We saw last week that Bon Appétit restaurant critic Andrew Knowlton had named a full half-dozen new SF restaurants to his Top 50 list of new spots around the country tying us with New York, though that might only have been out of politeness, since the magazine is based in New York. And now we get an assurance that there are two SF entries in this year's Hot 10 (due to drop next week), as Knowlton posts a special shout-out today to San Francisco and all of our fabulous, amazing, way-better-than-New York food. He says SF is the best food city in the country right now, and writes, "I’ve been doing this professionally for several years now, and I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such a concentration of exciting and invigorating restaurants in a single year, in a single season. Not even in New York."
This is good news for some of the front-runners in SF's new crop, including Liholiho Yacht Club, AL's Place, The Progress, and Mourad, because it means that Knowlton didn't cull the SF list as much as years' past out of deference to other parts of the country, when he finalized that top 10.
Now, it should be noted that Knowlton's moment of gushing comes a full four years after GQ critic Alan Richman came to the Bay Area and decided that we had way more going on here, food-wise, than New York did, or any other city for that matter. He wrote, "New York hasn't had much of a century, once you get past David Chang... Right now it's San Francisco, where restaurants of ambition and imagination are opening." And, he added, "Something else is happening: A brand-new Northern California regional cuisine is coming to life."
That new NorCal cuisine has continued to come to life since he wrote that in 2011, and 2015 has been a banner year for new restaurants in SF spurred partly by the economy and some splashy new spaces opening up, and by the generation of chefs who first cut their teeth about a decade ago and watched this cuisine taking shape finally coming into their own, in their own kitchens.
Knowlton last gushed about San Francisco back in 2012 when he named State Bird Provisions number one on that year's Hot 10 leading directly to the rabid popularity it still has three years on. But even then he only named a single SF spot to the list and he tends to make sure the Hot 10 is well balanced, with certain geographical quotas, even if SF's new restaurants far outshine those in Houston, Denver, or wherever, in terms of quality and originality.
It should also be noted that a big part of the reason we, as a city, get this kind of diversity and originality in our restaurant array and that these restaurants where chefs are trying new things succeed at all is that this is a town full of adventurous, voracious eaters. You all will try anything once (most of you), and you're constantly on the hunt for the new and unique, which you're willing to pay a pretty penny for. Give yourselves a pat on the back.