Best of San Francisco 2015: Delicious New Restaurants, Bars, Markets + More

Best of San Francisco 2015: Delicious New Restaurants, Bars, Markets + More


With a new restaurant opening up every week in San Francisco, it's hard to pick our favorites from among the throngs. Still, we managed to wrangle the Bay Area's best dishes, whose flavor profiles set them apart from the crowd. Bon appetit! 

Everything on the Menu: Octavia

(Squid ink noodles and the "deviled" egg at Octavia. Photo by Aubrie Pick)

Do this now: Pick up your gigantic iPhone 6 Plus, and dial Octavia (415.408.7507) for a reservation. Go to your closet and select an outfit worthy of a special occasion; then request a Lyft. Trust us on this one: If you haven’t been to Octavia yet, you are missing out on one of the best meals in SF. Tucked off the beaten path in the old Baker & Banker space in Pacific Heights, this new sequel to chef Melissa Perello’s Frances is as easy as Friday evening, assuming that your Friday evening begins with a glass of the restaurant’s special cuvee and ends with the wildly sinful warm chocolate soufflé tart. In between, you’ll want to order everything else. Don’t miss the “deviled” egg with Fresno chile relish; chilled squid ink noodles with bottarga, fennel, and lemon oil; stunningly flavorful salads; and the pillow-soft ricotta dumplings—they’re the stuff dreams are made of. You’ll be making a reservation for an encore before you’ve finished your after-dinner tea. —Chloe Harris Hennen  //  1701 Octavia St. (Pac Heights),

Juiciest Burger: Marlowe Burger 

(Photo by Patricia Chang)

Much has been written of the Marlowe Burger. In fact, upon a recent Google search for the legendary sando, we were prompted: Did you mean "mmmm Marlowe Burger"? Why yes, we did. This patty—a beef-and-lamb mash-up served with grilled onions, cheddar, bacon, lettuce and horseradish aioli on an Acme bun—is known to be SF Chronicle critic Michael Bauer’s favorite. We’re beyond inclined to agree. This burger is so good, it got its very own shrine with the opening, earlier this year, of Marlowe Burger on Townsend Street. May we suggest a side of chicken nuggets? Mmmm, indeed. — C.H.H.  //  330 Townsend St. (SoMa),

Chicest Vegan: Seed + Salt

(Photo via Seed and Salt)

Forgive us for saying this, but vegan food has all the sex appeal of cardboard. That is, it did, until Seed + Salt sprouted up on the scene, bringing with it a hearty sense of style to match its hefty, healthy promise. From founder and CEO Mo Clancy, a marketer and entrepreneur who’s worked in the fields of beauty and fashion, Seed + Salt packages the flavors of Northern California produce into meals we actually want to eat—think raw coconut ceviche with bell pepper, jalapeño, and cilantro; and a taco salad with black beans, pico, pepitas, and avo-lime dressing. The all-day menu, also including gorgeous juices and “love muffins,” is served in a bright and airy space without a trace of patchouli. — C.H.H.  //  2240 Chestnut St. (Marina),

Biggest Little Bakery: B. on the Go

(B. On the Go. Photo via SFGate)

There are few words as comforting in the San Francisco lexicon as kouign amann—just the sound of those three syllables makes us happy like Saturday morning, when we roll over to California and Divis in our stretch pants to share (or not share) a bistro table full of Belinda Leong’s incomparable pastries. And while we remain in a serious relationship with B. Patisserie, Leong is tempting us with a brand-new fling: B. On the Go, the petite bakery with just a handful of seats right across the street. With a menu of sandwiches on housemade bread, meats by the pound, soup, salad, and a few cookies and sweets, B. On the Go makes Mondays worth looking forward to, too. —C.H.H.  //  2794 California St. (Pac Heights),

Second Act: The Progress

(The Progress. Photo by Eric Wolfinger)

