San Francisco

San Francisco's Best Restaurants of 2019

Cole Saladino / Thrillist
Cole Saladino / Thrillist
Cole Saladino / Thrillist

San Francisco routinely impresses us with amazing food (just look at our list of the best in the city right now), even during a time when many restaurants are struggling because of how hard it is to find employees who can afford to live anywhere near here. However, we persist. Despite the economic issues, a range of impressive new restaurants opened this year, including but not limited to a Parisian-inspired wine bar, a whimsical take on a Jewish deli, a much-needed Detroit-style pizza joint, and an Arabic comfort food spot. Without further ado, here are the 11 best restaurants that opened in 2019 — all of which filled a void in the city’s dining landscape and are well worth your hard-earned dollars.

MORE: Check out the 12 new restaurants we named best in the nation this year

Molly DeCoudreaux
Molly DeCoudreaux
Molly DeCoudreaux

Al’s Deli

Mission
Jewish deli favorites meet Israeli street food at this fast-casual AL’s Place spinoff 

The first thing you need to know about this playful spin on Israeli street food-meets-East Coast Jewish deli fare is that it comes from chef Aaron London, the guy behind one-Michelin-starred AL’s Place. If that won’t convince you, head there for lunch or dinner and grab some of the most thoughtfully plated fast casual food in the Bay Area. The menu is extremely satisfying, especially the herbed falafel pita sandwich (one of our favorite falafels in the city) and rotisserie chicken. Pop an edible an hour before you arrive and you’ll be even more excited to try “Al’s Creations,” which include a potato latke stuffed with cream cheese, smoked salmon, and red onion caper, as well as falafel corn dog bites.

Beit Rima
Beit Rima
Beit Rima

Beit Rima

Cole Valley and Duboce Triangle
Arabic comfort food inspired by the chef’s family’s home-cooked meals

At one point, there were seven Burgermeister locations in the Bay Area. Now, the final two in SF have been transformed by the founder’s 29-year-old son, Samir Mogannam, to Beit Rima — a fast-casual restaurant that’s drawn ceaseless crowds eager to enjoy a menu of Palestinian and Jordanian comfort food. It’s a smart pivot in a town with an over-saturation of mouthwatering burgers, especially since there aren’t a lot of places to get casual mezze and pita, like muhammara, baked halloumi, baba ganoush, and hummus (made even tastier when topped with spiced beef) in a warm and welcoming environment. 

For those who are a tad hungrier, there are also larger plates like a beef kabob, whole fried branzino, and gazan braised lamb shank. A third Beit Rima will open in Daly City early next year, effectively ending Burgermeister’s 20-year run (and what a run it was), but keeping the family’s reputation for bringing delicious food made with good ingredients to the Bay very much intact.

Dear Inga
Dear Inga
Dear Inga

Dear Inga

Mission
A heartfelt tribute to Eastern European food from the partners and chefs of Nopa and Liholiho Yacht Club

Dear Inga was one of the city’s most anticipated restaurant openings this year because of the team behind it: chef David Golovin (Nopa), chef Ravi Kapur (Liholiho Yacht Club) and restaurateur/partner Jeff Hanak (Nopa and Liholiho). The restaurant is named after Golovin’s grandmother, and though it’s only recently opened, it’s already a welcome addition to SF’s dining scene. The menu celebrates Eastern European comfort food with a California approach and a focus on fermentation, smoking techniques, and live-fire cooking. Dishes include smoked fish, pork and beef stuffed cabbage, a Hungarian fried bread, and three types of sausage, all served in a sleek space with rustic touches throughout. There aren’t a lot of places to get food like this in the Bay, but even if there were, Dear Inga would come out on top.

Ed Anderson
Ed Anderson
Ed Anderson

Che Fico Alimentari

Divisadero Corridor
An Italian wine bar, grocery, and salumeria downstairs from the very popular Che Fico

Che Fico made our Best Openings list last year and remains one of the hottest reservations in town. We wish we could say that the opening of its downstairs sister restaurant, inspired by the wine bars of Rome, has made it easier to get into either spot, but instead it just made this auto body shop-turned-restaurant space even more of a destination. Whereas Che Fico has soaring ceilings and lots of natural light, Alimentari is an intimate space with dim lighting and cozy tables (though the noise level is a ‘lil loud during peak hours for the spot to be romantic). 

