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Jun 7, 2013 09:21 AM

Best New Restaurants in SF?

Looking for a great place to take my girlfriend on a date night. Younger crowd with a bar preferred!

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  1. New since when? Where have you been recently?

    2 Replies
    1. re: Ruth Lafler

      anything in the past 5 years. i'm not from SF but she is.

      1. re: cargstep

        I agree with JonDough -- unless you wanted something super new, I was going to recommend AQ (which has been open about a year and a half).

    2. AQ is my current favorite in SF right now.

      18 Replies
      1. re: JonDough

        Third on AQ. Lively scene, some modernist techniques in the kitchen but all in the service of flavor. Great wine list, creative cocktails.

        My other favorite new-ish restaurants are Bar Tartine and St. Vincent.

            1. re: uhockey

              I've had lunch at AQ a couple of times. Food's maybe a bit simpler than at dinner but just as good. I'd go more often if it weren't just one day a week.


              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Nice. Thinking I'll peg it for a dinner instead, though.


                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Went last night. First night for the 'herb' Summer tasting menu, and considering my 5:30pm arrival I think that makes me the first guest to actually try it out. Sat at the pass and had an awesome vantage of them discussing new plates, portion sizes, how to plate it (once I post photos you'll see that the 'bread and butter' course came to me in a bowl but in the course of service transitioned to a smaller portion on a flat plate,) and gauging feedback on the dishes.

                  Regarding the food, all I can say right now is that I was floored; the octopus mapo is brilliant while the geoduck course is so bright, balanced, and herbal that it really redefined the ingredient for me. Desserts were also very good with the corn spoonbread truly delicious despite being quite traditional compared to the rest of the food.

                  Really, if there is another tasting menu <$70 out there that is better I'd be shocked.

                  As an aside; Sons and Daughter's was also a beautiful meal while State Bird was just a whole lot of fun; my only regret being going there solo which cut down on how much I could try (though I did still make it through 4 small plates, 2 commandables including the truly impressive duck, and two desserts.)

                  Rich Table was a total disappointment aside from the stone fruit upside down cake which may be the best dessert I've had so far in 2013 and Prospect was a dud from start to finish at Brunch.

                  Loved Biscuit Bender, Craftsman and Wolves, and b.patisserie as well - I'd strongly recommend any/everyone go try Belinda's chocolate almond croissant as soon as they open for the morning while it is still warm and the chocolate is still semi-liquid.

                  More to come. A lot more.


                  1. re: uhockey

                    So after your recent trip, if you had to choose, AQ or Sons and Daughters? As some background I'll also be going to Commis (I know you hated it but I've heard really great things lately) and Atelier Crenn. Love the blog and find your reviews incredibly usefull. Looking forward to a full SF report, hopefully before I get out there in late July.

                    1. re: cubicles

                      Um....where did I say I hated Commis? Check your references, please.

                      AQ and Sons and Daugheters are quite different but if I had to do one or the other it'd be AQ. Neither of them would place in my top 3 meals of the trip so far, though, as I enjoyed Saison, State Fare, and Flour + Water more.

                      The reviews won't be done before July. Luckily if by the end of 2013.


                      1. re: uhockey

                        State Fare? You mean State Bird Provisions?

                        1. re: uhockey

                          ok, hate may have been a strong word, and re-reading your blog post it seems I did misremeber/exaggerate your feelings about the meal, but you did mention it was a "disappointment" and overall seemed to suggest that it was not a worthy destination restaurant or a place to choose as one of very few meals in the bay area.

                          i'll have to take a look at flour and water. saison is just out of the price range of this trip and without reservations at state bird (they're already booked up) don't want to spend forever waiting.

                          1. re: cubicles

                            Get to SBP at 4:45 and you'll get in for the first seating.

                            And yes, I don't consider Commis a destination - I'd sooner go to Plum if I was in Oakland, but I didn't HATE it (not like I hate Prospect.)


                            1. re: uhockey

                              "Get to SBP at 4:45 and you'll get in for the first seating."

                              After standing in line for at least 45 minutes.

                              Is that really a good choice for someone who's looking for a place to take his girlfriend on date night?

