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Braised lamb shank and sides at the newly opened Aziza
Braised lamb shank at Aziza
Albert Law

The Hottest Restaurants in San Francisco Right Now, March 2020

Where to eat right now

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Braised lamb shank at Aziza
| Albert Law

Tipsters, readers, friends, and family of Eater usually all have the same question: Where should I eat right now? Restaurant obsessives want to know what's new, what's hot, which favorite chef just launched a sophomore effort, and where to sip the cocktail of the moment. Thus, we offer the Eater Heatmap, which changes every month to highlight where the crowds are flocking — even if that might be an older spot. (The Eater 38, on the other hand, remains a crucial resource covering old standbys and neighborhood essentials across the city, but it is not a chronicle of the “it” places of the moment.)

March’s additions include QingShu, a customizable, buffet-style hot point restaurant; Hahdough, a much-anticipated new German bakery; Fenikkusu, which is serving excellent omakase and izakaya small plates in the Mission; and Maison Danel, an elegant Parisian tea salon in the Tenderloin.

Coming off the list this time: Nari, Señor Sigig, Red’s House (which is temporarily closed), and Mokuku.

Think you’ve discovered a sparkling new gem of a restaurant that belongs on this list? Drop us a line and nominate it for inclusion.

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The restaurant that brought Mourad Lahlou to national, Michelin-starred prominence isn’t exactly new, but it was away for three whole years before it reopened this past fall. The soulful, California-inflected Moroccan dishes that first won diners’ hearts and minds have only gotten better with age: the show-stopping bone-in lamb shank, the sticky date cake, and, of course, the pastry-encrusted chicken basteeya. Even better, the fully renovated Outer Richmond space is brighter and more comfortable.

Chicken basteeya, almond, caramelized onion Albert Law

QingShu

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This Inner Sunset newcomer specializes in malatang-style hot pot, which allows diners to grab what they want from a fairly immaculate display of meats, fresh vegetables, fish balls, and assorted noodles — dozens of different options. Fill a basket up with what you want, choose one of the seven broth options, and have the staff weigh out your order before they cook it all up. It’s essentially an ultra-customizable noodle soup, and the perfect balm for a foggy day out in the Avenues. If you can stand the heat, go for one of the mala — or numbingly spicy — soup options.

Mamahuhu

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Chef Brandon Jew’s most casual and accessible restaurant yet, this counter-service operation in the Inner Richmond specializes in Chinese-American takeout classics: sweet-and-sour chicken, beef and broccoli, egg rolls, and the ubiquitous stir-fry medley known as “happy family.” Everything is made with well-sourced ingredients, abundant vegetables, and precise Chinese technique — which means that chicken, for instance, isn’t cloyingly sweet and has a satisfying crunch. Save room for the “chop suey sundae,” a delightful soft-serve creation that is Jew’s nod to an old SF Chinatown favorite.

A business that’s more than 10 years old might seem out of place on a “hottest restaurants” list, but given Lavash’s two-year hiatus to rebuild after a major 2018 fire, it’s essentially reintroducing itself to the public. That’s a good thing, as the restaurant is one of only a handful of Persian spots in the city — perhaps, if it rounds into previous form, the best and most traditional of the bunch. Old regulars are already packing the house for favorites like shiraz salad, koobideh (the spiced ground-meat kebab), assorted dips, and, of course, the crunchy rice dish known as tahdig.

Hahdough German Bakery

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If you love a pretty and delicious cake (and who doesn’t love cake?), this little German bakery in NoPa is an answered prayer. Owner Ha Do, who grew up in Germany, dabbles in savory items like pretzels, but really, Hahdough is all about the sweets — a dazzling array of traditional German cakes and pastries, along with a few of Do’s own creation. If you’ve been craving a real German Black Forest cake, or the lesser-known, honey-gilded Bienenstich, or “bee sting” cake, this is your spot.

A cake at Hahdough Patricia Chang

Hina Yakitori

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Chef Tommy Cleary, whose previous Hina Yakitori restaurant was in Oakland, brings his business to San Francisco, this time in partnership with the Michelin-starred Ju-Ni team with an omakase-style format. It’s 12 customers at a time gathered around the chef’s counter for a set menu of 16 courses, everyone slowly working their way through bite after bite of binchotan charcoal-grilled chicken and a few non-chicken additions. While Cleary is in some regards a traditionalist, this is modern yakitori: Crispy chicken skin is adorned with some salmon roe on top, and a deboned chicken wing gets a sansho pepper and fresh wasabi treatment.

