The pandemic isn’t over, but chefs around the Bay Area are gearing up for a busy fall. Many of the most anticipated upcoming restaurant and bar openings are places that pushed back their debuts due to the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 — and many owners are still grappling with shipping delays and permit issues as they approach the finish line. But the bottom line is this: there’s a lot of look forward to.
San Francisco is getting a long-awaited Korean restaurant from Michelin-starred chef Corey Lee and Pacific Cocktail Haven will make its grand return in the coming months. Across the bridge, chef Matt Horn will bring his fried chicken to the forefront at Kowbird, while the team behind Cafe Ohlone prepares to turn a courtyard on the UC Berkeley campus into a “uniquely Ohlone space” for the community.
An opening date is a moving target during any restaurant opening, but for now, these are the 14 most exciting openings to come this fall.
Opening: Early October
Matt Horn’s eponymous barbecue brick-and-mortar is easily the Bay Area’s biggest breakout restaurant success of the last year and a half. But even after earning a nod in the Michelin Guide and other industry accolades, Horn is just getting started. The chef says he’s only a few weeks away from opening his second restaurant, just a few blocks away from his first. He describes Kowbird as “reminiscent of a kind of old chicken shack,” a place where diners can get a buttermilk fried chicken sandwich inspired by the family barbecues of his youth. The menu will also offer hot and honey-butter fried chicken sandwiches, plus good old-fashioned bone-in fried chicken to be enjoyed with an array of savory sides, including mac ’n cheese, green beans, slaw, and cabbage. 1733 Peralta Street, Oakland.
Opening: Mid October
This new all-day bar and cafe comes from a team of four all-star industry vets including Alvaro Rojas (Elda), Nicolas Torres (True Laurel), Nora Furst (Uma Casa), and Claire Sprouse (Hunky Dory in Brooklyn). The vision is to transform the former Californios space in the Mission into a bright “third space” for the community, Rojas told the SF Chronicle. There won’t be any hard liquor in the building but expect a menu of coffee, low-ABV cocktails, and natural wines. Food will be available all day and will be made in front of customers, behind the bar. 3115 22nd Street, San Francisco.
San Ho Won
It’s been two long pandemic years since the news first broke about three-Michelin star chef Corey Lee’s plan to open his first Korean restaurant. But the wait is almost over: San Ho Won will open this October in the Mission spot that most recently housed Blowfish Sushi. The James Beard award–winning chef, who is of Korean descent, titillated diners with San Ho Won takeout pop-ups at Benu during the pandemic, offering up his take on traditional Korean cooking, including beef short ribs braised in pear and finished over charcoal and chilled homemade tofu with sesame. Once the restaurant makes its long-awaited debut, expect an a la carte menu “with charcoal-grilled dishes, banchan, stews, rice dishes, and other Korean fare,” the Chronicle reports, as well as plates that pull from other cuisines — including a kimchi pozole inspired by the restaurant’s location in the Mission and the restaurant’s longtime butcher, Luis Perez. 2170 Bryant Street, San Francisco.
Opening: Early fall
Erik Sun will bring a 15-seat ramen bar — armed with a $60,000 noodle machine from Japan — to SoMa this fall, per the Chronicle, serving noodles of varying widths and gluten levels to diners late into the night. Sun, who’s known for being a wagyu beef purveyor and investor in Los Angeles restaurants including Bestia and Bavel, hopes Pursuit will bring the same level of attention garnered by fresh Italian pasta to Japanese noodles. The ambitious project will also include a 45-seat section with a dedicated yakiniku menu featuring rarer cuts and dishes like kimchi fried rice with beef tongue. 715 Brannan Street, San Francisco.
Opening: Late October/early November
Former Lazy Bear chef Matt Kirk is nearly ready to give his pop-up Automat a permanent home. The restaurant will open by early November in the former Green Chile Kitchen space, where Kirk hopes to create a family-friendly all-day dining destination for the neighborhood. “I think in the city there’s a hole, or not a lot of places you can go to get good food that you’re able to bring your kids to, so that’s where we’re hoping to be,” says the father of two. That means “casual” but “ambitious” menus for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus Andytown coffee, beer, wine, and a list of low-ABV cocktails. Bread will, of course, be a focus, and once the Automat bread oven arrives, Kirk says he’ll explore resuming his monthly bread boxes and subscriptions. 1801 McAllister Street, San Francisco.
