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Bay Area Food Insiders Dish on Where They’ll Go When the Pandemic Ends

What local dining experts are planning for their first indoor meal

A booth at Nari
San Francisco food writer Leilani Marie Labong dreams of a return to Nari’s dining room
Patricia Chang

We asked a group of local writers, restaurant industry voices, and other assorted, and uniformly brilliant, friends of Eater SF to weigh in on this past year in food (and what a year it was). We’ll share their answers to this, the annual “Year in Eater” survey, over the course of several articles over the next two weeks. Today, they’re sharing their thoughts on the first place they’ll go — and what they’ll order — when indoor dining as we remember it safely returns.

I want to try Lazy Bear!! Early on, I read over a story about Lazy Bear by my coworker Janelle Bitker, and I want to see if it’s as special as people say. — SF Chronicle senior features editor (food, travel and magazines) Serena Dai

Mostly I’ve been missing dim sum. The last real sit-down meal that I had before shelter in place was dim sum at Saigon Seafood Harbor, in Richmond, and I bet that’s where I’ll go first once full-on indoor dining feels safe. It’s not destination dim sum, but it’s the dim sum spot closest to where I live — and so, the one I most hope will stay in business. — Eater SF food editor Luke Tsai

I am utterly predictable, so I’ll just be back at Funky Elephant, ordering a crispy rice salad and a bottle of beer, grateful for those of us that made it, grateful we’re together again. — East Bay-based novelist Robin Sloan, the author of (among others) Sourdough and The Strange Case of the New Golden Gate

I’m going to drink lots of cocktails and order a “Chicken in a Spacesuit” (their take on pigs in a blanket) at Mister Jiu’s Moongate Lounge. Surrounded by lots of friends. — San Francisco restauranteur Rica Sunga-Kwan, the owner of Portola District ice cream shop Churn Urban Creamery

Perry’s on Union Street. I know, I know. Stay with me. I’ve been going there since I was a little kid. I’ve spent a Thanksgiving sitting at the bar drinking martinis and eating pumpkin pie (okay, fine, TWO Thanksgivings). I’ve had countless dinners there with friends when everyone’s in the mood for something easy, casual, and comforting. I want to sit at one of the tables in the bar with my two best friends, order an entire plate of potato skins to myself, keep an eye on whatever game is on TV, and drink a little too much. I don’t want to feel fancy. I just want to feel normal. — SF food writer Daisy Barringer

UGH!!! Such a hard question. Well currently I am really lamenting the new stay-at-home orders because every December we have a long boozy holiday lunch with our good friends, the self-proclaimed ‘super seniors’, Milt & Liz Moskowitz ,at Zuni. Last year, 2019, was our first year without Milton (he passed away in March 2019). And now our Zuni lunch with Liz will have to be a “Zoomi,” which is making me very sad. So, if the three of us and Milt along in spirit could go there that would be amazing. We always start with oysters, Caesar salads, a pizza to share and a few entrees, and of course a dessert granite or maybe olive oil cake with an amaro and coffee. — Chef, activist, and author Preeti Mistry

I want to go to Violet’s Tavern, take a seat at the bar, and order a negroni right as the Golden State Warriors tip off against the Indiana Pacers on one of Violet’s big-ass TVs. By the second quarter, I’ll be on my second drink and a big plate of fries — remember how good fries are when you get them right away? I swoon just thinking about it. During halftime I’ll order their meatless Reuben, which I fervently hope returns to their menu when indoor dining returns. The only part of this fantasy I’m unclear on is who I want to triumph, my longtime loves the Pacers, or my obsession since 2014 (Steve Kerr does it for me, folks), the Warriors. Maybe that’s the bit — the only bit — I’ll leave to chance. — Eater SF editor Eve Batey

The first two places I want to go are the same as the last two places I went before lockdown (before we even had a sense there would be a lockdown): Nopa and the House of Prime Rib. Both meals were completely over the top — sure, let’s get another bottle of wine, of course we should get six appetizers, the whole deal — it was almost like we knew. Especially that HOPR dinner — I was there with two of my best friends on a random Tuesday night. We sat at the bar, drank dirty martinis, and shut the place down. Pure magic. — San Francisco food writer Lauren Sloss

The squid and pork belly dish at Nari has been haunting my dreams — in a good way! Also, I miss the sense of place at the Harbor House Inn. You can taste the coast in every bite of Matthew’s food — there’s a purity and genuineness to the dining experience there that I’ve been longing for in these forlorn takeout days. — San Francisco food writer Leilani Marie Labong

Honestly, a drink at a dimly lit neighborhood bar sounds like the most indulgent thing in the world right now — Molloy’s, Grandma’s, the Philly Club, M Lounge, Aunt Charlie’s, wherever. And there are many dining experiences to fantasize about. The hum of the room at Zuni, or Koi Palace, or Joe’s, or Rintaro. The bar at Cala, or Outerlands. The counter at Akiko’s, or New Taraval Cafe. If I’m playing this game, though, I go for a big banquet at Old Mandarin with friends, followed by a nightcap at White Cap, followed by a bonus nightcap at the Riptide and a chicken tikka masala pizza at Brothers next door. I hope all those places can weather the storm so the dreams can be realized. — Resy editorial director (and Eater SF’s founding editor) Paolo Lucchesi

I miss Frances hard. There will be panisse frites, bacon beignets, and some amazing soup or squid thing in my future. — SFist editor Jay Barmann

Oh my god. I can’t wait to belly up to the bar at the new Tosca Cafe for pasta and negronis. You will definitely find me all dolled up in a red leather booth at Original Joe’s, ordering porterhouse and creamed spinach. And I can’t wait to boogie it out on the deck of the pirate ship at the Tonga Room. It’s going to be a real bender. — Eater SF reporter Becky Duffett