Dining

The Best Restaurants in SF for Spring 2018

Hope you're hungry, because the Bay Area is ripe with new options
Dry-aged lamb with abalone and sea moss at Avery | Photo: Avery

Pop-ups set down fine dining roots in the Bay Area, while Michelin-pedigree chefs unveil casual concepts and a beloved street food vendor triumphantly returns. Here are the top new restaurants to try this spring in San Francisco.

Amara

Mourad Lahlou, who redefined Moroccan food in SF at Aziza and his eponymous Michelin-starred restaurant, returns to his old stomping ground, but don't go looking for pastilla; rechristened as Amara (the Spanish term for the Moors), he and chef de cuisine Louis Maldonado are crafting a casual menu that "explores the flavors that the Moorish people brought to Mexico" (al pastor, for example). Look for shared plates likes grilled branzino Veracruz, paleta-inspired desserts and an ambitious cocktail program.

Avery

After running an acclaimed nomadic tasting menu pop-up for a year, Rodney Wages (Atelier Crenn, Saison) is revisiting his fine dining roots. Wages has operated RTB Fillmore out of the old Mosu space for some time, but later this month, he'll reopen with a new name, livelier vibe and a choice of three multicourse menus (ranging from $89 to $289) showcasing his signature globally influenced modern American cuisine and a beverage program focusing predominantly on sake and Champagne.

Birdsong

Taking perch in the former AQ space in SoMa is this solo debut from seasoned pro Chris Bleidorn (Saison, Atelier Crenn, Benu, and Alinea), exploring Pacific Northwest ingredients prepared by ancient cooking methods: Think open fire, smoke, dry aging and fermentation. In addition to a 12-course set menu with optional wine pairings, there will be a full à la carte menu featuring large plates such as roasted aged duck and whole trout served family style.

 

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Che Fico

Eleven Madison Park alums David Nayfeld and Angela Pinkerton's long-awaited restaurant on Divisadero is almost here. The ambitious taverna, replete with a wood-fired grill, pizza oven imported from Naples, glass salumi room and climate-controlled "pasta laboratorio," will showcase seasonal rustic Italian fare with heavy California influences with a special emphasis on cucina ebraica, the Jewish Italian cuisine based in Rome. Later this summer, they'll roll out Theorita, a pie shop and dinette showcasing Pinkerton's famed sweet and savory pies and other comfort food, on the ground floor.

 

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Dyafa

James Beard semifinalist Reem Assil (Reem's California) is teaming up with Daniel Patterson (Coi, Alta, LocoL) to open her second restaurant in Oakland's Jack London Square. The Arabic word for hospitality, Dyafa will pay homage to the Palestinian-Syrian household Assil grew up in. Expect an extensive menu of small plates, like mezze with freshly baked bread, or Lebanese man'oushe, and family style plates of braised meats and seafood, while beers will be sourced everywhere from the East Bay to the Levant.

Sorrel

Alex Hong (Quince, Jean-Georges) is giving his three-and-a-half-year-old pop-up a permanent home. In his forthcoming Laurel Heights digs, he'll continue to serve a California-inspired four-course tasting menu with Italian influences that regulars have come to expect (notably, pasta and crudo), but he wants it "accessible to everyone and good for any occasion," so expect moderately priced options as well.

The Tamale Lady

Long before street food was a hashtag, there was Virginia Ramos, aka San Francisco's beloved Tamale Lady, wheeling her chest of late-night Mexican munchies around the Mission. Five years since the "vagabond abuelita" was banned from hawking her curbside tamales, her dream of opening a permanent tamaleria is finally coming true. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Ramos's Mission brick-and-mortar at 2943 16th Street should be up and running by April.

Meesha Halm is a San Francisco-based writer, producer and cookbook author. Follow her adventures in sous vide and other dining escapades on Instagram at @meeshahalm.

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