You can take it as another symptom of a restaurant culture in crisis in the ever-more expensive environs of San Francisco, or you can see it as indicative of SF's recent decline in the national imagination. But any way you slice it, Bon Appetit just released its Hot 10 for 2019 (its annual ranking of the country's ten best new restaurants to open since last August), and San Francisco is nowhere to be found on the list for the first time in 10 years.
Back in 2009, when critic Andrew Knowlton launched the list, it was Bar Jules (RIP). In 2010, it was Frances. In 2011, Mission Chinese Food landed at #2. Calling it a "knock-out" in 2012, the magazine named State Bird Provisions the best new restaurant in the nation. In 2013, Saison landed at #2 in the country, just before landing its third Michelin star. In 2014, Tosca Cafe landed on the list. Then in 2015, Knowlton categorically declared San Francisco "the best food city in the country right now," giving AL's Place the #1 slot on the top 10, and also giving Rintaro a slot as well.
Even in the last three years, as the list has declared other cities like D.C. and Chicago to be more exciting, food-wise, for whatever reason, San Francisco has maintained a presence on Bon App's list, with Lord Stanley in 2016, Mister Jiu's in 2017, and Che Fico in 2018 (alongside Oakland's Nyum Bai).
Granted, the pace of high-profile openings has notably slowed in the last couple of years, and even Che Fico's executive chef David Nayfield was one of a number of restaurateurs who spoke at a hearing at City Hall on Monday about just how awful it is to open a restaurant here. Che Fico was notably delayed multiple times before making its late-2017 debut, and as Eater reports, Nayfield said at Monday's hearing that he and his partners "have started to consider new projects, but we’ve started to see San Francisco as a non-viable market."
Knowlton started a tradition, continued now under deputy editor Julia Kramer, of publishing the long list of new restaurants from which the top-10 list gets whittled down — and this year, on that Top 50, San Francisco has but one nominee, the Quince wine-bar spinoff Verjus.
To be fair, Chicago and D.C., which were also lauded by the magazine for their food scenes in recent years, were also snubbed this year, so maybe Kramer is just trying to be as geographically diverse as possible — L.A. and New York only appear once each, and this year's list includes spots in Denver, Detroit, and Baltimore, which are cities whose restaurants don't often get this kind of national love. (Grub Street has an easy-to-read and click version of the list, if you like.)
But given the mood of everything in this town lately, with all the essays about our precipitous decline, this is just one more unwelcome nail. Better luck in 2020.
Photo courtesy of Verjus