In the Bay Area, fall doesn’t mean colorful foliage and cooler temperatures, like it does for much of the country. Instead, the season ushers in our warmest weather and more than a few restaurant openings. We have a new fine-dining spot in Healdsburg to look forward to, as well as San Francisco’s first fast-casual option to devote itself fully to the chicken sandwich. The city will add even more izakayas and learn more about the less familiar cuisine of Portugal. Take a look at all the hot openings in San Francisco this fall.
The wait is almost over, Sonoma County. Husband-and-wife, Kyle and Katina Connaughton, are launching their first solo project together (he runs the kitchen, she is the farmer), combining an upscale inn and marquee dining destination right off Healdsburg’s Plaza. Previously, chef Connaughton ran the research and development wing for one of the world’s most experimental restaurants, London's Fat Duck. Before that, he spent time leading the kitchen of Michel Bras’ gastronomic restaurant in Hokkaido, Japan. The pair's 11-course kaiseki tasting menu (with three options: omnivore, pescatarian and vegetarian) 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). Ingredients will be hyper-seasonal and sourced heavily from the restaurant’s own farm and gardens nearby. Diners will start on the rooftop garden with snacks and drinks, before heading to the 52-seat dining room. Also on board are general manager David Sisler (Saison) and wine program lead Evan Hufford (Michael Mina, Saison). Single Thread will also be one of the first non-San Francisco restaurants in the Bay Area where reservations are sold as tickets online.
Where: 131 North St., Healdsburg. When: July.
With a series of openings in early 2016 including Horsefeather and Ju-Ni, NoPa gets another key addition from two chefs who previously worked at New York’s renowned Eleven Madison Park. Che Fico will be a hip Italian taverna by chef David Nayfeld (a Bay Area native) and James Beard-winning pastry chef Angela Pinkerton, along with partner Matt Brewer who comes to the project from Chicago. The restaurant and its bar will take over the second floor of a former auto body shop. Plans call for charcuterie and pastas made in-house, Neapolitan pizza and other rustic Italian specialties mingling with California influences. Over the summer, Nayfeld and Pinkerton have been running a pop-up series in the Mission called Mission D&A featuring a rotating series of themes (Eastern European–Jewish and Parisian bistronomy for example) that showcase their creative imagination but aren’t meant to be a preview of Che Fico’s menu. Still, we’re expecting the same excitement to be generated by the restaurant as the pop-ups.
Where: 834 Divisadero St. When: Late fall.
Hitachino Beer & Wagyu/Facebook
The izakaya and fried chicken sandwich trends aren’t stopping
Hitachino Beer & Wagyu
Just when you thought the craft beer scene in San Francisco was at peak greatness, here comes another world heavyweight. Japan’s Hitachino is following in the footsteps of Copenhagen’s Mikkeller and opening its first American outpost, this one in Lower Nob Hill. Hitachino’s beers and rice ales are already beloved in the city and served at many of the better beer bars and izakayas around town. Soon you can get them from the brewery itself at its own 45-seat izakaya. Ten beers will be on tap and brewed exclusively for this location. Soak up the brews with raw Wagyu beef dishes, cold snacks pickled bar bites. The chef-partner is former Nombe chef Noriyuki Sugie.
Where: 639 Polk St. When: September.
The answer to the age-old question of where is the best sushi bar and izakaya in San Francisco has always been tricky. It's really Sushi Ran, just across the Golden Gate Bridge in Sausalito. After staying put for three decades, the restaurant owners are about to open their first expansion project, Nomica, in the Castro’s former Pesce space, seating roughly 100 diners. The modern Japanese eating and drinking house is named for both its neighborhood area (short for New-Mission-Castro) and as a reference to “drinking house” in Japanese. On cue, there will be sake and beer to go around, plus cocktails made with the Okinawan spirit, awamori.
Where: 2223 Market St. When: September.
Chicken is the bird of the hour for the upcoming SoMa cafe promising “fast food with attitude.” It’s the latest project from Adriano Paganini’s Back of the House group (Super Duper, Beretta, Belga). Later in the fall, the busy group will be opening a full-service restaurant in Cow Hollow, taking over the prime space vacated by Betelnut. The Bird will be, by our estimation, the first fried chicken sandwich–centric shop in San Francisco, using only local, free-range birds.
Where: 115 New Montgomery St. When: Early October.
Courtesy of Finn Town
They’re not gastropubs; they’re restaurants with great drinks
With his first restaurant Market & Rye closing at the end of the month after a five-year run in Potrero Hill, Ryan Scott is shifting his focus to the Castro with a new tavern serving playful versions of tried-and-true comfort food. Expect crab tots and Gruyere popovers to start and more substantial items like Buffalo-style rock shrimp and sweet tea–brined fried chicken. Speaking of fried chicken – don’t worry Market & Rye fans because that beloved crispy fried chicken sandwich will be moving with Scott to Finn Town. Food will be served late and weekend brunch will be on offer, a welcome addition to this brunch-loving neighborhood. With two bars and communal tables as part of the room, snacks and cocktails will be a key part of the experience. Cocktails will split between rotating libations and a signature “Down Low Cocktails” section (drinks with a particular “kick”). As for the Finnish part, don’t expect Finland cuisine served. The name is a nod to how the Castro apparently was known as Finn Town in the mid-19th-century.
