Last week we brought you our picks for the best new bars to arrive in town this past year, and now we bring you their restaurant brethren. This has been a truly terrific year for SF, food-wise, what with seven brand-new spots snagging Michelin stars in their very first months in business, which if you didn't know is kind of unheard of. Bon Appétit critic Andrew Knowlton declared San Francisco the best food city in the United States right now, but little does he know we have deserved that title for at least the last four years — or maybe he's just been reluctant to acknowledge it, New Yorker that he is. Along with all of SF's more established eateries and the newcomers that made 2014 so great, these 17 spots will offer you the freshest culinary ideas and some of the most delicious dinners you can find in the country, so count yourselves lucky, and make some reservations. — Jay Barmann

AL's Place
Before the accolades started pouring in, including a Michelin star and Bon Appetit naming it the best new restaurant in the country, I gushed about chef Aaron London's highly personal and stunningly executed first solo spot in the Mission. It is the culmination of years of training and an obvious passion for vegetables, but it is also a unique amalgam of Asian, French, and Italian influences that showcases Northern California produce in new and unpretentious ways. Many have talked about London's gimmick of putting the meat in the second-fiddle position on the menu under "Sides," but the real stars really are the simpler, vegetable- and fish-based dishes, from the pickled french fries with smoked-apple dipping sauce to the black lime-scented cod with a fruited Thai curry sauce, and the grits with goat-milk curds, chanterelle mushrooms, and fried Brussels sprouts. Even his baby lettuces become more extraordinary than they usually are, which is saying a lot considering how many times you'll see baby lettuces appear on San Francisco menus. (Bon App's Andrew Knowlton said, "It was almost as though I’d been eating vegetables in black and white my whole life, and then suddenly everything was in Technicolor.") The space is airy and sleek, sans Edison bulbs, and the service is easy-going, unimposing, and precise, as it should be. It will be tough to get a table for a while, but like State Bird before them, they're taking some walk-ins — you just need to line up at 5 p.m. and claim a seat and time. So, get there when you can, go on a weeknight, and don't skip the radishes. — Jay Barmann
1499 Valencia Street at 26th


If you peer over from the long communal table at the heart of Aster and into the open kitchen at the back of the restaurant, chances are you'll see chef Brett Cooper meticulously prepping and tweezing vegetables. But the strict attention to detail doesn't draw needless attention to itself. Aster, which has already scored a Michelin star, is a partnership with Daniel Patterson under whom Cooper served as sous chef at the two-starred Coi. But Cooper is perhaps best known for making a destination of far-flung Outerlands, and this new Mission, similarly under-lit and inviting spot should be one for your list, too. Take advantage of the four-course prix fixe menu ($59) — a great value, all told. The soft-cooked egg appetizer (crispy potato, salmon roe, bacon vinaigrette) is a nice way to start, and look out for excellently prepared fish — currently trout (tokyo turnip, grapes, charred scallion, brown butter). —Caleb Pershan
1001 Guerrero Street at 22nd Street

Who knew that the key to a successful turnaround for the often lackluster brasserie that was Café Des Amis was to go more Belgian? Perhaps filling a niche, in terms of mussels and sausage, that hadn't been filled in the Marina/Cow Hollow vicinity, and offering a huge and high-end beer selection were what did the trick, but this latest and largest restaurant of the Adriano Paganini empire (which also includes Beretta, Delarosa, Starbelly, Super Duper, and Locanda) has been hopping since it opened in May. Attention is paid to the cocktails, salads, and excellent crudités as much as to the meat and fish, and they've got a bustling brunch now too with a particularly special hangover-helping dish of pork schnitzel, spaetzle, braised cabbage, and a sunny-side-up egg. Also, some simple modifications to the space have left it feeling lighter and more lived in than its predecessor, and even Michael Bauer gave it a three-star rave. All told: It's a hit. — Jay Barmann
2000 Union Street at Buchanan

The bright front bar area at Bon Marché. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Bon Marché
The other big, and ambitious, new brasserie to open this year is this latest venture from the AQ/TBD team on the Market Street-facing side of the Twitter building, and it's all about evoking the traditional brasseries of Paris. Go for some top-notch house-made charcuterie and well mixed cocktails, or go all out with interpretations of bistro classics like soupe des poissons (really just a fish and shellfish soup, with a light but perfect broth), French onion soup, gnocchi a la Parisienne, duck au poivre, braised lamb with cassoulet, or steak frites. The space, with its 20-foot concrete ceilings, presents a challenge in terms of ambiance and noise, but the big group booths make for perfect venues for festive occasions — and the design makes use of the glass-walled front with a small flower shop that doubles as a stage for live music acts, and a yellow and orange-striped canopy adorning the bar. And don't miss one of the best new roast chickens to come to town, the Chicken Grand-Mère, served with a rich, bacon-y sauce reminiscent of coq au vin. — Jay Barmann
1355 Market Street between 9th and 10th

