Guide to Women-Owned Restaurants Around the Bay Area
Ngoum banana salad from Nyum Bai. (Wendy Goodfriend)

Guide to Women-Owned Restaurants Around the Bay Area


In time for Women's History Month, we're honoring top female talents in the Bay Area food industry who are really impressing us and making an impact in the community.

From chefs to food advocates to restaurateurs, there are women shaping what we eat and drink and how we do it.

Sadly, women make up a good chunk of the entry-level workforce in the food industry but are underrepresented across the board above this level — not to mention the low number of women of color in the industry overall. Luckily, there are successful women in the food industry who are champions for their peers, and their stories and advice are powerful for other women who want to follow in their footsteps. Additionally, there are organizations like Women Chefs & Restaurateurs and the James Beard Foundation's Women Entrepreneurial Leadership Program that have been working to give more women resources to start their own restaurants and companies.

For Women's History Month, you can help these local, hardworking women by putting your money where your mouth is and going to support a female-led or owned business. Please note, this guide does not include every female-owned restaurant, bar, bakery or pop-up in the whole Bay Area, so please feel free to add any favorites we may have missed by tagging KQED Bay Area Bites on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Guadalupe Guerrero's El Pipila

You may have heard of El Pipila's Guadalupe Guerrero from our digital series, Taste This. La Cocina is a non-profit incubator that has taught and guided many low-income entrepreneurs like Guerrero how to start and maintain a small business in the Bay Area, one of the most challenging culinary landscapes in the country. Guerrero built her catering business with their help, and her brick and mortar restaurant by the same name just opened at the end of last year.

Along with her two daughters Brenda and Alejandra, Guerrero shares family dishes from her hometown, Guanajuato, in Mexico, like her extremely popular pozole verde, enchiladas, carnitas, and chile rellenos. // 889 Brannan St. (SoMa),

Lalita Souksamlane & Wassana Korkheiola's Lao Table and Osha Thai

A dinner spread at Lao Table.

(Grace Cheung)

According to a 2010 SFGate article, "When sisters Wassana Korkhieola and Lalita Souksamlane needed a name for their Thai restaurant in the Tenderloin, they went with the royal Thai word for "delicious."" At that point, Osha Thai was a certified empire with locations throughout San Francisco. This year, Osha Thai will be celebrating 23 years in the fall — an impressive achievement in the Bay Area where restaurants tend to come and go.

The two sisters immigrated from Thailand in their 20s and opened Osha Thai in 1996 — and they have been deeply involved in every aspect of their restaurant empire since then, from the interior design to the menu. In fact, Chef Souksamlane uses many of her father's original recipes on the menu for both Osha Thai and Lao Table. // Lao Table, 149 Second St. (SoMa),; Osha Thai, multiple locations,

Dominica Rice Cisneros' Cosecha

If you look up Dominica Rice-Cisneros, you'll find on her website that she is "a chef, entrepreneur, mother, wife, community activist and urban gardener who believes that every single person deserves access to high-quality foods." She has been cooking for over 30 years, and, in 2017, she was inducted into Les Dames d'Escoffier, San Francisco, a philanthropic group of women leaders in the fields of food, fine beverage and hospitality.

Mentored by a notable female chef (Alice Waters) herself, Rice-Cisneros is a champion for females in the food industry and believes in providing career opportunities for local women in the Bay Area. At her California-Mexican café Cosecha, she hires many mothers and helps them make it work. In a Berkeleyside interview, she shared that "her hope is that all women can work to let go of the unnecessary burden of feeling they need to take care of everything and everyone." // 907 Washington St. (Oakland),

Fernay McPherson's Minnie Bell’s Soul Food Movement

Fernay McPherson, chef/owner of Minnie Bell's Soul Movement.

(Wendy Goodfriend)

Like El Pipila's Guadalupe, Fernay McPherson is a La Cocina success story, and her rosemary fried chicken is pretty legendary. Her family moved to California around the time when the Fillmore was booming as the "Harlem of the West," and McPherson hopes one day that Minnie Bell's can find a place in the Fillmore, bringing back that vibrant heyday. For now, you can find her at the Emeryville Public Market.

Talk about family comfort food! McPherson's late grandmother Lillie Bell and her great aunt Minnie (the namesakes of Minnie Bell's) taught her how to cook her family's soul food recipes and inspired her to be a chef. Along with crispy, delectable rosemary fried chicken, you can get three-cheese mac & cheese with Parmesan, fontina and cheddar, cornbread and other tasty sides at the Minnie Bell's Soul Food Movement stand. // 5959 Shellmound St. (Emeryville),

Beth Novak Milliken & Lindy Novak's Spottswoode

Wines that guests drank on the set of the premiere episode of Check, Please! Bay Area season 11 included a Spottswoode Sauvignon Blanc.

From the very beginning, Spottswoode was founded and led by talented women. Mary Novak took over the vineyard after her husband's death in 1977 and successfully completed her first harvest soon after, selling grapes to local vintners. Her daughters joined Novak (Beth in 1987 and Lindy in 1992) and, together, the trio established Spottswoode as one of Napa Valley's most esteemed multigenerational family estates. They are known for their cabernet sauvignon, and, according to Check, Please! Bay Area host Leslie Sbrocco's wine notes from Season 11's premiere, it "is rightly celebrated for its elegance and ageworthiness."

Spottswoode has made an enduring commitment to stewardship over the years by adopting solar energy, spearheading the restoration of Spring Creek, annually contributing 1 percent of winery profits to environmental causes through 1% for the Planet, and making notable contributions to the Land Trust of Napa County, Garden Conservancy, Yosemite Conservancy, and the Trust for Public Land. Today, Beth is Spottswoode's President & CEO, and Lindy is its Marketing Ambassador. They carry on their mother's legacy with their families (and Pete, the family labrador and Chief Greeter at Spottswoode). // 1902 Madrona Ave. (St. Helena),

For more eateries to visit during Women's History Month, see below.

Women-Owned Restaurants in San Francisco

Women-Owned Restaurants in the East Bay

Women-Owned Restaurants in the South Bay

Women-Owned Restaurants in Marin & Wine Country

This article was written by Grace Cheung for KQED's Bay Area Bites. Also check out their 2016 and 2017 guides to female-owned eateries.

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