How long has it been since State Bird Provisions opened on Fillmore and it still has a line out the door? Helping to satisfy the demand, chefs, proprietors, and cute married people Nicole Krasinski and Stuart Brioza raised the curtain on their long-anticipated second act, The Progress, in December of last year, and the reviews were as expected: The couple wins again. Having already picked up a James Beard Award for Best Chef of the West this year, Brioza and Kransinki are on a roll. The Progress, housed in a lofty former theater, sets a dramatic stage for tasty family-style meals. —C.H.H.  //  1525 Fillmore St. (Western Addition),

Dentist's Worst Nightmare: Giddy Candy

Sweet baby jesus, we are addicted to Giddy Candy, a shop the size of a chocolate bar stocked with gummies, crunchies, and chews as rainbow-hued as its Castro surrounds. There’s no pretense here, just a throwback to the days when all we needed were giant glass apothecary jars filled with sugar to make us happy. Editor’s pick: We the teeny-tiny but ever-so-spicy cinnamon bears in our desk drawer in case of emergency. —C.H.H.  //  2299 Market St. (Castro),

Over-the-Top Pop-Up: Charin

(Courtesy of Charin)

Scooch over, Saison. Excusez nous, Atelier Crenn. There’s a new fancier-than-thou kid in town. Charin, popping up every few weeks at the Stable Café (the original home of Saison), is a haiku of a restaurant with culinary definitions on its self-important website and vague “inspirations” on its incomprehensible menu. Dishes such as “Flora, a raw ecosystem” and “Showing signs of age II” (fermented cherry, bergamot, celery) are all devised by chef (and apparent philosopher) Charles-C Onyeama (formerly of Benu, Manresa, and SPQR). What does it all mean? Who the hell knows really. But diehard gastronomes will need to see it for themselves. — C.H.H.  //  2128 Folsom St. (Mission); sign up for updates and seatings at

Oyster-and-Cocktail Hour: Benjamin Cooper

Regulars to the now-shuttered tiny cocktail bar Big rejoice: Barkeeps Brian Felley and Mo Hodges are making their return with Benjamin Cooper, another small but mighty drink concept upstairs at Hotel G. Skip the beers and bubbly and put your faith in these boys’ mad skills: The two have made their name for handcrafted drinks inspired by your own random tastes and the season’s freshest ingredients. Every cocktail is mixed with a creative twist—a welcome tweak to happy hour. Plus, there’s a daily selection of oysters. Hello. —C.H.H.  //  398 Geary St. (Union Square),

READER'S CHOICE, Best New Restaurant (SF): Liholiho Yacht Club

(Photo by Aubrie Pick)

Liholiho Yacht Club serves up an Ohana-style menu with a touch of sophisticated charm, celebrating Hawaiian traditions through such dishes as fried oyster with beef carpaccio and fried game hen with cashews, tamari glaze, and flowering kal. Stop by, grab a drink, and feel the family spirit. —Anthony Rogers  //  871 Sutter St (FiDi),  

READER'S CHOICE, Best New Restaurant (Marin): Molina

(Photo by John Storey)

Worth an urbanite's trip across the bridge, Molina promises delicious comfort food in a pretty a space where a grand wood-burning oven steals the show. The menu changes daily, but order the black cod if you get a chance. For dessert, buy a round of beers for the kitchen. —Isabel Moniz  //  17 Madrona St., Mill Valley,

Carefully Crafted Cookie: Dough & Co

Inspired by the good work at La Cocina, Omar Mamoon, a former volunteer at the SF-based nonprofit, created Dough & Co., your new source for ready-to-bake gourmet cookie dough. Besides the virtuous ingredients in the chocolate chunk recipe (Madagascar vanilla, two kinds of chocolate, a sprinkle of Maldon sea salt flakes), the mix uses zero preservatives and a ground chia seed mixture instead of eggs, which means that when you get the urge to break off a chunk of the raw stuff, you can go forth and savor. —Leilani Marie Labong  //  $99 for a one-month supply;

