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Remembering the Biggest Dining Surprises of 2011

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As is the tradition at Eater, our closeout of the year is a survey of friends, industry types, bloggers, and readers to get a read on the highlights and lowlights of the last year of eating in San Francisco. We've already covered Best Standbys, Top Newcomers, Best Dining Neighborhood, and 2011 in One Word. Now it's time for the biggest dining surprise of the year. Readers, please add your thoughts to the comments.

Citizen Cake's closure was definitely a surprise. [Photo: ISSF]

Q: What was the biggest dining surprise of 2011?

Jonathan Kauffman, restaurant critic, SF Weekly: Joshua Skenes dropping the number of seats at Saison and introducing the $498 prix-fixe chef's counter. Though there are a lot of one-percenter foodies in the Bay Area, so I'm not surprised the reservations are filling up.

Grant Marek, San Francisco Editor, Thrillist: That Wo Hing General Store wasn't very good. Like, at all. Well, except for Brooke Arthur and her cocktails, which were both awesome. Otherwise, yeah, not really at all.

Jane Goldman, Vice President and Editor-in-Chief, Chow: Surprise: It's not new, but it was new to me: Chris Cosentino's tripe. Disappointment: there are some really bad, expensive food trucks.

Amy Sherman, Cooking with Amy: Dessert at Atelier Crenn. The frozen pine "tree" and fresh take on a carrot cake were both exquisite and memorable.

Josh Sens, restaurant critic, San Francisco magazine: That Umami Burger, an LA-born chain with an outpost on Union Street (that's two strikes), turned out to be very good.

Paolo Lucchesi, San Francisco Chronicle Inside Scoop: That Harry Denton does not have his own reality show. That SF finally has some good Jewish food (Wise Sons). Also, not sure if it's a surprise, but it's nice to see so many hotels rethinking their restaurants and trying to move them forward, for better or worse.

GraceAnn Walden, The Yummy Report and SF tour guide: All the barbecue.

Sara Deseran, senior editor 7x7: That the Mission continues to be able to stomach more restaurants. And I mean that in a good way. It's headed towards being a national dining destination. Now they just need a good gym there to counteract all the eating I do.

Stuart Schuffman, Broke-Ass Stuart: The biggest surprise? It might've been that GQ article that trumpeted the SF dining scene as far superior to the NYC one. San Franciscans love to one up New York.

Virginia Miller, food and drink correspondent, SF Bay Guardian: The plethora of high quality cheap eats openings. There have been many new places offering one or more dishes I'd go back for over and over again for under $15: Chubby Noodle's fried chicken and spicy garlic noodles, Hot Wings & Panko's crazy good chicken wings (my tops of the new chicken wing spots), Wise Sons chocolate babka bread and corned beef (finally some great Jewish food in SF!), Mission Cheese's satisfying, rotating grilled cheese sandwiches, Roostertail's rotisserie chicken and addictive green garlic sauce.

Brock Keeling, editor SFist: I didn't see one person take a photo of their dinner plate, praise Allah.

Carolyn Jung, Food Gal: The announcement of the closing of Citizen Cake. It was the first bakery here that really showed that pastries need not always look the same, traditional way to be spectacular. I hope Elizabeth Falkner resurfaces with a new place sometime soon.

Atelier Crenn

3127 Fillmore Street, , CA 94123 (415) 440-0460 Visit Website


178 Townsend Street, , CA 94107 (415) 828-7990 Visit Website