New restaurants in SF ?

I had to pick a restaurant in SF for dinner with friends, and without the richness of the old CH, realize how out of touch I am. I am also feeling that SF rents are starting to really hurt the industry - driving down food quality, restaurant wages; Pressuring good people to open a second or third place with a winning template.

Here’s a list of what popped up ( partially from Eater’s Hotlist )

Al’s Place. Everyone seems crazy about it, tough to get in on short notice. Is it really all that?

Cadence. Bauer said it was “over designed” but he said basically the same thing about Saison so fooey to him. True or false?

Old Bus Tavern. Bauer ( brrrr ) said it’s a cut above the newfangled brewery thing, but I’m not going all the way to SF to eat at a glorified chili house. Or am I ?

Perennial. Another sustainable mid market whatever?

Volta. Seems like an actual interesting concept.

Whitechapel. Intrigued.



Cafe Du Nord. Hard to spend a city-dinner on a burger joint, but I like me some burgers, and the Du Nord is a sentimental favorite for a bunch of reasons. Reports?

Dirty Water. Another mid-market. Anything to set it above the others?

NOW, what about places that have been around for a few years?

( Note the complete focus on “california food”, leaving off all manner of Chinese Asian whatever. Let’s just call that a different thing )

Cockcomb. I love the place, I think they’ve got a ton of integrity and always eat off the specials list, and they are reasonable to get a short-range reservation. But my last 3 city-based meals have been there so I need to branch out.

Monsieur Benjamin. We have a lot of french bistro food down the peninsula, but maybe not this good. Worth spending a meal in SF on?

Mourad. Tried it once. I think to get the full experience you have to go with a ton of people ( at least 4 to 6 ) and get their family style stuff, which is rarely my mode.

Cotogna. For some reason, I never manage to go there, perhaps because a reservation on short notice seems impossible. Is it still as great as before, and I should try harder?

Kin Khao. With lots of good reviews, still impossible to get in.

Californios. Forgot that one, but looks great, imagine it’s still hard to get in.

Lilihoho. I get this confused with the Juhu Beach Club in the east bay, so I’m probably underrating it. How are they?

Zuni. How are they doing these days?

Flour+Water. Yeah, and them too ?

AQ. Three?

Commonwealth. With some of their folks off on other projects, how is it these days? It’s fairly easy to get in.

Range. An old favorite of many people that for some reason I never got to. Has it been surpassed, or still hanging in?

Locanda. Same.

Trick Dog might even deserve to be on the “new list”, but it’s not super-new. Still haven’t tried it. Has it cooled off enough that one can get in?

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tried Al’s Place a few times, enjoyed the fish mullet (collar), other dishes did not wow me
Cadence, tried several dishes, only the chicken roulade was notable imo
Perennial, vegetarian dishes very good (pumpkin seed soup, sunchoke croutons), meat dishes not so much, great drink program
Whitechapel was too crowded/loud for me
Dirty Water, tried a couple times, not worth a special trip imho (or even a trip across the street, in my case)
Monsieur Benjamin, only noteworthy current dishes the quail and marzipan ice cream, avoid the beef short rib
Mourad, avoid the duck, a roulade
Cotogna, if they have the porchetta, that is worth it, and the sformato. pastas tend to be a bit thick and gummy for my tastes, and too much butter. better pastas and ala carte (and drinks) next door at the lounge at Quince
Californios, have had some great dinners there
Liholiho, best of the bunch, short rib, crispy oysters, ask for the Ponyo cocktail; long lines to get in, parking is not easy
Flour & Water, too loud/crowded, food was disappointing the last time i was there so haven’t been back
AQ, food a bit too precious for me, hard to put together a good meal, interesting drinks though
i would put in a plug for Bon Marche (casual bistro which punches above its weight)
another “safe” bet is drinks at the bar at Saison, then dinner at Alexander’s, or Waterbar if you can get in
RIch Table is another option, though can get crowded/claustrophobic. Hit or miss, menu changes frequently, but some dishes knock it out of the park. had a beef tartare, garganelli vodka w/ lobster, and black cod recently which were all great.


