After a couple of years of everyone bemoaning "the economy," we get some more encouraging news today, including the employment numbers, and this bit from the Chron about how well Bay Area restaurants did in the fourth quarter of 2011. Rob Black, executive director of San Francisco's Golden Gate Restaurant, says that local restaurateurs say it was the best quarter they've had in years.

And did you know that the restaurant industry is the country's second largest private-sector employer? Jeff Hanak, co-owner of Nopalito, and Hoss Zaré, owner of Zaré at Fly Trap, both report having good years over all, with more folks ordering expensive wine and not doing cheap-o things like sharing appetizers.

Also, takeout is big, especially at Nopalito (but that's likely because people get tired of standing around waiting for tables there).