Wondering where you should be eating in San Francisco right now? You’re in the right place. The Infatuation Hit List is your guide to the city’s best new restaurants.
And when we say “best new restaurants,” we mean it. Because we’ve tried every single one of these places - and we’ve also left off many spots that simply aren’t as worthy of your time and money.
The Hit List is our record of every restaurant that’s opened in the past year that we’d highly recommend you try. This guide is sorted chronologically, so at the top you’ll find our latest entries to this list (the newest spots), and as you keep scrolling you’ll find the places that are on the older side - but are great enough that we still haven’t stopped talking about them.
New to The Hit List (as of 11/19): Bon Voyage, Angler, Kaiyo, Isla Vida, Fifth Arrow, Nyum Bai, Prairie
There’s probably a universe where The Man In The Big Yellow Hat never adopted Curious George, but instead opened a bar. If we lived in that universe, that bar would be Bon Voyage on Valencia Street. This spot is from the people behind Trick Dog (you can definitely tell once you walk in), but instead of fake-out hamburger/hotdog creations, they have dumplings and buns to go with their cocktails. You should come here for cocktails primarily, but if you’re hungry, staying for food doesn’t hurt. We like the pork shui jiao and the mushroom buns.
Angler is a new restaurant from the people at Saison, and while the name makes it sound seafood-focused, your carnivore friends will be happy here too. The menu has interesting things prepared in familiar ways, like blowfish tails cooked like salt and pepper shrimp and rabbit done hot chicken-style. A lot of the menu is raw too, from antelope tartare to a selection of oysters that come with sauces and vinegars delivered in what looks like your grandmother’s perfume bottle collection. They say this is their casual restaurant, which is kind of like Korn saying that their new album is a lot softer, but once you get over the people dressed as butlers appearing behind you to take drink orders, it’s pretty easy to unwind here and have fun. Food here is served family-style, so make sure you come on a date or with a group.
Usually when restaurants open up around Cow Hollow, they come with an instruction manual - have a cool space, serve alcohol, and make passable food that people can eat as a side plot to some cheap, colorful drinks. Kaiyo must have lost the third page of that booklet because while the space is cool and part of the restaurant is a bar, the food here would be worth coming for even if they were serving it out of an abandoned Teva factory. It’s a mix of Peruvian and Japanese, so you’ll find things like sushi, ceviche, and fried yucca. Some of the menu items, like the smoked duck nigiri, might seem like stunts, but they’re definitely still worth trying.
Isla Vida is a new spot in the Fillmore from the people behind Farmerbrown, but instead of Southern classics, the menu is mostly Afro-Caribbean and Cuban, with things like jerk chicken and black beans. The jerk chicken has a good amount of kick, and the congri (rice and beans) it comes with is good enough to get on its own, but the best thing here is the Cubano. It’s a casual spot with long tables, so you’re good coming in with a group, or just by yourself when you need a pick me up in the form of spicy chicken.
In a random survey taken in 2010, 967 out of 1000 people questioned said they would rather stub their toe five times a day for the rest of their lives than eat once in a bowling alley. If that survey had been taken after those thousand people went to Fifth Arrow, the results would be drastically different. The food at this small bowling alley is reason enough to come hang out here and eat after work with a few friends - bumpers and rented shoes or not. The pizzas are a solid bet and so are the salads. They have good drink deals too, and a lot of space to sit and discuss what you would name your bowling team if you were any good.
There are a ton of companies trying to make space travel more affordable, but we think a few of them should shift to solving the teleportation problem, mostly so we can have a portal set up outside of Nyum Bai. This spot in Oakland makes Cambodian food and everything from the Prahok Ktiss with pork belly to the Amok steamed fish is worth going out of your way to get. The restaurant is casual, with no reservations and indoor and outdoor seating, and you’re going to want to come with a few friends so you can order as much as possible.
Prairie almost sounds like some sort of inside joke - it’s named after the chef’s high school garage band, the art on the walls looks like it was stolen from a Blade Runner storyboard session, and there’s an Elon Musk flamethrower propped up behind the bar like you were in some sort of space-age British pub. But once you try the food, it’s an inside joke you’ll want to be in on. They serve Italian food with some twists, but they all work - from the mochi wrapped in guanciale to the spare ribs covered in Calabrian chili XO sauce, both of which need to be on your table. The pastas are also great, especially the beef cheek pappardelle. When there are pubs on Mars, we hope they’ll serve food like this.
This is the new place from the people behind Che Fico (it’s actually underneath it), but instead of making Italian food, Theorita specializes in pie and serves it out of a space that looks like an old-school diner. The desserts and pastries change, but you’ll find classics alongside more creative options, like a passion fruit pie with bay leaf cream. If you go for lunch, the fried chicken sandwich is a solid bet, but you can also just come here at night when you decide it’s been too long since you’ve had a slice of pie.
At this point in history, more money has probably been sunk into exploring places to grab drinks and a light bite with friends after work than the government has spent training and rescuing Matt Damon. A lot of those bars are passable, but every now and then a place like Barrio pops up. This small spot in North Beach has a reasonably priced selection of beer and wines by the glass and also serves a mix of Latin American food that’s all pretty sharable. If you just get one thing, though, make sure it’s the pibil tacos served with housemade tortillas.
Oren’s Hummus is a micro-chain based in Palo Alto, but that doesn’t stop their first SF location from being a good lunch stop if you work around SoMa. Split some hummus and baba ganoush with a few coworkers in a space that’s slightly more upscale than what you’d expect from a fast-casual restaurant. They’re also open for breakfast and dinner if your lunch meeting gets pushed or pulled for the third time this week.
