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Here Are the Biggest San Francisco Bay Area Restaurant Stories of 2023

This list of most-read stories includes two high-profile restaurant openings, a peek behind the plexiglass at a legendary burrito spot, and pieces that pay homage to beloved members of the food community who died this year

An assortment of dishes at Korean barbecue restaurant Baekjeong. Wonho Frank Lee
Lauren Saria is the editor of Eater SF and has been writing about food, drinks, and restaurants for more than a decade.

As we hurtle toward the end of the year, we’re taking a look back on the stories that most strongly captured the attention of our Eater SF readers. San Francisco sparked plenty of national chatter this year — for being at risk of getting stuck in a so-called “doom loop,” yes, but also for having top-notch bagels and thrilling new restaurants.

In short, it’s been a mixed bag of a year with high highs and some low points, too. This list of stories that resonated best with our readers reflects that balance, too. The biggest stories of the year include news of a 50-year-old restaurant that served its final plates of melon and prosciutto this fall and the arrival of one of the country’s best Korean barbecue specialists in the South Bay. It reflects the loss of three well-loved figures from the local food scene and the introduction of a new class of Michelin-starred restaurants. Here, then, are the 12 most-read standalone restaurant stories of 2023 on Eater SF.

12. Step Inside Copra, a Stunning Tropical Oasis Serving Well-Spiced Southern Indian Chutneys and Curries

Chef Srijith Gopinathan won scores of fans across the Bay Area with his stunning South Bay restaurant Ettan, so the debut of his newest restaurant Copra in San Francisco drew readers’s interest. The menu at the macrame-and-plant-filled restaurant draws inspiration from Gopinathan’s home state of Kerala and marks one of the biggest restaurant openings of the year.

11. How This Mexican Grocery Store in Salinas Became a Statewide Favorite for Burritos

In April Eater SF joined Eater editors and writers in Los Angeles and San Diego on a journey to uncover the best burritos in the state. Golden State Burritos included a sneak behind the plexiglass at El Charrito, a Salinas burrito spot with top-notch tortillas and a cult following.

10. Meet the Woman Behind San Francisco’s Casual Korean Dining Empire

San Francisco Korean dining fans might not know her by name, but they’ve likely dined at one of Ina Jungin Lee’s restaurants. After landing in San Francisco in 2004, she built a mini Korean dining empire, owning and operating more than six Korean restaurants and bars in San Francisco including Bibimbar in FiDi, BoBop on Valencia, and Korner Store in the Excelsior.

9. Oakland Baker and Activist Jen Angel Dies After Being Injured During a Violent Robbery

Jen Angel, a local activist and the owner and baker of Angel Cakes, died in early February due to injuries sustained during a violent robbery in Oakland. She was 31 years old. A longtime organizer of the Anarchist Book Fair and a member of the Occupy Wall Street movement, Angel was a beloved member of the East Bay community.

8. Here Are the New 2023 Michelin-Starred Restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area

For the first time in years, the Michelin Guide came to Oakland for a star-studded evening to celebrate the release of the 2023 Michelin Guide California. The evening saw a new cohort of starred restaurants crowned including Thai restaurant Nari in San Francisco, chef Peter Hemsley’s seafood-centric Aphotic, Carmel-by-the-Sea fine dining restaurant Chez Noir, and Calistoga’s Auro.

7. The Chef Couple Behind Michelin-Starred Marlena Just Quit Effective Immediately

Husband-and-wife team chef David Fisher and pastry chef Serena Chow Fisher made headlines with their sudden departure from Marlena, the now-closed restaurant they launched to Michelin status after opening in the middle of the pandemic. Following the messy split from Marlena’s owner (who has since opened a new restaurant Foliage in the space) the couple went on to debut their own new restaurant 7 Adams this fall.

6. Legendary North Beach Restaurant Will Close After 50 Years

October marked the end of the era when North Beach Restaurant announced plans to serve its final meals on December 31, 2023. The restaurant — located, as the name might imply, in North Beach — has been a haven for the city’s politicos for decades: Representative Nancy Pelosi, former mayor George Moscone, and fellow former mayor Willie Brown all frequented the Italian restaurant over the years.

5. In 2023, San Francisco Coffee Shops Want You to Get the Hell Out

Eater SF reporter Paolo Bicchieri caused a stir in April as he explored the current coffee shop environment in San Francisco. As the city continues to settle into its new hybrid working model, Bicchieri pointed out that many local shops seemed to be encouraging customers to take their coffees — and get the hell out.

4. ‘He Encompassed Hospitality’: Much-Loved San Francisco Bar Talent Ilya Romanov Has Died

Bitter news came at the top of the year when beloved local bartender Ilya Romanov died on December 30, 2022, from a fall. The long-time San Francisco bartender was 33 and had recently captained the opening of Bar Iris on Polk Street, which helped earn him the Rising Stars Award from Starchefs in November 2021.

3. California Is Banning Four Food Additives — But Don’t Worry, Your Skittles Are Safe

AB 418, known as the California Food Safety Act, won’t go into effect until spring 2024, but the legislation could have major impacts on how Californians eat. It bans the “manufacturing, selling, delivering, distributing, holding, or offering for sale” of food products that contain four additives currently found in about 12,000 candies, cereals, and sodas. And while Skittles candy won’t be impacted, those fluffy Peeps could come off the shelves.

2. Food Network Star Michael Chiarello Dies After Severe Allergic Reaction

The sudden death of Food Network star and Bay Area-based chef Michael Chiarello shook not only the San Francisco food community but rippled across the country as Chiarello’s scores of colleagues and fans mourned the loss. The chef, who started his storied career in Napa Valley was 61 years old and died after suffering an acute allergic reaction that led to anaphylactic shock.

1. One of the Best Korean Barbecue Restaurants in America Has Finally Arrived in the Bay Area

Baekjeong, one of most popular Korean barbecue restaurants in Southern California, opened its first outpost in the Bay Area in August and diners couldn’t get enough. The restaurant, located at Westfield Valley Fair in San Jose debuted to much fanfare and readers clamored for a first look inside the space and first-hand tips on what to order off the menu.

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