Fresh Feasts and OG Offerings: January’s Best New Bay Area RestaurantsAnd Old-School Options to Check Out

Like I promised earlier, I’m serving you a monthly round-up of the most worthwhile new eatery and watering hole openings in the Bay Area, recommended alongside some tried-and-true mainstays that are not to be forgotten nor overlooked.

Here are my January picks of new (and old) dining and drinking destinations, ones where you can sink your teeth into a satiating meal and dirty up a cocktail glass.

Fresh Offering: Senor Sisig  

High school pals Evan Kidera and Gil Payumo launched a game-changing food truck, Señor Sisig — a.k.a SS — in 2010. National media coverage followed, as did countless neophytes to Filipino food. Anthony Bourdain himself said SS could “win the hearts and minds of the world,” a quote painted on the back patio wall, which makes up the entirety of the order-at-the-counter joint’s seating. We have SS to thank for creating the Filipino burrito in California, home to nearly half the country’s Filipino-American population. SS opened its first brick-and-mortar in November in a prime Valencia St. location. The whole Barnyard burrito is irresistible, combining their California (French fries) burrito with a meat-gasm of tocino, pork, chicken, tofu and a fried egg. // Various locations in SF, senorsisig.com 

OG Alternative: Tselogs

Since opening their first Colma restaurant in 2016, Tselogs launched three locations, reaching more people with sisigsilog (chicken in lemon, soy, onion, jalapeno) and Filipino-style spaghetti. What’s that, you ask? Spaghetti noodles laden with ground beef, tomato sauce, banana ketchup, hot dog slices, and cheddar cheese. It sounds disgusting … but tastes of childhood: campy and comforting with junk food decadence. // Various locations in San Francisco, tselogs.com

Fresh Offering: California Gold

Marin doesn’t often have an opening worth crossing the Bridge for. Since November, California Gold would be a drink destination in any city, much less the ‘burbs. Isaac and Rhia Shumway breathed life into the 1896 space, working with Ignacio “Notch” Gonzalez, designer of the bar that launched a global Tiki renaissance, Smugglers Cove. Isaac’s antiques, paintings, and books make the gorgeous bar feel like it has been here forever. His impressive resume includes cooking and running bars in places as lauded as Bourbon and Branch, Quince, Gary Danko, and Alamo Drafthouse SF.

Charles H. Baker’s legendary cocktail book, The Gentleman’s Companion, and international travels and recipes in 1930s-40s Esquire and Gourmet inspire Isaac’s theme and on-point cocktails. Drinks shine, from Rhia’s short-but-smart wine list to a beer lover’s board of 12 rotating California beer taps. // 848 B St. (San Rafael), californiagoldbar.com

OG Alternative: Poggio 

Shout out to Poggio, despite dated 1990’s vibes. Since 2003, it’s one of Marin’s best, an Italian oasis in touristy, Riviera-esque Sausalito. Chef Benjamin Balestri’s Italy reconnaissance shows in handmade pasta and bread, while longtime barman Tony Diiori (aka “Tony Negroni”) keeps it real with multiple versions of Italy’s classic Negroni. // 777 Bridgeway (Sausalito), poggiotrattoria.com

Fresh Offering: Over Proof at ABV

ABV isn’t new, reigning as industry favorite since 2014, often on local and world’s best bars lists. Enter its new restaurant/bar-within-a-bar. Ryan Fitzgerald, Todd Smith and Erik Reichborn-Kjennerud dubbed the intimate perch Over Proof, originally a rotating bar, but, as of October, a permanent spot gazing over ABV’s packed bar below. Over Proof serves cocktails as adroit as you’d expect from the ABV crew, plus mini-cocktail tasting menus. Expect show-stoppers like Tamal Coctel, corn and tortilla-infused mezcal touched with cacao and habanero, evoking fresh masa and the streets of Oaxaca itself. Spirits’ geeks will delight in the rare spirits list. Chefs Collin Hilton and Nick Salazar’s seafood-centric menu is also a draw, from rock cod persimmon crudo goosed up with fermented chile crema, to strip steak lush in kimchi and uni butter. // 3174 16th St. (Mission Dolores), abvsf.com 

OG Alternative: Wilson & Wilson inside Bourbon & Branch

 Wilson & Wilson (W&W), a seductive, 1940’s-inspired bar inside Bourbon & Branch (B&B), has crafted cocktail tasting menus since 2011. As at B&B (truly OG since 2006), W&W requires reservations, keeping things chill. Choose three cocktails, grouped by aperitif, “mains” and digestif. As I taste and judge thousands of cocktails globally, few remain vivid in memory—and vodka is the one spirit I remain passionless about (neutrality is not a flavor!) But W&W’s Charlie Chan cocktail stays with me 8 years later, a masterful mix of black tea-infused Karlsson’s Vodka, ginger, lemon, black pepper-clove tincture, and coconut marmalade. // 501 Jones St. (Union Square), bourbonandbranch.com

Fresh Offering: Ittoryu Gozu

Open November 2019, Ittoryu Gozu exemplifies spare Japanese style, centered around a 25-seat “chef’s counter” with front-row views of the open-fire cooking, a lounge and a private dining room with, of course, a ”whiskey chamber.” Though centered around wagyu beef, this is no steakhouse. Marc Zimmerman and Ben Jorgensen offer kappo-style cuisine, somewhere between casual izakaya and upscale kaiseki (tasting menus range $95-$150; a la carte under $22).

