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Industry Experts Share Biggest Dining Surprises of 2012

Penthouse Club & Steakhouse.
Penthouse Club & Steakhouse.
Photo: Molly DeCoudreaux

As is the tradition at Eater, our closeout of the year is a survey of friends, industry types, bloggers, and readers. So far we've heard their takes on standbys, newcomers, neighborhoods, and one word to describe the year. Now we want to know what surprised them them most in 2012. The responses, unedited and in no particular order, below:

Paolo Lucchesi, Inside Scoop SF: I, for one, remain shocked -- shocked I tell you -- the Penthouse Club & STEAKHOUSE didn't get that Michelin star they were after. On more serious notes, did anyone expect Original Joe's to translate so perfectly to a new era and new location? And I don't think anyone predicted a $100 million Starbucks-ification of La Boulange.

Amy Sherman, Bay Area Bites: I still can't believe foie gras is gone.

Brock Keeling, SFist: The flatulence that followed all those Brussels Sprout chips.

Josh Sens, San Francisco Magazine: That some food writers are still using the word "unctuous"

Marcia Gagliardi, Tablehopper: That nobody stopped the Kaka Udon people from opening with that name. Of course State Bird Provisions getting Best New Restaurant in the U.S. from Bon Appétit was quite the BOOM. And how about that foie gras ban? Criminy.

Jonathan Kauffman, Tasting Table: That after Joshua Skenes started charging $598 per person for chef's table spots his restaurant didn't immediately go under.

Anna Roth, SF Weekly: I've had so many surprises since I moved here in July. Can I name a few? The lamb poutine from The Whole Beast, which I had at Outside Lands and it was one of the more delicious things I've ever put in my mouth. The beet mimosa at Bar Tartine, just because I was skeptical about it and it turned out to be so tasty. The Mt. Tam-infused pancakes at State Bird Provisions. But I am seriously surprised almost every day.

Jesse Hirsch, The Examiner: A lunchtime visit to unassuming little Café Q in Alameda yielded one of the best meals of the year. Go there now.

Virginia Miller, SF Bay Guardian: Whether Adam Sachs' article in this month's Travel & Leisure or Bon Appetit selecting State Bird Provisions as the best new restaurant in America, this year many national magazines are jumping on the San Francisco bandwagon.

Jane Goldman, CHOW.com: Hmmmm...I'm surprised that in 2012 I could still drop a bundle and go away hungry. I mean Central Kitchen. And that I could still get really crummy food at a highly-hyped new restaurant. I mean Abbot's Cellar.

Grant Marek, Thrillist: How much I disliked Central Kitchen. Foam + $200 + more foam + no pizza + dude, is this seriously the third course of just foam?? = I'm still hungry... you guys want to go to Schmidt's for brats?

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