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The Most Exciting Bay Area Restaurants That Opened in 2023

To kick off our Year in Eater coverage, a panel of industry experts share their go-to destinations and the new restaurants that most captivated their attention this year

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Funky Elephant Valencia made the list for several of our Year in Eater panelists.
Patricia Chang

Welcome to the Year in Eater 2023 an annual tradition that looks back at the highs, lows, and in-betweens of the San Francisco Bay Area’s restaurant scene. Today, the Bay Area’s top food writers, editors, reporters, and other industry experts share the restaurants they returned to again and again as well as the most thrilling new restaurants that opened this year.

Astrid Kane, senior editor at the San Francisco Standard: I live in the Mission and I honestly couldn’t love San Jalisco more than I do. It’s a family-run, old-school Mexican restaurant with diner overtones and hefty portions. I’ve never found better chilaquiles anywhere. No matter how foul of a mood I’m in, a burger and fries at Red’s Java House will make me happy. Their default condiments (onion, pickle, mustard) are exactly what I love, although Red’s closes too early.

Among newcomers, the Valencia Street location of Berkeley’s Funky Elephant serves fun, inventive Thai food with a great wine list. You gotta get the papaya salad, drunken mussels, and kao mun gai. It’s pure delight, really.

Elena Kadvany, San Francisco Chronicle food reporter: I moved to the East Bay this year, so I found myself returning over and over for crispy pizza and the most perfect tiramisu at Rose Pizzeria in Berkeley, chewy bagels at Oakland’s Poppy and energizing, herb-showered lunches at Fava in Berkeley.

I’ve been a longtime fan of Day Moon’s bread via its stand at the Clement Street Farmers Market, so it’s a joy to see their work in a fully realized space in the Outer Sunset, with baguette sandwiches, sweets, coffee, and wine. It’s the kind of place I wish I lived close by so I could become a regular.

Dianne de Guzman, Eater SF deputy editor: Where do I begin to tell the story of my favorite restaurants of 2023? Every time I start to answer this question, too many spots creep into the conversation as well. So in no particular order, and without too much preamble, I’ll take a running start through the destinations old and new that held my attention this year (at least as of this writing): Bartavelle, Ramen Shop, Burdell, Hadeem, Pippal, and Sailing Goat. But also: Four Kings and Happy Crane. Also, also: Piglet & Co. and Bar Gemini. But, honestly, I’m just thankful for every restaurant that’s kept me fed this year — every dish and drink I’ve consumed this year is appreciated in all ways, great and small.

Andrew Calisterio, photographer based in Sacramento: Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a big fan of Pizza Supreme Being in Sacramento. Some of my Instagram followers have even inquired if I work there. They added a few new menu items, besides pizza, and it looks like there’s more to come. They also added a couple new chefs to the team that headed up other spots I’ve loved over the years, like LoFi and Kindred.

Intu-on Kornnawong, chef and partner at Jo’s Modern Thai: There’s so many to name but here are some of my regulars this year, Vien Huong in Oakland for their Noodle soup, Pho Hanoi in San Jose, Funky Elephant, Rintaro for their amazing yakitori, Snail Bar, True Laurel, House of Prime Rib, Plow, Day Trip, and our neighbors Sequoia Diner.

Lauren Saria, Eater SF editor: I rarely get to revisit restaurants more than once or twice a year but whenever I’ve got something to celebrate I head to Rintaro or House of Prime Rib. For lunch, I did go through a span when I was eating the jambon-beurre de truffe sandwich from Fatted Calf at the Ferry Building once a week.

As for new restaurants, I returned to newcomer Piglet & Co. a handful of times this year; I love how the menu has evolved since opening and can’t wait to see what new dishes chef Chris Yang rolls out as the restaurant enters its second year.

Kevin Alexander, author of Burn The Ice: The American Culinary Revolution and Its End: I’m getting old and crotchety, so I have a very specific lineup of places I frequent: Wake up with a maple glazed old fashioned donut from Donut Alley in Larkspur (best old fashioned donuts in the Bay and it’s not close) and eat it while watching Cindy Crawford’s seminal 1992 “Shape Your Body” workout video. Then to Wesburger, to get one each of the Ron, Wes, and Merle smash burgers (although they’re now soft rolling out glorious sandwiches, so that might affect future orders). A pastrami with Calabrian chili mayo from Lucinda’s Delicatessen. Casements for a pint of Guinness alongside the spice bag fries with Irish curry and some Granny Reynolds soda bread with soft herb butter. The mozz sticks + marinara (plus, as T.Swift fans might put it, seemingly ranch) from Flour + Water Pizzeria in North Beach.

My friend Harmony’s longtime Fillmore bar Social Study for the Three Amigos veggie tacos (she keeps the good hot sauce behind the bar). Sol Food in San Rafael for the chuleton sandwich (pro tip: add iceberg lettuce for cool crunch, and dip in a little cup of the pique. Raymond’s Pizzeria in Point Richmond for The Rules Are Meant to be Broken pizza (house pickled hot peppers, spicy marina, sopressatta, house infused picante olive oil, magic, etc) and glorious garlic knots. And I celebrate every small and large victory, birthday, anniversary, and decent hair day at Marshall Store with 24 oysters (six each of fresh, Kilpatrick, Chorizo, and BBQ) and some breath mints to combat the raw potential in their incredible garlic bread for the ride back home.

As far as newcomers, Sandy’s in the Haight. My friend Liz in New Orleans was always pushing the glory of the NOLA muffuletta, and I never really bought it, but I’ve now been to Sandy’s several times and I have to say their muffuletta is the best I’ve ever had. A quarter muff can feed four folks (especially if you add Zapps on the side) and though I do not like egg salad, every person I’ve brought there who does raves about their egg salad. But the reason I’m so excited about Sandy’s versus a more traditional restaurant is because I think we need to spend more time praising and celebrating the places that decide they’re just going to do one thing as freakin’ well as possible. I don’t need more spots with Cheesecake Factory-size menus trying to please everyone and ending up just giving you C+’s across the board, that’s what the Cheesecake Factory is for.

Paolo Bicchieri, Eater SF reporter: Coffee Movement West, Day Moon, and York Street Coffee all became regular cafe visits for me this year. On the food front, I was a top 1 percent listener at Masala Dosa, Fiorella, and Rad Radish. The newcomer I most think about is likely Dalida; Sometimes a customer and a restaurant just speak the same language.

Madeline Wells, senior food reporter at SFGATE: Poppy Bagels (the seasonal veg on a sesame bagel is my ideal weekend breakfast), chasing Egg Pals around Oakland at their various pop-ups, Tacos Oscar, Bombera, Daytrip, Shan Dong, Pho Huong Que.

There were lots of newcomers to be excited about, but it was especially cool to see some fan-favorite pop-ups finally open their first brick-and-mortar, like Gumbo Social and Popoca.