Chef Jonathan Waxman's Favorite San Francisco Eats

The celebrity chef reveals his local haunts
July 28, 2016
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by Zagat Staff

Chef Jonathan Waxman, known most recently for his NYC restaurants Barbuto and Jams, headed back to his old stomping grounds recently to open Waxman's in Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco. When he's not busy behind the stoves, here's where you can find him around town on his nights off.

Cotogna
Italian · Downtown · $$$
Food 4.6 · Decor 4.2 · Service 4.3

"More relaxed" than its sibling Quince next door, this "remarkable" Downtown Italian from Lindsay and Michael Tusk excels thanks to "inventive, beautifully executed" pastas, wood-fired pizzas and more matched with a "rewarding" and affordable wine list that tempers the "expensive" tabs; "spectacular" service keeps the "social" atmosphere humming, and though it's "difficult" to land a table in the "constantly full" (and "loud" ) room, it's definitely "worth the trouble" ; P.S. the family-style "Sunday dinners are a must."
Trou Normand
New American · SoMa · $$$
Food 4.3 · Decor 4.2 · Service 4.1

This SoMa follow-up to Bar Agricole boasts a "gorgeous" interior in the "old Pacific Telephone Building" , where "high ceilings, luxurious booths and a marble bar" (not to mention a covered patio) set the scene for "incredible" housemade charcuterie and other "excellent" New American bites to pair with the "knock-your-socks-off" cocktails and namesake brandies; "cool" and "well-suited to large groups" , it's a "smooth operation" where the "hip crowd and high cost" come as no surprise.
Zuni Café
French · Hayes Valley · $$$
Food 4.6 · Decor 4.2 · Service 4.3

"Emblematic" of San Francisco, this "always-true" Hayes Valley Mediterranean is "still at the top of its game" with an "incredibly well-executed" menu of "delectable" , locally, sustainably sourced seasonal dishes, "fab oysters" and "must-haves" like the "succulent" brick-oven chicken for two; with "expertly mixed cocktails" and "pro" service enhancing a "lively" late-night scene in "stylish" yet "comfortable" duplex digs, it's a "culinary legend" that's perennially "hip and unique."
Tosca Cafe
Cafe · North Beach · $$$
Food 4.2 · Decor 4.2 · Service 4.1

A "wonderful transformation" of a city "landmark" , this longtime North Beach bar is now owned by Ken Friedman and April Bloomfield (NYC's Spotted Pig) who have "kept the best parts" – the red leather booths, checkered floor and vintage murals – and added a "delicious" Italian menu; "knowledgeable" servers keeps the "vibrant scene" humming till late, and even when it gets "pricey" , fans say it still "feels authentic" and are "so glad it survived."
Nopa
New American · Alamo Square · $$$
Food 4.6 · Decor 4.3 · Service 4.4

"The overall buzz has not subsided" at this Alamo Square Californian that’ll "rock your socks" with "earthy" locavore dishes to "dream about" (including "acclaimed" wood-fired burgers) delivered alongside "outstanding cocktails" in an "energizing" duplex space manned by an "efficient" crew; prices are "decent" , brunches are "fantastic" and it's a "favorite late-night spot" , so the "only disappointing thing is the wait."
The Slanted Door
Vietnamese · Embarcadero · $$$
Food 4.6 · Decor 4.3 · Service 4.2

"All that it’s cracked up to be" , Charles Phan’s "vibrant" Embarcadero "icon" still draws "throngs" with its "outstanding" array of "contemporary" Vietnamese dishes fashioned from local, sustainable ingredients and an "interesting wine list" focused on German and Austrian whites; be sure to "make reservations" (or snag a seat at the bar), and don’t mind the "pricey" tabs and "deafening" din since it’s "hard to beat" the "stunning" Ferry Building berth overlooking the bay.
Saison
New American · China Basin · $$$$
Food 4.6 · Decor 4.6 · Service 4.5

"Prepare to be wowed" by "genius" chef Joshua Skenes’ "extraordinary cooking" at this "consistently impressive" China Basin New American, which "redefines excellence" with "incomparable" tasting menus that "delight" even "unapologetic food snobs" ; "immaculate" servers also curate a "superb wine list" in a "beautiful" , open-kitchen setting, and while it’s "stratospherically expensive" , it’s "worth it" to "save up and go – at least once."