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Health Mandate Charges, Uni, and Too Much Pickling: Food Writers on Their 2014 SF Restaurant Grievances

Some trends and practices we'd really like to see go away.

Cafe Flore.
Cafe Flore.

As is the tradition at Eater, our closeout of the year is a survey of fellow food-writer friends. We asked the group eight questions about the highs and lows of San Francisco dining over the past year, and we'll be running two compilations of their responses (which are in no particular order) each day.

Q: What was your biggest restaurant grievance in 2014?

Rose Garrett, HoodlineSteak tartaredeviled eggs, and $12+ burgers are all delicious, but too much of a good thing made a crop of newcomers this year feel homogenous. Also, if you're going to keep your kitchen open until 1am, be prepared to stand by that. This year was littered with new spots that vowed to serve food late, then turned around and started closing at 10pm. If you want to gain notoriety as a late-night spot, which people in the restaurant industry particularly need, you need to stay the course until word gets out.

Amy Sherman, Cooking with Amy: I'm so tired of "SF mandate" charges being added to restaurant bills; it's obnoxious and unnecessary. I'd like to see restaurants finally just adjust prices accordingly and stop calling this out as a line item.

Jay Barmann, SFist: I gotta say I'm getting tired of uni. I've never been the biggest fan, so there's that. But it seems like goddamn everybody's got an uni dish now—uni spaghetti, uni pizza, uni amuse bouche. It's one of those things that not everyone loves, and it better be incredibly fresh, and I'm done with it for a while.

Grant Marek, Thrillist: The fact that reservations are so hard to get at a handful of places in SF that there are now a half-dozen or so apps and sites that will sell you a reservation for a nominal amount. There are enough great spots in SF to make this maybe the stupidest development of 2014, but it also gets to the root problem—you might never eat at some of San Francisco's best restaurants either because they're so popular they're cost-prohibitive (Saison, Benu) or impossible to get a table at without sometimes months of advance thinking (State Bird, Lazy Bear).

Tamara Palmer, The Bold Italic: "Have you been here before? No? Well, I'm going to explain how it works here..." Because we are clearly all idiots.

Brock Keeling, 7x7: Too much pickling.

Lauren Sloss, Tasting Table/SFist: We were never serious, but Cafe Flore was a decent spot for coffee and eggs down the block from my apartment... until I faced the worst, slowest service in history while fighting an Outside Lands-induced hangover. Not. Cool.

Sara Deseran, San Francisco Magazine: I don't like to grieve. Though I would like San Francisco to be friendlier to restaurants trying to open. The city makes it really hard.

Andrew Dalton, freelance: There's nowhere in San Francisco to get an Iceberg. Which is a pint of cheap beer with a floater of frozen margarita on top. As far as I'm concerned, it is the only drink that should be allowed outdoors during daylight hours.

Pete Kane, SF Weekly: I broke up for good with liking food pics on Instagram. Luckily, though, I didn't have any crushing disappointments that felt like personal betrayals apart from being annoyed at Anna Maria Barry-Jester and FiveThirtyEight for making it impossible to get a table at La Taqueria. We actually went to college together, and she's a great person. But I just, you know, hate her.

Rebecca Flint Marx, San Francisco Magazine: Continued racial and gender discrimination throughout the restaurant industry. Also, excruciatingly worded press releases.

Virginia Miller, Zagat: I'm weary of large, unoriginal meat and veg entrees where I'm stuck eating too much of the same thing, which is barely welcome, even if I love it. And basic cocktails (think G&Ts, easy classics, mules heavy on ginger beer) costing the same as more labor-intensive drinks, and bare-minimum drink menus posing as "artisanal cocktail programs."

Sarah Sung, UrbanDaddyNot seating a party until the entire, full party is there when the restaurant is empty-ish. Alternatively: not being able to bend rules when appropriate.

Marcia Gagliardi, Tablehopper: I can't believe the Empress of China is closing, it's so wrong. Also wrong: everything about that BRVNCH idea was revolting. We've really hit maximum density with juice bars, enough already. All my other culinary kvetches can be found in my annual round-up of what I'm tired of: the bore.

Anna Roth, SF WeeklyThe rise of the $17-$18 hamburger. I will pay $14 for a great hamburger. I will even, grudgingly, pay $16 for a work of burgerly art such as Yoni Levy's version at Alta CA. But anything pricier is a bridge too far for me. Especially since many weren't as mind-blowing as their high price tag would lead you to hope.

Paolo Lucchesi, Inside ScoopI, for one, am incredibly disappointed that no local food writers invoked JT the Bigga Figga when Game opened. But seriously, I do think that despite some really amazing stories in 2014 (John Birdsall's Jeremiah Tower profile or the LA Times' farming series, for example), there remains a lot of room for improvement with food media as a whole when it comes to innovation, education, history and real, hard journalism.

For further grievances, check out the SF-centric Airing of Grievances we did in August, and Eater National's Year in Eater grievances list.