Opening: Late October/early November
Chef Nigel Jones (Kingston 11) joins forces with fellow chef-owners Azalina Eusope (Mahila) and Hanif Sadr (Komaaj) on this casual East Bay market and restaurant. “Three chefs, one space, one menu,” Jones says, meaning food will be served all day and the menu will blend all three chef’s cuisines — Jamaican, Malaysian, and Persian. It’s a celebration of the strength of diversity, Jones describes, something he feels even more passionate about after working on the restaurant’s build out through the pandemic. Food will be designed with takeout in mind, bringing the neighborhood a convenient place to pick up a quality meal. “Nothing that we do is gonna be done the way you’re used to seeing it,” Jones says. 2302 Valdez Street, Oakland.
Opening: Mid November
Friends Only comes to Lower Nob Hill from chef Ray Lee and the Akiko’s legendary sushi team. It’s a dream project for Lee, part R+D kitchen and part sushi speakeasy. The exclusive 10-seat omakase bar will be a place for Lee to spotlight high-quality and highly seasonal ingredients on an ever changing tasting menu. Expect to pay about $300 for food and an additional $200 for beverage pairings. 1501 California Street, San Francisco.
Helmed by Michelin-starred chef Erik Anderson, formerly of Coi, this fine dining restaurant debuts this fall at the new Four Seasons Resort Napa Valley. Plans include a farm-to-table a la carte menu featuring California white sturgeon crafted in collaboration with Sausalito-based California Caviar Co. and quail from farmer Brent Wolfe of Wolfe Ranch. The indoor-outdoor space will let diners enjoy sweeping views of the Calistoga vineyards and Palisades Mountains. 400 Silverado Trail, Calistoga.
Steve Joo is still waiting on the all-important tofu machine to arrive, but in any case, he plans to open his hotly anticipated Korean deli Joodooboo in November. If the machine isn’t up and running just yet, he’ll start by rolling out his banchan subscription program and offering limited meals out of the space. Expect a set menu each day based off of the day or week’s banchan production; each will include a protein, rice or soup, banchan, and kimchi. He’ll have a few tables and six counter seats for those who want to enjoy their meal on site, perhaps with a glass of wine or a beer. 4201 Market Street, Oakland.
Pacific Cocktail Haven is relocating to a new space in the same neighborhood and there’s both good news and bad about the timing. Owner Kevin Diedrich says he plans to open “right into” Miracle at PCH this November with the Christmas-themed pop-up running through the holidays. That means Pacific Cocktail Haven fans will have to wait until February 2022 for the grand reopening of the bar with its own cocktail menu in its new home. 550 Sutter Street, San Francisco.
Opening: November or December
The bagels are coming: Schlock’s and its chewy, oversize bagels will land in NoPa before the end of the year, owner Zack Schwab confirmed to Eater SF. Schwab and partner James Lok launched the wildly popular pop-up during the pandemic and now will settle into a permanent space where they can continue making bagels the old-school way: rolling them by hand and proofing them overnight, before boiling and baking those beauties on boards — and flipping them halfway through, of course.
Opening: Early December
The team behind the Michelin-starred Ju-Ni will bring the aptly named Handroll Project to the Mission by early December, partner Tan Truong confirmed. Along with chef Geoffrey Lee the duo plans to roll out a small menu of temaki, so diners can order sets of hand rolls or, for a lighter meal or a snack, a single hand roll or two a la carte. 1499 Valencia Street, San Francisco.
Opening: Early December
La Cocina graduates Reyna Maldonado and her mom Ofelia Barajas will bring their tamales to Oakland’s Swan’s Market before the end of the year, Maldonado confirmed to Eater SF, taking over the space formerly occupied by Cosecha. This comes after the duo — who started selling tamales on the streets more than 15 years ago, per the Chronicle — declined to renew the lease in their Fruitvale restaurant and then quickly landed a new home in Old Oakland. 954 Fruitvale Avenue, Oakland.
Opening: January 2022
Groundbreaking pop-up Cafe Ohlone is relocating to the UC Berkeley campus, specifically the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, and Vincent Medina, who runs the business with Louis Trevino, says he hopes to be able to invite people into the space as early as late November. They’ll start by inviting members of the Ohlone community to check out the courtyard, which will be thoughtfully transformed to a restaurant and cultural space, before opening it up to the public before the end of the year. Medina says they’re working with a team of designers to make the space “uniquely Ohlone,” bringing in an array of native plants and murals, and creating projections on the courtyard walls. The restaurant will begin serving food to socially distant dining pods connected by meandering paths by early next year, and in the meantime continues to work on cultural education opportunities and hosting monthly Sunday Suppers. Hearst Museum of Anthropology on the UC Berkeley campus.
Update: September 20th, 2021, 6:51 p.m.: This story has been updated to reflect that La Guerrera’s Kitchen will move to Swan’s Market in Oakland this fall.