Photo: Jay Barmann/SFist

Perhaps the most refined and elegant restaurant to hit the Mission district since Saison, Californios came alive early in the year, with a vision from former Sons & Daughters line cook Val Cantu of a high-end tasting menu experience with nods to Mexican flavors. He began with an eight-course, $57 prix fixe, which has now grown to a 15-courser, give or take, for $97, with additional beverage pairings — this is actually not unlike how Sons & Daughters evolved in its first year as well. At $97, the experience is kind of a steal compared to a lot of similar spots, and the place's popularity can be seen in the fact that they're only offering reservations 14 days out now. The space is dark and romantic with a masculine vibe, and Cantu's work — which includes things like a delicately chili-spiced kampachi crudo that I wrote about earlier this year and a decidedly haute take a Caesar salad — has already earned him three stars from the Chronicle and a Michelin star — along with AL's Place, Californios is one of seven spots to debut this year and earn a Michelin star right out of the gate. Wine service, by beverage director Charlotte Randolph, is also stellar. — Jay Barmann
3115 22nd Street near South Van Ness

Sopes playeros at Cala, Cherylynn N. via Yelp

Cala is immediately transportive, its space minimal and contemporary but alive with plants and light. The food will take you farther still to chef/restaurateur Gabriela Camara's Mexico City, where she gained fame for her restaurants Contramar and Merotoro — Mr. Bauer even says that she's "blazing a new trail for Mexican food in America." Like at her other restaurants, the menu at Cala is focused on seafood, with trout tostada a fixture and items like a lovely true cod mixiote. They're hyping the sweet potato with bone marrow salsa negra as their specialty, which it really might be, but at $19 I wasn't biting. Other veggie delights, however, include sunchokes, mushrooms and epazote in charred corn husk. You can expect Camara in the kitchen, although you can't always count on seeing Jake Gyllenhaal, as I fatefully did. Brunchers take note: They offer reservations and excellent daytime cocktails, and for a quick taste, head to Hickory (the alley behind Fell) for Tacos Cala, their weekday taqueria. —Caleb Pershan
149 Fell Street between Franklin Street and Van Ness Avenue

One of the non-pizza items currently at Del Popolo: a salad of fuyu persimmon, pistachio, radicchio, and yogurt. Photo: Jay Barmann/SFist

Del Popolo
I finally don't have to chase down Jon Darsky's pizza truck, or be at a music festival, to get some of his delicious, expertly made Neapolitan pies, and that is a very good thing. Darsky's long-awaited brick-and-mortar spot just opened last month on Nob Hill, and to complement the great pizzas he's got a well curated wine list and some equally great, seasonal Italian small plates each night, with interesting salads like the one pictured above with persimmon and radicchio, and things like wild mushroom ragu on toast with prosciutto. He may just give Una Pizza Napoletana a run for its money for this very reason: appetizers. — Jay Barmann
855 Bush Street between Taylor and Mason

A photo posted by Eve Batey (@evelb) on

Hawker Eats
Hawker Eats has only been open since November 3, but it's already shaping up to be one of those hidden (well, not so hidden if it's on this list I guess), inside-baseball gems constantly packed with locals in the know. Unrelated owners Kevin Chen and Judy Chen got their start at Inner Richmond izakaya Kaiju Eats, then opened Hawker Eats in a postcard-sized corner space at Balboa Street and 18th Avenue just last month. Once inside, you'll be handed a cup of strangely delicious roasted corn tea (they don't serve booze yet, but you'll survive) and a three-ring bound copy of Judy's hand-drawn menu, packed with their take on Asian-fusion street food. Standouts for me so far have been the Brussels sprout skewers, the seafood curry (that's the monster dish you see above), and the Asari Ramen (a boatload of fresh clams in an intensely flavorful broth with A+ noodles). I'm already plotting a time to get back there to try pretty much everything else on the menu, it's all that great. Speaking of going there: They're open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch, and it's not hard to get a table then, but by 4:45 there's a sizable line to get in for dinner (in fact, if you look closely you'll see my glasses gazing through their blinds as I waited last weekend), which starts at 5. If you're not up for an early bird special, be prepared to wait on the oft-chilly Richmond District street for your table, as the dining pace is leisurely and since it's just Judy and Kevin running the joint, patience is required. The wait is worth it, though, when you dig into the sexy, unexpectedly nuanced flavor combinations Hawker Eats has to offer. Keep your eye on this one, it's going places. — Eve Batey
1650 Balboa Street at 18th Avenue

The bar at Liholiho Yacht Club, which has a high chance of making Knowlton's Hot 10. Photo: Declan McKerr

