Here comes Michelin season, the product of anonymous inspectors sneakily dining through the Bay Area for the last year. But before the coveted star rankings are revealed next week, the Bib Gourmands are unveiled, giving diners a list of restaurants offering “exceptional good food at moderate prices.” It’s a broader, usually more diverse list that simultaneously rules out a restaurant’s chance of receiving a star. Bib Gourmands, though also a boon, are something of a runner-up situation for restaurants hoping for that shiny accolade.
So, here’s how it shook out this year: Of the 68 restaurants on the list, eight are new additions. Off the list from last year: Aina, Brown Sugar Kitchen (closed), Kappou Gomi (closed), Michel Bistro (closed), Monti’s, Sir & Star, and Tacos Sinaloa.
Oakland was a big winner, taking home four spots in this year’s selections.
Nyum Bai, the Cambodian restaurant that has taken the Bay Area by storm, also made the cut (though its location was erroneously listed as “Hawthorne,” instead of Fruitvale, in Michelin’s announcement). Owner Nite Yun has been recognized by Eater as an Eater Young Gun for 2018, an accolade for promising and talented newcomers to the industry.
Teni East Kitchen, named by former Eater critic Bill Addison as one of Oakland’s best new restaurants, received a nod for its excellent renditions of Burmese classics.
Dyafa, the collaboration between chefs Reem Assil and Daniel Patterson, also made the cut. It’s been serving Assil’s mana’eesh, an addictive Palestinian flatbread, and other signature dishes on the Jack London Square waterfront, earning it raves.
Napa earned two spots
Yountville’s Ciccio is a low-key option in a tiny town packed with Michelin stars. Now it’s joined the ranks of Michelin-approved restaurants with its well-executed Italian fare like pizza and pasta. It’s not a new restaurant, but Michelin says “the quality of execution was especially impressive this year.” (It has long been present on Eater SF’s list of essential Napa restaurants.)
Newcomer to the Napa scene is Gran Electrica, an outpost of the popular Mexican restaurant that originated in Brooklyn (and is also a Bib Gourmand). Michelin said that its inspectors were “happy to see that the quality is consistent from coast to coast.”
Mexican cuisine had a pretty good year, too
El Molino Central, the Sonoma county Mexican restaurant that could not be more different from Gran Electrica’s hipster environs, rightfully made the selection as well. The counter-service restaurant has been a favorite among Eater editors for years, serving exceptionally crafted tamales, ceviches, tacos, and its very popular chilaquiles.
San Jose’s Luna Mexican Kitchen was recognized for its fresh tortillas and high-quality ingredients. It has been open only about a year, but has already earned high marks in San Jose.
Coqueta is still on the list
Remember that whole sexual harassment lawsuit filed against Michael Chiarello? It was settled out of court. It will be interesting to follow Michelin’s progress in acknowledging restaurants that have been the center of sexual harassment controversies.
Stay tuned for next week’s star-studded announcements, and check out the full list of 2019’s Bib Gourmands below (and look here for each of them mapped):
Anchor Oyster Bar
Cook (St. Helena)
El Molino Central (NEW)
Farmhouse Kitchen Thai
Glen Ellen Star
Gran Electrica (NEW)
Hong Kong Lounge II
Lai Hong Lounge
Luna Mexican Kitchen (NEW)
Nyum Bai (NEW)
Orchard City Kitchen
1601 Bar & Kitchen
Soba Ichi (NEW)
Teni East Kitchen (NEW)
Two Birds/One Stone