While A5 wagyu cuts are grilled robata-style, the focus is unique takes on “nose-to-tail” utilizing all parts, from rendered fat to bones. Dishes are small but maintain interest. I could’ve licked a bowl clean of koshihikari rice dotted with celery root foam, fermented garlic cream, seaweed, and charred alliums. I had a pared-down wine and sake menu —minus whiskeys and cocktails eventually added— so I can’t comment on the full range of drink pairings. // 201 Spear St #120 (Embarcadero), gozusf.com

*Note: Gozu suffered a small fire on New Year’s Eve that means some repairs are needed for the coming weeks. They say they do not foresee being closed beyond two months.

OG Alternative: Niku Steakhouse

Niku Steakhouse isn’t exactly OG, just open February 2019. Nor are its massive meat cuts akin to Ittoryu Gozu’s minimalist approach. But its 18-seat chef’s counter, open-flame cooking, and Japanese wagyu focus tie the two together. The fun reaches a crescendo in their neighboring butcher shop where meat-master, Guy Crims, sends you home with pristine beef. Maybe I can only afford a tub of A5 wagyu fat, but a little makes even eggs taste glorious. // 61 Division St. (Design District), nikusteakhouse.com

Fresh Offering: Seven Stills

Seven Stills owners Clint Potter and Tim Obert are on a roll, opening restaurants and bars in the Mission in 2019 and Nob Hill in 2018. This November, they moved their Bayview distillery-brewery-in-one to a 22,500 sq. ft. space in SF’s Design District. A colorful mural backs the main bar, flowing with their beers (oh, that Negroni beer!), whiskeys and gin, poured neat or in cocktails. Chef Lee Laveglia does right by beer-friendly dishes exuding California spirit, from his native Mexico to other key Bay Area demographics. Think Indian butter chicken poutine, Korean beef lettuce wraps or chicken adobada nachos. // 100 Hooper St. Ste. 4 (Design Disrict), sevenstillsofsf.com

OG Alternative: Monk’s Kettle

A pioneering craft beer bar since 2007, Christian Albertson and Nat Cutler have kept Monk’s Kettle one of the country’s great beer bars with their thoughtful international beer selection via 28 drafts, cask engine and roughly 150 bottle cellar and vintage beers. Chefs have changed over the years but (thankfully) pretzel knots dipped in beer cheese fondue remain, as has pub fare like merguez lamb burgers or jerked jackfruit sandwiches. Good news: they are opening a 2nd San Rafael (Marin Co.) location this summer. // 3141 16th St. (Mission Dolores), monkskettle.com

Fresh Offering: Perry Lang’s

Perry Lang’s already-mobbed “hotspot” hit Yountville in October 2019. Hidden behind a walled yard, towering palms and illuminating lights make the historic Groezinger Estate feel like a friend’s midcentury mansion (if you have those sorts of friends). Adam Perry Lang (of Hollywood’s APL Restaurant and a backlot barbecue pop-up at Jimmy Kimmel Live!), brings his dry-aged beef program to Napa Valley with environmental dry-age chamber and dining room aglow via fireplace and retro chandeliers. 

Steaks are custom-cooked in techniques ranging from broiler browning to wood-fired, low-and-slow. Scene-stealers are Lang’s tender, Italy-worthy beef carpaccio and St. Louis pork ribs in peach barbecue sauce. Marc Irving’s wines stick mainly to Napa and Sonoma gems, while Adam Kerr’s cocktails step it up for Yountville. // 6539 Washington St. (Yountville), perrylangs.com

OG Alternative: Cole’s Chop House

Since 1980, Cole’s Chop House is Napa’s OG steak joint. I prefer the 1950s-1970s kind of steakhouse, whereas Cole’s is more 1990s hold-over. But friendly service warms it up — and they do right by crucial steakhouse fares like crisp iceberg wedge salad or oysters Rockefeller. // 1122 Main St. (Napa), coleschophouse.com

// Feature photo courtesy of Over Proof at ABV.


Fresh Feasts and OG Offerings: January’s Best New Bay Area RestaurantsAnd Old-School Options to Check Out
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