Liholiho Yacht Club
I was frankly shocked to see Ravi Kapur's new, boldly original, inescapably fun Hawaiian-inspired spot in Lower Nob Hill not earn more national recognition than it did after its debut, though it did get some. From simple pleasures like duck liver toasts and some excellent beef tongue steam buns, to big, richly flavored, satisfying share plates like the twice cooked pork belly with pineapple and the fried Cornish game hen, Kapur hits all the right notes and adds his own style and California sensibility throughout. Service is on point — overseen by Nopa partner Allyson Jossel. It's also a place where you could have an all-seafood meal like nowhere else, capped off with soul-warming, mashup of a dish of manila clams in red coconut curry, with butternut squash, fresh turmeric, and garlic naan that is a Kapur creation through and through. — Jay Barmann
871 Sutter Street between Leavenworth and Jones

Grilled lamb shoulder via Lord Stanley

Lord Stanley
Chefs Rupert and Carrie Blease met while cooking at Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons in the UK, were married, and headed to New York's Per Se and Blue Hill respectively. Thankfully for us, they chose to take their talents West, to San Francisco, he at Commonwealth and she at Central Kitchen. Without presuming anything about the Blease's relationship, together they've created a wonderful sense of balance for diners. The location, a busy portion of Polk at Broadway, is the first balancing act to be performed. Minimal decor wipes clean the slate of the street, and expert service (with no shortage of warm, house made bread) weighs refinement and comfort. Cleverly composite dishes — from the popular onion petals and sherry vinegar to meat preparations like barbecued pork shoulder (turnips, licorice, burnt apple) — are, rather than the sum of their parts or more than them, indistinguishable as "parts" at all. Order a la carte, but save room for top-shelf desserts like lemon and yuzu tart with sea salt meringue and chocolate chiboust (a crème pâtissière lightened with egg whites). That's topped with yeasty sourdough ice cream.—Caleb Pershan
2065 Polk Street at Broadway

The roast chicken with preserved lemon and green olive at Mourad. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Chef Mourad Lahlou already had plenty of fans and critical acclaim under his belt — not to mention a well received cookbook — after opening the Michelin-starred Aziza a decade ago. But this year he brought his talents to the heart of downtown, at the base of the historic 140 New Montgomery, and impressed everyone once again. The space is luxe and beautiful, with an inlaid marble mosaic floor that had to have cost a million dollars by itself. But his use of Moroccan flavors in modern combinations found new life and fresh inspiration at Mourad, with things like chicken wings with harissa, pomegranate, and gooseberry; and the Moroccan pastry called basteeya stuffed with tender, sweet, fall-spiced duck and served with blackberry sauce, creme fraiche, and baby almonds. It's a place for adventurous and cautious eaters alike, because most of the dishes — especially the generous, family-style plates of short ribs, braised lamb shoulder, and roast chicken — end up being perfectly seasoned, unadorned and easy to like, with delightful surprise ingredients as well.
140 New Montgomery between Mission and Howard

The "deviled" egg. Photo: Aubrie Pick

Though Octavia has none of the same dishes as chef Melissa Perello's Frances, the elements and style that made her restaurant a Castro favorite are all here. Taken together, seasonal fare on a swiftly changing menu, welcoming atmosphere and service, and Perello's fine-dining finesse make for memorable, tell-all-your-friends meals. Quotation marks around dishes like "cioppino," "deviled eggs," and ricotta dumplings "malfatti" (roughly made) signify playful departures — there's just a slight roughness about the perfectly dense, soothing dumplings, and the eggs, poached and held in brine and coated with peppers and spices, are devil-ish. Salads are crowd-pleasing and meant to be shared, and dishes like duck breast (yogurt, charred mandarin, and baby carrot) are expertly rendered. "Not a lot of pomp and circumstance," Perello described her vision for the Frances spinoff to SFist. "You know, chill." — Caleb Pershan
1701 Octavia at Bush

Old Bus Tavern via Facebook

Old Bus Tavern
After presumably spending the better part of their days brewing up batches of rye pale ale and smoked chili porter, owners Jimmy Simpson, John Zirinsky and Bennett Buchanan wait tables at their tiny tavern. Maybe you've noticed them — it's their passion that makes the place so great, providing a warm, laid-back and bar-centric atmosphere in which to enjoy food normally reserved for the likes of chef Max Snyder's previous haunts: Coi, Saison, and New York's Eleven Madison Park. Onion spaetzle with tiny balls of apple is fresh and bright where it could be heavy, and Jay's a known fan of the hefty vegetarian pancake, kind of like a French savory bread pudding or panade. If you're looking for bar fare, the hearty, complicatedly spicy chili, honed in cook-offs, has your back. In fact, you might leave Old Bus Tavern as passionate about it as its owners are. — Caleb Pershan
3193 Mission Street between Valencia Street and Powers Avenue

