The Sunset: Um.ma
The Inner Sunset added another chill restaurant to 9th Avenue this year with Um.ma (1220 9th Avenue). Coming from LA, chef Chris Oh wanted to bring the “K-Town vibes” to San Francisco. Um.ma means mother, but the cooking is modern, featuring banchan or small plates with lots of pickles and snacks, korean fried chicken, and barbecue bulgogi, pork belly, and mackerel.
The Richmond: Aziza
An old friend came back to the avenues this year. Aziza, the restaurant that first brought chef Mourad Lahlou a Michelin star, finally reopened after three dark years at 5800 Geary Boulevard. The hand-rolled couscous is back, the chicken basteeya as buttery as flaky as ever, and a new sticky date cake is a stunner.
NoPa: Hina Yakitori
Divisadero got lucky with a cool new chicken joint from a Michelin-starred team. Chef Tommy Cleary moved his popular chicken yakitori restaurant to 808 Divisadero Street, and switched up the format. Served omakase style, diners take one of 12 cozy seats at the counter, and tuck into 16 courses of skewers cooked over the binchotan charcoal grill.
Duboce Triangle: Beit Rima
Samir Mogannam only flipped his father’s Burgermeister location at 138 Church Street in February, but the neighborhood fell hard and fast for Beit Rima’s Arabic comfort food at an affordable price, including hummus, falafel, and kabobs. In addition to Duboce, a second location opened in Cole Valley this fall, and a third is headed to Daly City, too.
Japantown is always filled with food treasures, but this year it welcomed an ambitious and beautiful new restaurant. Chef Pim Techamuanvivit of Kin Khao opened Nari inside the Hotel Kabuki (1625 Post Street), featuring modern Thai dishes and stunning interiors.
Cow Hollow: Wildseed
If you imagined Cow Hollow was already covered for juices and salads, guess again. Wildseed (2000 Union Street) sincerely calls itself “plant based” and yet still succeeds in being a fresh and modern vegan restaurant, featuring beautiful vegetable dishes and freshly squeezed drinks, all in a soothing ocean blue space.
Russian Hill: Matterhorn
Everyone within hiking distance of the upper end of Van Ness rejoiced this year when this favorite fondue restaurant bubbled back to life at 2323 Van Ness Avenue. The Matterhorn’s owners kept the classic cheese and sausages on the menu, and went full kitsch on the retro-fabulous decor, adding vintage skis, a model train, and a gondola that seats as a booth.
The Mission: Dear Inga
An all-star trio from Nopa and Liholiho teamed up to take over this prime corner spot at 3560 18th Street. Chef David Golovin named Dear Inga after his grandmother, and proudly serves Eastern European comfort, in the form of fastidiously crafted sausages, fermented cabbage, and smoked fish and steak.
Noe Valley: Mahila
Chef Azalina Eusope is shaking up the kiddy burger scene in Noe Valley with Mahila (1320 Castro Street). Finally, the neighborhood is getting a different cuisine and bold flavors, thanks to her Malaysian curries, noodles, roti, and more.
Bernal Heights: Cellarmaker House Of Pizza
Detroit-style pizza hit San Francisco last year, even way out where the top of Mission meets the base of Bernal at 3193 Mission Street. Cellarmaker pushes those lacy corners, pops all the pepperoni cups, and really gets the ratio of crust to toppings just. Plus, it was a local brewery first, so good pizza comes with excellent pale ale.
Union Square: One65
The six-story French complex One65 (165 O’Farrell Street) is a collaboration between James Beard Award-winning chef Claude Le Tohic and Alexander’s Steakhouse, and sports a ground floor patisserie, a bistro (One65 Bistro & Grill), a bar and lounge (Elements), and a fine-dining spot (O’).
Financial District: Verjus
Verjus, the European-style wine bar from Quince’s Michael and Lindsay Tusk, opened in January of 2019, and quickly racked up raves as one of the best new restaurants in the U.S. The Jackson Square spot (528 Washington Street) is known for its natural wines and spin on French classics.
Chinatown: Moongate Lounge
Moongate Lounge’s 28 Waverly Place location “was always a banquet room,” co-owner Brandon Jew says. In its current iteration, it acts as a swanky lounge extension to downstairs neighbor Mister Jiu’s, serving dim sum and cocktails inspired by the Chinese lunar calendar.
North Beach: Family Cafe
Each story of the two-floor Family Cafe (362 Columbus Avenue) occupies 300 square feet intended to communicate an “an old soda fountain vibe,” co-owner Jessica Furui says. But this soda fountain serves katsu chicken sandwiches on Japanese milk bread (that’s a food trend bingo) and seasonal baked goods.
Gozu (201 Spear Street), a robata-style wagu beef spot from Alexander’s Steakhouse vet Marc Zimmerman, used whole-animal techniques to build a customizable tasting menu that caps out at $150 for 13-15 courses — a steal in these days of wagyu menus at thrice (or more) the price.
Named Eater SF’s Restaurant of the Year, Besharam’s (1275 Minnesota Street) fate seemed uncertain after a much-publicized split with Daniel Patterson’s Alta restaurant group this past spring. Its independence allowed chef Heena Patel to double down on regional Gujarati dishes from her childhood, leading to bold flavors and textures delivered with a new confidence.
Fisherman’s Wharf: Palette Tea House
Palette Tea House (900 North Point Street) is from the same folks behind Koi Palace and Dragon Beaux, and brings serious dim sum cred to a 6,500 square foot space inside Ghirardelli Square. Expect upscale Chinese cuisine, as Instagrammable a presentation as one can imagine, and cocktails from SF bar vet Carlos Yturria (The Treasury, White Cap).
Disclosure: Carolyn Alburger, Cities Director for Eater, is married to chef Blair Warsham. She has recused herself from involvement in any coverage of Warsham’s projects.