After a relatively quiet spring opening season (by San Francisco standards), summer is looking like a blockbuster. Many of the region's most popular restaurants and chefs — including Lazy Bear, The Restaurant at Meadowood, Rich Table and Atelier Crenn's Dominique Crenn — have new concepts to unveil. Meanwhile, creative solo debuts, like Robin with its Californian omakase experience, are approaching opening night. Of course, we can also expect long lines and headlines for Nobu and Ippudo. Get ready for a delicious summer via these 28 restaurants.
Courtesy of Mockingbird
ETA: Early June
After three years on the outskirts of Uptown, Oakland's charming neighborhood bistro, Mockingbird, will shift to its newer, larger 4,200-square-foot Downtown home. Diners can look forward to a similar approachable seasonal menu with large plates like slow cooked pork sugo with Manchego cheese and rosemary polenta, or starters like duck liver mousse with local strawberry and rhubarb jam. Fear not, the signature fried Brussels sprouts are making the trip too. It will be dinner only to start (eventually adding breakfast, counter-service lunch and weekend brunch), complemented by classic cocktails at the 20-seat concrete-topped bar. The grand, multilevel space has a distinct industrial motif with exposed–red brick walls, Douglas fir wooden floors and steel beams.
416 13th St., Oakland; 510-290-0331
The Brass Rabbit
ETA: Late May
Chef Shane McAnelly and his team from Chalkboard are reinventing one of Healdsburg's most iconic restaurants, Bistro Ralph, which recently closed after a 24-year run. The atmosphere, from the dining room to the front-door patio on the Plaza, received a complete renovation with a retro flair. McAnelly will offer a seasonal supper club menu (think English pea agnolotti with grilled shrimp, charred carrots and pickled ramps, or grilled halibut a la plancha with baby artichokes), plus a throwback nightly special (hello, lobster thermidor). The kitchen boasts a six-foot Argentinean-style wood-burning grill, a plancha and a rotisserie, so you can count on open-fire fare. The bar menu will mix classic cocktails with more adventurous options, like martinis with foie gras–stuffed olives.
109 Plaza St., Healdsburg; 707-431-1380
ETA: Late May
You've tried the porcini donuts and sardine chips. Now, Rich Table's second project will focus on roasted chicken, porchetta and cauliflower as the headliners; customers order any of the three as a sandwich or a salad, then select from sauces that might include Douglas fir yogurt, chimichurri or aji amarillo salsa. Bites include individually baked plancha bread, creamed kale and sorrel, and umami fries. RT's inspiration for this hearty, nourishing fare? It's the kind of meal husband-and-wife chef-owners Evan and Sarah Rich cook up to refuel after a ski trip. The venue is a 1,200-square-foot Hayes Valley space just a block from the flagship, but unlike the original, RT-Rotisserie will be open all day (11 AM–9 PM).
Fisher’s Cheese & Wine
ETA: Early June
It’s hard to believe, but Southern Marin will finally get its first cheese shop — and it's got a whole lot more than cheese. The cafe and retail shop project in Larkspur's Marin County Mart (convenient for picking up picnic goods after arriving on the ferry) will focus on cheese-focused dishes, salads and sandwiches (including grilled cheese, we assume), plus a wine shop, a catering company and a cheese classroom. Kiri Fisher, the owner of The Cheese School of San Francisco, is behind the project, which she's debuted at the area’s Saturday farmer’s market with made-to-order sandwiches. Celebrated architect Wiley Price (State Bird Provisions, Ramen Shop) is designing the Scandinavian-inspired interior.
2201 Larkspur Landing Circle, Larkspur; 415-779-2201
Next door to her recently remodeled Cow Hollow flagship, Atelier Crenn, Dominique Crenn will open her third and most informal concept in the former Cellar Door wine bar. On cue, it retains the wine bar concept so it works as a casual dining destination or a stopover before the main event next door; the two spaces share a rear walkway and courtyard. Along with the customary cheese and charcuterie, there will be small plates and possibly a few more substantial dishes to share, all channeling classic French techniques and Crenn’s creativity. To drink, there's a roster of biodynamic and natural wines, plus low ABV cocktails.
ETA: Mid summer
The popular Jewish delicatessen is traveling across the Golden Gate Bridge for its first location outside SF. It will take over the former Miette Patisserie space in Larkspur’s Marin Country Mart. The menu will be similar to the Fillmore's Wise Sons Bagel & Bakery, with bagel sandwiches and plenty of house-cured pastrami, plus a few more salads and new items. Since last summer, Wise Sons has had a stand at the farmer's market here; soon Marin residents can get their favorites daily.
