HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >


Top 5 restaurants of the moment

Every Tuesday night, a girlfriend and I run out of ideas for dinning around town. Tonight, I am seeking the help of chowhounders to help us decide. We are known to frequent places like A16, Delphina, Zuni, Absinthe and Jardiniere. And we know we are missing places. Please help!

What are your top 5 restaurants of the moment?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. A great list of places you frequent...Absinthe and Jardiniere are two of mine and my wife's favorites.

    My current 5 not including those two --
    Quince, though that will be rough last minute (but worth a call to see)
    Chenery Park in Glen Park (Tuesday is Fried Chicken night, but their menu is always fun and the service and drinks spectacular) -- Chefs formerly at Boulevard
    Gialina, also in Glen Park - great high end pizzas and amazing salads...Chef also formerly of Boulevard (and yet, I haven't eaten at Boulevard yet...have to do something about that)
    Ame...very creative food and a wonderful atmosphere
    Roti in West Portal...good Indian (or, at least, Indian food we like) in a bistro setting.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ccbweb

      Not in any particular order, restricted to SF or neighboring cities:

      1. Firefly in Noe Valley. Sit at the bar, by yourself or with a friend or two, when Kraig the handsome bartender is working. He's the *best* server/bartender I've ever seen in my life. Define *best* however you want, and Kraig is still the best. If I'm opening a restaurant one day, he's my first candidate. Great food, great wine, great prices.

      2. Kiss in Japantown. A Japanese chef that can speak decent English. Relaxing clean nice atmosphere great enough to bring a date. Really nice upscale cozy Japanese tasting menu, with a stunning variety of Japanese sakes to choose from.

      3. Koi Palace in Daly City. Call ahead and reserve the seafood hot pot. Where else can you get this in the Bay Area?!

      4. Sebo in Hayes Valley. Really friendly chatty chef-owners (with fluent English) in one of the best Japanese restaurants in the entire Bay Area. The best fish. The best sakes. I just had real Kobe from Japan!

      5. Delfina in the Mission. Again best food, best wine, best prices. But on top of that, you can 5-star *knowledgeable* service usually seen only in 5-star restaurants. Too bad it's perennially crowded.


      1. re: vincentlo

        The chefs at Sebo aren't just fluent, they're native speakers. Can be a real education in addition to a great meal.

    2. I second Quince. Love that place! A must-try if you can get in last minute.
      I have found Range to be quite good also.

      1. Jardiniere, Zuni, and A16 are big favorites of mine. I've now lived away from SF for 6 years and I assume much has changed. I did return two years ago for a feeding - Chez Panise, French Laundry, Bouchon, Zuni, Jardiniere - all glorious, and an absolute dog of a meal at Gary Danko! So, I am seriously out of the loop when it comes to SF, except to say that if you and your friend don't mind slumming it let me recommend one the of places I most miss - Tu Lan... on 6thSt. no less. Nothing glamorous or elegant here, just incredibly fresh and flavorful Vietnamese food. In particular - the spring rolls, spicy beef salad, and the fried fish with ginger sauce - I'm salivating just writing about it. It's funny, but living now in London what I miss most are places like Tu Lan, or BBQ, or Mexican - things I can't get here. I don't miss Jardiniere or similar restaurants because Paris is just 2 hours away. Will look forward to hearing what else you've discovered. Good luck.

        1. Have you tried?
          Universal Cafe....Cynthia Morrison former chef is now at Thee Parkside-lower Potrero, on my list to try.
          Bar Crudo
          Antica Trattoria

          To Try- ones I have not but hope to soon-
          Nua in North Beach

          Seasons Steak & Seafood- Four Seasons Hotel-
          Beautiful pairings of meat and seafood.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Lori SF

            Myth! How could I have neglected to mention Myth? Horrible oversight on my part. Definitely worth doing if you haven't.

            1. re: daveena

              I loved Bar Tartine when I went some time ago, glad to hear it's still working.

              1. Not dining in SF much, but I always like that classic Tadich Grill or Sam's if it is still there.

                1. Incanto
                  Sociale (reserve a table outside)

                  1. Great list.

                    If you've not been, I would add Aziza, Slanted Door, and (in the more Jardiniere price range) Ame an Boulevard. Myth would also almost certainly make my list if I had been there ;-)

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: whiner

                      and i second tu lan the vietnamise place on 6th
                      got to sit at the bar those cooks are amazing trythe fried rice to die for : )

                      1. re: whiner

                        I've gotta disagree with you about Slanted Door. The most overrated restaurant in San Francisco IMHO. There are so many more inventive Vietnamese places in town that will cost a fraction of what they charge at Slanted Door.

                        But, to each his/her own.

                        1. re: VirgoBlue

                          I kno it has its detractors, but I love it.

