The Chronicle Top 100, a list of restaurants curated and annually vetted by retired food critic Michael Bauer for nearly 25 years, has just gotten a major update in the hands of new critic Soleil Ho. And while it's a refreshingly diverse list reflecting changing mindsets and tastes in 2019, the omissions include some local sacred cows and Michelin-starred destinations like Saison, Boulevard, Frances, and Octavia.
This year's list, unlike Bauer's one-man show, was actually a team effort — Ho has only lived here since January so she could not be expected both to write her weekly reviews and to dine at hundreds of restaurants to update this list in that time. Helping her in the curating and critiquing this year is food editor Paolo Lucchesi, drinks writer Esther Mobley, and restaurant news writer Justin Phillips, as she explains in this FAQ. And Ho admits, "This is a major departure from what came before."
The methodology this year took all fine-dining restaurants and compared them to each other, with only the most unique and special remaining — thus making room for some lowbrow and bargain fare that is nonetheless beloved, like Red's Java House, The Sentinel, and the ridiculously over-salted hofbrau spread at Tommy's Joynt. As Ho explains, "We figured it is more valuable to readers to be able to identify our favorite fine dining restaurants rather than all the fine dining restaurants." Thus there are notable omissions including Michelin three-starred Quince and Manresa, and Michelin two-starred Coi, Saison, Campton Place, and Baumé. Atelier Crenn, Benu, The French Laundry, Meadowood, and Single Thread all make the cut, but this year's list is worlds beyond Bauer's in terms of its breadth of cuisines — with more space given to Mexican and Chinese spots, in particular.
Among the other surprise additions: Cellarmaker House of Pizza ("Though there are an increasing number of spots to grab a Detroit-style pie... Cellarmaker House of Pie [sic] edges out the competition with its bespoke collection of beers and bright, pretty space."), Balompié, Montesacro, Taqueria El Castellito, and beloved Burmese dive Yamo.
Also — and I completely agree with this choice — La Taqueria gets swapped out in favor of El Farolito.
There will no doubt be ripples of anger and resentment throughout the local food world about the significantly revised list, but it should be noted it's not a wholesale rewriting — a couple dozen Bauer mainstays, from House of Prime Rib to Zuni Cafe, remain.
Did they have to knock off both Frances and Octavia, though? Damn.
Photo of Yamo courtesy of Christopher K./Yelp