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 their wishes for the Bay Area food scene this year.
Dianne de Guzman, Eater SF deputy editor: There are so, so many things I want for the restaurant industry in 2024, I’d need more than a mere paragraph to explain it all. But at its core, I want the bar and restaurant industry to thrive more than ever before, to not ever have to utter the word “pivot,” or reference rebounding from the pandemic or burglaries or have to explain why menu prices have to keep rising. I love this industry so much that if I can have the (unrealistic, maybe) hope that restaurants and bars become too busy and that that’s the new complaint — I would consider 2024 a successful year in my book.
Josh Decolongon, Audience Engagement Producer (and Host of “No Crumbs”), KQED Food: Better working conditions for restaurant workers. Lighter ABV cocktails. Less food waste. I don’t care how much of a broken record I sound — my answer is always going to be more Filipino food!
Astrid Kane, senior editor at the San Francisco Standard: Now that pretty much all the pandemic-era goodwill towards restaurants and the service industry generally has evaporated, I just hope everyone in these low-margin industries can survive and thrive. But if things go south, please don’t pin that failure on marginal, long-planned increases in the minimum wage or moving a bike lane from one section of a street to another.
Also, considering how lucrative Outside Lands is for its vendors, I hope that the Portola Festival (assuming it comes back) becomes more food-focused, and so does whatever emerges from the chatter about a second August music festival in Golden Gate Park. We need more opportunities for the city’s small businesses to make bank a few times a year.
Lauren Saria, Eater SF editor: More restaurant and bar owners putting themselves and their families first — even if that means closing a business fans love. I was so sad to see Dumpling Club close after less than a year, but I was also cheering for owner Cathay Bi’s brave choice to prioritize her own needs over keeping the brick-and-mortar shop open.
Intu-on Kornnawong, chef and partner at Jo’s Modern Thai: I hope that this economy will become healthier and the cities safer for our guests and for my peers to be able to sustain in this industry. I also am very optimistic that there will be more creative concepts and chefs taking more risks to push the industry forward.
Andrew Calisterio, photographer based in Sacramento: I really hope our industry gets their feet under them, that people continue to dine locally and travel for experiences, and bars and restaurants are able to take risks and try new things. I understand playing to the hits, but I want to hear a new album.
Kevin Alexander, author of Burn The Ice: The American Culinary Revolution and Its End: That chefs come in to opening new restaurants with their eyes open, picking concepts they’re truly excited and passionate about (not just chasing trends); landlords recognize the vitality, job creating power, and soul-infusing energy of having a great restaurant in your building (rather than, say, a bank or upscale furniture chain) and carve out leases that don’t immediately put restaurants behind the eight ball; restaurant investors understand that they’re supporting a complicated but worthy business and not just seeding a tech start-up and have patience, compassion, and reasonable expectations (or else maybe don’t fund restaurants?); city officials recognize restaurants shouldn’t be taxed and treated like law firms and change the laws and regulations accordingly; predatory delivery apps are forced to cut better, more reasonable deals with both restaurants and delivery drivers that don’t gouge both; that servers and bartenders and hosts and bar backs and line cooks and sous chefs and sommeliers can make enough of a living wage that they are able to live in the city they work in (or reasonably close by); and finally, that all new restaurants start offering end of meal candies or mints on the way out like they used to in the 80s when everyone was trying to cover up the taste of cocaine (but, like, that’s not why they’re doing it now).
Madeline Wells, senior food reporter at SFGATE: This is pretty basic, but as someone who wrote headlines along the lines of “Beloved Bay Area Restaurant Closes After 30+ Years” more times than I can count this year, I would like to see that less in 2024. Our historic restaurants are so important and we need to do more institutionally to help them survive.
Paolo Bicchieri, Eater SF reporter: I hope San Franciscans shop local and eat at the restaurants they love in their neighborhoods. It’s not a great look to push major failings onto consumers — nobody living in San Francisco today asked for the global mercantile system that’s cratered our planet — but it’s what we’ve got, and the city’s food system needs support. As Anna Tsing writes in The Mushroom at the End of the World (she’s not referring to The Last of Us, by the way) we might be left with “salvage accumulation,” or communities including food practices growing out of a disaster-struck world including the Bay Area. Let’s bring out the living, otherwise known as going out to eat, before we have to bring out any more of the dead, otherwise known as shuttered restaurants. As Monty Python reminds: we’re not dead yet!