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Restaurant Gurus Share the Biggest Dining Surprises of 2015

What shocked the food world in San Francisco this year.

Californios
Californios
Patricia Chang

Editor's note: All answers were independently submitted; restaurant gurus did not see each other's answers before this article was published.

Anna Roth, Eater contributor, SF Chronicle columnist

How much I enjoyed a vegan pop-up from Kevin Schuder of Citizen Fox (and Kit Fox in The Hall). Honestly, I wasn't super-enthused by the prospect of a multi-course vegan meal but Schuder has a talent with ingredients that made me not even miss the animal products--like a remarkable crème fraiche made from fermented cashews that was richer and more nuanced than cream. Looking forward to Citizen Fox opening in the Mission next year.

Allie Pape, Hoodline editor, former Eater SF editor

The fantastic meal I had at Californios, which I had assumed would be incredibly fussy and ended up being flavorful and a lot of fun, with sweet service and fabulous wine. I still think about their little griddled sourdough sope/tortilla things all the time.

Eloise Porter, Eater SF contributor

That cocktails are replacing wine at fine dining restaurants (cocktail pairings are almost as common as wine pairings) and that low-ABV cocktails are almost as ubiquitous as a martini at this point.

The Dapper Diner, blogger

The Hapa Ramen debacle, from the way it encapsulated SF at the time (artist vs. tech) and ended up becoming a huge national food story that even Bourdain mentioned it during his latest SF episode of "Parts Unknown."

Rebecca Flint Marx, San Francisco Magazine food editor

Probably the marriage and quickie divorce between Tartine and Blue Bottle. I've had jars of mayonnaise that have lasted longer. Also the Meyer sound system at both Cala and the Advocate, which may be the best dining invention since the napkin.

Daisy Barringer, Eater SF and Thrillist SF contributor

That so many places tried (and failed) to go tip-free.

Noelle Chun, Eater SF contributor

Vegetarians gained official acceptance in San Francisco with Al's Place. Chino closing abruptly.

Peter Kane, SF Weekly food critic

I really thought this was going to be udon's year, but the ramen craze didn't pave the way for other noodle sensations. Least-surprising surprise: The Patio/Hamburger Mary's is still not open yet, even though La Rondalla's curse has been broken.

Marcia Gagliardi, Tablehopper

The evolution of Californios—my last meal there was spectacular. We're lucky to have it.

Jay Barmann, SFist editor

I'd say Californios surprised me the most — the cozy scale of it, how interesting the food is, and how great the wine pairings are. It feels like a place that's bound to evolve even more.

Stefanie Tuder, Senior Editor, Eater SF

The number of long-time restaurant closures. Restaurateurs can't stop talking about rising rents and staffing shortages, and I think we're only just starting to feel their effects.

Ellen Fort, Editor, Eater SF

How lacking this city STILL is in good late-night dining options across the board (though there are some notable exceptions, like Nopa, Alta CA, Trou Normand and Tosca Cafe). I think 2016 has lots more options in store, though...

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