Alimentari bills itself as a wine bar, but the food menu is robust with rustic, enoteca-style options, like salumi e formaggi, seafood dishes, a selection of classic pastas (the bucatini cacio e pepe is a favorite), and heartier plates, like a suckling pig for two. There are more than 200 wines available — mostly Italian — at a price point for everyone. And on the way out, stop and browse the market by the entrance; you’ll find a selection of wine and Italian pantry items you’ll need to use at home the next time you want to pop in to Alimentari, but forgot to make a reservation.

Erin Riordan | Flour + Water Pizzeria
Erin Riordan | Flour + Water Pizzeria
Erin Riordan | Flour + Water Pizzeria

Flour + Water Pizzeria

Mission
A pizza spot from chef Thomas McNaughton where you can get a pie to share or grab a slice to-go. 

You no longer have to choose between pizza and pasta when you go to Flour + Water. Now, you’ll get your pasta at Flour + Water, and your pizza at Flour + Water Pizzeria — just a short walk away. One thing to note: the pizza at the spinoff is a little different than what you’ll find at Flour + Water. The dough is still fermented over three days, but the recipe has been modified. It’s baked in a deck oven to give it the char of a Neapolitan pizza, but with a crunch and chew that can stand up to delivery. That last part is important because, as you can imagine, Flour + Water Pizzeria is just as popular as the original, but there are no reservations (there is a text notification waitlist though, which make things less painful.) Don’t skip the mozzarella sticks (the best we’ve ever had on the West Coast) as well as the soft serve. Unfortunately, neither of those are available for delivery, but hey, you have to leave the house at some point. Note: there’s a to-go window where you can get the daily $8 “Big Slice,” which is equivalent to half a pie and served on a paper plate.

Dave Greer
Dave Greer
Dave Greer

Niku Steakhouse

Design District
A boutique steakhouse with Japanese influence and a focus on Wagyu

The place to sit at this sleek steakhouse is the 18-seat chef’s counter above a sunken kitchen, where you’ll enjoy an eye-level view (and nose-level smell) of chefs grilling the meat (all butchered in-house) on the binchotan charcoal grill and wood-fired yakiniku grill. It’s formal, intimate, and a great way to be a voyeur to all the meaty action. There’s a selection of steaks to share, but you’re at Niku for the Wagyu. Just be prepared to drop some coin if you go for the A5 (the extremely marbled highest grade of Japanese Wagyu beef). Wine and whisky lovers will also be excited about the 100 wines by the glass and the whiskey-forward cocktail menu.

Audrey Ma
Audrey Ma
Audrey Ma

Noosh

Lower Pacific Heights
Eastern Mediterranean food in a cool, casual environment reminiscent of Santorini

Noosh means “lovely, attractive” in Farsi, and everything about this restaurant — from the food to the design — lives up to the name. The plates from Laura and Sayat Ozyilmaz, a wife and husband team known originally for their popular pop-up Istanbul Modern, are served in a “fine-casual” style. You’ll order at the counter and, after you sit down, a server will take over so that you can order even more food and/or a second glass of Georgian wine. 

Most of the menu is meant to be shared with an emphasis on small plates, like lamb meatballs and falafel, fluffy Turkish flatbreads from the wood-fired oven, savory spreads (hummus, red pepper muhammara, etc.) served with house-baked chubby pita, and a selection of kebabs. It’s simple, satisfying, and all made in-house (including the sauces and roasted spices). And though Noosh is perfectly set-up for delivery, if you choose to eat it at home, you’ll miss out on one of the highlights: a sour cherry ice cream sandwich made with brown butter cookies.

FotosByFlee
FotosByFlee
FotosByFlee

Square Pie Guys

SoMa
Move over Neapolitan, it’s all about Detroit-style pizza now

We have a pulse, which means we love whatever kind of pizza is in front of us at any given moment. But we’ve gotta admit that the Neapolitan-style pie situation in SF has gotten a little ubiquitous. Unfortunately, when something is so readily available, it also stops being quite as special. Now, we’re all about Square Pie Guys Detroit-style pizza, a style baked in pans that used to carry automotive parts and is much harder to track down in the 7×7. A picture really does speak a thousand words when it comes to this pizza, but what’s important to know is that the dough is crispy, crunch, and chewy all at the same time and the edges are golden brown and encrusted in cheese in the best way possible. 

