The new Michelin Guide for California comes out in a few days, but assuming all of these SF restaurants get to hold on to their stars, you might be glad to learn that they are back open — having, in some cases, quietly reopened this summer for indoor dining after over a year completely dark.
It would be kind of mean-spirited to strip a restaurant of stars it earned in 2019 if, for instance, Michelin inspectors weren't able to get there in time for their deadline after it reopened in July or August. It would also be sort of mean to strip a restaurant of its star just given everything that restaurants have already been through the past year. But who knows? [Update: They went there.]
Here's the full list from the 2019 Michelin Guide, and you'll note a few closures have happened in the past two years like Commonwealth, Lord Stanley (which is currently doing rotating pop-ups), Michael Mina, and Nico.
Now, pretty much all the remaining restaurants Michelin previously recognized have made their way back open again, amid a season of staffing shortages, changing public health orders, and a stubborn surge in COVID cases citywide. And some of them did so with little fanfare in recent weeks, after months of either doing takeout or outdoor only, or remaining completely dark.
Below are SFist's picks for the best of SF fine dining to go check out right now, or when you have a special occasion coming up.
Chef Aaron London's ode to California vegetables, with meats "on the side," reopened with ample outdoor seating in the spring, and they're still going strong with the dining room now open and, consequently, twice as much seating as they had before. The family-style prix-fixe ($83 per person) is still the way to go to get a broad sampling of the whole menu. 1499 Valencia Street at 26th
The past two years have seen Chef Dominique Crenn declare that her Michelin three-star restaurant would be entirely meatless, then open a vegan delivery chain with a first location in LA, and then in August she announced she planned to begin serving cell-based meat — and to become the first U.S. chef to serve lab-grown chicken, from UPSIDE Foods. Atelier Crenn remains the priciest dinner in town at $395 per person, pre-paid, with add-ons (and it also now boasts a very cinematic website landing page). But for special occasions for foodinistas, it's a lyrical and inventive must-try. 3127 Fillmore Street
Chef Corey Lee opened his Michelin three-star spot in SoMa over a decade ago now, and its accolades have continued rolling in over the years — with former Chronicle critic Michael Bauer re-affirming its four Chronicle stars in 2018 and noting that it now felt like "an Asian restaurant capitalizing on some of the best preparations and products in the world." Lee is now at work trying to open his first Korean restaurant San Ho Won, but Benu also quietly reopened this summer serving its $350 multi-course menu, and reservations for 30 days out disappear as soon as they become available. 22 Hawthorne Street
Californios completed its move from the Mission to 11th Street in SoMa (the former Bar Agricole space) earlier this year, and quietly opened for outdoor dining in late March. Chef Val Cantu continues to wow diners with his refined and subtle takes on Mexican-Californian cuisine — which earned him two stars from Michelin in 2019. The space has gotten a nice remodel, and the enclosed, partly covered front patio is a lovely experience as well. (Tablehopper has the most recent review for the place from April.) 355 11th Street
The intimate NoPa neighborhood omakase spot that opened to immediate accolades five years ago gained the respect of Michelin inspectors pretty soon thereafter. This year saw the seamless indoor experience translated into an outdoor sushi counter on Fulton Street — and now there's an indoor option as well. And Chronicle critic Soleil Ho says that "Chef Geoffrey Lee’s menu is stripped-down and precise, with little adornment to get between you and the melt-in-your-mouth pieces of fish and seafood." The prix fixe is $147 for 12, fairly rapid-fire courses, and everyone raves about the finishing course of sweet miso soup. 1335 Fulton Street at Divisadero
The pandemic put a spike in Lazy Bear's signature, communal dinner-party format, but chef David Barzelay has been back open for months, with parklets and individual indoor tables, doing what he says is "the most luxurious experience we've ever offered." Pre-paid reservations for parties of 2 to 6 start at $265 per person, with dinner served from 5 to 11 p.m., Tuesday to Saturday and this is a recent sample menu for reference. 3416 19th Street