                          1. re: VirgoBlue

                            Hey VIrgoBlue - any specific recs re: inventive Vietnamese places?

                            I've had one great meal at Tamarine in Palo Alto (admittedly 3-4 years ago) and one great meal at La Vie in SF more recently. Both impressed me much more than two meals at Slanted Door.

                            1. re: daveena

                              FWIW, Tamarine has a sister restaurant in SF, Bong Su on 3rd St.


                              (And I guess it's free association that caused Bong Su to put bongo music on its web site.)

                              1. re: daveena

                                I agree Tamarine in PA is much more interesting to me than Slanted Door. (http://virgoblue.wordpress.com/2007/0...) And like Gary said, Bong Su is their sister restaurant. Their menus are similar, but I haven't had time to try it yet. If you go, let me know what you think.

                                Ana Mandara's menu is a bit uninspired, but Le Colonial isn't bad. Good atmosphere there. I tend to like the Mom and Pop places. A couple of places along Irving near 19th Ave. are really good. (PPQ is good. Beyond their standard items, they have specialty items that are worth trying.)

                              2. re: VirgoBlue

                                What are those other Vietnamese places? I'm very interested...

                            2. My list of the current top five in the city (not including any from the OP's list)
                              Plumpjack (new chef, great food)

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: Paul H

                                Would you post something about Plumpjack ... sorry if you already did ... half the time I don't remember the stuff that is in Chowdigest.

                                1. re: rworange

                                  James Shyabout has left Plumpjack to return to Manresa, so any report on the excellent food James was producing at Plumjack is now moot.

                                  1. re: Paul H

                                    Are you sure? He just won a Rising Star Chef's Award under the auspices of Plumpjack -- seems odd he would leave a Chef's job to become an underling again...


                                    1. re: Carrie 218

                                      I heard this Monday night from someone who certainly should know the truth of the matter.

                                      1. re: Paul H

                                        Apologies; you are right -- this was in Wednesday's Mercury news:

                                        “Jeremy Fox has left as chef de cuisine at Manresa in Los Gatos to move to the Napa Valley, where he will oversee Ubuntu Restaurant, which is expected to open in mid-August at 1140 Main St. in Napa. The restaurant will celebrate vegetables but won't be strictly vegetarian. Much of the produce served will come from Ubuntu's own biodynamic gardens.

                                        The restaurant will be on the first floor of a historic 19th-century building. Ubuntu Yoga Studio will open upstairs. For information, go to www.ubuntunapa.com or call (707) 251-5656.

                                        Deanie Fox, Jeremy Fox's wife, also will be leaving her position as executive pastry chef at Manresa to work at Ubuntu. James Syhabout, former executive chef at Plumpjack Cafe in San Francisco, will be returning to Manresa to take Jeremy Fox's old job. Syhabout previously worked at Manresa as sous chef.”

                                        1. re: Carrie 218

                                          Chef de cuisine at Manresa is a more impressive resume bullet than chef at Plumpjack.

                              2. My current top five:


                                6 Replies
                                1. re: Carrie 218

                                  Emporio Rulli on Tuesday nights. Chef Angelo Auriana from Valentino is consulting on the menu and does a chef's dinner on Tuesday nights. Amazing!!

                                  1. re: adefiori

                                    Is this the Cheestnut Emporio Rulli? Thanks!

                                    1. re: mrsricho

                                      That's what the Chronicle said in January.

                                      Emporio Rulli Gran Caffe
                                      2300 Chestnut St, San Francisco, CA 94123

                                  2. re: Carrie 218

                                    House of Nanking, right off Columbus. Best Chinese. When the owner comes over to take the order, tell him to order for you. He does a good job

                                    1. re: adefiori

                                      There are lots of posts on this board about House of Nanking. I'd take a look at recent reviews before putting it on a top 5 list.

                                      1. re: sgwood415

                                        House of Nanking hasn't changed in years. Lots of people hate the food, some people love it.


                                  3. My five cents:

                                    Gary Danko

                                    1. Chenery Park (very lovely atmosphere)
                                      Foreign Cinema
                                      Straits (I know others will diss this choice, but I really like their Mee Goreng)

                                      On the East Bay: Oliveto, Intermezzo (yes, I love their salads), Kirala, Chez Panisse, and a Vietnamese restaurant on Piedmont (can't remember the name).

                                      I was not so impressed with Antica Trattoria the last time I was there about 3 months ago. The food tasted rather bland. I used to love that place 7 years ago.

                                      6 Replies
                                      1. re: yehfromthebay

                                        Ah - if we're adding in the East Bay, then

                                        A Cote
                                        Chez Panisse (cafe)
                                        Sea Salt
                                        Declancy's Welcome Table
                                        Champa Garden

                                        1. re: yehfromthebay

                                          Yes, I'll be the first to diss Straits. Not even in the same league as the others. Not even close.

