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Dining

Ahead of the Game

Tasting Table's SF spring 2015 preview
San Francisco 2015 Spring Preview
Illustration: Libby VanderPloeg

We may have been experiencing an extended July-anuary, but that doesn't mean we're any less excited for what spring has in store—namely, a slew of highly anticipated restaurant openings.

From high-profile sophomore projects to brand-new burger joints, we're ready to bust out the stretchy pants for an epic season of eating. Pair that with some top-notch new bars, can't-miss food events and exciting new cookbooks, and springtime will be about set.

Here's what we can't wait to sample this spring.

RESTAURANTS

Spring's openings are dominated by new projects from big-deal chefs, plus the continuing development of mid-Market.

Things start strong in March with the long-awaited opening of Aster (1001 Guerrero Street), featuring the return of chef Brett Cooper (previously at Outerlands) under the umbrella of the Daniel Patterson Group. Aster will showcase Cooper's brand of soulful, seasonally driven California cuisine. Aster's menu will be à la carte and will feature wines curated by Coi sommelier Mark Mendoza. Look for a March 24 opening.

We're also thoroughly excited about the forthcoming revamp of beloved Castro venue Cafe Du Nord, and the accompanying Aatxe (2170 Market Street, pronounced "aah-CHAY"). The whole shebang comes from the Ne Timeas Restaurant Group (the fine folks behind Central Kitchen, Salumeria and Flour + Water) and is the first project spearheaded by chef Ryan Pollnow (formerly chef de cuisine at Central Kitchen). Expect Northern California-influenced Spanish cuisine. Aatxe will be on the first floor of the Swedish American Hall, where shows have already resumed; choose from a Bon Vivants drinks menu that celebrates Spanish drinking traditions.

Speaking of revamps, the mid-Market Renaissance continues, specifically, in the ever-thriving Twitter building (1355 Market Street). Two new tenants are high on our openings-to-watch list: Dirty Water, a grand beer and wine hall and restaurant from Kristian Cosentino (of the Press Club), featuring rare brews, 100+ wines by the glass and a menu of meat-centric fare. The restaurant will be joined by forthcoming tenant Bon Marche, the French brasserie from the AQ crew.

Also fast approaching is the arrival of The Perennial (59 Ninth Street), the most eco-sustainable restaurant San Francisco's seen yet. Brought to you by Anthony Myint and Karen Leibowitz (Mission Chinese Food, Commonwealth), The Perennial promises a menu crafted by Chris Kiyuna (Mission Chinese Food), driven by aquaponic produce (from a greenhouse in Oakland).

Photo: Courtesy of Pebble Beach Wine & Food

Plan on ample trips to Pacific Heights come April with the opening of destination-worthy Octavia, the sophomore project from chef Melissa Perello of Frances, complete with a cozy, sophisticated atmosphere and well-executed, seasonally influenced fare.

Another contender for our new favorite neighborhood joint is ICHI Kakiya (3369 Mission Street), the Japanese-style oyster bar takeover of ICHI's original, pocket-size space. Co-owner Erin Archuleta tells us that the opening is coming "sooner, rather than later!"

Lower Nob Hill is getting some new life, too, with the opening of BDK Restaurant & Bar (501 Geary Street) in Hotel Monaco. The newest restaurant opening from the Kimpton Group, BDK features a "soulful" American menu from chef Heather Terhune (Sable Kitchen & Bar, Jean Louis) and, most exciting, the return of star bar manager Kevin Diedrich (most recently seen at Jasper's Corner Tap & Kitchen).

We're having a hard time controlling ourselves about the late summer opening of The Manufactory (2900 18th Street), the bread-baking center, all-day café and full-service restaurant from the Tartine Bakery team, at Heath Ceramics in the Mission. Chad Robertson and Elizabeth Prueitt have gone all out with a wood-burning pizza oven; house-made ice cream, pickles, preserves; and more.