Chef Brandon Jew's celebration of San Francisco Chinese cuisine in Chinatown earned its status as the only Chinese restaurant in town with a Michelin star. The restaurant took its time reopening as pandemic restrictions shifted, but it was worth the wait — and the swanky upstairs Moon Gate Lounge is back open as well. Check out the latest Autumn menu here and make reservations on Resy well in advance (right now you can only get 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. tables a few weeks out). 28 Waverly Place
One of the grandest and most elegant restaurant spaces in town, Mourad, has been back open for a few months in the ghost town of downtown — and even upstairs office tenant Yelp is moving out. Fans still seek it out, and the place books up on weekends — and chef Mourad Lahlou's distinctive and refined spins on Moroccan flavors remain second to none. 140 New Montgomery Street
Chef Melissa Perello's Michelin-starred spot in Pacific Heights reopened in late June with new chef de cuisine Nico Pena (Rich Table, Tartine Manufactory) at the helm. Pena's has brought some excellent new pastas to the menu, including a stellar corn lasagna. And fans of Perello's deft touch with seasonal vegetables can go from dining here to checking out her weekend pop-up dinners at Frances that start this month, until Frances makes it fully back open. 1701 Octavia Street
If you haven't been back to Rich Table in a couple of years, you owe it to yourself to check it out. Chefs Sara and Evan Rich and their team continue to put out bold and inventive flavors, including a rigatoni with duck and tomato gravy, and a schnitzel-style fried pork chop that's currently being served with German potato salad and cranberry. Let them do the chef's choice prix fixe for $125 and you won't be disappointed, and you will be treated to an array of the snack courses — which may be the secret stars of the show anyway. 199 Gough Street
Saison still does a bang-up job in the space of vegetable- and fire-driven California cuisine. They now have some elegant patio seats in addition to their industrial-chic SoMa dining room, and the current summer menu comes with a $288 price tag per person, with optional add-ons. Chef Paul Chung is currently at the helm in the kitchen along with chef de cuisine Richard Lee, but some chef turnover in the last couple of years led to a downgrade from three to two stars from Michelin — and we'll see if the Michelin inspectors look kindly on them and leave them at two this year. 178 Townsend Street
Consistently one of the best Italian restaurants in the Bay, SPQR is still operating on a limited, Thursday-to-Saturday schedule, and it's still doing a range of takeout — in addition to spicy fried Calabrese chicken on for takeout and delivery on Sundays, and fried-to-order doughnuts on Saturdays. Chef Matt Accarrino is offering one of the better fine-dining deals in town with his current $85 five-course prix fixe — with a choice of antipasti, pasta, entree, and dessert, as well as a seasonal salad and "extras" along the way. Seatings for indoor and outdoor are pretty well sold out except for the earliest slots in the coming weeks, so book ahead. 1911 Fillmore Street
State Bird Provisions
It's a testament to the talent of executive chef Stuart Brioza and his staff — including Food & Wine Best New Chef Gaby Maeda, State Bird's chef de cuisine — that the dining experience has never felt stale or gimmicky at State Bird Provisions, now a decade old on Fillmore Street. The carts and trays that used to circulate with dim sum-style snack options have been put away, presumably until the pandemic ends, which means the whole menu is now "commandables" — i.e. you can now just order everything, standard-style, like you used to be able to do with just one section of items. And creativity still abounds, with Asian-inflected California cuisine, and the namesake dish, fried quail with the "provisions" of lemon-onion compote. (Also note that the equally Michelin-starred and inventive sister spot The Progress is reopening next door in October.) 1529 Fillmore Street
The second-priciest, Michelin three-starred restaurant in the city after Atelier Crenn, Quince is currently doing a $360 prix fixe (8-10 courses) with $320 for optional wine pairings — even without pairings, after service charge and tax, you're easily looking at $500 per person with just a modest bottle of wine, so be prepared for that, or opt for the $195 four-course option. Like State Bird, they seem to have suspended some of the old-school tableside cart things they did out of pandemic concerns, like the mignardise cart and the cocktail cart — but one Yelper notes they are still using the Champagne cart to market some pricier bottles. Chef Michael Tusk specializes in pasta, so this is the only ultra-high-end restaurant in town where you'll find pastas mixed in with your courses. 470 Pacific Avenue