If you love to eat and drink, then we’re not letting you in on a big secret when we proclaim that 2016 was a stellar year for bar and restaurant openings in San Francisco.
Not only were we treated to creative food, innovative cocktails, and soooooo many delicious hamburgers, many of these new spots showed off a sexier, more glamorous side, which was a much-needed shift after so many years of reclaimed wood and bare light bulbs.
Still, when it came time to pick our very favorites, it wasn’t hard. These 13 spots (in no particular order) all hit the mark in terms of the vibe, food, drinks… and none of them will break the bank.
Finn Town, the new American “Tavern with a Twist” from Top Chef alum Ryan Scott, only opened a few weeks ago, but it’s already one of our favorite new spots to dine and drink thanks to a stylish interior (with TWO bars), late night offerings (dinner until 1:30 A.M. on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday), and suuuuper tasty food.
No, but seriously: the buffalo crispy shrimp. The oysters Rockefeller. The Deviled eggs. And the burger. Oh, the burger.
We love everything about Marlowe, Park Tavern, and The Cavalier, so it’s no surprise that we were instant fans of Leo’s Oyster Bar when it opened in January.
But what we love most is that it’s a complete departure from the other restaurants in the Big Night group with nary a Marlowe Burger in sight. Don’t get us wrong; we love that burger, but it wouldn’t make sense on this seafood-focused menu with hot oysters three-ways, caviar bites, crudos, a raw bar, and a lobster roll on brioche that is out of this world.
The food isn’t the only thing we love about this Leo’s though; it’s also utterly stylish with a retro tropical décor that’s a throwback to a glamorous 1950s and a welcoming vibe that says, “Come in the afternoon for a martini and oysters and stay through dinner ‘til close.”
Apparently beautiful bars is a thing we love because The Treasury is another place with which we’re obsessed.
This lively bar is in a stunning 1916 Beaux Arts space that feels part Parisian bistro, part Victorian luxe, and part bank vault-meets-train station. (We promise it makes sense once you see it.)
The Treasury is first and foremost about well-crafted cocktails, but there are also sandwiches for lunch, and oysters, a cheese plate, and other tasty bites for after work. Feeling fancy? Splurge on the caviar service, which is actually quite affordable at $79 for one ounce.
The double cheeseburger with American cheese, onion, lettuce, pickle, and special sauce at Popsons is truly the thing that burger dreams are made of. There’s really not much more to say than that. Except that the chili cheese fries will also make you salivate. And they serve wine and beer. And have a veggie burger that’s really, really, really good. And not just for a veggie burger. Although if you eat meat, just get the cheeseburger. Duh.
Dark floral wallpaper, velvet armchairs, leather couches, mirrored tables, zebra print accents. Wildhawk is like the sexy, salon you never knew you dreamed of. But even better because this sexy salon has a full bar with ambitious libations that will definitely get you in the mood. The cocktail menu is vermouth-focused, but there are plenty of options whatever your spirit of choice.
Our recommendation? The $25 House Martini, which comes with a sidecar, so it’s really two martinis for the price of, well, two martinis except they’re martinis with the spirits premixed and frozen so it’s the coldest martini you’ve ever have.
This swanky supper club has two levels, which means there’s something for every occasion. The street level with exposed brick walls and high ceilings is where you go for an after work drink with colleagues or a blind date.
The seductive subterranean level with velvet and leather banquettes, cabaret tables, and revue stage where live jazz is often playing will let you take things to the next level (literally and figuratively).
The cocktail menu is a mix of “classics” and “forgotten classics,” all of which are made with thought and precision. And the kitchen stays open until 1 AM, which makes this an excellent option for all of those cool cats who like to dine late.
Life was good when we could get Wes Rowe’s bomb-ass burgers once a week at his SF pop-up. But life is soooo much better now that we can get those burgers (‘n’ more!) whenever we damn well please at his Mission restaurant.
Our fave? The Okie Burger (6oz patty cooked over a bed of onions with mustard, pickles, and American cheese). Also the fried chicken. And the queso tots. And all of the beer and wine.
This swanky lounge hidden in the corner of an alleyway in SoMa used to be for members only, but as of August, anyone can enjoy an evening at this sexy salon with a 1970s rock n’ roll vibe. Make a reservation for one of the semi-private booths or, if you’re in the mood to mingle, grab a seat in the communal lounge area.
As far as what to order, we can’t say we’ve ever urged anyone to order a Long Island iced tea before, but Marianne’s grown-up version made with tea-infused Flor de Caña rum, vodka, gin, Combier, lemon, ginger, and cola has quickly become a favorite.
Just be sure that if you’re going to have more than one, you also indulge in some small plates, like oysters (baked or on the half shell), lamb schnitzel lollipops, and potted Dungeness crab.
In the old Betelnut space is what’s certain to become one of your favorite go-tos when craving flavorful upscale (but not too upscale) Mexican food and delicious cocktails. The place to sit is at a table in the front bar where you can enjoy shared plates, like a Dungeness crab tostada, sopes de palmito, and carnitas with fresh tortillas, all while sipping on a paloma or margaritas, the latter which come by the pitcher.
Much like Fisherman’s Wharf, we don’t often make it a point to go to Union Square … or we didn’t, until Pacific Cocktail Haven opened in June.
There’s not too much going on décor-wise inside of this narrow bar, but you’re not going for the décor; you’re going for what are some of The Very Best cocktails in all of San Francisco.
The menu is organized by spirit, so you could choose by whatever you usually drink, but if there’s a time and a place to branch out, it’s at P.C.H. Still, you can never go wrong with The Fourth Regiment (Larceny Bourbon, sweet vermouth, and bitters), and we swear we’re not just saying that because it comes with a sidecar, so you get a little extra cocktail with your cocktail.
LOWER NOB HILL
We didn’t even know we needed a super sexy, swanky supper club and bar in our lives until we stepped foot inside of The Saratoga. Suddenly it was clear that all we’d ever wanted was a seven-tier chandelier suspended over a staircase, wide Carrara marble bar, exquisite cocktails, and very tasty food.
Truly the perfect spot for a first, fifth, or fiftieth date.
We were a little wary of Corridor (the restaurant, not the more casual café next door) when it first opened because counter service at dinner just isn’t our thing. But then we went, and realized we were so wrong.
Yes, you order at the counter, but once you’re seated, the dining experience is full-service. You can order more drinks, dessert, whatever from your server who will bring it right to you and just add it to your check (that you don’t pay until the end).
But though that made us happy, none of it would have mattered if the food wasn’t also outstanding. We suggest you start with the monkey bread, a pull-apart bread with cheddar cheese and chive oil, but do so knowing that you’ll then crave it for the rest of your life.
The spicy meatballs are also delish, as is the French onion soup, the Bolognese, the pot pie… and well, okay, basically everything on the menu. Oh, and leave room for dessert. The ‘Nilla pudding tart is out of this world.
Bigger is certainly not always better, but in the case of Bellota, the Spanish-inspired 5,400 square foot restaurant that opened in May, it really works.
The dining room is expansive, gorgeous, and there’s a view of the open kitchen from almost every seat. There’s also a beautifully designed bar and lounge area with a grand piano where guests can listen to live music while mingling and sipping on drinks.
But, of course, none of the aesthetics would matter if Bellota wasn’t also sending out vibrant, flavorful food. The paella (with a perfectly caramelized crust) is the specialty, but the charcuterie and land-and-sea tower are also both serious standouts. Overall, it’s a wonderful experience that’s well-deserving of a special occasion or a Friday night with friends.