When I’m coming up to the city and meeting friends, reservations are kind of a must, so a “long wait and maybe you get in” is not in the cards. For myself, though, I’ll push Liholiho up the list.

These friends aren’t so interested in safe, they eat at a lot of these kinds of places, wouldn’t go to Alexanders. ( I have done safe business dinners at Alexanders, and it’s a fine call for that ).

We ended up reserving Perennial, and will focus on the veg, thanks for the tip. Looks like there’s an interesting bar “Oddjob” around the corner.

you can hit the raw bar at Bon Marche (half a block from Perennial) before going to dinner at Perennial, if you’re lucky, they’ll have poached cold lobster or crab, shrimp salad or other treats, and you can partake in some beers on draft or drinks. good desserts too there, for after Perennial (fromage blanc tart, chocolate pot de creme, crepes, etc). Haven’t checked out Oddjob but the drinks at Perennial are worth trying several of :wink:

How about Aster? I think the quality is great for the $59 prix fixe price. Only been once, but looking forward to going back. ETA: Reservations don’t seem difficult to get.

Old Bus Tavern is great for beer snobs. The food is so precious and tiny that you are guaranteed to leave hungry.

Dirty Water is ok if you need somewhere central in a pinch with an out-of-town friend who is staying downtown, but otherwise, no.

3rd Cousin in Bernal. People seem to like it. Ditto with Red Hill Station.

We ended up walking down to City Beer Store and taking in the beers ( found some interesting stuff ) before dinner.

I was glad to have gone to Perennial, but won’t be back. The individual dishes were OK, but we’ve finally gotten to the point where a dinner is too expensive and small for me. I didn’t know it could happen.

The interesting news is the bar at Perennial was wide open all night. The cocktail I had was particularly good, even in a city of good cocktails right now. The bread was worth eating. Since there were literally two people in the very large bar the entire night, I’d strongly suggest putting Perennial on your “I want a quiet bar with good food and bread” list.

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Yes, I wish they had more of a bar menu, that might help pull in clientele. The emphasis on sustainability might be making it more of a challenge to develop a menu with mass appeal. I agree that portions are on the small side.

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Ah yes, the fish mullet at Al’s. Completely blew us away when we tried it.

Very good lobster roll at the recently opened Leo’s oyster bar (Sacramento st @ Montgomery, SF), but pricey ($32). More chi chi than your typical bare bones oyster bar, hence more crowded. Interesting crudo, tartare and bar apps. Weak drinks. Next door to Wayfare tavern.

Of the “new” places, Octavia is absolutely worth trying. I actually prefer it to their Castro space and reservations are a lot easier to pull on shorter notice. It’s very much a comfortable neighborhood spot, but everything comes together really nicely. Food is wonderful and the atmosphere matches. Whitechapel is also a favorite. I’ve been at least a dozen times since it opened and I’ve tried just about everything on the food menu, which is way better than it should be, given the concept. All of their appetizers are excellent but I’m especially partial to their farmer’s cheese and naan. Their fish and chips are also a big winner. They’ve switched things up recently from what was originally a more traditional serving to a more creative modern plating, but it all works really well. Their cocktails and house gins are the highlight though. It’s easily one of my favorite places in the city. I’m still waiting to try the new Cafe du Nord, but I’ve heard excellent feedback from friends. That may be on the roster for me this weekend.

As for your “few years old” places… Cotogna is great as ever. Definitely recommended. Same for Locanda. Both are worth visiting. Zuni is also consistent, if that’s your sort of thing. Not a big fan of Flour+Water myself. If you do go, stick with pasta, avoid the pizza. AQ is great. We make a point of going whenever family visits (ie. on someone else’s tab!) and I find Commonwealth boring. I took my wife (then girlfriend) at least three times on date nights when we were still living in the Mission; it became a semi-annual thing. Each time things seemed to drop off a bit for us; ingredients weren’t coming together, menu seemed to lack freshness and originality, etc. We decided we just didn’t like the restaurant anymore and haven’t been back since. Last visit was probably a year and a half ago, so take that for whatever it’s worth.

Dirty Water does have a solid burger, on a pretzel bun (lunch only) but it’s $18.

Bon marche is closing.

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