It is now time — drumroll, please — to announce the winners of the 2015 Eater Awards in San Francisco. These winners comprise a diverse group of the finest and most interesting chefs, restaurants and bartenders in the city. They've defined this year in dining, and we applaud them.
First, a quick recap: Eater's local editors in 24 cities nominated candidates for five major categories: Restaurant of the Year, Chef of the Year, Bartender of the Year, So Hot Right Now Restaurant, and Stone Cold Stunner. These awards are geared toward places that have opened in about the past year, or people who have become involved in new ventures or otherwise changed the game in that time, which is why many renowned veterans don’t appear. Eater readers then voted to narrow the field to a final three in each category. From that final three, the Eater editorial team chose one to move forward. The national winners can be viewed here — without further ado, here's who came out on top in San Francisco.
Eater Awards 2015
Restaurant of the Year
Nominees: Californios, Liholiho Yacht Club, Mourad, Petit Crenn, The Progress
Finalists: Liholiho Yacht Club, Mourad, Petit Crenn
Winner: Liholiho Yacht Club
Liholiho Yacht Club has been making waves since the moment it said "aloha" to the SF dining scene. Continuously packed and super buzzy, chef Ravi Kapur's hot spot has lived up to the hype, serving inventive fare, creative cocktails and a particularly excellent housemade spam.
Chef of the Year
Nominees: Val Cantu (Californios), Dominique Crenn (Atelier Crenn, Petit Crenn), Jason Halverson (Stones Throw, Trestle), David Kinch (Manresa), Daniel Patterson (Alta CA, Aster, Coi, PB, Haven)
Finalists: Val Cantu, Dominique Crenn, Jason Halverson
Winner: Jason Halverson
In a city brimming with high rents and over-the-top dining options, the advent of Jason Halverson's $35 three-course prix fixe has proved a savior for diners suffering from tasting menu fatigue. The chef has crafted a cost-effective menu that doesn't skimp on flavor and skillful execution — something industry veterans (and now diners) know is no small feat.
Bartender of the Year
Nominees: Christina Cabrera (Old Bus Tavern, Barbarossa), Bryan Hamann (The Progress), Mo Hodges (Benjamin Cooper), Justin Lew (Tsk/Tsk), Nicolas Torres (Black Sands Brewery, Lazy Bear)
Finalists: Christina Cabrera, Bryan Hamann, Nicolas Torres
Winner: Bryan Hamann
Bryan Hamann's cocktails hold their own at State Bird's polished sister restaurant, The Progress. His takes on classic drinks stand out next to the restaurant's banquet-style service, including a martini with smoked olive juice and rosemary oil and a mai tai made with peanut milk.
So Hot Right Now
Nominees: AL's Place, Cafe du Nord, Lord Stanley, Octavia, Trestle
Finalists: AL's Place, Lord Stanley, Trestle
Winner: AL's Place
AL's Place quickly took top honors in SF's dining scene this year, with chef Aaron London's artistic, veggie-focused approach at the forefront. In a world saturated with bacon, London has successfully turned meat into a side dish, offering a carefully curated menu that has diners flocking to its minimalist Mission dining room. And after taking the #1 spot on Bon Appetit's Best New Restaurants, it's a dining room that's extra-hard to infiltrate.
Stone Cold Stunner
Nominees: Bon Marché, Cala, Calavera, KronnerBurger, Starline Social Club
Finalists: Bon Marché, Cala, KronnerBurger
Winner: Bon Marché
Glossy, marbled surfaces abound in this multi-faceted, French-inspired restaurant, brewery, wine bar and flower shop. A unique division of the space at Bon Marché has created a lively atmosphere, incorporating a sunny yellow awning and replicas of Paris' distinctive street lamps as chandeliers.
Empire Builder of the Year
Winner: Adriano Paganini
Adriano Paganini continues to grow his stable of restaurants, which ranges from fast-casual burgers to high-end Belgian fare. Paganini's Super Duper Burgers is on the path to Shake Shake ubiquity in San Francisco, while pizza-based Delarosa is bringing up the rear with the opening of a second location in the FiDi; the announcement of a new project in Hayes Valley is the latest in Paganini's growing empire.
Winner: Hapa Ramen
It was a tumultuous few months for Richie Nakano's brick-and-mortar location of Hapa Ramen, ending with the chef's departure from the kitchen. The story has all the intrigue of modern SF chicanery, complete with venture capitalists and a social media shitstorm, complete with accompanying hashtag (#freehapa).