Fanciest Way to Get Sloshed: LazyBear

Generously bearded chefs work tirelessly to please diners at SF's most-talked-about underground restaurant. The vibe is like eating in a friend of a friend’s home, where you feel some sense of comfort and familiarity sitting at a communal table but really you’re just there for the tasty bites (king salmon FTW) and the generous wine pairings. —Ali Wunderman  //  3416 19th St (Mission),

Most Instagrammed Pastries: Mr. Holmes Bakehouse 

Local hipsters flock to the neon lights that announce Mr. Holmes Bakehouse in the Tenderloin. Instagram-famous for their California Croissant, a salmon roll nestled inside a buttery croissant, and gimmicky pastries such as the Doughroni, a doughnut pumped full of Campari, this local bakery has been all over your feed for the past year. —Sarah Medina  //  1042 Larkin St.(Tenderloin),

Global Expansion: Tartine + Blue Bottle

Everything San Franciscan big in Japan. In May, Tokyo residents stood in line for hours to taste some of the sweet Blue Bottle coffee we’ve been enjoying in SF for years. Next up in the global domination market: BBC new partner in business, Tartine, which plans to open its first satellite bakery in Tokyo’s Daikanyama neighborhood this fall. The Asian outpost comes on the heels of a much-anticipated Tartine expansion, including the Manufactory, a lofty bread mill, restaurant, and art space set to open in the Mission's Heath Ceramics building this Fall. We can’t wait to see what’s next on the horizon for our favorite food pairing. — S.M.  //  Multiple locations, 

READER'S CHOICE, Best New Bar: Harper & Rye

(Photo by Daisy Barringer)

The space formerly home to Red Devil Lounge is officially back in action as Harper & Rye, an attractive new cocktail bar from Jamal Blake-Williams, former bar manager at Tipsy Pig. Complete with strong cocktails, a $1 pool table, and plenty of seating for large groups, Harper & Rye is a new go-to happy hour destination. — I.M.   //  1695 Polk St. (FiDi),

Prettiest Hotel Restaurant: BDK

Named after Kimpton group founder Bill Drennon Kimpton, the Hotel Monacco's new restaurant, BDK, received a very San Francisco makeover. The Art Deco interiors and French cuisine have been replaced with Ken Fulk's hallmark designs (antlers and all!) and American tavern fare. Most notable are the small plates created by Chef Heather Terhune, like the mini truffle butter burgersand the revelatory sweet corn creme brulee, which could turn any atheist into a Bible thumping zealot for only a higher power could have concocted something so glorious. —Brock Keeling  //  501 Geary (Union Square),

Empire Builder: Michael Mina 

With more than 10 restaurants throughout the Bay Area (not to mention others across the country), emperor Mina has reigned over the local dining scene for a while now. This year, the prolific chef opened two pubs in the new Levi’s Stadium—Bourbon Steak and Bourbon Pub—ushering in a new era of elegant Niners tailgates, and debuted a new test kitchen in downtown SF offering pop-up mashups between some of his company’s most promising up-and-coming chefs. — S.M.  //  252 California St (FiDi), 

Party on Wheels: Bar Car

The term open bar takes on a whole new meaning with Bar Car, a 1965 Airstream trailer retrofitted by restaurant investor Greg Medow (Pizzeria Delfina, Mission Bowling Club, Hobson’s Choice). Sure to be a fixture at hipster weddings everywhere, Bar Car is straight-up stocked, and we’re not just talking about the elaborate liquor inventory. Guests can get their game on with corn toss and Russian ping-pong, and pink lawn flamingos add a wink to the throwback vibe. —Leilani Marie Labong  //

Avocado Toast: Huxley 

Nestled in the heart of the TL, this tiny 25-seat eatery boasts some of San Francisco boldest brunch flavors. While the menu offers hearty and meaty dishes such as pork belly for breakfast and house-cured chorizo, it’s the classic avocado toast—thick sourdough bread and creamy California avocado topped with sea urchin, seaweed, and sesame— that has locals lining up on Geary Street. —S.M.  //  846 Geary St (Tenderloin), 