There are lots of toppings to choose from, but classic pepperoni is the one that will satisfy you time and time again. The Square Pie Guys also serve up some crazy good Szechauan dry-fried wings, and the burger’s a winner as well. Pro-tip: they have personal pies at lunchtime. Do with that knowledge what you must.

Cole Saladino / Thrillist
Cole Saladino / Thrillist
Cole Saladino / Thrillist

Um.ma

Inner Sunset
Modern Korean home cooking in a stylish space with a back patio

Um.ma means “mom” in Korean, and this spot (which made our list of the best new restaurants in the U.S.) is a very sweet tribute from SF native chef Chris Oh to moms everywhere. You’ll see that in the portrait gallery of moms that hang on the wall, but more importantly in the food. The dishes are thoughtful, contemporary, and truly exquisite. On the menu, you’ll find a mix of classics, like a seafood pancake packed with shrimp and scallops, tender slices of brisket, and comforting bowls of pork belly and tofu soup, as well as charcoal-grilled Korean barbecue. The prices may feel a little steep for Korean food, but when you take into consideration the ingredients and how much work goes into the preparation — as well as the fact that most unfortunately tend to think they should pay less for Asian cuisine (ugh) — it’s quickly clear that the price is well worth it.

Hotel Kabuki
Hotel Kabuki
Hotel Kabuki

Nari

Japantown
A stunning spinoff of Michelin-starred Kin Khao that deserves praise in its own right

Renowned chef Pim Techamuanvivit’s newest creation, Nari, is named after the Thai word for “women” and “pays homage to generations of females who inspired Chef’s love, appreciation, and mastery of her native cuisine.” It also just so happens to be one of the most compelling restaurants SF has seen in a minute. Anyone who loves the food at Kin Khao (which we’ll just assume is everyone who’s ever eaten it) will love what they discover in this larger space which successfully balances austerity and elegance. The menu offers most of Kin Khao’s hits, but is a little more grown-up. This is attributed to a bigger kitchen, where there’s more room for Techamuanvivit and chef de cuisine, Meghan Clark, to play around with fiery flavors. We suggest you save the Kin Khao faves (like the green curry with rabbit), for Kin Khao and use your visit to Nari as an opportunity to explore new additions while sipping on one of the cocktails named after female characters from Thai literature.

Tolleson/Flickr
Tolleson/Flickr
Tolleson/Flickr

Verjus

Financial District
Casual French-inspired wine bar and bottle shop with a leaning towards natural wines

Verjus is truly everything one could want in a wine bar — if what everything one wants in a wine bar is unfussy, but flawlessly executed French food, a wine list that is both unexpected and delightful (with a focus on small scale, independent growers and natural wines), an ambiance that feels effortlessly stylish thanks to high red-lacquered ceilings, cozy mid-century-style tables from French furniture designer Pierre Chapo, and a “menu spontané” on a marquee-style light box. 

Part of the magic of Verjus is that it can be whatever you need it to be: a place to pick up a bottle on your way home for work, a tapas bar for a happy hour drink and snack with a friend, or an (almost) full service restaurant for a leisurely dinner (you order at the counter, but from there will be taken care of by a server). The other part is that even if you’re only popping in to buy some wine, Verjus always manages to provide a moment of escape, which, as much as we love this town, is oftentimes needed.Sign up here for our daily San Francisco email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun SF has to offer.

Daisy Barringer is an SF-based writer who is always on the hunt for new and exciting food. Tell her where she should eat next on Twitter @daisy.

San Francisco

How to Celebrate Black History Month in San Francisco

Support and celebrate SF's Black community.

Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade

Though it’s something we need to be doing every day of every month of every year, Black History Month encourages us to pay tribute to the struggles and oppression generations of Black Americans have faced, as well as their often-neglected triumphs and achievements that have helped shape this county and make it better. It’s a time to reflect on how we can do better to confront racism and oppression, which this year’s theme, “Black Resistance,” echoes. This is especially important in a town like San Francisco, where the Fillmore District was known as “the Harlem of the West” before the city displaced a vast portion of the neighbourhood’s Black community in the ’60s and ’70s. This displacement continues today, as the Black population is the only racial group that has declined in every census since 1970.

