The Hit List: New San Francisco Restaurants To Try Right Now guide image


The Hit List: New San Francisco Restaurants To Try Right Now

The new spots we checked out—and loved.

When new restaurants open, we check them out. This means that we subject our stomachs and social lives to the good, the bad, and more often than not, the perfectly fine. And every once in a while, a new spot makes us feel like experiencing the first ray of sunshine after a month of straight fog. When that happens, we add it here, to the Hit List.

The Hit List is where you’ll find all of the best new restaurants in San Francisco. As long as it opened within the past several months and we’re still talking about it, it’s on this guide. The latest addition might be a buzzy omakase counter, a new taqueria, or a Thai spot with food we can't stop talking about. Or maybe it’s even a restaurant with caviar priced by the bump.

Keep tabs on the Hit List and you will always know just which new restaurants you should be eating at right now.

New to the Hit List (9/15): Hayz Dog


Hayz Dog

We’re not a city known for hot dogs (our precious street vendors aside), but Hayz Dog is trying to change that. They’re putting out creative new spins on classic dogs, and they always leave us wanting one, or three, more. While you can find a Chicago-esque hot dog, this small Hayes Valley spot and takeout window doesn’t stick to any kind of convention when it comes to the seven other hot dogs on the menu. The Hayz, which is covered in kimchi relish, kewpie, and spicy ketchup (yes, that’s a thing) is funky in all the right ways, and our new favorite, The Bahn Mi, is a crunchy revelation full of crispy daikon and carrot that rivals the city's best bánh mì. The only way this place could be even better is if they were open past 11pm (11:30pm on Saturday)—you know, for the perfect post-party pick-me-up.

Anyone who gets the celebratory zoomies just thinking about shellfish should get ready to spend a lot of time at Little Shucker. The seafood spot in Pacific Heights (by the team behind The Snug down the street) has an airy and open space, perfect for chilling with a seafood tower and sparkling wine for hours. Get the creamy lobster roll on your table—it’s a butter-soaked dream—along with the halibut crudo and baked oysters drenched in garlic beurre blanc. This place works well for long dates with a lobster-loving East Coast transplant, and any time you have a hankering to throw back a dozen cold, briny stunners at the bar. 

El Mil Amores is a casual Mexican spot in the Mission focusing mainly on Mexico City-style breakfast and lunch plates. Forget about overcooked eggs, this spot is hit after hit. The Yulis breakfast sandwich? Think of it as the ultimate morning starter, with scrambled eggs, tender arrachera, and a hint of avocado, all within a cloud-like telera roll. And if that doesn't get you going, the CDMX plate will. It's an amazing mix of tangy salsa verde-drenched chilaquiles, soft scrambled eggs, and dreamy concha french toast. The portions are massive (more of a feast like a Las Vegas buffet). You’ve been warned: after, you’ll daydream about lounging at Dolores Park for days on end. Cancel your plans, grab your brunching friends, and dive into this decadent experience.

This counter-service spot in Bayview will make you feel like you're in your grandmother's kitchen, eating the most comforting meal—their slow-cooked chicken and sausage, smoked turkey, and vegan gumbos have a lot to do with it. They’re incredibly rich, buttery, and creamy at once. The explosion of flavors will have your eyes popping out of your head like a cartoon. There’s also a selection of po'boys that rotate constantly, but if you can get the shrimp you should—it’s a standout with a thick and creamy sauce that’ll have you licking your fingers. The food here is so good that it often runs out, so get in early, especially if you want seconds (you’re gonna want seconds). 

Funky Elephant in the Mission is a celebration of Thai food. Every dish is like a hot new reggaeton song, a high-octane dance of sweet, spice, and acid that makes you want to break out into a two-step. Take the pad thai old skool, it's a rich blend of gulf white shrimp, tofu, and bright tamarind, or the fresh papaya salad, a crispy mix of snake beans and Thai chilies that'll get you sweating (and maybe even happy-crying). And since this is a party, there’s pink lights, bumping music, and even a disco ball—so grab a glass of natural wine and get the night started.

