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A flatbread sandwich at Reem’s
A sandwich at Reem’s

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The Most Anticipated Restaurant Openings in SF, Winter 2020

Arab pastries, Texas-style brisket, and quesabirria tacos are on their way

As 2019 winds down, the New Year — and the last couple of weeks of December — brings with it an exciting new crop of restaurant openings.

Here in the Bay Area, much of the most exciting action is happening in the East Bay, as has been the case for a number of years now: There’s a first-of-its-kind “toro burger” spot from an SF sushi master, a pop-up turned West Oakland restaurant that’s vying to bring some national respect to the NorCal barbecue scene, and a permanent home for one of the buzziest new taco pop-ups to hit the Bay Area in years.

While you can expect the usual handful of splashy, upscale projects from pedigreed chefs — including a bistro from the B. Patisserie team and a new contemporary Indian spot from the two-Michelin-starred Campton Place chef — many of this winter’s most notable debuts will be from relative newcomers on the scene. Case in point: La Cocina’s long-awaited food hall, with its emphasis on women (especially immigrant and POC) opening their first permanent food stalls.

Meanwhile, between Reem Assil’s new project in Mission Pie’s old digs and the revival of Chinatown’s iconic Empress of China space, a couple of much-loved spots in San Francisco will see new life.

Here are 13 openings we’re eagerly anticipating this winter, arranged in alphabetical order:

A flat-top grill covered with quesabirria tacos at an El Garage pop-up
Quesabirria tacos on the flat-top grill
Patricia Chang

El Garage

Location: 1428 Macdonald Avenue, Richmond
Key Players: Viviana Montano, Jorge Veranza, Susana Montano, Evelyn Montano
Projected Opening: Late January

Less than a year after launching as a pop-up taqueria run out of the proprietors’ own driveway, El Garage — one of the businesses on the vanguard of the Bay Area’s recent obsession with cheesy birria tacos — will open its first restaurant storefront a few blocks away from the Richmond BART station.

Exterior view of the old Empress of China
The exterior of the old Empress of China

Empress by Boon

Location: 838 Grant Avenue, Chinatown
Key Players: Ho Chee Boon
Projected Opening: February

Ho Chee Boon, the former international executive chef for the ritzy Hakkasan chain, will resurrect the old Empress of China space — the best-known bar and restaurant located on the top floors of one of Chinatown’s most recognizable buildings. The new restaurant’s menu will focus on modern Cantonese cuisine.

Sesame leaf chaat, sweet yogurt, Fuyu persimmon, and sev
Sesame leaf chaat
Isabel Baer


Location: 518 Bryant Street, Palo Alto
Key Players: Ayesha Thapar, Srijith Gopinathan
Projected Opening: January

Located in the former Three Seasons spot in downtown Palo Alto, this contemporary Indian restaurant will feature the talents of one of the Bay Area’s most celebrated practitioners of Cal-Indian cuisine: Campton Place’s two-Michelin-starred Srijith Gopinathan.

Friends and Family

Location: 468 25th Street, Uptown Oakland
Key Players: Blake Cole, Kimberly Rosselle, Christa Chase
Projected Opening: December

This explicitly women-led bar, headed up by Cole (Hopscotch), Rosselle (Trick Dog), and Chase (Tartine Manufactory), aims to bring good food and craft cocktails — both classic and creative — to an inclusive, queer-friendly space in Uptown Oakland.

Berliner doughnuts from Hahdough
Berliner doughnuts


Location: 1221 Fell Street, NoPa
Key Players: Ha Do
Projected Opening: February

San Francisco’s first German bakery will bring all the pretzels, Black Forest cakes, and stuffed Berliner doughnuts to its new NoPa storefront in February. Around the same time, proprietor Ha Do will also open a smaller takeout window in Hayes Valley.

