights ($14-$20 with three wines each) are a pleasing range of themes from Something in the Air (aromatic whites — currently a pleasing range from Rioja, Alsace and Santa Barbara) to Hella Props to Cali (including wines from great under-the-radar CA regions like Santa Lucia Highlands and the Central Coast).

    753 Alabama St.; 415-814-2276

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    South

    Why It's Hot: Charles Phan's South at SFJAZZ just did a major gear shift — from Cajun cuisine to Mexican food — complete with new chef Rymee Trobaugh and shortening of the name to South. The cocktail list has also made the appropriate shift to rum-, tequila- and mezcal-centric drinks.
    Must-Order: Try juicy puerco (pork from a pot-bellied pig) in salsa verde, mixed with turnips, piquinto beans and pickled onions, or fideo seco, a delicate, comforting noodle dish akin to fideo dishes in Spain, this version subtly cooked with moronga (blood sausage) and marked by mint, fava beans and cotija cheese.
    Insider Tip: We love the Tequila Special cocktail mixing Herencia Blanco Tequila, lime, orange bitters and sugar with a splash of soda.

    205 Franklin St.; 415-539-3905

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    Ferry Plaza Seafood

    Why It's Hot: At the Ferry Building, Hog Island Oyster Co.'s recent expansion meant that Ferry Plaza Seafood's Ferry Plaza Building space got the boot. Thankfully, Ferry Plaza Seafood continues the tradition it started in 2003 in a new space just off Washington Square Park in North Beach. The menu is still heavy on shellfish, but now there are new things to eat too. Chef Joey Ng, who worked for years at the original location, cooks "with love," and one can taste it in the seafood-dominant dishes.
    Must-Order: Green papaya prawn salad ever-so-subtly spicy with chiles, and a top-notch soft shell crab BLT.
    Insider Tip: Take Chef Ng's tip and order a combo of the New England or Manhattan chowder — it's tomato-fresh and creamy.

    653 Union St.; 415-274-2561

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    PABU

    Why It's Hot: Sushi master and chef-owner of long-beloved Hana Japanese Restaurant in Rohnert Park, Ken Tominaga, joined forces with none other than Michael Mina to open PABU at the beginning of July, along with neighboring The Ramen Bar, a fast-casual ramen shop.
    Must-Order: There are plenty of worthwhile izakaya and robata grill dishes, including a stellar squid- and pork belly-studded okonomiyaki. Cocktails and Japanese whiskeys from Mina Group head bartender Carlo Splendorini and lead bartender Nick Jones make an ideal partner. For a splurge ($95), we recommend the fantastic nigiri tasting menu. Read more about it here
    Insider Tip: You've never had sake pairings like those sake master/sommelier Stuart Morris can match with your dishes.

    101 California St.; 415-668-7228

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Places Mentioned

ABV

Bar • The Mission

Atmo.- Decor- Service- CostM
 
 
 
Lolo Cevicheria

Mexican • The Mission

Food- Decor- Service- CostI
 
 
 
South at SFJAZZ

Mexican • Hayes Valley

Food14 Decor13 Service13 Cost$50
 
 
 
Ferry Plaza Seafood

Seafood • North Beach

Food- Decor- Service- CostM
 
 
 
Urchin Bistrot

French • The Mission

Food- Decor- Service- CostM
 
 
 
Lazy Bear

The Mission

Food- Decor- Service- CostE
 
 
 
Quince

Italian • Downtown

Food28 Decor27 Service26 Cost$177
 
 
 
 
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