The first five months of 2016 have seen new restaurants across San Francisco and the entire Bay Area open at what feels like a record-setting pace. With the number of spring openings delayed and the exciting projects in the final stages of development, summer might even eclipse the blistering numbers from earlier in the year. Coming up, SF MoMA gets a visionary restaurant, Los Angeles and the Bay Area will come together for yakitori in Napa Valley, and captivating young chefs are primed for their solo debuts. Get ready, it's going to be a delicious summer.
Photo by Smeeta Mahanti/Tawla/Facebook
Former Delfina chef Joseph Magidow and first-time restaurateur and former Google marketing executive Azhar Hashem are putting the final touches on their eastern Mediterranean restaurant at the SoMa edge of the Mission. The menu will focus on contemporary interpretations of the region’s home cooking, split between smaller mezes, five to six main courses called “ili” and a few larger-format “ilna,” like whole rock cod with spicy walnut stuffing. A substantial bread program is also planned, with a range of pita styles to pair with particular dishes. To drink, the Bon Vivants firm (Trick Dog, Aatxe) is in charge of low ABV cocktails featuring regional appropriate ingredients like za'atar and cardamom. A former Saison sommelier, Garret Nakamura, will oversee the wine and beer selections. Tawla’s space includes a living greenery and latticework wall, turquoise-hued walls, and Arabesque tiles and motifs. The backyard patio will be a popular place for a pre-dinner drink while playing backgammon — after all, “tawla” is a term for both backgammon and table in Arabic.
Where: 206 Valencia St. When: Mid-June.
Photo by Dabba
The Financial District will soon have an intriguing option for fast casual Indian-Mexican street eats that promises edible enlightenment. The name means “lunchbox” in Hindi, which also is the term for a complex food delivery system in Mumbai that brings home-cooked meals to offices for lunch. On that delivery theme, Dabba started with mobile roots, beginning as a surf-board bedecked truck. Now its first restaurant location, the Indian-Mexican hybrid with a relaxed California vibe, promises diners curried lamb paratha flatbread burritos and jerk pork bowls with basmati rice and garbanzo beans. The concept started after tech entrepreneur Andy Mercy and chef Walter Abrams (Spruce, The French Laundry) fell in love with the “Marin-dian” cooking of Ashok Kumar at his almost three-decade old North Bay restaurant Avatar’s (with multiple locations now) and wanted Kumar to bring a more urban appropriate version of Avatar's across the Golden Gate to the city.
Where: 71 Stevenson St. When: July.
Photo by @InSitu_SFMOMA/Twitter
Now that the remodeled SF MoMA is open, it’s almost time for the SoMa museum’s ground floor restaurant to be unveiled. The third concept from chef Corey Lee (Benu, Monsieur Benjamin) takes a unique approach to its menu. In Situ has an extensive roster of 90 chefs from around the world who have lent their recipes, and it will be up to Lee and his kitchen staff to delicately execute a precise replica of the original. Like the art in the museum, the concept will tell a particular story about a place and time through food. Diners might enjoy celeriac and goat cheese profiteroles from Joe Beef in Montreal, then a guinea fowl creation from Nahm in Bangkok. Other marquee chefs involved include Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud and René Redzepi. The space will be divided into a more formal area with roughly 15 à la carte dishes at a time and a casual, communal table-style part with a shorter menu. It’s without question an intriguing concept for a thought-provoking museum.
Where: 151 Third St. When: Late June.
ROOKIES IN THE SPOTLIGHT
The highly anticipated solo debut for chef Kim Alter (Coi, Plum) should land in the red-hot dining neighborhood of Hayes Valley this summer. Diners can expect a frequently updated, four- to five-course tasting menu focusing on a light, produce-friendly cooking style. Preview pop-ups early this year featured dishes such as spot prawns with squash and duck paired with smoky greens. The dining room will seat about 40 diners with a frosted glass partition between the kitchen and tables, so there can be diner-chef interaction without the noise. There will also be a completely different feel in the adjacent seven-seat bar called The Linden Room, inspired by grand, art deco 1930s New York City hotels.