                                          1. re: sgwood415

                                            replying to sgwoo415...since you aren't liking any of our choices, do you have any suggestions.

                                            1. re: adefiori

                                              Quite the contrary, I think this thread has fabulous suggestions. I just don't think House of Nanking and Straits are top 5 picks, sorry I don't agree. My favorites are already reflected here, but I'll list them out, no problem. My top 5 that I have visited recently are:

                                              Chez Panisse
                                              Zuni (although already on the OPs list)

                                              My top 5 that I haven't tried but have on my list:

                                              Gary Danko
                                              French Laundry

                                              1. re: sgwood415

                                                I haven't heard much lately about RNM and thought the general feeling was mixed when I read about it a while ago. It is much closer to me than most of the other restuarants and though I am happy to drive for an hour to get to something delicious, my other half doesn't feel the same. Have you been recently? If I remember correctly most of the problems were food related but just that it was too loud (a person pet peeve) and that reservation times weren't really respected (and another). If those have changed, I would love to try it! Any insight on those or food thoughts would be appreciated.

                                                1. re: Meredith

                                                  I went about 4 weeks ago and thought it was quite good. They had a lamb prix fixe that was quite nice. The grilled romaine salad was very good. One member of my group ordered the mini burgers and thought they were fine, but not spectacular. Trio of sorbets in mini waffle cones were tasty and fun, but maybe a little too big of a portion.

                                                  As for the room, it'll always be a noisy little place. But the service is always great. So, yes on RNM for me.

                                        2. TOPS for moi

                                          1. still a warm place in my heart for FIREFLY
                                          2. FRENCH LAUNDRY (Duh)
                                          3. INCANTO (just got to it finally and wow)
                                          4. my secret little place out on Clement for Vietnamese Chau Ga - THE GOLDEN DEER
                                          5. TAMARIND -even though it is down in Palo Alto - it's worth the drive

                                          Fact is though - none of these places seem "of the moment" -- they have all been around for quite a bit -- staying power, ha!

                                          For "of the moment" -- I guess I'd have to go with "Coi" (though it's always interesting to see what Daniel Patterson is up to), "Michael Mina" (though this has a VERY GOOD chance at becoming a classic), Salt House (uh, yeah...) and for the looks like hasbeens almost already I'd put Bacar, Tres Agrave, and Frission.... (just my little ol' humble Opine)

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: jimmygunn

                                            OH, and I've yet to go to Quince
                                            But that is at the top of my: Get My Butt Over There list!!

                                            1. re: jimmygunn

                                              Thumbs up on Salt House for sure. If my list was top 6, they'd have made the cut.

                                            2. well, I was on my own last night (also a Tuesday) and looking for a solo dinner, perhaps at a bar somewhere, but fairly upscale, because hubby isnt that fond of fairly upscale so now and then I like to indulge when he isn't around (besides, it is cheaper that way :-))....but had an errand at home in Bernal Heights first, so didn't feel like heading back downtown (Where Myth, Perbacco or perhaps Piperade might have been on my list). Aziza was much too far away in the other direction...That left me with Noe, Bernal, Glen Park or the Mission...

                                              So, where to go for a spur of the moment visit to a top restaurant on Tuesday night?

                                              First thought, La Ciccia. If I had to pick a favorite SF restaurant, this would be it, and it should go on your list. Midscale, not upscale, small, reservations may be needed even during the week, totally worthwhile, totally great. But hubby and I had just eaten there Sunday night, and anyway, hubby loves La Ciccia almost as much as I do, and it is one place he can always be talked into going despite the fact that he is just a bit of a restaurant-phobe, so no point in going there alone....

                                              Second thought: Incanto. One of those places where I prefer dining in the bar to the dining room.. Drove by, but, duh, Incanto is closed Tuesday (which doesn't help you for your Tuesday night date).

                                              Decided to check out Range, and found parking almost right in front. Clearly a sign.

                                              Had a delicious cocktail, and a very good dinner topped off by some truly great peach cobbler, served with rasberry ice cream. The pastry in the cobbler was just absolutely perfect. The only things better than dessert at Range are the cocktails at Range. or maybe the espresso martini....However, it isn't a great place to eat in or at the bar: the stools are uncomfortable, and it almost had a bit of a pickup scene feel. Certainly lots of folks a lot younger and hipper than me. The dining room never had quite that much of a sceney feel to me... When did that happen?

                                              As I say, I have a hard time ranking my top five but there are some ideas to keep up your dates...So where did you end up?

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: susancinsf

                                                you are funny!! ok what do you like about La Ciccia besides midscale which is my favorite.. well slightly favorite I adore lowscale greatness or the extreme where you are paying rent for greatness plus, those are harder to find.

