A decade is a long time for any business to stay open. And within the volatile restaurant and bar scene — in which constant openings and closings are a given and the latest and greatest are always getting the headlines — a decade can seem more like a century. With this in mind, we took a step back and surveyed San Francisco Bay Area establishments that opened in the mid 2000s (clearly a golden age of dining). The 14 spots we uncovered were not only hits, but they've made an incredible impact on the way we eat and drink. They're all still in their prime — or, dare we say? — even better now in their old age. Read on for a place that changed dining in Healdsburg, a spot that altered our perception of what prix fixe dining means, and a bar that ushered in the speakeasy revolution. Here's to another decade for the whole incredible lot of soon-to-be classics.
San Francisco isn’t an early dining town. That is, unless you're at the $1 oyster happy hour at Bar Crudo from 5 PM–6:30 PM, when seemingly half the city enjoys an early dinner of dozens of herb- and jalapeño-marinated oysters. After a decade in business and seven years at its current NoPa location, this remains the gold standard happy-hour deal. We're also willing to bet that the majority of San Francisco diners learned about crudo at Bar Crudo, which opened in 2005. These days, it seems like just about every new restaurant menu has some form of crudo going on, from mushroom to octopus.
655 Divisadero St.; 415-409-0679
Between this Temescal restaurant’s opening in 2005 and today, how many hundreds of artisan pizzerias have opened in the Bay Area? We can't keep track. Give Chez Panisse alum Charlie Hallowell a lot of credit for that. Here the crust sports the perfect puff and char, and toppings range from the traditional margherita to resolutely fresh and seasonal ones like summer squash and pounded parsley. Hallowell paved the way for Oakland dining too, which proves that if you stick to what you love and add passion and quality ingredients, diners will come.
5008 Telegraph Ave., Oakland; 510-652-4888
It’s safe for Thomas Keller to remove the temporary label from his third Yountville restaurant if he hasn’t already. Opened in 2006, Ad Hoc was supposed to be a placeholder cafe. Fast-forward to the present where Ad Hoc has transformed the prix fixe, family-style, mid-priced genre with its platters of elevated, seasonal comfort food. It’s interactive dining at its best, and it's served at a fraction of the tasting menu price you'll find at older brother, The French Laundry. The one drawback? Nobody wants to share what is considered the best fried chicken in the state, served alternating Mondays.
6476 Washington St., Yountville; 707-944-2487
Indian restaurants continue to be a disappointingly weak genre of San Francisco dining. Fortunately, we have the original Dosa in the Mission (2006) and its enormous and chic younger Lower Pacific Heights sibling (2008) to fill the void. What Dosa has always done so well, besides producing delicious oversized dosas, is churn out a riveting mix of traditional and reinterpreted dishes, all executed to perfection. The likes of spicy potato sliders, lentil fritters in yogurt, and curry leaf scallops manage to be both accessible and aggressive in the best way. Unlike its peers, the cocktail and wine programs are top-tier too.
Pre-Alembic, diners might partner an ice cold martini with a steak, but that was about as far as pairing cocktails with food went in San Francisco (the gastropub craze of pairing craft beer and good food came much later too). From 2006 onward, Alembic could have been a restaurant without cocktails or a bar without much food, and both would have been a destination. The combination of the two in one place is what continues to make the Upper Haight pioneer so special. Don't miss the two mainstays: perfectly balanced cocktails and jerk-spiced duck hearts. Cheers to a decade of special food and cocktails in one place.
1725 Haight St.; 415-666-0802
The menu overwhelms with its dozens of tempting pastas, antipasti, and large courses; yet, every selection from chef Staffan Terje is on the mark. If you have to choose just one focus, look to the agnolotti dal plin, the rustic pappardelle with beef sugo and the rest of the primis since this is pasta of the highest order in a pasta-crazed city (tip: get half portions to sample more). Clean service in the white tablecloth dining room shows how Perbacco, celebrating 10 years this October, is still leading the charge for formal-leaning dining rooms.
230 California St.; 415-955-0663
Dry Creek Kitchen
Leave it to an outsider to recognize the potential in the most important town of Sonoma County's wine country. We imagine the New York chef-restaurateur turned Healdsburg resident Charlie Palmer, a decade ago, wondering why all the good dining has to be over in the Napa Valley when he unveiled his first Northern California project, Dry Creek Kitchen. Today, it still captures the good life pastoral-meets-upscale vibe of the Healdsburg Plaza with dishes like local rabbit triangoli pasta and seared black cod with a yuzu dashi vinaigrette.