Where: 330 Gough St. When: Mid-Summer.
San Francisco dining just hasn’t been the same since Slow Club closed a year ago. The restaurant had a 24-year run, ushered in the upscale comfort food trend, and helped put the Mission-Potrero area on the city’s dining map. The good news: The venue was sold to very capable hands. Paul Einbund, the wine director for Frances and Octavia, is in charge of its replacement, a new casual neighborhood restaurant (think more like Frances, less like Octavia) with exciting wines, cocktails and beer planned, and with elevated Cal-Med cuisine from chef Gavin Schmidt (previously at Coi where he and Einbund met as colleagues). Schmidt will make his own charcuterie, and his burger will likely match the citywide importance of its celebrated Slow Club predecessor. Expect the space to be more homey and less industrial than before, and most importantly, an effort has been made to reduce the infamous loud noise that came with dinner at Slow Club.
Where: 2501 Mariposa St. When: Mid-Summer.
Photo by The Halal Guys San Francisco/Facebook
The Halal Guys
New York’s beloved street food cart is expanding — really expanding — far beyond its simple roots. Now it’s a franchise with global ambitions, including a duo of Bay Area locations set to open this summer in Union Square and Berkeley. A San Jose location opened at the end of May. All the cafes will serve gyro meat, chicken, or falafel as a pita sandwich or rice plate, accompanied by the much-talked about signature white sauce. San Franciscans have already had a preview taste of the items as delivery this spring and fallen in love with the food. We’ll have to see if the lines are as lengthy as they were when Halal Guys opened late 2015 in Southern California.
Where: 336 O' Farrell St. and 2126 Center St., Berkeley. When: July.
Photo by Tartine Bakery/Facebook
As the longtime signature bakery of San Francisco, equally known for its incredible breads and pastries as the lines at any time of day, Tartine is finally expanding. Don’t worry, it’s not going very far or even outside the Mission — only about a dozen blocks east to the Heath Ceramics complex. The new digs will provide much-needed space for recipe development and will allow Tartine to produce a higher volume of the renowned loaves (and to mill its own flour). The focal point, however, will be the all-day cafe. Count on a wood-burning pizza oven, coffee kiosk, full bar, and a larder section with homemade pickles and preserves. As a bonus for dessert will be the new Tartine Cookies and Cream — yes, a line of frozen desserts. As for the original location, don’t expect many changes, if any.
Where: 555 Alabama St. When: July.
After unveiling its casual cafe companion earlier this year for take-away breakfast and lunch, the more upscale sister restaurant is gearing up for its opening. Corridor is the fourth full-scale project after a trio of initial hits for the Hi Neighbor Restaurant Group (Trestle, Stones Throw, Fat Angel). It will be the important street-level anchor restaurant for the new, soaring 100 Van Ness apartment tower that is already one of the key figures in the rising San Francisco skyline. Seasonal-influenced lunch and dinner will be served in a multilevel dining room with an open kitchen and full bar. One big difference with its peers around the city at this caliber cooking: no table service.
Where: 100 Van Ness Ave. When: June.
WINE COUNTRY DESTINATIONS
Two Birds One Stone
Los Angeles and the Bay Area might have a big baseball rivalry, but the two regions come together this summer with an upcoming Japanese yakitori restaurant. Douglas Keane (Cyrus in Healdsburg) and Sang Yoon (Father's Office and Lukshon in LA) are the team creating the dining destination for St. Helena’s Freemark Abbey Winery as it undergoes extensive renovations for its 130th anniversary. Wood-fired grilled meats and vegetable compositions are the headliner, with produce grown by longtime culinary gardener at The French Laundry, Tucker Taylor. Non-grilled small plates will join those creations, with items like silken tofu with salmon eggs in shiitake mushroom broth and chile-fish sauce-glazed chicken wings. Along with Keane, other former Cyrus personnel will include sommelier Kevin Reilly running the wine program and co-owner and maitre d’ Nick Peyton in charge. The restaurant’s outdoor seating and its own yakitori grill is sure to be a popular valley gathering place for post-wine tasting cocktails and all kinds of chicken skewers like thigh with ponzu and scallions.
