The many charms of the far-off lands to the north of the Golden Gate are a siren’s call to city dwellers and tourists eager for a mini-escape to the green acres of Marin and wine country. Restaurants around the North Bay beckon with comfort food, plant-based fare from a team with Michelin cred, all the noodles from Charles Phan, Southeast Asian pastries and desserts, and more.
Sure, the wine ain’t half bad but it’s the expanding food scene that’s creating its own hoopla these days. Here are 14 upcoming and new restaurants to explore in the North Bay this spring and summer.
Word is out that the veggie everything spin-off courtesy of Single Thread’s Kyle and Katina Connaughton (which holds three Michelin stars) will open its café and wine store on April 11 and the restaurant for regular service on April 18. The 10,000-square-foot home, where SHED once reigned, will be a community gathering space for music and film screenings in addition to its lunch, dinner, and marketplace offerings.
With plans to stay open after Single Thread closes each night (and as late as 2 a.m. for hospitality staff), Maison Healdsburg comes from Single Thread alumni and owners Evan and Jade Hufford and Ryan Knowles. The wine bar, located just down the street from Single Thread in downtown Healdsburg, is slated for spring. Coastal California wines are at the heart of a menu that gives due recognition to Burgundy and Champagne, plus craft sake and beer. If all goes well, iconic bottles, like Cobb Wines’ 2014 Coastlands “Old Firs” will be offered as tastes or by the glass.
Like the French Laundry for Napa and Chez Panisse for the Bay Area, Single Thread’s alumni are designing a new restaurant scene for Healdsburg. In this case, bakers Melissa Yanc and Sean McGaughey, who opened Quail & Condor in Healdsburg less than a year ago, this time set their attention to bread and sandwiches. Look for warm pastrami on superseed loaf, egg salad on Hokkaido milk bread, and a tight menu of small plates (think, chicken liver mousse and crudité) to balance out the carbs.
After running too many pop-ups to count and preparing takeout from a mobile kitchen in recent years, chef/owners Stéphane Saint Louis and Steven Vargas found a permanent home in downtown Petaluma for their “upscale comfort food,” opening Table Culture Provisions in December. At brunch, that translates to French toast with house made brioche and a croque madame with a Parmesan bechamel. At dinner, the five-course meal includes a slate of amuse bouche and a bread course with bone marrow fat butter.
Chef Jared Rogers is known for his Southern point of view, cooking hush puppies and shrimp ‘n grits infused with NorCal flair that earned him a nod as a Rising Star Chef from the San Francisco Chronicle in 2014. His latest project in Petaluma opened in January, reuniting Rogers with restaurateur/bartender Dustin Sullivan to gin up the cocktail menu (try the gin gimlet) as he did at Kentfield’s Guesthouse. Mario Chavarria, who worked closely with Rogers at Larkspur’s Picco, will handle executive chef duties, crafting Southern fried chicken dinners with soul and Sonoma spirit.
Former New Yorkers, chefs Josh Smookler (from New York’s Mu Ramen) and Heidy He fortuitously opened Animo on February 2, 2022 (that’s 2/2/22) in a former roadhouse on the outskirts of downtown Sonoma. The menu skews to American Korean hearth cooking with broad swipes at the cuisine of the Iberian Peninsula. But calling the food “global” does a disservice to boquerónes toast, kimchi fried rice, whole Spanish mackerel pulled from the embers, and seared Iberico pork pluma, a rare cut from the front end of the loin.
The lines that often runs out the doors at the Mill Valley and San Rafael locations of Sol Food are about to get shorter (hopefully). Owner Sol Hernandez is expected to open a third location of her eponymously named business, known for its tostones-swaddled shrimp po-boys, mofongo, and other Puerto Rican favorites, in downtown Petaluma in late February, boosting Petaluma’s cred as a legit dining destination.
Fans of San Francisco’s Michelin-starred Mourad are expected to descend on Napa’s Oxbow Public Market for more sizzled meats and fresh salads from chef Mourad Lahlou, who also runs the more casual Richmond neighborhood restaurant Aziza. Inspired by a popular night market in Marrakech, Lahlou plans a menu of casual, California-Moroccan fare that may include his signature spreads, confit chicken basteeya, and platters of grilled lamb with chef Jorge Velazquez running the kitchen alongside Lahlou.
Let the love puns rain down on husband-and-wife team Christopher and Martina Kostow who recently popped up in a collab-slash-preview at Octavia with Melissa Perello and at Cadet in Napa to preview the deli “coming soon” to Napa’s Oxbow Public Market. Said to be “Jew-ish,” with tastes of the Kostows’ lives, including flavors from Martina’s Thai heritage, the menu will feature bagels with a schmear, a classic roast beef sandwich and a focus on local farms and artisans.
French-inspired baked goods from Manila-born owner/pastry chef Jay Magsano landed in downtown Napa in December. This is a second location for Magsano, whose exacting technique combined with Southeast Asian flavors delivers candy-striped croissants lacquered with rose lychee raspberry or glistening ube gelato macaron sandwiches made with fresh ube. Pillowy brioche buns and crackly sourdough baguettes that would be right at home on Paris’s Rue de Rivoli will please classicists.
Charles Phan’s latest modern Vietnamese restaurant (after several successful pandemic pop-ups around Napa), is slated to open “sometime this year” near downtown Napa. If tradition holds, look for lots of spring rolls, shrimp with caramel sauce and cellophane noodles with crab. While you wait, Phan opened Chuck’s Takeaway, a sandwich shop not far from the Slanted Door’s first home in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco. It’s dishing up braised beef belly bolittos and a banh mi with paté Maison, pork cha, and chicken liver paté to tide you over until the shaking beef craving passes (or you can head over to San Ramon where an outpost is open for business).
Chef David Hopps, the former sous chef at Mendocino’s Harbor House Inn, a Michelin two-star restaurant, is slated to open an izakaya in Point Arena (north of Sea Ranch) in mid-March. If the menus from last year’s pop-ups are an indication of what to expect, small plates of Japanese pickles and seaweed, skewers from the Kushiyaki grill, plus a full menu of temarizushi, oshizushi, and sashimi will be on the impeccably sourced menu.
Though still mired in the permitting process, Brandon Jew’s Mill Valley outpost is scheduled to open sometime this summer. The chef, best known for his work at Mister Jiu’s in San Francisco’s Chinatown, is planning a menu of Chinese-American classics from his childhood memories – kung pao chicken, broccoli and beef, imperial rolls, and a sweet and sour ice cream sundae.
Sate your escargot and fondue cravings at the latest spot from the Left Bank Brasserie team, expected to open in a brand-new building in downtown Tiburon in time for Bastille Day. We’re dreaming of the French onion soup and raclette burger that chef-proprietor Roland Passot has made famous from Larkspur to San Jose.