If you’re looking for ways to celebrate Black History Month, there are lots to do. Whether you want to educate yourself by attending films, performances, or conversations, share the joy at a parade or dance party, or do a little bit of it all at a drag show, here are just a few ways you can get involved and have a lot of fun while doing so:

Visit San Francisco Public Library branches for workshops, films, performances, and more

February (and throughout the year)
Library branches and online
SFPL’s “More Than a Month” celebration focuses on the theme of resistance this year. Family-friendly and adult events include film screenings, musical performances, book clubs, workshops, and more.
Cost: Free

Museum of African Diaspora
Museum of African Diaspora
Museum of African Diaspora

See art, poetry, films, talks, and more at MoAD

February (and throughout the year)
SoMa
Right now, at the Museum of African Diaspora, you can see the first and only West Coast exhibition of “The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion,” which highlights the work of 15 contemporary fashion designers “whose images present radically new perspectives on the medium of photography and art, race and beauty, and gender and power.” The museum, which has a robust year-round program and event calendar, has a slew of events to attend, including youth poetry readings, film screenings, open mic nights, book clubs, artist talks, and more.
Cost: Event prices vary; GA to visit the museum is $12 but free every second Saturday of the month

Check out films, art, reading, talks, and more at BAMPFA

February (and throughout the year)
Berkeley
There is always something interesting to discover at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA). During Black History Month, you can see films by Pratibha Parmar, “Felwine Sarr: Music, Freedom, Africa,” a conversation through music with the Senegalese writer, scholar, composer, musician, and more.
Cost: Varies

Old Skool Cafe
Old Skool Cafe
Old Skool Cafe

Enjoy menu specials honoring Black community members at Old Skool Cafe

February (and throughout the year)
Bayview
For Black History Month, Old Skool Cafe is adding the favourite meals of notable Black community members to the menu each weekend. The nonprofit, youth-run supper club helps at-risk, formerly incarcerated, and foster care youth ages 16-22 gain the skills and experience they need to succeed in various front and back-of-house restaurant roles. Bayview hero/community advocate Mrs. Dorris Vincent is first up, followed by Judge Trina Thompson, Delroy Lindo, and Mayor London Breed.

Yerba Buena Gardens
Yerba Buena Gardens
Yerba Buena Gardens

Walk beneath the Marting Luther King, Jr. Memorial waterfall

February (and ongoing)
Yerba Buena Gardens
Did you know that Yerba Buena Gardens is home to the country’s second-largest memorial to Dr. King? Visit the sculptural waterfall featuring glass panels inscribed with his inspiring words at 750 Howard Street.
Cost: Free

Attend the Commonwealth’s “Dreaming Forward: A Celebration of Black Joy, Power, and Excellence” conference

Thursday, February 9
Embarcadero
On behalf of Dr. Sheryl Evans Davis and the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, the Commonwealth Club is hosting its second annual Dream Keeper Initiative, a day-long conference/celebration/call-to-action featuring special guests, including April Ryan of TheGrio and CNN.
Cost: Free

Courtesy of Oakland First Fridays
Courtesy of Oakland First Fridays
Courtesy of Oakland First Fridays

Celebrate Black Love at Oakland First Fridays

Friday, February 10
Telegraph Avenue from West Grand to 27th Street
Telegraph Avenue transforms into a dining, shopping, and art-appreciating party on Friday, February 10, from 5 pm to 9 pm. There will be food, artist, and retail vendors and a host of Black artists, authors, and entertainment. Please note: This event was rescheduled from February 3 because of potential rain.
Cost: Free

Have a ball at an all-Black drag show at Oasis

Friday, February 10
SoMa
“Reparations with Latrice Royale” is an all-Black drag show hosted by Latrice Royale, the beloved Drag Race star who also happens to be celebrating her birthday.
Cost: $15 to $60

Dance all night and shop all day at the Afro Soca Love carnival and marketplace

Friday, February 10 ‚Äď Saturday, February 11
341 13th Street, Oakland
Afro Soca Love creates experiences that act as a “gateway to building bonds and strengthen relationships-between communities, individuals, and Africa and its diaspora.” See for yourself at the all-ages marketplace (Saturday), where you’ll find food and drink, fashion, beauty and wellness, home decor, and more. But before the shopping comes the dancing at the 21+ Friday Night Carnival, a culturally immersive music experience with music from all over the world.
Cost: The marketplace is free; tickets to the Friday Night Carnival start at $20

See a live performance of “Words That Made the Difference: Brown vs. the Board of Education”