Where: 3022 St. Helena Highway N., St. Helena. When: July.
Photo by Jason Jaacks/Single Thread
Sonoma Wine Country is about to get another captivating fine dining option with this eagerly awaited restaurant, farm and inn right off of Healdsburg’s plaza. Husband-and-wife team Kyle and Katina Connaughton’s first solo project together (he runs the kitchen, she is the farmer) will delve deeply into the California terroir with distinct Japanese cooking techniques and inspirations (a preview dinner featured live sea urchin with kujo negi custard and roasted potato purée). Most recently, the chef ran the research and development wing for one of the world’s most experimental restaurants, the Fat Duck, outside of London. His Japanese experience comes from a tenure running Michel Bras’ gastronomic restaurant in Hokkaido, Japan. Dinners will commence at the venue's rooftop garden with snacks and drinks, before heading to the 52-seat dining room for an 11-course kaiseki tasting menu (with three options: omnivore, pescatarian and vegetarian) constantly changing based on ingredients from the restaurant's farm and gardens by the Russian River. Former Saison general manager David Sisler will assume the same role for the restaurant and the wine program is under the supervision of Evan Hufford (Michael Mina, Saison). Also of note, reservations will be sold as tickets online.
Where: 131 North St., Healdsburg. When: July.
BOLD BREWS, BOLD BITES
Loma Brewing Company
After a two-decade run, one of the South Bay’s favorite brewpubs, the Los Gatos Brewing Co., closed its doors last year and was sold to owners with a familiar last name for Bay Area diners and general baseball fans. Restaurateur Scott Youkilis (Hog & Rocks) and his brother Kevin (a former Boston Red Sox player who has a particular passion for craft beers) are the new management team, while master brewer Warren Billups (formerly of Heretic Brewing Co. in the East Bay) is responsible for the house brews. Those beers will range from a light kolsch to seasonal IPAs and make up roughly half of the 14 taps with the other half going to guest beers. The chef is Aubree Arndt who worked for Youkilis at his former San Francisco restaurant Maverick. Beer-appropriate elevated comfort dishes will include flatbreads, smoked chicken wings, and a Loma Burger with aged Wagyu beef, American cheese, caramelized onions, and a “super sauce.” While the vast 7,000-sq.-ft., 150-seat space will undoubtedly become a gathering spot for Bay Area Red Sox fans, it will be a popular choice for local families and the fervent South Bay craft beer community.
Where: 130 North Santa Cruz Ave., Los Gatos. When: Late June.
Photo by Buffalo Theory/Facebook
Filipino cuisine isn’t very prevalent around San Francisco, but it will soon be getting plenty of attention with this highly anticipated return of chef Tim Luym to the city’s dining scene. In the last decade, Luym received rave reviews for his work at Poleng Lounge, blending a nightclub ambiance with creative Asian-inspired plates better than anywhere in the city (and that is still the case). Inventive Filipino palutan (bar bites) will be Luym's cooking focus with globe-spanning complements from Spain, Japan and China. The other key component is a comprehensive beer program of 30 choices on tap selected by Ted Kim, the proprietor of South Bay beer favorite Steins Beer Garden. As for the intriguing name, it's a nod to the TV show "Cheers" on which Cliff Clavin (John Ratzenberger) explains that just like the weakest buffalo are killed first, making the group smaller and sharper, so are the brain’s weakest cells killed off first by alcohol, and "that's why you always feel smarter after a few beers." Whether that theory is true or not, Buffalo Theory will certainly be a notable addition to the always bustling Polk Gulch nightlife corridor.
Where: 1735 Polk St. When: July.