Welcome to Year in Eater 2022, Eater’s annual tradition of celebrating the past 12 months with help from some of the Bay Area’s top food and restaurant industry experts. Between now and the end of the year, Eater SF will post daily questions about the Bay Area restaurant scene with answers from those who know it best.
It has to be Deathless Coffee. Few stories represent the scrappiness and love of craft throughout the pandemic — and in San Francisco, specifically — as Rai Littlejohn’s off-the-grid weekly coffee church. Seeing that go permanent and become a part of the fabric of the city is a treat.
— Paolo Bicchieri, Eater SF reporter
They only just opened this month, but I’m very excited about Calabash. After years of delays, Kingston 11 owner Nigel Jones finally got across the finish line with the new Afro-Caribbean and Iranian restaurant in Oakland (Chef Hanif Sadr of Komaaj in San Francisco is also involved in the project). I’ve only checked out the soft opening so far, but the chill, lounge-y vibe was perfect for sipping cocktails and snacking on labneh sumac dip.
— Madeline Wells, SFGATE food reporter
So many newcomers were exciting this year. I’m not sure if Bodega SF, our Eater Award winner for Restaurant of the Year, counts since it was a former Tenderloin restaurant turned pop-up turned restaurant again, but I’m going to count it here. The care it took to revive the restaurant with modern sensibilities struck a chord with me, and the food and drinks are both stand out in my eyes. In the East Bay, Kaokao Grill was a surprise hit for me. Despite a low-key opening, it’s since gained plenty of attention for smoked char siu and chicken dishes. It’s a compact menu, but yet another spot that opened with good intentions and knocks its dishes out of the park — and at a good price.
— Dianne de Guzman, Eater SF deputy editor
Tacos Mama Cuca is one of the most exciting taquerias to hit the scene, among the greats if we’re talking Sonora-style taquerias in California. I also loved Wah Jee Wah in Hayward.
— Cesar Hernandez, associate restaurant critic at the San Francisco Chronicle
Seth Stowaway’s Osito and Liliana. I’ve known Seth for a while and I’m so happy to see his dream come to life! I was also excited to see San Francisco O.G.s continuing to build on their legacies: Delfina’s gorgeous remodel after 20+ years in business and the very talented chefs Alejandro Rodriguez (longtime Nopa chef de cuisine) and his wife Marcella Lew taking over the kitchen at 20 Spot were exciting developments this year.
— Sarah Henkin, manager at Omnivore Books
Delirama in Berkeley takes the cake — or sandwich? — on this one. Hella good pastrami-focused dishes and inventive approaches to morning favorites and lunch bites. TRY THE O.G. SANDWICH.
— Alan Chazaro, food reporter at KQED
I was lucky enough to eat at the Ju-Ni team’s more casual restaurant Handroll Project in the Mission twice this year and both times the thought and care behind the composition of each of the rolls completely blew me away. My only wish? That they’d add takeout to the mix! I want temaki at the park in 2023, please. A few others that standout: From way back in February, Chuck’s Takeaway, an underrated sandwich star; Birdbox, because if you haven’t tried the sour cream and onion fried chicken you’re doing yourself a real disservice; and Kin Khao, which is technically not exactly new but I’m nonetheless thrilled to have back.
— Lauren Saria, Eater SF editor
Shuggie’s Trash Pie & Natural Wine. I love how this place screams fun and visual cacophony but delivers on a promise of ending food waste so deliciously. It makes being conscious about your food and waste the opposite of being boring, predictable, or playing it safe. Co-owner Kayla Abe worked at Foodwise many years ago, and she and partner David Murphy launched their first business, Ugly Pickle Co., at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, so I wanted to support friends connected to my community. But what I truly delighted in was the combo of a service staff that brought the party vibe to life and the color-saturated palette and unconventional furniture, all coupled with super tasty bites and pies. Taking food waste (but not yourself) seriously can satisfy a lot of cravings.
— Christine Farren, Executive Director at Foodwise
Bodega SF. I’ve enjoyed every incarnation of this place from Bodega Bistro to their popup in Rooster and Rice and was excited when they came back to life in the Tenderloin.
— Patricia Chang, freelance editorial and commercial photographer
I am excited about the folks of the Cumin Bowl, who are bringing the ghost kitchen concept to Indian food at locations across the US (NY, GA, IL, and TX) and also have ready-to-enjoy meal kits. Their business model is cost-effective for operations and does not compromise on the flavor of the food.
— Nandita Godbole, writer at Curry Cravings
Little Saint in Healdsburg. Rad Radish in Hayes Valley, as well.
— Nick Bastone, reporter at Axios SF
Elmer Mejicanos’ cocktails at Causwells, and the over-the-top room at Bar Sprezzatura were both great fun.
— Camper English, cocktails and spirits writer and author