As spring draws near, a shadow looms over the Bay Area restaurant scene, with fears of the novel coronavirus putting a dent in restaurants’ bottom lines weeks before San Francisco even saw its first documented case of the illness. In that context it feels like a nerve-wracking time to be introducing a brand new restaurant to world — to open your doors at a time when many diners are actively choosing to stay home.
But hope springs eternal, as they say, and so it goes for Bay Area restaurateurs who are opening what looks to be an exciting and notably varied crop of new restaurants this spring. The lineup includes the arrival (knock on wood) of long-postponed heavy hitters that first made one of Eater’s “most anticipated” lists many, many seasons ago. It includes new restaurant concepts bringing new life to once iconic spaces, and still others that will mark a splashy debut for newcomers with major cult followings. It spans cuisines that range from Chinese to Palestinian to Jamaican-Malaysian-Persian (all in one).
Here, then, are the 11 openings we’re most eagerly anticipating this spring, arranged in approximate order of expected opening date.
Location: 2901 Mission Street, Mission
Key Players: Reem Assil
Projected Opening: March
In the coming weeks, Reem Assil will mark her official return to the Mission — the neighborhood where the Palestinian-Syrian star chef held her very first pop-ups — with this new outpost of her flagship cafe-bakery, located in the former Mission Pie space. Expect the usual selection of mana’eesh (Arab flatbreads) that are Assil’s biggest claim to fame, plus an expanded inventory of Arab sweets, including big trays of knafeh (a shredded-phyllo-and-cheese dessert).
Location: 1900 Telegraph Avenue, Uptown Oakland
Key Players: Christ Aivaliotis, Matt Reagan, Manny Bonilla
Projected Opening: Mid-March
The team behind Kon-Tiki, the tiki-inspired watering hole in downtown Oakland, has taken over the former Flora space, which they’re turning into steakhouse-inspired restaurant with tropical leanings — a lot more spice and fruit than you’d find at a typical chophouse. Next door, the adjacent Kon-Tiki Room will lean further into tiki with its menu of mai tais and zombies.
Location: 525 Cortland Avenue, Bernal Heights
Key Players: Sandy Zheng
Projected Opening: Late March/early April
This second restaurant for Beijing Restaurant owner Sandy Zheng takes a “dumplings without borders” approach to northern China’s dough-based cuisine. Yes, there will be traditional boiled dumplings with handmade wrappers at the new Bernal Heights restaurant, but also more creative offerings: dumplings stuffed with Korean barbecue or Indian curry, giant xiao long bao you eat with a straw, and even hand-made noodles tossed in guacamole.
Location: 2022 Telegraph Avenue, Uptown Oakland
Key Players: Masa Sasaki, Chikara Ono
Projected Opening: April
Respected SF sushi chef Masa Sasaki (Sasaki) is getting 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. For the featured dish, thick slabs of yellowtail belly will be breaded and deep-fried, tonkatsu-like, and then served on a bun.
Location: 242 Columbus Avenue, North Beach
Key Players: Anna Weinberg, Nancy Oakes, Ken Fulk
Projected Opening: Mid-April
Chef Nancy Oakes (Boulevard), restaurateur Anna Weinberg (Marlowe, etc.), and designer Ken Fulk (the Battery, Leo’s Oyster Bar) have taken this classic, century-old North Beach watering hole off of April Bloomfield’s hands and promise to bring it back to life — though the details of exactly what they have planned for the restaurant remain a bit hazy. After a series of delays, however, Weinberg tells Eater that the restaurant is back on track to open next month.
Location: 1428 Macdonald Avenue, Richmond
Key Players: Viviana Montano, Jorge Veranza, Susana Montano, Evelyn Montano
Projected Opening: Late April
One of the businesses on the vanguard of the Bay Area’s recent obsession with cheesy birria tacos — and, in its current, occasional pop-up form, a business that boasts the some of the longest lines in the whole Bay Area food world — will open its first restaurant storefront a few blocks away from the Richmond BART station. Naturally, quesabirria will be the big draw, but the family who runs El Garage plan on offering other Mexican street food items as well.
The Anchovy Bar
Location: 1740 O’Farrell Street, Fillmore
Key Players: Stuart Brioza, Nicole Krasinski
Projected Opening: Late April/early May
A new, somewhat niche project for the team behind the Progress and State Bird Provisions, the Anchovy Bar will stay true to its name, with a menu largely focused on anchovies and other small fish, plus West Coast oysters, tartares, simple vegetable dishes, and plenty of beer and wine.
Location: 3376 18th Street, Mission
Key Players: Michelle Hernandez
Projected Opening: Spring 2020
It’s been a strong couple of months in San Francisco for little boutique bakeries and patisseries, and the spring looks like it’ll continue that welcome trend with the arrival of Le Dix-Sept, a Mission bakery that will specialize in wildly beautiful cakes, tarts, and canelés that draw on flavors from owner Michelle Hernandez’s Mexican-Guamanian background.
Location: 2801 California Street, Pacific Heights
Key Players: Belinda Leong, Michel Suas, John Paul Carmona
Projected Opening: Late Spring 2020
This long-anticipated project brings together another star-studded team — B. Patisserie’s Belinda Leong and Michael Suas, and former Manresa chef de cuisine John Paul Carmona — that aims to bring wine, cocktails, and updated Franco-American bistro fare to Pac Heights. Routier’s opening has been snarled by long delays, but final inspections permitting, the restaurant should hit the ground running later this spring.
Location: 2302 Valdez Street, Uptown Oakland
Key Players: Nigel Jones, Azalina Eusope, Hanif Sadr
Projected Opening: June
Perhaps the most unique collaboration on this list, Calabash combines the talents of three chefs who cook three entirely different cuisines: Jamaican (from Kingston 11’s Nigel Jones), Malaysian (from Mahila’s Azalina Eusope), and Iranian (from pop-up chef and caterer Hanif Sadr). The Uptown Oakland spot won’t be serving fusion food, though, but rather a selection of dishes from each chef’s home cuisine.