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The Most Exciting — and Most Infuriating — Bay Area Restaurant Trends of 2023

In: Fruit in coffee and affordable pasta. Out: Tinned fish and negative national coverage of San Francisco’s food scene.

Are we finally ready to leave the tinned fish trend behind?
| Photo by: Petr Svarc/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

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 trends they loved (and hated) this year.

Kevin Alexander, author of Burn The Ice: The American Culinary Revolution and Its End: The whole tinned fish thing. I’m sorry, but even, like, the best quality ones are still kind of gross. Remind me why I’m going to a restaurant to eat like I’m in the Merchant Marines again?

Madeline Wells, senior food reporter at SFGATE: Worst: National entities not only shitting on San Francisco as a whole (doom loop, doom shloop), but on our restaurant scene specifically. James Beard snubbed us, that one Bon Appetit article… There are challenges, of course, but I find our restaurant scene just as innovative and hopeful as ever.

Paolo Bicchieri, Eater SF reporter: Fruit in coffee, and all the bright and zingy coffee drinks showing up in San Francisco and beyond, is a treat. Outset Coffee on Valencia Street is carrying the torch arguably lit by Fruit Latte on Irving Street, and outfits including Paper Son, York Street, and Telescope liven coffee with bright, homage-driven ingredients and techniques.

Elena Kadvany, San Francisco Chronicle food reporter: The rate of closures this year was infuriating and alarming. So many popular spots shut down — Automat, Dumpling Club, Hina Yakitori, Palmetto, Turtle Tower, Avery, Park Tavern, La Cocina’s food hall — and many owners cited this year as their worst ever in business. We’re already seeing more end-of-year closures, and I worry that the industry will start 2024 with a lot of uncertainty.

Josh Decolongon, audience engagement producer (and host of “No Crumbs”) at KQED Food: I’m never one to severely hate on an aesthetic but the Instagrammable neon signs with a restaurant’s motto need to stop.

I know that excessive, extravagant, and eye-catching dishes captivate us a few seconds more than the average swipeable video, but I just know people aren’t finishing them. Whether or not you genuinely like the extravagance of it all, I appreciate restaurants like Shuggie’s Trash Pie for upcycling ingredients and reducing food waste.

Dianne de Guzman, Eater SF deputy editor: The most exciting local restaurant trend for me was the reversal of restaurant closures, such as what happened at Stonemill Matcha, Rosamunde, and Sláinte. In a year filled with numerous sad closings, it was refreshing to see customers and/or longtime employees resurrect their favorite businesses and run it back for everyone to enjoy.

Andrew Calisterio, photographer based in Sacramento: I hate to say it, but I find it hard to believe restaurants are still opening with so-called “martini menus” where they can’t even execute those abominations properly. If you’re saying you’re bringing culture to Sacramento from out of town, stay out of town. We already have culture.

Lauren Saria, Eater SF editor: I could eat pasta pretty much every day so the abundance of new and relatively more affordable fresh pasta spots — looking at you Pasta Supply Co and Sfizio — makes me really happy. On the other hand, I think more and more restaurants are trying to be everything to everyone; higher-end restaurants are lowering prices while neighborhood spots add caviar to their menus to try to attract the celebratory crowd. Ultimately I think we could end up with a lot of places that all feel vaguely the same.

Astrid Kane, senior editor at the San Francisco Standard: This has never been a late-night town, but honestly the lack of sit-down dining options after 8 or 9 p.m. has become surreal. This isn’t just on restaurants, who are clearly responding to a lack of customers. But it’s probably becoming a chicken-and-egg thing. So my gripe is really with the good people of San Francisco. Please stop eating dinner at 5:15. Delete DoorDash and leave the house if you can!

Intu-on Kornnawong, chef and partner at Jo’s Modern Thai: I really like that there are tons of restaurants supporting local farmers. It’s really great for the ecosystem.

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