Courtesy of 4505 Burgers & BBQ
4505 Burgers & BBQ
ETA: Mid summer
Oakland gets its branch of 4505, SF’s most popular barbecue, in the former Glenn's Hot Dogs roadhouse-style venue, where it will add an outdoor seating area. The menu will be almost exactly the same as the SF location, which means plenty of barbecue meat plates and sandwiches, sides like the infamous frankaroni and, of course, the Best Damn Cheeseburger, which many diners consider aptly named. Two major differences with the SF restaurant: Oakland adds cocktails to the existing beer and wine menu, and will roast a whole hog daily.
ETA: Mid summer
Hayes Valley is one of SF's hottest dining neighborhoods, and Japanese omakase remains one of the city's hottest dining trends. The two come together at Robin, courtesy of Adam Tortosa, the original chef at 1760. His menu there was globe-spanning small plates — but after spending time as a chef at Union Square’s excellent sushi spot, Akiko’s, he's offering this sushi-heavy omakase spot with Californian flair. With just 30 seats, it will be intimate but with a livelier ambiance than the usual serene sushi bar, with more accessible pricing. The California touch will be felt in everything from the local fish (unlike most of its peers sourcing heavily from Japan) to the Bay Area ceramics to the local produce used in garnishes and sauces (like the blood orange in the yuzu kosho).
ETA: Late May
Homemade Chinese and Japanese dumplings with a California influence — paired with the requisite beer — are the theme for this SoMa newcomer from the Omakase Restaurant Group (Omakase, Okane). There will be a range of dumpling shapes (har gow, Xi'an-style, gyoza, xiao long bao) and fillings (seafood, heritage pork, lamb, Wagyu beef, chicken, vegetarian). Some dumplings will also have creative skins (purple beet or spinach, anyone?). Diners can round out a meal with sides like shrimp toast or steamed buns with sweet or savory fillings. In a nod to the communal vibe at Asia's night markets, the 70-seat restaurant will include an outdoor patio and long table seating.
Lazy Bear gets a spin-off, and the Mission scores another hip destination: A few blocks from the prix fixe star (from chef-owner David Barzelay and bar manager Nicolas Torres) comes this new cocktail-focused project. The atmosphere, food and price point will be more accessible and bar oriented than Lazy Bear's, but the experimental American ethos remains intact. Drinks in the lofty space (formerly The Tradesman) might include the Stalk Market, a martini take involving London Dry gin, chamomile and manzanilla sherry. Food, served until 2 AM, will include riffs on city classics, like uni nachos with avocado and popcorn cotija, or Dungeness crab and cheddar fondue with crudités and toast. A separate area seating just eight to 10 guests will require tickets to taste through roughly five elaborate drinks paired with seasonal, creative light bites (think a straight corn whiskey cocktail with a corn cob reduction, sherry and blackberry, paired with venison jerky and blackberry corn nuts). These are light bites, so you'll still have room for more à la carte eats at the bar.
753 Alabama St.
ETA: Mid summer
The former SoMa wine bar Les Clos is about to become a reinvigorated wine bar and raw bar thanks to the Big Night Restaurant Group (Leo’s Oyster Bar, The Cavalier, Park Tavern, Marlowe). It’s full circle for this team since, though they've expanded far beyond the neighborhood, the original Marlowe location was just two blocks away from this Townsend Street address. Star designer Ken Fulk will give the small space a sharp refresh, with lots of Parisian accents like a marble bar, plush banquettes and Paris flea finds. Besides the raw bar, Jennifer Puccio’s food will be simple small plates like cheese, charcuterie, salads and steak tartare (the famous Marlowe burger will not be served). Les Clos co-owner Mark Bright (Saison) will stay on as a wine advisor with his specialty, Burgundy, a star of the wine list.
ETA: Early summer
The Tri-Valley gets an exciting all-day newcomer later this summer from a chef-owner with an impressive bi-coastal résumé. Most recently, Matt Greco served as chef at The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards in Livermore. Prior to coming west, he cooked for big-name New York chefs Daniel Boulud, Andrew Carmellini and Gray Kunz. The Pleasanton restaurant will reside in a 1930s Spanish Colonial–style house, complete with an open kitchen and lots of outdoor patio seating (with a pergola involved). Seasonal Californian breakfast, lunch and dinner will be offered with many items made in-house, including breads, charcuterie and sodas.
