It's no secret the restaurant industry is still reeling from Covid-19. Indoor mask mandates are back, and many bars and eateries are requiring proof of vaccination to visit, creating even more unfortunate but necessary barriers to healing their businesses.
And yet, the force is strong with San Francisco Bay Area chefs and restaurateurs, many of whom continue to follow the siren call to start up or expand their footprints. The need to cook, serve, eat, repeat is as ingrained as ever—and, perhaps, even more important.
At these new restaurants in SF, Oakland and Berkeley, the flavors are diverse, the vibes are decidedly local, and the price points are (surprise!) pretty affordable. Here's where to eat now, as well as a few openings to look out for this fall.
Chefs/owners Billy Riordan and Tim Milojevich have opened the second location of their agave bar and Latin kitchen, this time with gorgeous floor to ceiling windows overlooking Aquatic Park. If you've dined at the North Beach restaurant, you know their heirloom blue corn tortillas are made from scratch in house. Dip them into classic ceviche (fresh halibut, shrimp, red onion, avocado, corn, sweet potato, and leche de tigre) or go for tacos or quesadillas stuffed with cochinita pibil, beef birria, or vegan chorizo. House cocktails—like margaritas, sea breezes, and daiquiris—highlight Mexican spirits, but highballs, draft beer, and wine are also on offer. The heavily touristed area promises a crowd, but the sweeping bay view from the patio is a solid reminder why. // 900 North Point St. (Ghirardelli Square), barriosf.com
In the mood for comfort food? You don't know what you're missing if you haven't tried pizza on a biscuit crust. Oakland's Soul Slice, which opened on Juneteenth, is pioneering this mouthwatering goodness with inventive Southern-style toppings such as fried oysters and country ham. Build your own pie, or choose from signature selections such as the Cajun Shrimp topped with beef hot links, tomato, green onion, pickled peppers, and tomato sauce. Don't miss apps and sides like grit sticks, soul nuggets, fried okra, and green bean salad. There's also brunch and cocktails—think Henny margaritas and gin and juice. // 5849 San Pablo Ave. (Oakland), soulslicepizza.com
The old Luna Park sign remains, but there's a new restaurant, also called Luna, in its place. The American-style brasserie opened in late June for dinner only, with the kind of menu that's sure to satisfy neighborhood regulars. Sure to become favorites: the Luna burger, a blend of short rib and chuck on a brioche bun; a heritage pork chop with polenta and forest 'shrooms; a wedge salad with applewood smoked bacon; and buttermilk fried burrata with romesco sauce. The cocktail menu offers modern twists on classics. Order up a New Fashioned (Buffalo Trace bourbon, sherry, Gran Classico, Cocchi Torino, apricot) or a Vesper spritz. // 694 Valencia St. (Mission) lunasf.com
On June 16th, SF restaurateur Rene Denis opened Chao Pescao in the Civic Center location of his former restaurant, Soluna. Serving Latin-Caribbean cuisine with vibrant flavors and approachable price points (all entrees are $20 or less), this is your new go-to for empanadas stuffed with slow-cooked garlic pork; arepas with shredded flank steak or tajin fried chicken; Cubano sandwiches; and rice pudding with dulce de leche. Wash it all down with classic and original cocktails and even take a six pack of wine to go. // 272 McAllister St. (Civic Center) chaopescaosf.com
Look, it's a restaurant! No, it's a wine shop! Wait, it's also a weekend bakery! Welcome to Daytrip, the soon-to-open "party food" spot that we expect will fit right in with the vibe of Oakland's Temescal. From Finn Stern and Stella Dennig (of those Finn + Stella popups), this will be your destination for small-plate dinners, Saturday morning pistachio-rose croissants, and bottles selected exclusively from wineries owned by women and people of color. Look for the restaurant to open this fall. // 4316 Telegraph Ave. (Temescal), instagram.com/this.is.daytrip
La Vaca Birria
When chef/owner Ricky Lopez closed the doors to his Top Round Roast Beef in the Mission, he decided to pivot and bring his successful taco truck operation indoors at the same address. La Vaca Birria's first brick-and-mortar restaurant, set to open on August 18th, will serve its signature super burrito, quesabirria tacos, and flan. // 2962 24th St. (Mission), yelp.com/lavacabirria
The Oakland eatery has closed its doors and is in transit to a new and more spacious home in Berkeley. Soon, Shattuck Avenue passersby will be able to grab all the skewers, sandwiches, and soups. Grilled kebab plates and sandwiches will come with your choice of chicken, lamb, or mushrooms; there are also salads, herby yogurt, spicy pickled chiles, and red lentils. Save room for pastries filled with seasonal fruit by Sesame Tiny Bakery. // 2929 Shattuck Ave. (Berkeley) thekebabery.net