I too, am excited to see this. It seems like an improvement, and much more in line with the way the Bay Area dines. And I see it as a great discussion-opening opportunity. I could never come up with a Top XX list, so nothing I say should be seen as a criticism of the list or its authors, but rather a jumping off point for finding more great places. So here are some arbitrary reactions to the list:
Like brisket44, I think Belloti is much better than many of the Italian places on the list, particularly A16 (and Westalke Joe’s, if that’s Italian) though the wine list at A16 is emphasized. I haven’t noticed spectacularly better wine selection at A16 but I can’t say I’ve been looking for it, and I can say I’ve only been to the Oakland location in the last 10 years.
The dearth of Indian places is notable–I’ve never been to August 1 Five or Rooh, mostly due to many previous disappointments with “upscale” Indian skewing towards toning down spice and funkiness, though the descriptions of these lead me to believe they might be adding in additional flavor profiles (foie, lemongrass) rather than muting their own. Has anyone been? Vik’s has long been a punching bag for these discussion boards, but rare is the discussion that says anything more specific than “there are better places in the South Bay” without naming a specific place, or a specific criticism of Vik’s execution. I’ll say I don’t like the thick, heavy, papdi they use in the dahi papdi chaat, but find them to be pretty good, and stopping by random, unheralded places between San Jose and Mountain View for chaat to be worse to equal (I would love specific suggestions and criticisms). I do think this category suffered from leaving out “Santa Clara County”, but more likely refers to a more general South Bay, including Chinese places Union City-Milpitas.
And to be clear, I think this geographical focus is justified for a Chronicle Top 100 List. San Jose has always been considered a separate Metro Area and it seems overwhelming to cover it all (and if you do expand the area, maybe expand the number of slots to make inclusion seem less arbitrary). Though to be sure, much of the readership is coming from Silicon Valley and, from my point of view, the horrible decline of the San Jose Mercury News/Oakland Tribune/Whatever else got folded in to the Bay Area News Group creates a need for this wider coverage by the Chronicle.
Chinese seems San Francisco centric, and perhaps has more hold-overs than new territory (which would likely skew towards the South Bay) like Din Ding or Bing’s. I haven’t been to Terra Cotta Warrior since the ownership change (and I’ve heard from one friend it is blander), or Old Mandarin Islamic since I lived in SF (~11 years ago). I’ve never been a huge fan of Z&Y, within the Sichuan field, but that is likely because I typically end up there with people who want a Chinatown experience but have a lot of kids or for other reasons are terrified of spicy or “strange” things. They have always seemed like a Cantonese version of Sichuan to me, and if you serve a sticky-sweet version of kung pao tofu or chicken, a legitimate Sichuan dish, I’ll feel like my opinion is justified and not just dominated by my table ordering mostly the wrong things. Chef Zhao, Royal Feast, Yi Yuan, China Village off the top of my head are all better (though I must admit I haven’t been to all within the past year, so perhaps I am off).
I’m happy to hear of places that had truly escaped my radar, such as HoDaLa, Chibog, August 1 Five (which I missed despite being on previous years’ list), Okkon, and Pinoy Heritage (though including pop-ups seems a bit ephemeral).
The taquerias seem a bit over-numerous (especially considering the amount of non-taqueria Mexican in the list) and arbitrary, but not bad, per se.
Cellarmaker HOP is an interesting choice. I haven’t been, but I have been to the original Cellarmaker. If it is a beer-based choice, I prefer Fieldwork and Faction, though Cellarmaker is my SF-proper favorite, and these things are subjective to a great degree. I know nothing of the limited food menu, though I do like what peeps these days are calling Detroit-style pizza, particularly if it’s enhanced by Toma.
I enjoyed FOB Kitchen on my one visit, but for my personal preference, even within the very limited field of Filipino available on my way home from work Berkeley -> Oalkand I find myself gravitating towards Likha. Their dishes just seem more flavor-packed, substantial, and comforting. I’m also a big fan of the time I stopped by Parekoy Lutong Pinoy, but it is a bit too out of the way to get anyone to go with me, and the sisig is too delicious for me to stop eating it, and my fatpants are already in danger of not fitting.
As far as omissions go, Vietnamese is the most glaring category, given the number of places in the Bay Area. Again, this may be suffering from not having infinite time to explore the South Bay, and Soleil’s own heritage–I imagine, if you come from the right family, most places pale in relation to your family’s own cooking, it’s hard to imagine there isn’t a Vietnamese equivalent to El Farolito, Red’s Java House, Standard Fare, El Castillito, or Tommy’s Joynt. Just in my neighborhood, I’ll enjoy the workman’s lunch at Pho Vy, Pho King, Da Nang Quan, or the addictive bánh bột chiên at Mien Tay.
Any other general or specific thoughts at the list? Categories you would like to see better represented, or secret gems that may have been overlooked? One of my favorite things about @soleil is that she is very engaged is truly interested in peoples’ suggestions. And more selfishly, so am I!