                        2. re: uhockey

                          I'm glad to see the love for AQ from one of our more traveled eaters. I love the food there, and also think that the service is top notch. AQ is far and away the best new restaurant to open in San Francisco in the last two years.

                          I like State Bird Provisions, but think the concept is better than the food.

                          I don't understand all of the love for Rich Table, the food is good, but nothing special. It is a mystery, but since I won't be trying for a table again, it leaves more for the crowds of hipsters mobbing the place. They'll be happy, I'll be happy.

                          I just tried Baker & Banker tonight, and loved it; a very nice space with excellent food.

                          1. re: Paul H

                            What did you have at Baker & Banker?

                            1. re: hhc

                              At Baker & Banker last night:

                              House smoked trout, potato latke, horseradish cream, pickled beets, shaved fennel

                              Alaskan halibut, king trumpet mushrooms, fiddlehead ferns, ramps, chard subric, ->bacon marmalade<- (seafood for people who hate seafood)

                              XXX- triple dark chocolate layer cake

                              1. re: Paul H

                                Baker and Banker just missed my cut - went to SPQR instead and loved it.

                                Rich Table was very underwhelmng and yes, I really enjoyed AQ. I've been averaging 4 meals a day since I've been here and the Octopus Mapo still stands as one of my five favorite savories of the trip.

                                I liked State Bird in concept AND execution.


                  2. Awesome, thank you all! AQ looks perfect, going to check out bar tartine and st. vincent as well

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: cargstep

                      Oh, St. Vincent and Bar Tartine are beer and wine only, so maybe not what you're looking for.

                    2. If she wants to go to something that just just opened there is this EaterSF list but some are not quite open yet and they are pretty untried:

                      15 Replies
                      1. re: goldangl95

                        I don't have a very strong opinion of Hi Lo BBQ, unfortunately. Their prices are on par with B Side, but their food is not. And even if the price were the same, I'm not sure I think their food is better than, say, Cat Head. I wouldn't say it is bad -- judged by food alone, I might even call it "pretty good," except it's so expensive.

                        Although actually, I don't think much of their brisket either. It has a very soft texture, which is nice, but it has somehow been rendered largely flavorless.

                        1. re: dunstable

                          I think the food at Cathead's BBQ is better than Hi Lo BBQ and half the price. Hi Lo BBQ feels a lot like Tacolicious, far more style than substance and about the image than the value.

                          If you don't really care about the food and just want to drink and eat in a trendy place then Hi Lo is an excellent choice.

                          1. re: tjinsf

                            Not sure Hi-Lo is a date place, though. Order at a counter, communal tables with backless seating.

                              1. re: Prabhakar Ragde

                                Upstairs is charming and intimate, with seat backs and a view over the restaurant or looking out onto the street. Didn't love the barbecue, but the bourbon and rye cocktails were great.

                            1. re: dunstable

                              I only saw people entering into HiLo while eating oysters across the street.

                              We did a two oyster sampling: Hog and Rocks and MIssion Oyster.

                              H&R we ordered "three of everything" - almost - getting 18 oysters. We had a round of drinks, and the tab came to $110. Oyster prices were around $3.25 and beers were about 8. That is crazy expensive, even though the beer list was good and the oysters very fresh. Like really fresh. We loved the oysters. Loved the view from the center tables.

                              Mission Oyster is such a different beast. "All oysters $2". The quality of the oysters were so clearly inferior --- clouded by the first oyster we ate, a "chesapeake", which was strange and tasteless. The hefe IPA they were serving was interesting. Still, same amount of oysters, $40. A very "mexican feel" place - bright colorful walls, boxy, few decorations, a pleasant respite on a hot afternoon.

                              If I could only get the taste of that "chesapeake" out of my mouth.

                              1. re: bbulkow

                                Curious about the "hefe IPA" -- where was it made, and was it really called that? Or was it a totally unfiltered IPA with a lot of residual yeast?

                                  1. re: wolfe

                                    Wow, thanks for that. Sounds frightening.

                                  2. re: Tripeler

                                    I might have been either exaggerating or misremembering.