A tray of brisket, sausages, turkey, and bread and pickles
A tray of assorted smoked meats
Horn BBQ

Horn Barbecue

Location: 2534 Mandela Parkway, West Oakland
Key Players: Matt Horn, Nina Horn
Projected Opening: February

Excitement about this wildly popular Oakland-based pop-up has reached a fever pitch, especially ever since pit master Matt Horn, announced the barbecue spot’s new permanent home: the original West Oakland location of Brown Sugar Kitchen. Local barbecue connoisseurs are counting down the days until they can land Horn’s Texas-style brisket on the regular.

La Cocina Municipal Marketplace

Location: 101 Hyde Street, Tenderloin
Key Players: Caleb Zigas
Projected Opening: March

The influential nonprofit kitchen incubator La Cocina touts its ambitious forthcoming Tenderloin project as “the country’s first women-led food hall,” featuring eight individual food stalls and a particular emphasis on businesses run by immigrants and people of color.


Location: 2209 Polk Street, Russian Hill
Key Players: Aaron Paul, Jake Roberts
Projected Opening: December

This new spot from industry vets Aaron Paul (Daniel Patterson’s Alta Group) and Jake Roberts (Harper and Rye) will aim to be a “solid neighborhood cocktail bar,” with food options that lean toward the East Coast. There will be lobster rolls.

Spread of tuna belly burgers at Masabaga
Tuna belly burgers
Dianne deGuzman


Location: 2022 Telegraph Avenue, Uptown Oakland
Key Players: Masa Sasaki, Chikara Ono
Projected Opening: February

Respected SF sushi chef Masa Sasaki (Sasaki) gets into the burger game — specifically, the tuna belly burger game, opening what may well be a first-of-its-kind restaurant concept in the former Hutch space in Uptown Oakland.

Khobz sim sim, or sesame bread loops, at Reem’s
Khobz sim sim, or sesame bread loops
Patricia Chang

Reem’s (Mission)

Location: 2901 Mission Street, Mission
Key Players: Reem Assil
Projected Opening: February

Star chef Reem Assil marks her return to the Mission with this new outpost of her flagship cafe-bakery, located in the recently vacated Mission Pie space. Expect the usual selection of flatbread sandwiches that are Assil’s biggest claim to fame, plus an expanded inventory of Arab sweets and pastries.


Location: 2801 California Street, Pacific Heights
Key Players: Belinda Leong, Michel Suas, John Paul Carmona
Projected Opening: January/February

This long-anticipated (and long-delayed) collaboration between B. Patisserie’s Belinda Leong and Michael Suas, and chef John Paul Carmona (Manresa), will bring wine, cocktails, and updated Franco-American bistro fare to Pac Heights.

Shake Shack (Cow Hollow)

Location: 3060 Fillmore Street, Cow Hollow
Key Players: Danny Meyer, Mark Rosati
Projected Opening: January

There’s been no official word, but all signs point to an imminent opening for the long-awaited Fillmore Street branch of the popular East Coast burger chain, which continues to make inroads in the Bay Area.

World Famous Hotboys

Location: 1601 San Pablo Avenue, Downtown Oakland
Key Players: Victor Ghaben, Berk Gibbs
Projected Opening: December 30

Known for its scorchingly spicy — and Instagram-friendly — Nashville-style hot chicken sandwiches, popular pop-up World Famous Hotboys will open its first permanent shop in a downtown corner spot formerly occupied by an IB’s Hoagies & Cheesesteaks.


518 Bryant Street, , CA 94301 (650) 752-6281 Visit Website


2209 Polk Street, , CA 94109 (415) 829-3464 Visit Website

El Garage

1428 Macdonald Avenue, , CA 94801 (510) 609-4957 Visit Website


2022 Telegraph Avenue, , CA 94612 (401) 216-6121 Visit Website


1221 Fell Street, , CA 94117 (415) 691-9570 Visit Website

Friends and Family

468 25th Street, Oakland, California

Reem's [Oakland]

3301 East 12th Street, , CA 94601 (510) 852-9390 Visit Website
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