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 3/28): Verjus, The Pawn Shop
All restaurants featured on The Infatuation are selected by our editorial team. The Hit List is presented by the American Express ® Gold Card. Click here to learn more about the benefits and rewards you get from paying with the Amex Gold Card while dining out.
Verjus is a wine bar in Jackson Square that also doubles as a bottle shop. This place is huge and split into two rooms - one feels more like a restaurant and the other is a shop with ceiling-high bookshelves that hold all the bottles they serve and sell (you can drink in either). The food here is good, but it’s really there to give you something to snack on while you drink the wine you bought as a gift and then decided to try just to make sure its fit to give as a present. The menu changes, but includes a mix of Spanish and French things, like tortilla espagnole, croquettes, and pate en croute, which is made with more meats than we can count, cherries, and pistachios. Come with a few friends after work or on a double date and get a few things to try while you have a few glasses of wine. And maybe get another bottle on the way out to actually give as a gift.
San Francisco doesn’t have a lot of secret bars, and it’s not hard to find the ones that do exist - they probably realize that you need actual customers to survive. Pawn Shop in Soma is another “secret” spot, but instead of having inventive drinks or a constantly changing passcode to get in, it’s primarily an actual restaurant. When you walk in, you’re greeted by a wig-wearing pawnbroker named Jerry who leads you through the ridiculously decorated “pawn shop” up front and into a windowless room that feels like a hidden cabaret bar, with a peacock-colored glowing bar and stained glass on the walls. There are no cocktails here, but the wine list is solid and goes with the tapas they serve, like pan con tomate and serrano ham. And if you want more than just snacks, go for the pulpo a la plancha. After you’ve spent enough time here to justify the potentially long wait to get inside, head back out through the pawn shop and thank Jerry for showing you the back room where he keeps all the good stuff.
Birthdays are synonymous with cake, but you have to wait the entire day before you get any. If you need celebratory pastries right after you wake up in the morning though, you should head to Vive La Tarte in Noe Valley. This place has a few locations around the city, and each of them makes croissants we love with different fillings and toppings, but it’s hard to beat their classic almond. If you’re not in the mood for a croissant (or you’re saving it for your actual birthday), they also have a full menu of egg dishes and toasts.
Obispo is a rum bar in the Mission from the same team as Bar Agricole and Trou Normand. If you get hungry, they have a Caribbean menu with things like cubano sandwiches, congri, and oxtail stew, but the make sure to get the pollo de Obispo. And if you want something smaller, reach for the empanadas along with a cocktail - we like the rum and ting.
If you have clients staying near Union Square that you need to impress, taking them to Ayala would be a good idea. This place is big, and the ceilings are so tall that you can’t see them without trying. It would be easy to come here with a group from work - there are tables of all sizes - but if you just come here with one other person, grab a few seats at the bar. The menu is mostly seafood, and beyond the typical raw oysters, they also have a seafood charcuterie plate - cured fish that would maybe only be more at home on a bagel - that’s great to split between a few people. If you’re thinking bigger options, get the nori spaghettini with Dungeness crab. The nori is in the pasta and it tastes like the ocean, but just the right amount.
Izakaya Sushi Ran calls itself a “gastropub,” but instead of people bickering about which IPA smells more like a middle school locker room, you’ll find really good Japanese food, sake, and cocktails. Start your meal off with a mezcal Firebird, or a gin Merman that’s a lot like a martini, and go from there. If you’re here for sushi, the king salmon sashimi comes in thick slabs with thin slices of citrus on top, but the miso-glazed version from the hot plates section of the menu is the better choice. This place gets pretty packed, so plan ahead and get a reservation if you can.
This place on Fillmore Street feels a bit like a private club that forgot to check if you were a member when you walked in, with a lot of dark wood and white tile, and a long marble bar with a mounted cow hanging over it. The menu has everything from oysters to roasted bone marrow to pan-seared sole, but if you work through dinner, or need a stop off between bars in the area, they have a late night menu Thursday - Sunday starting at 11pm too. No matter when you’re here, go for the burger and a side of brussels chips.
If you’ve got a big group looking to celebrate, Harborview in The Embarcadero Center has no shortage of large tables and private rooms. Everything at this new place is huge - from the menu of noodle dishes, meats, and different kinds of dumplings, to the dining room that you could park a 747 in. Come for dim sum brunch on the weekend and order everything that passes you on a cart. The black and white soup dumplings only come if you order them though, so make sure to open a menu at least once.
Fob Kitchen is a small, fun spot in the Temescal neighborhood in Oakland where you can get some excellent Filipino food and go on a casual weeknight date. It’s bright and lively inside and feels like you’re eating in the apartment of a friend who’s secret shame was wishing they were an interior decorator on a tropical island. The pork lumpia are good and so is the oxtail peanut stew, but the secret hit on the menu is the ensalada talong with eggplant, jicama, tomato, and sea beans - it’s refreshing to eat, and we wish we had it at every picnic we’ve ever been on.
Trailblazer Tavern is inside Salesforce East, and despite it’s tropical theme, you can’t escape the feeling that you’re eating in the lobby of an office building, which is still somehow better than feeling like you’re eating in an amusement park. Themes aside, the Hawaiian food here is good - from the Spam musubi to their take on porchetta with kalua pork, taro leaves, and lomi tomato. If you work in SoMa, they have an afterwork Happy Hour from 3pm to 6pm with things like the musubi, dungeness crab lumpia, and tropical cocktails.
This three-seat takeout spot in the Mission is a little more expensive than a lot of the places on Clement Street, but the dim sum is good enough to merit the extra few dollars. Aside from the shrimp dumplings, get some charred lava salty egg yolk buns that are as cool to look at as they are good to eat. Or, if you’re lazily walking around the neighborhood, get the popcorn chicken - it’s a big cup of fried chicken bites served with caramel corn that somehow works.
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.
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.