Wildseed

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Call it plant-based, vegan, or what you will: Wildseed, the Back of the House restaurant group’s new offering in Cow Hollow, is a neighborhood crowd-pleaser that happens to not serve animal byproducts. Here, vegetables get center stage, and subbing in for meat in supporting roles are proteins from Hodo Soy tofu to Beyond Meat sausage. No animals were harmed in the mixing of Wildseed’s cocktails either, from which there are some low- and no-ABV options to choose.

Disclosure: Carolyn Alburger, Cities Director for Eater, is married to Wildseed chef Blair Warsham. She has recused herself from involvement in any coverage of Warsham’s projects.

Dear Inga

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Liholiho Yacht Club partners Jeff Hanak and Ravi Kapur have teamed up again, this time with chef David Golovin for Eastern European comfort food in a premier Mission District space. The menu at Dear Inga, whose name is a dedication to Golovin’s grandmother, includes snacks like Hungarian-inspired lipateur cheese, meticulously made bratwurst and blood sausages, and desserts like rugelach and linzer cookies. Don’t miss the Georgian wine list or the cocktails, which feature fun ingredients like beet shrubs and the Hungarian liquor Zwack.

Fenikkusu

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The most exciting new sushi restaurant to open in the Mission in years, Fenikkusu is that rare Japanese that doesn’t force you to choose between a dinner of izakaya-style small plates and a full omakase experience — a good thing, since it does both things equally well. The biggest selling point is the sushi, which is available in reasonably priced five- and eight-nigiri omakase options — each piece a textural marvel, with nary a generic salmon or hamachi in the mix. The five-piece option makes a nice appetizer for a few of chef George Tanaka’s excellent izakaya plates — say, the peppery oxtail soup or a plate of buttery mentaiko udon.

Mentaiko udon at Fenikkusu Luke Tsai

Maison Danel

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It’s a good time to be a croissant lover in San Francisco, especially with the arrival of this elegant new Parisian-style patisserie and tea salon in the Tenderloin. Yes, Maison Danel sells all kinds of crisp, buttery croissants, both savory and sweet — but it’s also an ambitious all-day restaurant that offers a wide range of dining experiences. Come in the afternoon for a full-on, sit-down tea, complete with a fully loaded three-tier tray. But also don’t sleep on the restaurant’s heartier savory options: French classics like steak tartare and duck confit.

Prubechu

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SF’s only Guamanian restaurant has returned to the Mission, in the old Commonwealth space, with a festive new menu format: Instead of a tasting menu, diners can opt for a family-style “fiesta table,” featuring many of the same crowd-pleasing dishes from chef Shawn Naputi: ceviche-like fish and shrimp kaleguen, red rice, tinaktak (stewed ground beef), and more.

Lupulandia Brewing

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The Mission’s newest brewery also features one of its most inventive and idiosyncratic menus, at least as far the neighborhood’s Mexican food scene goes. The Tijuana-style menu features items like braised octopus tacos, Baja-style fish chowder served in a San Francisco sourdough bread bowl, and menudo that comes in crispy taco form. Wash it all down with a couple of Lupulandia’s brown lagers.

Tuna chowder in a sourdough bread bowl at Lupulandia Lupulandia

Tacos El Patron

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Located on the outer edge of the Mission, this new taqueria — the offshoot of the owners’ original shop in Pleasant Hill — is one of only a handful of places in San Francisco where you can score quesabirria, the crispy-melty, cheese-laden birria tacos, served with a side of consommé, that are currently all the rage. But those aren’t the only pleasures on offer here: Served on fresh-pressed tortillas, even the “standard” tacos (along with house specials like the cheesy grilled shrimp Taco Patron) are a cut above the average Mission district taqueria.

Family Cafe

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Impossibly tiny (at 300 square feet) and impossibly cute, this little turquoise-tiled Japanese diner from the folks behind Akiko’s Restaurant makes a welcome addition to the North Beach lunch scene. Here, instead of sushi, the focus is on a very tight menu of casual offerings — mostly katsu sandwiches and Japanese curry rice plates, all served in a family-friendly setting.