READER'S CHOICE, Mouthwatering Brunch: Plow

(Photo by John Storey)

This Potrero Hill outpost—famous for the mouthwatering lemon ricotta pancakes that brilliantly complement the standard eggs, meat and potatoes brunch—will have you savoring every delicious bite before the weekend food coma kicks in. —Marina Smith   //  1299 18th St (Mission), 

Prix-Fixe Meal: Trestle

This Jackson Square eatery seems too good to be true: For $35, you’ll be delighted with a 3-course prix-fixe menu of daily rotating dishes that taste like they’re fresh from mom’s oven. Don’t skimp on the $10 pasta supplement—the various types of ravioli are delicious, carb-loaded heaven. —M.S.  //  531 Jackson St (FiDi),

Most-Buzzed Dish: Aster

The enormous communal table in the center of this Guerrero hot spot gives chef Brett Cooper a fitting place to display his creative Californian cuisine. With a comfortable neighborhood vibe, Aster offers a relaxing night out for feasting on delicious dishes like the buzzed-about black cod. — M.S.   //  1001 Guerrero St (Mission),

Culinary Conquest: The Commissary 

Bringing new life to the historic Montgomery Street Barracks in the heart of the Presidio, Traci Des Jardins' The Commissary pays mouthwatering tribute to the Spanish influence on Northern California cuisine. Must-try dishes Include the octopus with olive and pimenton; salt cod fritters with lemon aioli; and succulent roast chicken with Medjool dates. All dishes are best shared amongst a group around the communal tables. —M.S.   //  101 Montgomery St (Presidio),

Tech Meets Food Hub: 140 New Montgomery

If there’s one building in San Francisco that best personifies the immutable culture of SF, it’s 140 New Montgomery. Its historical significance includes time spent as the Pac Bell Building, highlights like a visit from Winston Churchill, and its current incarnation as tech and foodie hub thanks to the recent arrival of Yelp, Trou Normand (and its expansive new patio), and Mourad, the second restaurant from Aziza's Mourad Lahlou. While a historical charm remains, this is a modern building designed for millennial appreciation: A smart elevator system, a xeriscaped courtyard, lots of bike storage, and excellent access to public transport. —S.M.  //  140 New Montgomery St. (SoMa) 

READER'S CHOICE, Best New Restaurant (East Bay): Plank

(Photo by Aubrie Pick)

Taking over Oakland's Jack London Square, the enormous Plank offers tasty pub fare (think burgers, pizza, and fried pickles), a wide variety of local brews on tap, and more than one night's worth of entertainment. Challenge a friend to life-size Jenga, take to the bocce court, or beat your high record at the indoor arcade for a family-friendly night on the town.  — A.R.  //  98 Broadway, (Oakland),

Sunniest Beer Garden: Lost and Found 

Tired of Karl the Fog ruining your summer nights? Soak up some rays at Oakland’s Lost and Found where bocce ball courts and handcrafted picnic tables combine with a beer list a mile long for the perfect mix of fun and good food. Order the instant ramen Cheetos for a summer classic you'll be raving to your friends about.  —S.M.  //  2040 Telegraph Ave (Oakland),

Tastiest Alternative to the Ferry Building: Swan’s Market 

Avoid the tourists swarming the Embarcadero and head for Oakland’s impressive Swan’s Market. A prized shopping center from 1917 until the late 1960s, it fell in disrepair until the late 1990s when East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation was granted permission to overhaul the space. Now, downtown workers can grub yummy Monday molé at the market's first restaurant, Cosecha, or scratch their Caribbean itch with Miss Ollie’s famous, soul-warming fried chicken.  — S.M.  //  538 9th St (Oakland),

READER'S CHOICE, Sweetest Treat: B.Patisserie

(Photo by Ed Anderson)

From colorful macarons to the perfect croissant, you can’t go wrong with any of the delectable treats from this straight-out-of-Paris Pac Heights cutie. Belinda Leong’s signature kouign amann will have you running to get back in line again and again. — M.S.  //  2821 California St (Lower Pac Heights),

