Well, they're good. No, they're great. That's for certain. Tastiness abounded in 2011. But the selection, it seems, wasn't as nearly as difficult to choose from compared to 2010. Not that 2011 sucked, but... well, you know: A lot of shit opened in 2010, acclaimed and divine shit that made foodies take to Twitter and never shut up about it. That, in a gastronomic nutshell, was 2010.
Before diving into his top choices for 2011, Bauer explains: "The problem was that I had been comparing 2011 to 2010, which was the best in my 25 years at The Chronicle. That's not to say there weren't a few slow periods in 2011, but those were few and far between. And 2012 is looking much brighter."
So what were his choices? Cotogna ("Given the impeccable service and stylish surroundings, with large windows overlooking the tree-lined streets, it's one of the best deals in the city"), Mission Chinese Food ("Even though the food is three stars, the surroundings definitely are not; if cleanliness is next to godliness, this place is hell"), Fifth Floor ("[Chef David Bazirgan's] cooking incorporates those seemingly contradictory rustic and refined elements that only those creating at the highest level can achieve"), Ragazza ("long narrow restaurant"), El Paseo ("Tyler Florence and Sammy Hagar"), Nojo ("food is so good it will make even frequent travelers to Japan take note"), Piccino ("Dogpatch"), Bar Terra ("jarred items such as incredible rillettes [$9] and duck liver mousse [$9]"), Park Tavern ("If there could ever be a replacement for the long gone but lamented Stars, which defined San Francisco dining in the 1980s, it is Park Tavern"), and Mateo's Cocina Latina ("whitewashed open-beam ceiling and tables made from salvaged industrial light covers").
Notable among the places he snubbed: Locanda, which was a pretty big mid-year opening from the Delfina team, and has been wildly popular despite a middling review from Mr. Bauer; Atelier Crenn, which earned a Michelin star in its first year and which he gave a shout-out to in this earlier blog post, despite not loving it in his review; and Boxing Room, which got a similar shout-out, leading us to believe it might get included. And yes, pizza is still part of a winning formula in Bauer's book. We're even a little surprised Cupola isn't on here. Anyhow, it is what it is. [...]
Any restaurants you think should've cracked the top 10? We say Darwin Cafe, but that's because it's right next to SFist headquarters, tiny, secret, and totally amazing for a sandwich or salad. (And stop ordering sandwiches for your entire tech office during peak lunch hours, administrative assistants. Only the most loathsome human beings do that. Gah.)
Read Bauer's list here.