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The 11 Coolest Food Trends in San Francisco in 2019

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From kaya toast to square pies, here’s what blew up the ’gram 

A photo of food. Albert Law

San Franciscans are food obsessed by nature, and the past year proved to be no exception. Some food trends blew up on Instagram, as scrollers who spied delicious photos promptly got into long lines. Others rolled across restaurants, as popular items that kept appearing on menu after menu. From jiggly pancakes and squiggly toast to square pizza and vegan lumpia, here’s what SF couldn’t stop eating and talking about this year.

Jiggly Soufflé Pancakes

Wiggly, jiggly soufflé pancakes landed in SF earlier this year, when Gram Cafe and Pancakes moved in Stonestown Galleria. It was the first California location for the Japanese mega chain, and transfixed fans quickly got in line — and, of course, posted shots of their prize on Instagram.

Albert Law

Custardy Kaya Toast

Breadbelly, SF’s first explicitly Asian American bakery, blew up in general, but especially because of its photogenic, bright green kaya toast: thickly sliced milk bread with Malayasian-style coconut and pandan jam artfully squiggled on top.

Square Pizza Road Trip

This is the year that pizza went square. Detroit-style pies revved into San Francisco, as Cellarmaker and Square Pie Guys joined the race.

Albert Law

The Ramen Invasion

Wave after wave of ramen has hit the Bay in the past few years, as Japanese imports continue to prove that you can never have too much noodle soup in San Francisco. In addition to Ippudo, Mensho, and Ramen Nagi (and fellow newcomer Taishoken, in San Mateo), this was the year Tsuta splashed opened, the first Japanese ramen chain to win a Michelin star.

The Wes smash burger, double 3-oz patties, American cheese, special sauce, red onion ($9.50) Wes Rowe

Burger Smash Hits

Eater readers had a voracious appetite for any news about Shake Shack coming to the bay, as the New York chain announced plans for new locations across the city. But locals have also been mastering the art of the smash burger — WesBurger threw out half its menu this year, and replaced it with the smaller, crispier style of burger.

Patricia Chang

Tidily Cut Sandwiches

Japanese sandwiches on perfectly cut and crustless milk bread filled up feeds, from Stonemill Matcha’s crispy pork katsu to a brief appearance from the Konbi egg salad sandwich (an LA Insta-sensation that drew long lines at a pop-up in Chinatown).

Putting birria on top of the tacos Patricia Chang

Cheesy Taco Trends

Quesabirria, the hottest taco trend this year, is a mashup of a meaty stew and cheese-topped tacos, the tortillas dipped in a bright red broth. El Garage brought it in hot from a driveway in Richmond and, later, at various pop-ups around the Bay.

Fried chicken sandwich from Hi Tops Hi Tops

Fried Chicken Sandwich Flocks

A fried chicken sandwich is always pretty irresistible, but the Nashville hot chicken trend crossed flight with a Popeyes viral moment this year, resulting in fried chicken sandwiches flying onto menus all over town.

Yakitori-style skewers with cubes of wagyu steak in a shallow ceramic bowl. Patricia Chang/Eater

Omakase-Style Everything

Increasingly, for cool food experiences, San Franciscans are stepping up to the counter. Omakase-style service — or a chef’s choice tasting menu often centered on a single ingredient — has gone beyond sushi, as Hina Yakitori proved with chicken skewers, and Gozu is doing with wagyu steak.

Patricia Chang

Dumplings as Art

Dragon Beaux’s rainbow soup dumplings have always inspired good ’grams, and this year, Palette Tea House took it one step further, with super colorful dumplings, condiments arranged on painter’s palettes, and super fun injector-thingies (pictured above).

A vegan dish from Nick’s on Mission Albert Law/Nick’s

Mission Impossible

Impossible Burger headlines just kept coming this year, as SF restaurants ran out of burgers, and the brand swung into fast food. But what’s even more exciting is how local restaurants are diversifying vegan offerings, from Vegan Mob’s gumbo and mac and cheese to Nick’s lumpia and sisig.