It’s time to announce the winners of the 2018 Eater Awards for San Francisco, following a week of reader’s choice picks. This is the ninth time Eater is celebrating the top talent from 24 cities around the country (and globe).
These chefs and restaurants are the the ones that best represent the distinct culinary and dining culture of San Francisco and the Bay Area. Thanks to those who voted for people’s choice awards. And now, on to the editor’s choice winners, each of whom will receive an iconic Eater tomato can to celebrate their achievement.
Restaurant of the Year
Nyum Bai has leapt into the Bay Area dining scene with a flavorful insight into the golden era of Cambodia. Owner Nite Yun has successfully channeled her own immigrant experience into a small restaurant in Oakland’s Fruitvale district, serving classic noodle soups and other homey dishes. Yun’s restaurant, which began as a member of La Cocina (a non-profit incubator to help female food entrepreneurs open their own businesses), grew from a pop-up to a kiosk to a full-fledged restaurant in quick succession; now it has received an avalanche of accolades, both local and national. Regardless of its newfound fame, however, Nyum Bai continues to do what it set out to do: give diners a glimpse into the culture and food of Cambodia.
Reader’s Choice: Angler
Chef of the Year
Joyce Conway and Mel Lopez
Before they opened Pearl in the Outer Richmond this year, Lopez and Conway spent years honing their style at Pizzetta 211 and through their own pop-up, BLUD (Bitches Liven Up Dinner). Now it’s on display at Pearl, a simultaneously neighborhood restaurant with oysters, cocktails, and a buzzy atmosphere. Since opening, it’s earned accolades for what former ESF critic Rachel Levin called“comfort food, but fit for 2018,” with pastas like the standout white bolognese and spicy spaghetti. Now it’s truly settled in as an exceptional destination for non-neighborhood folks and neighbors alike, with a menu that’s exciting and comforting in equal measures. Cocktails seal the deal, particularly the very excellent Pearl martini, served with a pickled sea bean.
Reader’s Choice: Mel Lopez and Joyce Conway
Design of the Year
Che Fico is many things: an Italian restaurant with excellent pizza and pasta, a cocktail destination, and a buzzy place to see and be seen. It’s also a gorgeous room, incorporating high ceilings with original wooden beams and skylights of a former auto body shop into its design. A warm, red and orange color palette and a powerful use of patterns gives it a frisson of excitement, as does the open kitchen that allows diners to get an eyeful of the kitchen action. Jon de la Cruz of DLC-ID made bold moves for a restaurant that had already garnered a lot of hype, and it paid off.
Reader’s Choice: Che Fico
Pop-Up of the Year
As part of San Francisco’s increasing awareness of Filipino food, chef Francis Ang has played a major part in sharing his cuisine with diners via his roving pop-up, Pinoy Heritage. Along with his wife Dian, he has been elevating classic, comfort food dishes like lumpia, sisig, and more at various locations throughout the Bay Area. Ang draws from his experience in the kitchens of restaurants like Dirty Habit, bringing Filipino flavors to the forefront with classic techniques.
Reader’s Choice: Pinoy Heritage
Bar of the Year
From its inception as a spinoff to showcase Lazy Bear bar director Nicolas Torres’s cocktails, True Laurel was destined for greatness. The bar’s design — a quirky mid-century-inspired room filled with primary colors and an homage to the work of Isamu Noguchi — invites creativity, which extends from cocktails to the menu of bar bites like crispy hen of the woods mushrooms with a gourmet approximation of sour cream and onion dip. The “Pea-casso” cocktail combines aquavit, snap peas, Espodol, clarified lime, flat tonic, and Arak Sannine to create one of the city’s best cocktails of the year, complete with a Picasso-esque garnish of snap peas. Above all, it’s a fun, bustling addition to SF’s craft cocktail scene.