It’s inevitable: As the year comes to an end, one tends to reminisce about the 365 or so days before. Eater SF is no exception, of course, except this website’s reminiscing is driven by the page views and clicks the past year’s content has received. What news captured reader attention the most across all of 2019?
Who can recall the weather on April 25? Apparently, it was temperate enough that Spirits in the Sky, the cocktail bar at the skydeck of the Loews Regency Hotel, was safe to open. It’s closed again as of this writing, but will resume operations when SF heats up.
In a year that felt like it had more “longstanding SF institution closes” headlines than ever, the closure of Lucca evoked complicated emotions: As opposed to a traditional tale of bad landlord deeds or declining sales, the owners of the 91-year-old Mission pasta shop decided to retire and sell its building, making about $10 million all told.
Gram Cafe and Pancakes, a 60-plus location international chain, opened an outpost in Stonestown Galleria to much excitement, as it’s the first U.S. location of the company. The spot assembles 30 plates of pancakes per seating (of which there are three a day), so there’s a system of number-taking and lining up before the soon-to-deflate pancakes are served.
La Calenda, a casual new taqueria from French Laundry founder Thomas Keller, opened in Yountville with a menu of Oaxacan fare developed by executive chef Kaelin Ulrich Trilling, who is himself a native of Oaxaca. It scored a Bib Gormand later that summer, as well as a review from Chron food critic Soleil Ho, who called it “cultural appropriation done right.”
The most remarkable element of the February 6 explosion that tore through Hong Kong Lounge II and several neighboring buildings is that — thanks to fast thinking from restaurant staff, patrons say — no one was injured in the blast. The fire was caused when contractors seeking to lay fiber optic cable for Verizon nicked an active gas line, and burned so hot workers from PG&E had to wait hours before they could approach the scene. The acclaimed restaurant, which was opened by local restaurateur Annie Ho in 2012, remains shuttered.
Taishoken Ramen, a chain known for its tsukemen style of ramen (in which the noodles are served cold alongside a dipping broth), opened its first location in the U.S. this July at 47 E. 4th Avenue in San Mateo. “We like the atmosphere of San Mateo, the abundance of Japanese culture and restaurant in the area,” Taishoken Ramen CEO Yoshihiro Sakagachi said to explain why, out of everywhere in the country, San Mateo was its first pick.
Bay Area rap legend E-40 (here’s a Spotify playlist for the uninitiated) has diversified his brand far beyond music, repping a tequila line and instant ramen flavor, among other ventures. His effort that most captured the fancy of Eater SF readers was his partnership with the Lumpia Company, which he says makes sense as “Filipinos were a big part of Vallejo’s community... some of my best friends was Filipino. I ate lumpia with the kids I grew up around, and it became one of my favorite dishes of all time.”
Folks went wild for this long-form feature on quesabirria tacos (specifically, those from cult fave pop-up El Garage), which though it ran less than a month ago has racked up loads of readership. Perhaps that’s because quesabirria — which is kind of a taco and a quesadilla hybrid — sound absolutely delicious.
A concise news brief on an East Bay squabble topped Eater SF’s popular story list for 2019: The city of Berkeley cited KC’s BBQ, a 50-year-old restaurant, for operating its fully-permitted smoker. After a summertime mediation session, it appears the dispute has been resolved.