January was a stellar month for restaurant openings in SF. There’s a new rum-focused pop-up that we’re obsessed with, Italian comfort food that is much needed during this time of incessant rain and sadness, SF’s only Portuguese restaurant (finally!), a champagne bar run by women, and yes: The Halal Guys FINALLY arrived.
Read on for the deets on these five spots, all of which you should visit soon, especially the one that’s only sticking around for a couple of months.
Okay, so maybe that’s the most confusing restaurant name ever, but let us explain. First, there’s ABV, which is for sure one of SF’s best cocktail bars (and don’t get us started on that burger). Now, in the upstairs mezzanine inside ABV is Over Proof, a totally separate cocktail bar that will feature a different pop-up concept every three months. Each pop-up will spotlight a single spirit through a tasting-style cocktail menu and yummy food dishes that complement the experience.
First up: Flip Flop, a deep dive into rum. The space (which will also get a redesign with each new concept) feels beachy and playful thanks to tropical island art and colorful dishware. And the food matches the concept with dishes like a chow mein served out of a mini Chinese food container and a house spam with a rum-hoisin sauce.
But the star of the show is the rum cocktails. The menu is subject to change, but expect drinks like a Hurricane Sandy, “Cuba Libra,” and Coconut Daisy. There are five cocktails total, but that doesn’t include the rum you’ll be given to taste and sip on throughout. What we’re saying is: if you drink everything you’re served, you will be decidedly tipsy when you leave. But in a warm and happy and everything is right with the world kind of way.
Over Proof has just one seating at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday and Friday. Reservations are required. Tickets are $66 per person—which, frankly is a total steal—(includes service, tax, and fees) and menu substitutions cannot be accommodated. Get your butt in soon because Flip Flop only runs through April 20th!
Who runs the world? Ugh, okay so maybe it’s not actually girls (boo), but it should be, which is just one small reason we’re such huge fans of The Riddler, a new champagne bar in Hayes Valley that’s backed completely by lady investors and has an almost completely female team.
Not surprisingly, the vibe is pretty feminine, but in a way that’s totally modern and chic. Forget pink. The Riddler features tufted black leather booths, a sleek marble bar and tabletops, a gold leaf ceiling, and vibrant green plants lining the tops of the windows and bar.
There are over 100 champagnes on the menu, but favorites are bound to be the Chambong (“A bong of champagne. Yes, this is a thing.”), A Joan (“For when you’ve had a hard day, a glass of cheap house wine filled all the way to the rim.”), and A Bump & a Shot for 6 Guests, which has three options, including Whitefish & Miller High Life ($35) and White Royal Sturgeon & Ruinart Blanc de Blancs ($210).
So that the champs doesn’t go straight to your head, there are also a few food options (besides the aforementioned caviar), including free popcorn, tater tot waffles, and a cheese and charcuterie plate.
Not sure how to get your dude to The Riddler? Maybe just don’t tell him riddling is a step in producing champagne, and let him think it’s Batman-themed bar instead. He’ll get over it once he drinks that champagne bong.
As much as we love eating food from all over the world, there will never be a time when we aren’t elated to dig into some Italian comfort food, all while drinking local wines. Hence our huge level of stoke about the opening of Contrada, a Tuscan restaurant with a cozy vibe, in the old La Cucina space on Union Street.
We know we’re going to love Contrada’s garden and back deck when the weather warms up, but for now, we’re excited about the warm and inviting dining room, complete with a walnut bar, brass fixtures, Lost Coast redwood panels, and antique oak-inspired floors.
Contrada’s Italian fare features local meat and produce, housemade pastas, and wood-fired pizzas. You know, the kind of stuff you totally need when it’s cold and rainy out. Favorite dishes are bound to be the local clams pizza and farrow-juniper rigatoni. But if for some reason you aren’t working on your winter body, don’t worry, there are options like a roasted beet salad, crudo, and McFarland Springs trout that also satisfy.
But what’s delicious food without awesome wine to go along with it? Nothing, that’s what. Contrada has 16 California wines on tap, an enormous sustainably-focused wine list with more California wines as well as a bunch from Italy, and, for those who don’t love wine, eight local beers on tap, 12 more by the bottle, and three low ABV Italian-inspired cocktails.
Not-so-fun fact: Until this month, SF didn’t have a Portuguese restaurant. Fun fact! Uma Casa opened up a few weeks ago in Noe Valley, and now we have a Portuguese restaurant that is not only stunning on the inside, but serves traditional Portuguese fare that is beautiful and approachable.
The space is light and airy with lots of whites and light wood tones intermixed with blue and white Portuguese tiles, arched openings, and stone. It’s all very inviting and the perfect complement to the menu, which was designed to allow diners to become more familiar with Portuguese flavors. Eventually chef Talmo Faria will branch out and introduce more of his personal interpretations of these dishes, but in the meantime expect lots of seafood and stews, as well as lots of shareable plates.
As far as drinks go, there is plenty of Portuguese wine and beer, but you’ll kick yourself if you don’t order one of operating partner and beverage director Nora Furst’s low-ABV cocktails. We’ve had her cocktails before at Belga and Horsefeather and she’s never made a drink we didn’t absolutely love.
Do we really need to tell you that The Halal Guys has finally opened in SF? Well just in case you somehow missed the news: yes, the famed NYC cart has finally made its way to SF in the form of a brick and mortar restaurant with zero charm or ambiance and a signature color scheme that evokes feelings of a sad McDonald’s.
But none of that matters. Because this is The Halal Guys. The menu is the same as it is everywhere: chicken, gyro, or falafel served in warm pita or as a platter, plus sides of fries, falafel, hummus, tahini, tabbouleh, and baba ghanouj, and baklava for dessert. And it’s totally addictive and completely crave-able.
Good news if you’re drinking around Union Square or the TL also: The Halal Guys is open until 2 a.m. Sunday through Wednesday, and 4 a.m. Thursday through Saturday. Though we wonder how long it will take them to figure out no one stays up that late here…