                                                1. re: Lori SF

                                                  What don't I like about La Ciccia? The food at La Ciccia is wonderful (particularly the salumi, wild boar dishes and any seafood. even the octopus is adddictive, and I don't eat octopus) with an emphasis on Sardinian specialties, many of which you won't find many other places in SF, though I have to admit I recemtly noticed fregola on the menu at Bacco and couldn't help but wonder if they were feeling the neighborhood competition. I'm kidding, but I do sometimes feel a twinge of guilt that my love of La Ciccia has kept me from going as often to first love Bacco (and I mean that literally: hubby and I went to Bacco on our first date).

                                                  But back to La Ciccia: they also have a great, all Italian wine list, again with a Sardinian emphasis; and food and wine are served with love. Truly welcoming, gracious service from the hostess and chef owners, very reasonable prices.

                                                  and only four blocks from my house. In fact, in my first post on it I wondered if it were a dream come true, and for me at least it is. Sadly, my search for that post has been in vein, but below is a more recent post from some other hounds. Oh, and by the way, perhaps someone is listening to Windy's plea for more vegetables: my pork loin on Sunday's night visit was accompanied by a nice pile of some lovely greens...


                                                  1. re: susancinsf

                                                    I reallly need to go..I fogot about this place and nice of you to mention it again..thanks

                                                2. re: susancinsf

                                                  Interesting -- my one meal at Range's bar (as I was a solo diner as well) was similar to your's:
                                                  1. Great cocktail
                                                  2. Felt like a pick-up joint
                                                  3. Memorable dessert
                                                  4. After all was said and done - forgettable meal. Not overtly bad, just not memorable...

                                                  1. re: Carrie 218

                                                    Yes, I doubt if I would choose it again for a solo bar meal. However, just to clarify, I have very much enjoyed my dinners in the dining room. I would rate it better than forgettable, actually. They improved the acoustics since they first opened and it isn't overwhelmingly noisy, and I've always had good luck with table selection by booking on Open Table and indicating I wanted something relatlively comfortable and well-spaced.

                                                    Hubby does really like the espresso martini at Range, so I usually can get him motivated to go there for that alone :-) Unfortunately, he can't drink for about six months due to some temporary medical issues, so all the more reason to try it alone in the meantime. Still, I found myself wishing I had gone to see if there was space at Delfina instead....

                                                3. Just had an excellent meal with my parents at Manresa in Los Gatos. I haven't eaten at all the favorite restaurants in SF but it gets huge ratings from the critics and some posters here and I found the flavors intense, inventive and the presentation really nice. Had the 4 course meal and shared with my parents. Had a wonderful beef dish as my main course, a very delicate bass sashimi as a first course, a very rich, perfect chocolate souffle. My parents had a wonderful mixed vegetable dish with a green foam garnish.

                                                  1. Summary: mentions in this thread (some folks conception of "restaurants of the moment" is a bit strange...

                                                    8 Incanto
                                                    8 Myth
                                                    6 Quince
                                                    3 Ame
                                                    3 Aziza
                                                    3 Boulevard
                                                    3 Coi
                                                    3 Zuni
                                                    2 A16
                                                    2 Bar Tartine
                                                    2 Chenery Park
                                                    2 Gary Danko
                                                    2 Range
                                                    2 Salt House
                                                    2 Tu lan
                                                    1 Absinthe
                                                    1 Acquerello
                                                    1 Antica Trattoria
                                                    1 Bar Crudo
                                                    1 Chaya Brasserie
                                                    1 Delphina
                                                    1 Emporio Rulli
                                                    1 Firefly
                                                    1 Foreign Cinema
                                                    1 Gialina
                                                    1 House of Nanking
                                                    1 Jardiniere
                                                    1 Kappa
                                                    1 Kokkari
                                                    1 Maverick
                                                    1 Mexico-DF
                                                    1 Michael Mina
                                                    1 Nua
                                                    1 Perbacco
                                                    1 Pescheria
                                                    1 RNM
                                                    1 Roti.
                                                    1 Sam's
                                                    1 Seasons
                                                    1 Slanted Door
                                                    1 Sociale
                                                    1 Straits
                                                    1 The Golder Deer
                                                    1 Tadich Grill
                                                    1 Universal Cafe

                                                    Removing the usual suspects and the restaurant Methuselahs we end up with the top five "of the moment" being:


                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: Paul H

                                                      The food at Aziza, Boulevard, and Zuni isn't any less tasty because the restaurants have been around for a few years.

                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                        Agree absolutely. But it does make them less "of the moment."

                                                        1. re: Paul H

                                                          The question was, "What are your top 5 restaurants of the moment?" To me that means the five places I like the most right now. Two of them have been in business over ten years.