A blue-tiled bar counter at the North Beach cafe Family Family Cafe

Gap Year at Nico

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Billed as a one-year experiment of sorts, wherein the owner of the Morris and young star chef Jordan Guevara watch over Michelin-starred Nico while its proprietors spend the year abroad, Gap Year at Nico might feature one of the most audacious new tasting menus of the year: lots of intricate, labor-intensive dishes built off of recipes from “old, dusty cookbooks” — say, a souffle made with multiple preparations of chestnuts, or a single-bite salt cod, plankton crepe, and grapefruit dish. To start out, the wine-pairing consists almost entirely of Champagnes.

A single-bit salt cod dish from Gap Year at Nico Gap Year at Nico

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Aziza

The restaurant that brought Mourad Lahlou to national, Michelin-starred prominence isn’t exactly new, but it was away for three whole years before it reopened this past fall. The soulful, California-inflected Moroccan dishes that first won diners’ hearts and minds have only gotten better with age: the show-stopping bone-in lamb shank, the sticky date cake, and, of course, the pastry-encrusted chicken basteeya. Even better, the fully renovated Outer Richmond space is brighter and more comfortable.

Chicken basteeya, almond, caramelized onion Albert Law

QingShu

This Inner Sunset newcomer specializes in malatang-style hot pot, which allows diners to grab what they want from a fairly immaculate display of meats, fresh vegetables, fish balls, and assorted noodles — dozens of different options. Fill a basket up with what you want, choose one of the seven broth options, and have the staff weigh out your order before they cook it all up. It’s essentially an ultra-customizable noodle soup, and the perfect balm for a foggy day out in the Avenues. If you can stand the heat, go for one of the mala — or numbingly spicy — soup options.

Mamahuhu

Chef Brandon Jew’s most casual and accessible restaurant yet, this counter-service operation in the Inner Richmond specializes in Chinese-American takeout classics: sweet-and-sour chicken, beef and broccoli, egg rolls, and the ubiquitous stir-fry medley known as “happy family.” Everything is made with well-sourced ingredients, abundant vegetables, and precise Chinese technique — which means that chicken, for instance, isn’t cloyingly sweet and has a satisfying crunch. Save room for the “chop suey sundae,” a delightful soft-serve creation that is Jew’s nod to an old SF Chinatown favorite.

Lavash

A business that’s more than 10 years old might seem out of place on a “hottest restaurants” list, but given Lavash’s two-year hiatus to rebuild after a major 2018 fire, it’s essentially reintroducing itself to the public. That’s a good thing, as the restaurant is one of only a handful of Persian spots in the city — perhaps, if it rounds into previous form, the best and most traditional of the bunch. Old regulars are already packing the house for favorites like shiraz salad, koobideh (the spiced ground-meat kebab), assorted dips, and, of course, the crunchy rice dish known as tahdig.

Hahdough German Bakery

If you love a pretty and delicious cake (and who doesn’t love cake?), this little German bakery in NoPa is an answered prayer. Owner Ha Do, who grew up in Germany, dabbles in savory items like pretzels, but really, Hahdough is all about the sweets — a dazzling array of traditional German cakes and pastries, along with a few of Do’s own creation. If you’ve been craving a real German Black Forest cake, or the lesser-known, honey-gilded Bienenstich, or “bee sting” cake, this is your spot.

A cake at Hahdough Patricia Chang

Hina Yakitori

Chef Tommy Cleary, whose previous Hina Yakitori restaurant was in Oakland, brings his business to San Francisco, this time in partnership with the Michelin-starred Ju-Ni team with an omakase-style format. It’s 12 customers at a time gathered around the chef’s counter for a set menu of 16 courses, everyone slowly working their way through bite after bite of binchotan charcoal-grilled chicken and a few non-chicken additions. While Cleary is in some regards a traditionalist, this is modern yakitori: Crispy chicken skin is adorned with some salmon roe on top, and a deboned chicken wing gets a sansho pepper and fresh wasabi treatment.

Wildseed

Call it plant-based, vegan, or what you will: Wildseed, the Back of the House restaurant group’s new offering in Cow Hollow, is a neighborhood crowd-pleaser that happens to not serve animal byproducts. Here, vegetables get center stage, and subbing in for meat in supporting roles are proteins from Hodo Soy tofu to Beyond Meat sausage. No animals were harmed in the mixing of Wildseed’s cocktails either, from which there are some low- and no-ABV options to choose.