Place for Games and Brews: Brewcade

The fun-loving owners of the Castro’s Blackbird went pre-tech SF at their latest spot, Brewcade, with 24 classic coin-op arcade games and a (spiked) slushie machine. A row of 25 beer taps—plus nearly twice as many bottles—means you can pair Racer 5 with Pole Position. When the quarters run out, take a drink to the front patio overlooking the Frogger-like action on Market Street. —Garrick Ramirez  //  2200 Market St #102 (Castro),

READER'S CHOICE, Best Place to Caffeinate: Philz Coffee

(Photo by Colleen Taylor)

For a city concerned with local products, we sure have a lot of coffee imports—Stumptown hails from Portland, and even Blue Bottle originated across the Bay Bridge. Philz Coffee, though, is all San Francisco. Starting with the flagship store on 24th and Folsom, Philz has always brought the caffeine and community to the daily grind. — M.S.  //  3101 24th St. (Mission), 

Pescaterian Hangout: Al's Place

Three years after the closing of Ubuntu, Napa's groundbreaking vegetarian restaurant, former executive chef (and James Beard Award nominee) Aaron London opened his own 45-seat eatery in the Mission. At Al's Place, London's veg-centric dishes will also feature fresh seafood. You must try the lightly cured trout with young fava beans and preserved-lime potatoes—soon to be a classic. — S.M.  //  1499 Valencia St. (Mission),

Tapas Craving: Aaxte

Drawing from Basque traditions, this 49-seat restaurant encourages convivial dining with its large communal table and white marble bars where regulars stand, Spanish style, for a small bite with a glass of sherry. The main offerings are traditional pintxos, small plates and larger cazuelas, inspired by chef Pollnow's experiences as a young chef cooking in Spain, with regional Northern California influences thrown into the mix. There's also a salt-grilled rib eye for two, if small plates just aren't enough for the red-blooded Americans among us. — S.M.  //  2170 Market St (Mid-Market),

Brunch Experience: Bar Vero

Want the full brunch experience? Sit down for Latin American–inspired fare at Bar Vero, which promises to bust your diet with strong Highwire coffee, munchies from Mr. Holmes Bakehouse, and drool-worthy horchata pancakes (made with horchata, cajeta, sauteed banana, toasted coconut, and pure maple syrup). Then get ready for a laid back day on the couch. —I.M  //  4230 18th St. (Castro),

Wine Bar: Union Larder

Stylish wine bar Union Larder (from the folks behind Little Vine) is blowing up Russian Hill, and their game is tight. Not only are the wines well chosen and food friendly (Revolution chenin blanc, we're looking at you), but you can power up with an array of oysters on the half shell, a sick uni pâté, and their house-marinated boquerones. Pork Reuben, oh yeah. — S.M.  //  1945 Hyde St (Russian Hill),

READER'S CHOICE, Most Intoxicating Wine List: A16

(Photo by Aubrie Pick)

From Naples to Canosa, A16's chefs keep true to the southern Italian way of crafting the perfect meal. And true to Italian tradition, their wine list is as delicious as the pizza they churn out. Comprised of more than 500 varietals, the list focuses on the wines of the Mezzogiorno. Sixty percent are Italian and the majority are from Southern regions, including Campania, Puglia, Basilicata, Sardinia, and Sicily, with many of the selections made from indigenous grapes previously unavailable in San Francisco. Now that's something we can toast to. —A.R.  //  2355 Chestnut St. (Marina),

Best Barbecue: Perdition Smokehouse 

Heaping trays of brisket and ribs paired with potato salad, slaw, and local beer are collected cafeteria-style at this Berkeley barbecue joint. Take yours outside where an expansive patio and bocce courts allow you to enjoy your barbecue the way god intended: al fresco and with good company. — S.M.  //  2050 University Ave (Berkeley), 

