San Francisco Chronicle - (Sunday)
Exciting spots to visit right now
Now that the region’s economy is reopening and indoor dining has returned, more upscale restaurants are starting to debut — and the constant flurry of new popups from laidoff chefs is somewhat subsiding. Here are some of the most exciting restaurants to open in the Bay Area over the past two months, from a missiondriven food hall to a Mexican American cocktail bar.
La Cocina Municipal Marketplace: The longawaited food hall from beloved San Francisco nonprofit La Cocina has finally touched down in the Tenderloin, and it’s full of enticing dishes from six womenled vendors. Kiosks include Boug Cali (Creole), Estrellita’s Snacks (Salvadoran), Kayma (Algerian), Los Cilantros (Mexican), Mi Morena (Mexican) and Teranga (panAfrican), with momo specialist Bini’s Kitchen to open at a later date. Vegans and vegetarians will find enticing options across the board. And as a missiondriven development, the food hall will always offer a meal for $5, too.
332 Golden Gate Ave., San Francisco. Takeout. lacocinamarketplace.com
Californios: The first and only Mexican restaurant in the country to earn two Michelin stars, Californios has reopened in a new SoMa location that gives the fine dining destination room to spread out and grow. Taking over the former Bar Agricole space, Californios has transformed the interior, dividing it up into a cozy bar area and a separate dining room. For now, it’s only seating diners on its expansive outdoor patio. The food continues chef Val M. Cantu’s exploration of contemporary Mexican cuisine through a $223 tasting menu with dishes such as chicharron topped with caviar and black truffle; a crispy cod taco on a sourdough tortilla; and al pastorstyle squab. 355 11th St., San Francisco. Outdoor dining. californiossf.com
Ernest: A table at Ernest is one of San Francisco’s toughest reservations right now. The Mission District restaurant comes from Brandon Rice, who spent five years as Rich Table’s chef de cuisine and grew his following through popups during the pandemic. At Ernest, he serves farmers’ marketdriven dishes with international influences, with a multicourse, familystyle format available in lieu of a more formal tasting menu. While the dishes constantly change, there is one early staple: beef tartare on sushi rice, covered with ikura cured in sake and soy sauce, with toasted nori for building hand rolls. 1890 Bryant St., Suite 100, San Francisco. Indoor and outdoor dining. ernestsf.com
Low Bar: Low Bar arrived in Oakland among a fleet of new cocktails bars helmed by people of color with a distinctive point of view. In this case, the vibe is a laidback, fun celebration of the founders’ Mexican American identities. To eat, there’s a Scotch egg encased in chorizo, corn fritters that taste like elote and tender octopus draped in cashew salsa macha. Meanwhile, drinks might feature mezcal with a warm heat from poblano chile or Tequila with a tangy hibiscusjalapeño shrub. 2300 Webster St., Oakland. Indoor and outdoor dining. lowbaroakland.com