BARS

We're in for quite a spring of cocktail comebacks, as Bay Area bar stars open new destinations to help you get classily buzzed.

Prepare for 2015 to be the year of gin in San Francisco: Martin Cate of Smuggler's Cove is opening Whitechapel (600 Polk Street) along with beverage director Alex Smith. We're counting on Cate to do for gin what he did for rum with the opening of Smuggler's: Expect one of the most comprehensive gin lists ever—the largest gin list in the U.S.—and a 70-strong cocktail list. We're hoping for a late May opening for this one.

Early this summer, you'll find Mr. Tipple's Recording Studio (39 Fell Street), a spirit-forward cocktail bar from Jay Bordeleau and Kate Bolton of Maven. In addition to delicious, boozy cocktails (and one of the best names we've heard lately), there will be live jazz music. Even better—the team is opening an adjacent restaurant called Cadence (1446 Market Street).

Still fancy a stiff drink? Thankfully, you also have the return of critically acclaimed cocktail bar Big (98 Turk Street) to look forward to. Jordan Langer, Ryan Melchiano, Peter Glickshtern and Ryan Hisamune are taking over the 21 Club, a longstanding Tenderloin dive bar, and bringing back their menu-free cocktail bar concept, where drinks are based on the mood and inclination of the drinker. Look for an early summer opening.

A serious drinker cannot live on cocktails alone. Get your craft beer fill at the Old Bus Tavern (3193 Mission Street), a destination for brews and scratch chili in the former El Patio space. It's aiming to open in late May.

COOKBOOKS

Take a culinary journey from the comfort of your couch with the forthcoming Eating Up the West Coast, a travelogue-cum-cookbook by Brigit Binns and the editors of Sunset Magazine. Binn's book travels from Southern California up through Washington State, highlighting gorgeous scenic routes and delicious, can't-miss pit stops.

For a different kind of food-centric adventure, dive into a copy of Benu, by chef Corey Lee. As the title would suggest, Lee's book details the magic behind his renowned SOMA restaurant—you'll deep dive into his 33-course menu, learn about the ingredients and techniques he uses and get serious insight into his influences.

RELATED   The Best Restaurant Openings of 2014 »

EVENTS

Prepare to have a full calendar of food and drink events this spring. Start off strong with one of our favorite Sonoma-based events, the California Artisan Cheese Festival (March 20 to 22). Events include cheese pairing, cheese-making courses, farm tours and more.

Back in San Francisco, Taste of the Nation is returning to the Metreon (March 26). The event benefits No Kid Hungry and includes signature bites from San Francisco chefs including Charles Phan, Gayle Pirie, David Bazirgan and Thomas McNaughton.

Go big at the ever-glamorous Pebble Beach Food & Wine (April 9 to 12), featuring wine tastings, gourmet meals, a celebrity chef golf tournament and a for-the-ages opening gala. This year's roster includes 100 chefs, 250 wineries and, likely, the who's who of the West Coast food world.

Continue your indulgent weekend at the San Francisco installation of Cochon 555 (April 12), during which five chefs butcher five pigs into a series of delectable dishes for your enjoyment. Butchery demonstrations; a Manhattan bar; and copious wine, beer, and spirits will be on hand, too.

Explore the world of craft cider at the Cider Summit Series (April 25), a tasting fest being held in the Presidio for cider enthusiasts and novices alike. Sample sips from 120 cider makers, with both local, national and international producers on hand to answer questions and share their goods.

After this wave of memorable, large-scale events, change pace with something a little more intimate. Top Chef finalist Melissa King will be hosting the second of her Co + Lab dinner series this May—King's bimonthly meals (held at Nico in Pacific Heights) feature other special guest chefs and showcase bounty from local producers and makers. March's dinner featured Top Chef winner Mei Lin and dishes ranging from Bellwether Farms green garlic crescenza tortelli and Mary's Chicken served with a Dandelion Chocolate mole. Visit King's website for details and tickets for the May event.

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