One of Omakase's many delights. Photo: Cynthia L./Yelp

Look, I'm not going to play: You're not getting out of Omakase without dropping at least $150 bucks a person, and that's not counting drinks, tax, and tip. So grab your credit card that offers the best cash back, miles, or rewards and let's get into this — Omakase is also going to be some of the best sushi you've ever had, and will likely ruin you for your neighborhood/go-to joint (unless your go-to is already Omakase, in which case please adopt me). Since its opening in June, this 14-seat SoMa sushi bar has garnered three stars from Bauer and a Michelin star, so yeah, you'll need a reservation to get your mouth on chef Jackson Yu's fish. And there's none of that pencil and sushi menu bullshit here! You're paying either $150 or $200 for whatever the chef feels like making you that night, all from fresh fish flown into SF three times weekly from Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market. For that fee you're also getting a ringside seat to some of the most amazing food prep you'll ever see, and questions are welcomed! Despite the price and the menu's rigidity, the dining experience is never pretentious or overly Foodie Culture — instead, it's a fun, communal experience you share with 13 folks and a chef, all of whom are there to have a good time and to eat/make incredibly delicious and inventive food. Arrive hungry, open-minded, and ready to chat. You're in for a meal to remember. -- Eve Batey
665 Townsend Street, between 7th and 8th Streets

House cured anchovy with olive oil. Photo: Instagram

Petit Crenn
With the benefit of the already inviting neighborhood-y space that was home for years to Bar Jules, Petit Crenn has brought Hayes Valley its first intimate, romantic bistro for SF's new culinary age. Built around a Brittany-style whole roasted fish course, Dominique Crenn's ode to the food of her grandmother in northwestern France is not surprisingly a slam dunk for its vibe and simplicity. Some excellent wines — the list has an emphasis on dry rosés and ciders — and some delicious opening courses like escargot with mushroom broth; a perfect, rolled omelette; and braised and grilled octopus with cranberry beans that I talked about before. Just the other night I was walking by the place on the way to do some Christmas shopping and I saw an open seat at the bar (where the menu items can all be ordered a la carte) and I found myself drawn in. And along with having three big stars from Bauer, being the sort of warm, inviting place that one just naturally feels pulled toward is a good thing to be. — Jay Barmann
609 Hayes Street near Laguna

The daily changing menu at Trestle includes dishes like this harissa-spiced tuna with nicoise olives, summer pole beans, and confit potato. Photo: Instagram

In a busy year of restaurant openings, this modest seeming spot at the edge of North Beach and the Financial District from the folks behind Stones Throw on Russian Hill might have gone unnoticed. But presenting a value proposition of a $35, three-course prix fixe in this day and age in SF caught a lot of peoples' attention. It may prove unsustainable — how can they afford to charge so little, with just a $10 additional, optional pasta course? — but the food is good and interesting enough that it'd be worth $50 a person too, just don't tell them that. — Jay Barmann
531 Jackson Street at Columbus

The excellent burger, with cocktail. Photo: Instagram

The Viking Room at Café du Nord
Another new restaurant that I know I'm going to keep wanting to return to is the revamped Cafe du Nord. The reasons for that are as simple and concise as the cocktail-friendly menu: Everything is delicious, and it feels like a treat going there. You descend down the steep, old stairs that once led to the raucous and dusty below-ground music venue, and now you come to a polished bar and sometimes lively lounge area, and the Viking Room separated by a swinging door at the back, where live music acts play each night during dinner, after 8 p.m. The drinks are excellent, and the brief wine list already has a few hits on it, but the stars here are the Caesar salad; the cheesy and bacon-y broiled oysters; the buttered and salted Parker House rolls (better, even, than the long-gone ones at Canteen); the chicken under a brick; and the very greasy but delicious burger, which could almost serve two if you're not wildly hungry and you order any of the above. The place may still need some time to find its devotees and the proper mix of low-key music acts to fit its modest stage — a couple times I've been there midweek things have been pretty quiet, and the musicians seemed alternately awkward or lonely up there — and the bill always seems surprisingly hefty. But it's the kind of place you'd happily spend your next birthday, and all your friends will inevitably say, "This place is so cool. Why haven't we been here?" — Jay Barmann
2174 Market Street near Sanchez

Previously: The 11 Best New Bars of 2015
The 15 Best New Restaurants In The Bay Area (2014)

For budgetary reasons, SFist editors and contributors occasionally accept complimentary meals from restaurants and their publicists. More often, we pay out of pocket for our meals. While we refrain from writing formal reviews, we make every effort when giving opinions about restaurants to be objective, and to focus more on food and ambiance than service in order to make up for any possible bias.

Inside Aster, Lila A. via Yelp