                                  3. re: bbulkow

                                    Mission Oyster has $1 oysters Mon-Thurs, 3-6pm. The ones I had were fresh and tasty, and the draught selection is decent (though the IPA I had was regular Lagunitas). It was very quiet when I was there; not sure how much business they're getting (so one might worry about the oyster turnover).

                                    1. re: Prabhakar Ragde

                                      have they improved the lighting and are they more knowledgeable about the oysters. when we went we could barely see and they didn't seem to know what type of oysters they were serving.

                                      1. re: tjinsf

                                        I was there at 3pm on a sunny day, didn't notice any issues with the light, and the server could describe the provenance of the oysters. (For other readers, Mission Oyster offers three or four choices of $1 oysters; most other places choose for you. The chef-owner worked at Anchor Oyster Bar in the Castro for quite a while.)

                                    2. re: bbulkow

                                      H&R has $1 oysters all day (I think) on Sat and Sun. They do a better job shucking and have higher quality oysters than any other place I've tried for $1 oysters. I always seem to get a lot of grit at Waterbar when I go there for $1 oysters.

                                      1. re: Candice

                                        There's a whole Chowhound thread on $1 oysters:


                                        Hi-Lo's chef is now out, H&R exec chef overseeing both:


                                1. I agree with AQ being a great place but if you need a lower price point Fable in the Castro is pretty perfect with a more fancy date night without the hefty bill. Think they are beer and wine only though right now so doesn't fulfill your bar needs.

                                  5 Replies
                                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                                      Been a couple of times now, will probably be there much more in the next few weeks. It's new american food at a very reasonable price point for the location and food. Everything is under 20 including entrees. Not a huge space so reservation would be a good idea. Not sure how many seats they set aside for walk-ins. They will be opening up patio seating. decor is hipster romantic. with antler crap and faux wood wallpaper. Good for a date.

                                      Some thoughts on the food-
                                      +the food was all good to excellent. We ordered five dishes all either starters or side dishes. We had:
                                      +the pork cheeks which was the best dish and really would make a good main. three cheeks with a great apple & greens salad.
                                      -sweet pea soup, it was good but one note in taste and texture & it was served way too hot
                                      +grilled artichoke, served with a great aioli and bacon crumble that perfectly cooked and served nice and warm
                                      +broccoli and morel gratin, there was simply not enough cheese it in and the morels were overwhelmed by the B├ęchamel sauce but it was still a very tasty dish
                                      -mac and cheese. We got the fresh crab with it was an extra 6 dollars. It tasted best once we mixed it into the mac and cheese. The mac and cheese had a nice flavour but it was missing the cheese and the French Spouse was very disappointed it didn't have any bread crumbs on it and wasn't gratined.

                                      This a good place for a mix of paletes.

                                      I think they are still working out service and timing at least they were when I was there but it has a lot of promise. Don't know if it's a must go place but for sure if you want a nice place in the Castro for dinner, this is probably one of the better choices and by far one of the cheaper for a sit-down meal.

                                      1. re: tjinsf

                                        Thank you, sounds very promising though your choices seem on the dairy and pork fat heavy side. But maybe that's why it's branded New American and not Cal. Lighter options here too?

                                        Good to hear that things are changing for the Castro which has been a culinary dead zone for so long.

                                        58 Castro St
                                        San Francisco, CA 94114
                                        (415) 590-2404
                                        Dinner: T-Su 5:00pm-10:00pm

                                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                                          I think it's definitely on the more meat and potato side but the grilled artichoke was light and I don't think the soup actually had dairy in it. Most of the entrees are standard like roast chicken, pork chop but all done really quite well (and I am not a upscale comfort food type of person).

                                          Also the chocolate mousse is real mousse nice and heavy and rich not the light ones that seemed to be served in American restaurants.

                                          Big downside is it is very noisy with no sound baffling present. Yes this and Canela have been great additions to the sea of average.

                                        2. re: tjinsf

                                          Went to Fable recently, and I would say while a good edition to the neighborhood I wouldn't say it's worth a trip even across SF for. Serves solid, hearty food (potroasts, mac and cheese) - the type you can make at home but takes a long time and is nice to eat out for once in awhile.

                                          Nothing particularly revealing. A very small space. Not much of a wine list. Service was perfect on our visit.