In food-focused San Francisco, it seems like a new restaurant opens every week. Here are five fresh spots that locals are flocking to for great food, a hip atmosphere and innovative cocktails.
The team behind Berkeley’s acclaimed vegetable-driven Gather has opened its first San Francisco eatery on Polk Street in Russian Hill. The completely transformed space now has a long and inviting bar on the left-hand side with intimate tables on the right. The color palette is dark with black and grays, and low lighting casts a pleasing glow. Large pickling jars on recycled wooden shelves serve as edible art. Chef Sean Baker’s food is heavy on the umami: Mushrooms are the meatiest, richest mushrooms I’ve ever tasted; the roast carrots have the purest carrot flavor; and the beef rib is so tender it melts in your mouth.
Up the street from Verbena is a happening little spot called 1760. The place is packed nightly with young, stylish locals sipping creative cocktails, such as the signature 1760, a concoction that somehow combines mint, cumin, mezcal, gin and tonic into a refreshingly light and wonderful fizzy drink, and sharing small plates. The restaurant has very high ceilings so the space feels airy even when it is filled with people. Branches, earthy details and muted, neutral colors let the food be the center of attention. The cuisine is contemporary and ingredient-driven with the dishes artfully arranged and often playing with your senses. The lobster ceviche is not to be missed. It’s mind-blowingly delicious with soft, plump lobster infused with a light coconut sauce and topped with crunchy sweet-and-savory pineapple chips. If you’re a fan of uni, indulge in the creamy bucatini that’s topped with fat pieces of the rich yellow roe.
MKT Restaurant – Bar
Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco has a pretty fabulous new bar and restaurant in MKT. Located on the fifth floor of the hotel with a great view of bustling Market Street below, MKT draws a crowd of convention goers, financial types and pointy-toed, high-heeled women. The friendly and warm communal space is perfect for lounging. Cozy up on a couch with a glass of sparkling rosé and order a bowl of kimchi steamed mussels with pork belly and housemade kimchi. Chef Mark Richardson puts a strong emphasis on local cuisine and the dishes are refined, but never pompous. Fat scallops sit on a luscious pumpkin purée, pillowy potato and caramelized onion pierogies are dotted with toasted pine nuts and smoked balsamic, and goat cheese and cherry ice cream accompanies jasmine tea-infused chocolate cake.
Over in North Beach, the famed Tosca Cafe has been reinvented by New York City’s darling power couple of the food industry, Ken Friedman and April Bloomfield (of The John Dory Oyster Bar and The Breslin). The revamped bar and restaurant is just as amazing as it used to be, with a mixed-hat crowd of young and old mingling, all savoring classic cocktails or clinking wine glasses. The open kitchen provides a glimpse of Bloomfield at work as she wipes the plates clean before handing them off to a server. The food is rustic Italian with items that include chicken liver spiedini, gemelli with black pepper and pecorino Toscano, and a whole roast trout that is crisp, salty and succulent. The restaurant does not accept reservations, so be prepared to wait for a table.
South of Market has seen a renaissance of restaurants recently, and the latest one to make waves is TBD. The eatery specializes in hearth cooking with a massive fire in the middle of the bar. The campfire theme is everywhere, from the tin coffee cups to the stacks of firewood to the collection of antlers that lines one wall. The cuisine is all cooked in the hearth, whether it be vegetables roasted in the embers or corn cakes sizzling on a griddle. It’s simple food taken to a whole new level with smoke and technique. For example, bread with butter wouldn’t normally be a dish to seek out, but at TBD it’s not to be missed. Thick slices of artisan sourdough are grilled and slathered with Straus Family Creamery cultured butter and three types of seaweed. It’s decadent, comforting and briny all at once, and each bite leaves you craving more of the delectable charred bread.
Photos Courtesy of Julia Spiess and Four Seasons