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The SF Food World’s Biggest Surprises of 2016

Volta’s closure, the rise of sushi, and fast casual food are on the list

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Welcome to Year in Eater 2016, Eater’s annual ritual of eulogizing the past 12 months through input from the city’s top food writers. For 2016’s final week, we’ll be posting questions daily about the Bay Area’s restaurant scene in the past year, with answers from those who know it best. Up for discussion now: What was the biggest dining surprise of 2016?

Ellen Fort, Eater SF editor

That SF went from Zero to Sushi in 12 months flat.

Stefanie Tuder, Eater SF senior editor

The sudden, sad, and shocking closure of Volta. It was such a beautiful, dialed-in restaurant, and I wish it had been in a different neighborhood that maybe could have helped it survive.

Pete Kane, SF Weekly food critic

The rise of fast-casual isn’t so surprising in and of itself, but that it came largely at the expense of ambitious, higher-end places is. And this isn’t really dining per se, but I can’t believe how many amazing breweries opened up in SF this year.

Luke Tsai, East Bay Express food critic

Mainly I'm just sad that Oakland lost a lot of the old school restaurants that give the city so much of its character — places like Genova Delicatessen. I’m also getting a bit tired of the “Chipotle of X cuisine” trend.

Carolyn Alburger, Eater cities director

That Volta and Cadence closed. Both were beautiful restaurants run by smart crews that have very successful restaurants under their belts — further proof that tight profit margins and mid-market do not mix.

Marcia Gagliardi, Tablehopper

The closure of Merigan Sub Shop broke my goddamn heart. More surprises: Bar Tartine closing. And the closure of Volta was also a WHOA.

Paolo Lucchesi, The Chronicle food editor

That someone thought that Werowocomoco was a good restaurant name.

Jonathan Kauffman, The Chronicle food reporter

That San Francisco can’t get enough of $200 omakase sushi restaurants. And poke.

The Dapper Diner, local blogger

In Situ, the cover band of SF dining. I knew I would enjoy it, but not to the extent I did. Being able to eat perfectly replicated dishes from around the world or ones no longer served without having to travel or invent a time machine was extremely satisfying, particularly since the menu doesn’t fixate on a singular theme, nor do I need to buy a pricey ticket in advance (I’m looking at you, Next).

Corridor’s ‘Nilla pudding tart
Corridor’s ‘Nilla pudding tart
Adrienne G./Yelp

Rebecca Flint Marx, San Francisco magazine food editor

That Bauer started adding disclosures of conflict to his reviews. Also Corridor’s ‘Nilla pudding tart and Tartine Manufactory’s salads, which remain among the best things I’ve eaten all year. And Motze — do not trust the shitty Yelp reviews, because it’s great.

Anna Roth, Eater contributor

I spent a lot of time up in Napa when I was researching the Essential Restaurants guide and was pleasantly surprised to find new, younger spots like Miminashi cutting through all the staid Cal-Med noise.

Trevor Felch, Zagat SF editor

This is a weird pick but I’m still trying to figure it out ... why is Souvla as popular as a State Bird Provisions or Al’s Place? Look, I love the place and the concept is terrific (and a huge moneymaker). But, it’s wraps and salads. Now every tourist feels obliged to visit there. My co-surprise definitely is that Cadence didn’t succeed. It had way above average food, cocktails, wine and setting — and still sunk fast.

Andrew Dalton, Eater contributor

Not every restaurant was forced to close.

Jay Barmann, SFist editor

The Saratoga came kind of out of nowhere with zero pre-opening info, and it’s so cool in there, especially the downstairs. The food and drinks are both really good, and I look forward to tasting my way through that crazy whiskey menu.