May kicked off the 2014 restaurant openings brigade with quite a bang, and the onslaught of newcomers shows no sign of letting up. And we're not just talking San Francisco: spots continue to pop up at a faster clip in the East Bay as well. Here are 10 promising places that - so far - are on track to open this summer. Check back for updates.
1) The Place: Game, 648 Bush St.
The Gist: Taking over the legendary Masa's space on Nob Hill is this slightly less upscale spot, serving "New American Exotic" cuisine. Game meats like bison, Guinea hen and pheasant will be offered alongside wild, line-caught fish, grass-fed beef and a daily game-meat burger. Don't worry, vegetarians: options will be available for you as well. Compared to the former Masa's, the remodeled restaurant will have more natural light and an expanded bar.
The Players: Chef-proprietor Sachin Chopra (of Michelin-starred All Spice in San Mateo) and his wife and business partner, Shoshana Wolff, will team up with executive chef Zack Freitas, also formerly of All Spice.
Drink: The team is taking over Masa's fantastic wine selection. Wolff, a sommelier, will continue curating the wine list and serving her own Wolff & Father wines. There will also be craft classic cocktails with a playful twist.
ETA: Late June/early July
Game owner Sachin Chopra (left) and chef Zack Fritas [Photo credit: Kingmond Young]
2) The Place: ABV, 3174 16th St.
The Gist: In the old Tokyo Go Go space, ABV's opening date keeps getting pushed off, but we're optimistic that it will be worth the wait. Small, playful plates - think ma po sloppy joes - and a heavy cocktail focus will be served up until 1 AM nightly.
The Players: It's an all-star team: Del Maguey brand ambassador Ryan Fitzgerald (he brought Beretta's bar program to fame years back), Erik Reichborn-Kjennerud (owner of Dalva and the Hideout), Todd Smith (one of the founding bartenders at Bourbon & Branch who bartends at The Hideout), and chef Kevin Cimino (who has cooked at the likes of St. Vincent, Bar Tartine, Commonwealth).
Drink: Cocktails will remain approachable, casual and in the $10 range. With the expertise and experience behind this place, they're sure to be well crafted.
3) The Place: Alembic 2.0, 1725 Haight St.; 415-666-0822
The Gist: This has been the Upper Haight's landmark cocktail and dining haven for nearly a decade. But for the past few months the kitchen has been partially shut down, serving a light snack menu as its expansion project nears completion, in keeping with next door's total transformation from iconic movie house (Red Vic) to local purveyors' food court, Second Act Marketplace. The original, tiny Alembic kitchen has been gutted, and a big, new kitchen will feed the expanded dining room.
The Players: Talented Chef Ted Fleury will be able to show off his fantastic cooking in this much larger space. His creative American cuisine will come in the form of small plates and a few large-format plates, like whole fish, lamb shoulder, large rib-eye steak and more.
Drink: The same stellar cocktails and spirits selection, plus Magnolia beers, under the guidance of bar manager extraordinaire Ethan Terry.
ETA: Late June/early July
The Alembic, pre-expansion
4) The Place: Beso, 4058 18th St.
The Gist: Spanish food hits the Castro with creative "fusion" plates like potato croquettes with Worcestershire béarnaise and seasonal paellas. Produce comes from the owners' farm in Napa.
The Players: Nick Ronan and Damien Chabaud-Arnault, owners of nearby Bisou, are opening this sister Spanish restaurant. Both Beso and Bisou mean "kiss" in Spanish and French, respectively.
Drink: Spanish wines will dominate.
5) The Place: Birba, 458 Grove St.
The Gist: "Birba" is Italian for rascal or rogue. This Hayes Valley newcomer attempts to be a playful, communal kind of Italian wine bar with a back garden, like the great wine bars serving small bites in Italy and Spain.
The Players: After creating the wine list at Bar Jules and working as Slanted Door's sommelier for 12 years, Angie Valgiusti is opening her own place, having just reached her Kickstarter goal.
Drink: International wines are the name of the game.
6) The Place: San Francisco Athletic Club, 1750 Divisadero St.
The Gist: In the longtime Tortilla Heights space comes a unique kind of sports bar, which references a historic San Francisco boxing academy in name. The space is all sports: the bar and dining areas will be marked by 28 big-screen televisions and even a bleacher section.
The Players: Miles Palliser and Ezra Berman, of The Corner Store, are opening this spot with Neil Holbrook of Kezar Pub. Their sous chefs Matt Rosson and Sam Kazik are behind the menu.
Drink: There will be reserve-able booths where you can order beer cases straight to your booth in a mini porcelain tub.
7) The Place: Shakewell, 3407 Lakeshore Ave., Oakland
The Gist: Shakewell opens in Oakland's Lakeshore neighborhood with global food heavily leaning towards Spanish-Mediterranean tapas, like the squid salad pictured above. The Bon Vivants design team, who did Trick Dog, will create the decor.
The Players: Beloved chef Jen Biesty and GM/pastry chef Tim Nugent have joined forces to open this convivial gathering place across the Bay. The pair cooked together for years at Scala’s Bistro.
Drink: Though the bar manager has not yet been confirmed, seasonal cocktails will be a strong focus.
8) The Place: The Longbranch, 2512 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley
The Gist: An ode to the beloved rock club Longbranch Saloon, which existed in the early 1970s on the same block of San Pablo Avenue, The Longbranch is going for a welcoming neighborhood-saloon vibe with a rock 'n' roll edge in the former Sea Salt space. Think burgers and feel-good food, with a few elevated dishes for those who want something slightly fancier. In keeping with their theme, they also plan to launch a live music program.
The Players: David Stevenson, executive chef at next-door restaurant Paisan, and Paisan owner Hal Brandel, have re-envisioned the Longbranch space as communal and loungelike, with one small dining area and a shared outdoor patio between the two restaurants.
Drink: There will be a heavy beer focus with 25 craft beers on tap and plenty more by the bottle. A strong selection of American whiskeys will include ryes, bourbons and more.
ETA: July 1
The mighty Kronner Burger
9) The Place: Kronner Burger, 4063 Piedmont Ave.
The Gist: While we miss the candlelit, atmospheric temporary setting inside Bruno’s, which closed in the Mission last year, the new home base for the beloved Kronner burger nears opening on Piedmont Ave.
The Players: Chef Christopher Kronner, former Bar Tartine chef, creator of the Kronner burger and other related fare, like poutine with bone marrow and grilled gem lettuce salad
ETA: Late August
10) The Place: Township, 1542 Broadway, Oakland
The Gist: With an urban farm-to-table focus, this long-awaited restaurant from inner-city urban-farming program City Girl Farms - and their about-to-launch market, City Girl Farmstore - will use produce from the urban farm, some grown on what will be the restaurant's rooftop garden. The rest of the ingredients will come from local purveyors, while all butchery and charcuterie will be done in-house.
The Players: Township is the brainchild of City Girl Farms owner Abeni Massey. Executive chef Allyson Harvie (formerly executive sous-chef at Ragazza, Salt House and Absinthe) will oversee the kitchen.
Drink: From Plum Bar, Crystal Wilnos will run the cocktail program, making house liqueurs like their version of Chartreuse and limoncello from local lemons.
ETA: June 6