Fastest Food Delivery: Caviar

Feel like Wise Sons, but you’re all the way in the Outer Richmond? What used to be considered a substantial obstacle to your favorite local restaurants was demolished three years ago by the advent of Caviar, the quickest, easiest way to have food delivered. And now, with a new mobile app and the introduction of FastBite ($10 lunches in 10 to 15 minutes), restaurant food is at our fingertips. — S.M.  // 

READER'S CHOICE, Juiciest Burger and Tastiest Cheap Eat: Super Duper

(Photo by David Paul Morris)

Super Duper Burger’s dedication to super duper values and quality makes it one of the freshest joints in town. Besides producing burgers we can sink our teeth into, with locally sourced ingredients and handmade pickles and buns, Super Duper Burger’s packaging is all compostable, and the restaurants feature hand-painted signage to proudly display their dedication to sustainability. —I.M.  //  Multiple locations,

Drinks by the Window: The View 

The View Lounge atop the Marriott Marquis may offer the same awe-inspiring vista of downtown SF as it always has, but the restaurant's look is all new. After emerging from a $2 million renovation last winter, the 4,500-square-foot space has shed its old swirly carpet and outdated visage, and replaced them with chic hardwood floors, dark carpet, and a gray color scheme. Sidle up to the bar for a cocktail and bites from chef David Holland, and don't forget to admire the view. — S.M.  //  780 Mission Street (SoMa),

Revamp of a Classic Eatery: Schroeder's 

San Francisco’s oldest and largest German beer hall, Schroeder's, was restored to its former glory last year. The 5,000 square foot space retains its centerpiece rosewood bar, original millwork, and 1930s Herman Richter murals, while the updated floors, communal furnishings, and lighting complement Schroeder’s signature features. Chef Manfred Wrembel prepares contemporary versions of German classics like trout, homemade sausage, Wiener schnitzel, and spätzle, while the bar pours 22 international brews. — S.M.  //  240 Front St. (FiDi),

Pro Cookbook: Benu by Corey Lee

(Benu's thousand-year-old quail egg. Courtesy of Phaidon)

If perfecting the thousand-year-old quail egg sits high atop your bucket list, then you’re in luck, young grasshopper: The April 2015 release of Chef Corey Lee’s cookbook, Benu (Phaidon), could make you a master. Even if you never earn three Michelin stars of your own, this 256-page tome, with its stunning all-white cover, will look killer awesome on your kitchen counter. — C.H.H.  //  Benu ($60),

California Beer List: Atlas Tap Room

SoMa’s Atlas Taproom is the latest from the duo (next door) at Archive Bar & Kitchen. Its old-world-meets-modern charm is brought home with the California beers and wine served on tap. Toss in small plates of local cheeses, charcuterie, generous salads, raw sides, pickles, olives, and bacon deviled eggs and the only thing this popular watering hole will lack is elbow room. — James Vest  //  606 Mission St (SoMa),

One-Stop-Shop: The Twitter Market

Think Whole Foods + your favorite Oyster bar + your favorite tapas bar + your favorite wine bar + your favorite deli + your favorite juicers + Four Barrel coffee + your favorite artisan pizza maker + steady inflation, and you have only partially conceptualized The Market, attached at the hip of Twitter’s mid-Market Street offices. Spend a morning/afternoon/happy hour/full week here and you’ll find something for your curious appetite. —Chris Trenchard  //  1355 Market St. (SoMa) 

READER'S CHOICE, Next Big Thing In Start-Ups: Munchery

Photo via Munchery

Munchery’s colorful and creative entrees, desserts, appetizers, and drinks offer restaurant-quality food with no need for the pomp and circumstance (or putting on of pants) that comes with going out. Each of their homemade meals—think kimchi burgers, pulled pork sliders, roasted chicken, and Mexican spiced brownies for dessert— come pre-cooked by some of SF’s best chefs and are delivered straight to your door. Bonus: your first meal is free. — Marina Smith //

PS: Now go eat your way through all 100 of our favorite dishes in San Francisco with our 7x7 Big Eat 2015!

(Mamak Laska at Azalina's Malaysian. Photo by Aubrie Pick)

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