Where: 2251 Market St. When: October.
After a two-decade run, the pioneering Potrero Flats restaurant Slow Club closed last year, and the building’s next tenant is almost ready for show time. Paul Einbund, the wine director for Frances and Octavia, and chef Gavin Schmidt (the two met while working at Coi) are in charge of the upcoming casual neighborhood restaurant concept (think more like Frances, less like Octavia), named for Einbund’s grandfather. Schmidt will make his own charcuterie, a burger (Slow Club was known for its burger after all) and some hearty selections like roasted coffee and honey-glazed duck. As you’d expect, wine will be a focal point from Einbund with a California emphasis. The room has brightened up from its Slow Club days with a white stone bar and white ash table tops to better show off the colors of the wines being poured. The mid-sized dining room will seat 40 with a bar, with eventual outdoor seating. There's also said to be a big effort to clamp down on the dining room noise Slow Club was known for.
Where: 2501 Mariposa St. When: Mid September.
Abnormal settings: grocery store counters and backyards
Oakland’s excellent traditional Mexican restaurant near Jack London Square just had a major menu revamp, switching to a large selection of street food antojitos followed by a couple family-style large plates. Next up for Nido: a new restaurant nearby, taking over an old parking lot with repurposed shipping containers. The centerpiece of Nido’s Backyard is an outdoor adobe grill for meats and vegetables to go in tacos, quesadillas and on their own in plates. The grill will be accompanied outside by two bars serving Nido’s margaritas (some of the best in the whole Bay Area per our extensive tastings) and plans also call for the bar to be a rotating pop-up for cocktail makers.
Where: 104 Oak St., Oakland. When: Late fall.
Switching gears from their prior restaurant, Reverb in Russian Hill, chef-partners Ryan Shelton and Madison Fraser have a unique project that changes from day to night. In the evening, Merchant Roots will have two dinner services at an eight-seat chef’s counter three nights a week. The tasting menus will take advantage of Shelton’s Italian background and formal French chef training. In the daytime, when the sun or fog is out, the merchant component emerges with housemade pastas and charcuterie, along with wine, beer, and take-away home meal kits sold in the craft grocery market.
Where: 1365 Fillmore St. When: Late November.
Regional California meets other cuisines
San Francisco eagerly awaits the fall unveiling of its first full-scale restaurant that looks to Portugal for inspiration. The 85-seat Noe Valley restaurant is the dream turned reality of Telmo Faria, a partner and co-founder of Tacolicious and native of Portugal’s Faial Island (one of the Azores Islands). Faria really wants the restaurant (vacant since Incanto and its short-lived successor Porcellino closed) to feel like a home away from, hence the name reference, which is also the title of a famous Portuguese fado song). Everything from the kitchen will be meant for sharing and be a mix of contemporary and traditional Portuguese cuisines, adapted to California’s ingredients. Small plates will include housemade fresh cheese and bread, salt cod fritters (beloved in Portugal) and prawns Mozambique. Larger dishes are set to include piri piri chicken and pork and clam stew. And the seasons will dictate several new dishes, of course. On the beverage side, the wine list will be 90% Portuguese along with several port wines and Madeiras. With no full-liquor license, cocktails are expected to be low ABV but as creative as the high proof colleagues elsewhere.
Where: 1555 Church St. When: Late October.
August One Five
Contemporary Indian cuisine meets California at this upcoming restaurant near Civic Center. It’s the idea of owner Hetal Shah, who previously worked in the advertising sector and owned the restaurant Red Hot Chili Pepper in San Carlos. The chef is Manish Kumar Tyagi, who was previously at Rasika in Washington, DC, which is often considered the country’s finest Indian restaurant. Dishes will be inspired primarily by Northern India’s regions and Shah’s childhood in the Indian city of Bangalore, all incorporating the ingredients and techniques of San Francisco today. Drinks-wise, look forward to cocktails with Indian flavors and spices.
Where: 524 Van Ness Ave. When: Mid fall.
Unnamed Cajun restaurant
Switching from burgers to the Bayou, restaurateur Alvin Garcia and chef Adam Rosenblum (the duo behind Causwells and Popson's Burgers) are heading to the Mission’s former Hapa Ramen address via Louisiana for their still unnamed Cajun restaurant and bar. The good times will roll with gumbo, crawfish boils, housemade Andouille sausage and shrimp and grits amongst the culinary staples of NOLA and its surrounding regions. Rosenblum has experience with the cuisine from his days cooking for the highly regarded chef Donald Link in New Orleans. The festive 60-seat space is designed by one of the city’s power firms, Arcsine. The space won’t be over-the-top NOLA theme-wise, but renderings call for a mossy green ceiling, Garden District shutters, ferns and a zinc bar. Oh, how could we forget the drinks? Plans include Sazeracs, boozy slushies and hurricanes.
Where: 2293 Mission St. When: October.