A new mid-year crop of restaurants has flooded the Bay Area, and there's plenty of eating to do across the region. Napa Valley has seen not one but two excellent Japanese-inspired destinations open recently. And don't miss In Situ, at the remodeled version of SFMOMA; it's one of the city's most innovative dining concepts to date. As these 10 hot restaurants prove, it's a great time to be dining in the Bay Area.
Must-order: Mar y montaña tower; paella dividida (pluma and fideua); El Charro cocktail, a banana-sherry-bourbon Manhattan
Insider tip: Are you bored eating just one type of paella at a time? Bellota understands the yearning for variety. The restaurant has a special dual-paella pan that keeps two paellas separated. Bring some friends and have a feast.
Must-order: Corn sope; braised goat birria; seasonal sangrias
Insider tip: This is the rare new restaurant emphasizing main course–sized dishes. Those large plates are worth it on their own, but the highlight might be the many complimentary little sauces, sides and condiments (called "tastes") that arrive. Look for spicy grilled pineapple, a Yucatan pumpkin seed spread and some of the best freshly pressed corn tortillas in the city.
Must-order: Pork xiao long bao; pork buns; noodles with sesame sauce
Insider tip: It's not impossible to score a reservation (it's far more challenging to walk in and be seated quickly). From our experiments, weekday lunch is best for prime tables, but dinner is possible with about two weeks notice for a 7 PM reservation.
Must-order: Octopus and the Coral (braised octopus with seaweed); The Forest (quinoa and mushroom risotto); summery warm tomato and basil tart (lounge only)
Insider tip: Just because you're visiting the museum doesn't mean you get special access to In Situ. Hundreds of museum-goers get turned away at the door daily. Reserve, reserve, reserve if you want to sit at a table. However, the lounge usually has space and is good for snacks, a good way to sample the fun and creativity on full display in the dining room.
Must-order: Shoyu pork ramen; nanban zuke cold ramen with pickled sardines; pork gyoza
Insider tip: Ramen doesn't have to be a heavy, salty, pork-centric noodle soup. Itani's two cold ramen options (one is more of a chicken noodle salad) and the shiitake mushroom and ginger-powered vegetarian broth are outstanding and pork-free.
Must-order: Seasonal salads (like stone fruits, Jimmy Nardello peppers, macadamia nuts and a lime shiso vinaigrette); yakitori; squab preparation
Insider tip: The savory options can seem endless, and they are all tempting (how do you choose between proper main courses, ramen and yakitori?). Please, save room for dessert. The only option is soft cream in different flavors, with or without a waffle cone, but then there are the customizable toppings and sauces. You'll feel like a kid at a candy shop all over again. We suggest the miso caramel and sesame honeycomb pieces.
Must-order: The pastrami; St. Louis–style babyback ribs; any supplemental seafood dish
Insider tip: On Friday and Saturday nights, Mina Test Kitchen is the place to be in Cow Hollow for its Neighborhood Late Night, 10 PM to closing. Join for creative cocktails and smaller bites based on the International Smoke concept — no reservations needed.
Must-order: Maine lobster custard; roasted quail with lap cheong sausage and sticky rice; black sesame cake with rosebud mousse
Insider tip: The restaurant now offers a three-course, $45 per person ordering option from the regular menu, along with a bar menu of small bites, adding more options to what was a five-courses per table rule.
Must-order: Foie gras parfait; Tucker's Daily Harvest; chicken meatballs
Insider tip: The dining room is a stunning venue for dinner, but when it's a warm summer evening, the outdoor lounge is where to be in Napa Valley. It reminds you of why wine country isn't just a place but a mindset.
Must-order: JW chicken; gulf shrimp and clams tagliatelle; wood-oven baked oysters
Insider tip: The cafe next door to the main restaurant morphed into Waxman's Pizzeria, open lunch through dinner Tuesday–Saturday and lunch-only on Sundays. The pizzas are excellent, but we're particularly excited about the JW chicken salad (with that famous roast chicken) and the meatball sandwich.