This Indian spot in Dogpatch is made up mostly of communal tables and bar space, so it’s better to come with a group than a date if you really want any privacy. But the food here is excellent, and they play a fun mix of Bollywood songs and what you pretend not to sing in the shower, which makes it a good place to come with a few friends and catch up.
If you work in the Mission, this new Portuguese spot is a good lunch option. It’s got the feel of a model restaurant for a future fast casual mini-chain, which is neither good or bad, but the menu makes you feel a little like you’re eating at a backyard BBQ with sides like grilled corn and chili. Go for the piri piri chicken, and if it doesn’t have enough heat for you, add some of their house hot sauce or maybe opt for the spicier version next time.
Fort Mason is essentially an impromptu outdoor beer hall, which may explain why it took this long for an actual beer hall to open here. But now we have Radhaus from the people behind Suppenkuche and Biergarten. This place is set up in an old army machine shop and it’s huge inside. Come for the big Belgian beers, but stay for the German sausages and schnitzel.
Dyafa is a Middle Eastern restaurant on Jack London square from the same people who own Kaya. The pita is amazing - you’ll wish you could sleep on top of it - and it goes great with their small plates, like charred eggplant and hummus with lamb. Make sure to get some mana’eesh too, which has enough za’atar on it to open your own spice shop. There are also larger format dishes, like a braised lamb shank and market fish, but the small plates outshine them and a few of those will be enough for two people.
Omakase can be an intimidating process if you’re new to it - you’re given pieces of sushi one at a time, and it feels like you should be examining each one under a microscope to fully enjoy your meal. It’s also not cheap. If you want to get some confidence before dropping the big bucks, go to Oma San Francisco Station in the Japantown Center. This place has eight seats and a small menu of omakase options, from a $30 five-piece option to an $85 twelve-piece dinner. The five piece is enough to fill you up, and the chefs behind the counter are willing to explain things to you as detailed or not detailed as you like, depending on how curious you are about the fish.
Sorrel feels more like an upscale restaurant you’d eat at on a European vacation than a place in Pacific Heights. Not that the food is anything you can only find overseas - it’s all California Italian - but the restaurant itself doesn’t feel like it’s in SF. It’s a clean, dimly-lit space with a bright kitchen that you’ll want to go to on a big date or when your family is visiting. The menu includes things like beef tartare, pastas, and large plates like wagyu beef and a rack of pork, but it’s all well prepared and worth the slightly high price of admission.
If you live in the Richmond, Violet’s is a good spot to grab a cocktail and something to eat on a nearby date. They have a raw bar, as well as bar snacks and large plates if you’re in for the long haul. Start with some blue cheese-stuffed devils on horseback or an order of chips with duck liver mousse and onion dip, which basically tastes like what you ate with Ruffles when you got stoned in college. There’s also a late-night Happy Hour (after 10pm on weeknights and 11pm on weekends) that includes things like grilled wings, a shrimp roll, and a $20 burger and cocktail combo.
Work anniversaries and contrived half birthdays happen on Mondays too, and if you work near Dogpatch, School Night is a perfect spot for these occasions. It’s set up in The Pearl event space and is open (you guessed it) only on school nights. Sunday through Wednesday you can drop in for some small bites from their wood-fired oven, like the al pastor tacos. But you’re really here to drink, and the cocktail list includes a variety of drinks made with pisco, agave, and whiskey. Just don’t overdo it - you still have to be on time tomorrow.
Dancing Yak is a Nepali restaurant in the old Babu Ji space on Valencia Street. The decorations get your attention immediately - there are dark purple walls with paintings of things like mushrooms and giant crystals - but the food isn’t upstaged by everything that’s going on around you. The menu ranges from dumplings to tandoori plates and curries, and we like the samosas and the goat curry daal (heads up, it has some bones). Get a few things to share and a round of very good cocktails.
Pearl in the Richmond feels slightly Southern, with high ceilings, a central bar, and a white balcony overlooking the dining area. In the daytime, stop by for the excellent smoked salmon toast. At night, the menu has enough variety to keep everyone happy without looking like the Cheesecake Factory booklet. Everything - from the pasta to the pork chops and crudos - is solid, but make sure the roasted cauliflower with black tahini hummus is on your table.
Museum restaurants can be hit or miss, but this one, in the Asian Art Museum, is a hit - we’d go back even if we weren’t also checking out an exhibit in the museum itself. It’s a counter-service spot with a menu featuring things like prawn noodles, tomato soup with coconut curry cream, and a Korean fried chicken sandwich on a steamed bao bun. There are small tables around the bright dining room, plus one large communal table at the center, and while a lot of the guests seem to be museum-goers or employees, if you work in the area, stopping by for a quick fried chicken sandwich is not a bad idea.
Matcha is incorporated into nearly every item on the menu at this all-day cafe in the Mission. You’ll probably have to wait in line, but it’s worth it to sit down for a snack or some lunch. There are all kinds of matcha drinks, from lattes to cold brew, and food-wise, we like the housemade matcha cream puffs and the pork katsu sandwich, which is worth a trip on its own. Stonemill also collaborates with Tartine on some of its baked goods, like a matcha croissant.
This ’60s-themed Mission spot serves great cocktails, like the namesake Beehive, which has gin, honey, lemon, and ginger, and the Hound Dog, with peanut-washed bourbon and caramelized banana. It also serves food ranging from shrimp cocktail to fondue. Hang out on the couches in the back room and pretend that Paul Newman and Audrey Hepburn are on their way.