377 Saint Mary St., Pleasanton
Courtesy of The Treasury
Unnamed project from The Treasury team
The Mission’s former Range space is being renovated from its sleek, homey origins into a casual midcentury-modern bar with approachable but exciting chef-driven bites. Range's chef and co-owner Phil West teams up with his “restaurant family” from FiDi's The Treasury, cocktail star Carlos Yturria and chef Arnold Eric Wong on the project. The menu is still in development but promises to be much more than the Mission's version of The Treasury.
ETA: Late July
Sarah Trubnick and Manny Hewitt’s wine bar/restaurant duo, The Barrel Room (FiDi and Oakland’s Rockridge neighborhood) will become a trio this summer, taking over the former Scotland Yard address in the heart of the Marina. Former Bouche and Michael Mina chef Danny Murcia will be chef de cuisine for this location, with a menu highlighting food and wine combinations (the name means "pairings" in Esperanto). All dishes will list both a complementary and a contrasting pour. A moderately priced themed tasting menu will be available, along with the regular à la carte selections and extensive raw bar — plus a wine list (by the glass or half glass) that's 50 deep.
Courtesy of The Charter Oak, photography by Kelly Puleio
The Charter Oak
ETA: Mid June
Chef Christopher Kostow and front-of-house director Nathaniel Dorn of The Restaurant at Meadowood will unveil their more casual concept in St. Helena’s former Tra Vigne venue at the beginning of summer. Kostow skips the elaborate tasting menus and opts for a family-style experience with seasonal, approachable flavors, lots of produce from Meadowood's garden and hearth-cooked dishes. Renovations by Kostow, Dorn and Napa's celebrated architect Howard Backen call for an outdoor patio, bar, communal table and an airy brick-exposed dining room with custom oak tables and a massive overhead chandelier.
1050 Charter Oak Ave., St. Helena; 707-963-4444
Heading from their prior restaurant, Reverb on Polk Street, to another busy thoroughfare, (engaged) co-owners Ryan Shelton and Madison Fraser have a unique, small (only 1,000 square feet) project on deck in the Fillmore that changes from day to night. Evenings will feature two dinner services, three times a week at The Chef's Table at Merchant Roots; these creative seasonal tasting menus (rotating every four to six weeks) are from Shelton and his chef de cuisine, David Murphy, who was the opening chef at Whitechapel. (Remember that playful Anglo-Dutch-Bangladeshi menu?) In the daytime, the merchant component emerges with housemade pastas and charcuterie, sold along with wine, beer and takeaway home meal kits.
1365 Fillmore St.
Courtesy of Ippudo
Yes, the Bay Area just can't get enough ramen, so there's room for this worldwide ramen heavyweight: Ippudo is coming to Berkeley for its first West Coast location. Amidst a rustic wood-heavy decor, diners can expect the chain’s beloved rich tonkotsu bowls and smaller izakaya plates like pork steamed buns. It’s part of a shared work office complex that will also house a new Blue Bottle Coffee shop. A San Francisco location will open later in 2017 on SoMa’s Yerba Buena Lane.
Last year, SF diners were willing to drive to rural Marin County's Rancho Nicasio to sample chef Ron Siegel's cooking during his limited residency at the rustic saloon's Western Room (talk about high-end dining in casual surroundings). The celebrated chef — he ran the kitchens for Michael's Mina's flagship, the much-missed Masa's and The Dining Room at Nob Hill's Ritz Carlton (now Parallel 37), and was the first American to win Iron Chef two decades ago — will finally have his own restaurant. Siegel lives in Marin County and decided on a location much closer to home in quiet San Anselmo for this project. Diners can expect seasonal Cali-Japanese dinners, with less formality than his prior city stops.
Courtesy of Nobu Restaurants
Big news for sushi fans: Nobu Matsuhisa is coming to the Bay Area. His first Northern California restaurant will be in Palo Alto's Epiphany Hotel, replacing Lure + Till. Bay Area diners can expect the famous Nobu formula that has been a celebrity magnet from Malibu to London: Japanese-Peruvian cooked and raw fish dishes in chic, minimal digs, here sporting roughly 60 to 70 seats. This is Palo Alto's first big-name chef since Wolfgang Puck's Spago closed in 2007. Though dinner is the draw here, breakfast and lunch also will be offered.
180 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto
Luckily, we’ve seen lots of food trucks become brick-and-mortar success stories. San Francisco’s first pizza truck will get a permanent home after five years roving the streets. With full service, the 30-seat restaurant in the rapidly growing Mission Bay area will have a rustic look, with custom booths and tile accents. Diners can look forward to eight signature thin-crust pies, complemented by seasonal salads and housemade desserts. Craft beer leads the drink menu, with plans for collaborative brews with local breweries (given owner Casey Crynes’ close ties to that community).