Disclosure: Carolyn Alburger, Cities Director for Eater, is married to Wildseed chef Blair Warsham. She has recused herself from involvement in any coverage of Warsham’s projects.

Dear Inga

Liholiho Yacht Club partners Jeff Hanak and Ravi Kapur have teamed up again, this time with chef David Golovin for Eastern European comfort food in a premier Mission District space. The menu at Dear Inga, whose name is a dedication to Golovin’s grandmother, includes snacks like Hungarian-inspired lipateur cheese, meticulously made bratwurst and blood sausages, and desserts like rugelach and linzer cookies. Don’t miss the Georgian wine list or the cocktails, which feature fun ingredients like beet shrubs and the Hungarian liquor Zwack.

Fenikkusu

The most exciting new sushi restaurant to open in the Mission in years, Fenikkusu is that rare Japanese that doesn’t force you to choose between a dinner of izakaya-style small plates and a full omakase experience — a good thing, since it does both things equally well. The biggest selling point is the sushi, which is available in reasonably priced five- and eight-nigiri omakase options — each piece a textural marvel, with nary a generic salmon or hamachi in the mix. The five-piece option makes a nice appetizer for a few of chef George Tanaka’s excellent izakaya plates — say, the peppery oxtail soup or a plate of buttery mentaiko udon.

Mentaiko udon at Fenikkusu Luke Tsai

Maison Danel

It’s a good time to be a croissant lover in San Francisco, especially with the arrival of this elegant new Parisian-style patisserie and tea salon in the Tenderloin. Yes, Maison Danel sells all kinds of crisp, buttery croissants, both savory and sweet — but it’s also an ambitious all-day restaurant that offers a wide range of dining experiences. Come in the afternoon for a full-on, sit-down tea, complete with a fully loaded three-tier tray. But also don’t sleep on the restaurant’s heartier savory options: French classics like steak tartare and duck confit.

Prubechu

SF’s only Guamanian restaurant has returned to the Mission, in the old Commonwealth space, with a festive new menu format: Instead of a tasting menu, diners can opt for a family-style “fiesta table,” featuring many of the same crowd-pleasing dishes from chef Shawn Naputi: ceviche-like fish and shrimp kaleguen, red rice, tinaktak (stewed ground beef), and more.

Lupulandia Brewing

The Mission’s newest brewery also features one of its most inventive and idiosyncratic menus, at least as far the neighborhood’s Mexican food scene goes. The Tijuana-style menu features items like braised octopus tacos, Baja-style fish chowder served in a San Francisco sourdough bread bowl, and menudo that comes in crispy taco form. Wash it all down with a couple of Lupulandia’s brown lagers.

Tuna chowder in a sourdough bread bowl at Lupulandia Lupulandia

Tacos El Patron

Located on the outer edge of the Mission, this new taqueria — the offshoot of the owners’ original shop in Pleasant Hill — is one of only a handful of places in San Francisco where you can score quesabirria, the crispy-melty, cheese-laden birria tacos, served with a side of consommé, that are currently all the rage. But those aren’t the only pleasures on offer here: Served on fresh-pressed tortillas, even the “standard” tacos (along with house specials like the cheesy grilled shrimp Taco Patron) are a cut above the average Mission district taqueria.

Family Cafe

Impossibly tiny (at 300 square feet) and impossibly cute, this little turquoise-tiled Japanese diner from the folks behind Akiko’s Restaurant makes a welcome addition to the North Beach lunch scene. Here, instead of sushi, the focus is on a very tight menu of casual offerings — mostly katsu sandwiches and Japanese curry rice plates, all served in a family-friendly setting.

A blue-tiled bar counter at the North Beach cafe Family Family Cafe

Gap Year at Nico

Billed as a one-year experiment of sorts, wherein the owner of the Morris and young star chef Jordan Guevara watch over Michelin-starred Nico while its proprietors spend the year abroad, Gap Year at Nico might feature one of the most audacious new tasting menus of the year: lots of intricate, labor-intensive dishes built off of recipes from “old, dusty cookbooks” — say, a souffle made with multiple preparations of chestnuts, or a single-bite salt cod, plankton crepe, and grapefruit dish. To start out, the wine-pairing consists almost entirely of Champagnes.

A single-bit salt cod dish from Gap Year at Nico Gap Year at Nico

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