Saturday, February 11
Unity Palo Alto
See a live theatrical performance based on the true events that occurred in the fight to end school segregation. The script draws from trial transcripts of the five cases brought together in front of the Supreme Court and Chief Justice Earl Warren’s memoirs, and the play is set in the courtrooms where it all happened. There will be a Q&A with the playwright before the performance and the cast afterward.
Cost: Free

Courtesy of San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company
Courtesy of San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company
Courtesy of San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company

Go to the I, Too, Sing America album release party

Saturday, February 11
Mission
Head to the Brava Theater Center to celebrate the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company’s album release of the music created for I, Too, Sing America, a soulful and uplifting performance that moved audiences when it debuted last year. The night includes an album-listening and sing-along party, DJs, dancing, an open bar, and more.
Cost: $40

Go on the Black Liberation Walking Tour of West Oakland

Saturday, February 18
West Oakland
Take a walk with David Peters, founder of the West Oakland Cultural Action Network, and Gene Anderson, the author of Legendary Locals of Oakland, to learn about resident voices and document sites of cultural and historical significance in the neighbourhood. Peters is a local native, and Anderson is an Oakland historian whose family has historical roots in West Oakland.
Cost: $50 ($30 for West Oakland residents)

See a screening of The Black Kung Fu Experience followed by in-person demonstrations

Sunday, February 19
Great Star Theater, Chinatown
The Chinese Historical Society of America is celebrating Black History Month and social unity with a screening of this film about how a group of African American pioneers became respected in a subculture dominated by Chinese and white men. Afterward, there will be demonstrations and talks with Sifu Donald Hamby and Sifu Troy Dunwood, who “will speak about their success as internationally recognized martial arts masters, their Chinese Kung Fu teachers, and what this practice means in relation to diversity, race and inclusion issues.”
Cost: $15

Sip wine made by Black winemakers at a free tasting event at STEM Kitchen + Garden

Thursday, February 23
Dogpatch
STEM Kitchen + Garden is hosting an afternoon wine tasting celebrating Black-owned wineries in its gorgeous indoor/outdoor space, and best of all, and it’s free to the public!
Cost: Free

Bayview Opera House
Bayview Opera House
Bayview Opera House

Attend the San Francisco African American Arts & Cultural District Gala Fundraiser

Saturday, February 25
Bayview Opera House
Enjoy an evening of talent, fashion, and community inspiration at SFAAACD’s 1st Annual Gala Fundraiser. Carla Duke, Television News Director at CBS-KPIX Chanel 5, will host the event, which includes inspiring words from keynote speaker Aniyia Williams, an artist, tech creator, and system-preneur.
Cost: $100

Attend a Black History Month & Chinese New Year Poetry Reading on Angel Island

Saturday, February 25
Angel Island
There is so much history in poetry at the Angel Island Detention Barracks Museum, which makes it a fitting location for poets Chun Yu and Michael Warr. The co-founders of Two Languages/One Community will share their poems and stories in English and Chinese, accompanied by projected images of text and photographs.
Cost: $10 to $21

Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade

Feel the joy at the Black Joy Parade

Sunday, February 26
Downtown Oakland
This parade and festival celebrate the “Black experience past, present, and future.” Be prepared to experience “more Black joy than you ever imagined,” starting with the parade (beginning at 14th and Franklin) at 12:30 pm. The family-friendly festival follows (main entrance is at 19th and Franklin) will include 200-plus Black-owned small businesses selling food, drinks, clothing, art, and more. There will also be two stages with Black performers, including The Black Joy Choir.
Cost: Free

Take a sound bath at Grace Cathedral in honor of Black History Month

Monday, February 27
Nob Hill
Take an immersive sound bath featuring Fractals of Sound, a collective of top Bay Area musicians Egemen Sanli, Phoenix Song, and Sam Jackson, with special guest Destiny Muhammad. Together, they will create a “soundscape deeply rooted in world music,” allowing you to take a meditative journey in one of the most beautiful places in San Francisco.
Cost: $25 to $75

See Tsitsi Dangarembga and Angela Davis at City Arts & Lectures

Tuesday, February 28
Civic Center
Co-presented with MoAd, City Arts & Lectures is hosting novelist Tsitsi Dangarembga and scholar and activist Angela Davis for what’s sure to be a riveting conversation.
Cost: $36

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Daisy Barringer¬†is an SF-based freelance writer who spent many childhood days wandering around the Exploratorium. Follow her on¬†Instagram¬†to see what she’s up to now.

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