The Roof at Twenty Five Lusk
The relentlessly popular SoMa bar/restaurant will unveil its first ever addition: a rare San Francisco rooftop bar. Dishes and drinks will be casual favorites (lobster rolls, oysters, margaritas by the pitcher, boozy slushies). The Roof will also have a wood-fired pizza oven, so look for pies like one topped with prosciutto, arugula, fig, pistachio and Point Reyes bleu cheese. On game nights, TVs will make sure guests won't miss the Giants' action across the street. The space gets points for two über-SF touches: a living green wall and windscreens to block out chilly gusts.
The Dogpatch’s Minnesota Street Project will get a marquee dining component: a 45-seat sequel (but not quite a twin) version of Daniel Patterson’s Alta CA in Mid-Market. Diners at the gallery and visual arts destination can look forward to similar market-driven Californian fare; daily breakfast and lunch will be counter service, with full service and small plates for dinner. Matt Brimer will serve as executive chef, coming off of Haven, Patterson's newly closed restaurant in Oakland.
Cocktail options in the Mission keep getting better. Proprietor Thad Vogler of Bar Agricole and Trou Normand has a third project in the works heading to 24th Street (close to the BART station), which will focus on rum and its history in Africa and the Caribbean. Food, drinks and atmosphere lean on those influences but will be much simpler and intimate than Vogler’s other spots; think bar first, food second. Test dishes at a recent pop-up at Bar Agricole included chicken wings, maduro plantains, rum-pickled pineapple and shredded beef ropa vieja empanadas.
Eight Tables by George Chen
ETA: Late June
On the heels of China Live’s shop, cafe and Market Restaurant, it’s almost time to unveil the next step in the ambitious 30,000-square-foot Chinatown project. Eight Tables is the space's crown jewel for owner George Chen, who offers an intimate prix fixe destination with, yes, eight tables in total. It will have a separate entrance on the second floor of China Live. James Beard Award–winning AvroKo (winner this year for Healdsburg’s Single Thread) is responsible for all of the airy, modern design plans.
After several delays, Namu Gaji's stonepot-centric fast-casual restaurant is finally set to open in NoPa in the former Jay's Cheesesteaks. Diners in the high-volume venue will order directly from the chefs themselves, then sit at tables to be served. Recent pop-ups previewed the menu, which included a traditional bibimbop (with the option to add bulgogi), a smoked pork donburi rice bowl and kimchi and tofu stew with pork belly and bacon. Menu plans also call for a gluten-free Japanese fried chicken and communal ramen pots. The team's noodle shop is also anticipated for the Dogpatch towards the end of the year.
Courtesy of Serpentine
The Dogpatch's original, neighborhood-changing bistro and cocktail bar turns 10 this year — and is celebrating with a few refreshes. A new chef-owner, Tommy Halvorson, will lead a decor and menu shift this summer. As a Kentucky native, Halvorson will steer the menu in a Southern, Cajun and Low Country direction. That said, expect a similar emphasis on craft cocktails and a mix of energetic bar seating and more relaxed table seating in the compact yet high-ceilinged space.
2495 3rd St.; 415-252-2000
Salt & Straw Ice Cream/Facebook
Salt & Straw
ETA: Mid summer
San Francisco’s already top-tier ice cream scene got even sweeter with the spring's SF debut on Fillmore in Lower Pac Heights by this fun-loving Portland-based purveyor. Next stop: Hayes Valley. Just like at the Fillmore location, everything is made in-house, from the waffle cones to the pecan pie in the autumnal apple brandy and pecan pie flavor. Ice cream lovers can also expect the shops' signature flavors including Sea Salt with Caramel Ribbons, creative sundaes, plus only-in-SF creations like Rhubarb Crumble with Toast Anise.
ETA: Early summer
You no longer have to venture to San Rafael or plan around Off the Grid's hours to enjoy a Crodough or Orange You Glad raised donut from Johnny Doughnuts. The homemade donuts, often considered the best in the Bay Area (and most prolific, with over 25 flavors at any given time) are coming to a ground-floor shop in a new Hayes Valley condo building. They've also got wheat-free “frittah things” plus vegan sweet potato–based versions. Equator coffee will be available at the full barista bar. Johnny Doughnuts will also open an outpost in Larkspur's Marin County Mart later this year.