317 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg; 707-431-0330
Which came first: Nopa or NoPa? It's a thrill to see the rebirth of the neighborhood mirroring the timeline of the restaurant. Seemingly every dining category garners a superlative for Laurence and Alyson Jossel and Jeff Hanak’s restaurant: the hamburger, roast chicken, cocktails, wine list, late hours, friendly service, brunch and stunningly grand but comfortable two-level dining room. There is no such thing as a perfect restaurant, but Nopa sure is close.
560 Divisadero St.; 415-864-8643
In 2016, chef-owner David Kinch branched out from his Los Gatos flagship with an ode to hometown New Orleans (The Bywater) and a pair of bakeries on par with the Bay Area’s best (Manresa Bread). In the prior decade, Kinch's sole focus was on Manresa, opened in 2002, where his cooking continued to grow more and more spectacular, thanks to things learned on his frequent trips to Japan and the hyper-seasonal ingredients pulled from Love Apple Farms, Manresa's partner garden. What Chez Panisse did last century for seasonal California cooking, Kinch and his team are doing today with incredible devotion to the natural bounty and global bent of the Bay Area — and this after a fire temporarily closed the restaurant in 2014, failing to stop the spirit of Manresa.
320 Village Ln., Los Gatos; 408-354-4330
Bourbon & Branch
Today, craft cocktails are synonymous with dark, intimate speakeasys, but the secret bar was a completely foreign concept in the Bay Area prior to this Tenderloin bar’s opening in 2006. It still is a heavyweight on the scene for the cocktail classics with a twist and, yes, still requires a not-so-secret password for access because it's still Prohibition, right? Additionally, it launched one of the Bay Area’s most unique bar groups, Future Bars, with themes of tiki, newspapers and pharmacies opening in subsequent years (Pagan Idol, Local Edition, The Devil’s Acre).
501 Jones St.; 415-346-1735
Looking for the definition of wine country dining? Head to this inn and restaurant in idyllic, slow-paced Forestville (Russian River Valley), which opened in 2001 and has remained on point ever since. Outside there's a Zen garden and Adirondack chairs in a yard, with vineyards running for miles behind you. Then indoors, everything is posh without being stuffy in the dining room, from the strong and nicely priced wine list to a tiny raw scallop amuse-bouche. Chef Steve Litke has done masterful work bringing global influences to the Cali-French repertoire, where halibut gets a lemongrass-coconut emulsion and cardamom carrots and chickpea vadouvan elevate octopus à la plancha.
7871 River Rd., Forestville; 707-887-3300
Sam’s Chowder House
The Bay Area is 100% Dungeness crab territory, yet we have a soft spot for the lobster rolls of New England too. Sam’s proves that a lobster roll can be just as special looking at the Pacific as the Atlantic — literally, the restaurant is on a cliff above the water. The butter-drenched lobster roll can now be found in Palo Alto and bought off roving trucks, and a decade later it has yet to be matched by the growing Bay Area competition.
4210 Cabrillo Hwy N., Half Moon Bay; 650-712-0245
The Tenderloin had plenty of local bars a decade ago, but nothing in the same league as Rye when it comes to seasonal ingredients and homemade syrups and juices. Rye resides in the space where neighborhood bar meets noteworthy cocktail bar — the drinks are shaken and stirred with precision, yet the bar feels like just a small step above a dive. You can chill out and drink well. The bar hasn't changed much over the years, while the surrounding neighborhood has rapidly gentrified. Note also how Rye's mobile bar program, Rye on the Road, has immensely improved our drinking at private events and food truck gatherings over the past few years too.
688 Geary St.; 415-474-4448
A Mexican restaurant without burritos? How could this be? These days — thanks to a flurry of regional Mexican openings the past few months (Cala, Fenix, Californios) — that's not so unusual, but a decade ago most diners had never considered a burrito-free Mexican restaurant. Mamacita still brings the party in the Marina with its excellent margaritas, prawns al pastor tacos, and intense seven-layer carnitas and cheese, robust in flavors and using the freshest local ingredients. Mamacita’s sibling Padrecito in Cole Valley (2013) is just as impressive as the original.
2317 Chestnut St.; 415-346-8494