This Thai barbecue place is the Richmond’s new Fun Group Dinner spot. So get pumped to eat enough meat to fill a school bus with more people than a basketball lineup. The perpetually hazy dining room is a hodge podge of groups flipping sizzling pork belly, pork shoulder, and rib-eye over a sloped charcoal grill. Like a waterfall, meaty juices drip into the moat of soup to add salty, umami flavor (it gets more concentrated as the broth boils down throughout the night). Slurp it back alongside a Singha or two as you watch music videos play overhead—and try not to set off the smoke alarm (which does happen on occasion). Muukata6395 does pretty good hot pot, too, and Thai staples like rice plates and a saucy papaya salad. But you’re here for the barbecue—and to play table Tetris with gigantic platters of ready-to-grill meat and seafood. 

If you want to feel like you’re at a rich friend’s house getting a meal served by a private chef, head to Dalida. Dinner at this Mediterranean place in the Presidio is an escape from the city—this spot is beautiful in a Restoration Hardware sort of way. There are bulbous lights, a smattering of plants, and natural light flooding in through the bay windows during the day. That being said, the light, bright, seasonal takes on Mediterranean food is the main attraction, and just what you want for this fantasy escape (sadly, no actual private chef is included). Look to the seafood-forward California tahdig featuring Santa Barbara uni, the fall-apart ibérico pork souvlaki that seems like it was slow-cooked for years, and thick lamb chops surrounded by extra creamy hummus. Whatever you do, don’t skip on their modern take on a baklava, stuffed with cloud-like pistachio—it’s make you question every other baklava you’ve ever had. 

Bistro Ember is best for a special date night, birthday, or an “I can’t do this anymore, I need something nice” meal. This upscale Turkish spot in Noe Valley has a dark, sultry vibe with small table lamps, barely lit overhead lights, and soft acoustic music playing over the speaker. What else makes this place special are the stellar dishes that look like art, from the chickpea yeast bread that’s served with a side of spicy honey that comes in honeycomb-shaped butter to the kampachi crudo with melon gel and a raki perfume. The well-seasoned lamb manti is their Monet—grand and larger than life (we would dedicate a museum to these dumplings). A meal here moves slowly, not because the kitchen takes its time, but rather because you’re going to want to drag it on forever.

Pasta Supply Co (by the chef behind the now-closed Prairie) is a refreshing breath of air—and a stark contrast from the city’s many buttoned-up, fancy Italian spots. You just order at the door, sit in the minimalist space, and let simple yet fabulous pastas come to you. The sauces, like velvety basil pesto and rich beef cheek sugo, pair gorgeously with handmade maltagliata and mafaldine. This Inner Richmond spot doubles as a shop, so you can peruse the well-lit glass case and walk out with pounds of fresh gnocchetti, radiatore, or squid ink spaghetti to cook at home later (no need to apologize to the Rao’s languishing in your pantry). Plus, the chill ambiance makes it easy to turn to for dinner plans that you cobble together last minute.  

Dumpling Home is an SF treasure (their shengjianbao are legendary). So great news for you: the Chinese restaurant in Hayes Valley now has a sister restaurant. Dumpling Story on Fillmore is just as fabulous, and you won’t have to spend 40 minutes waiting on the sidewalk for perfect xiao long bao, garlic-heavy cucumber salad, and dry-fried wings that make all other wings look like underachievers. The menu is nearly identical and the space is much more chic. Get ready to feel sophisticated surrounded by the white walls, amorphous mirrors, and arched windows that make this look like a fancy boutique. It fits right in with the high-spend energy and designer dogs in Pacific Heights.

Ask us what our perfect middle-of-the-week dinner spot looks like and we’ll offer up Georgian Cheese Boat. The Georgian spot in North Beach (a sibling to Tamari down in San Carlos) is pumping out perfect boat-shaped khachapuri, refreshing salads, soups, grilled chicken and lamb, and gigantic khinkali. If they were serving those soup and meat-filled dumplings in the middle of the Bay Bridge at rush hour, we’d still send you there. For a hyper-casual spot (you order on a big screen by the bar), this place has a lot of perks: quick service, cozy charm, and a great selection of Georgian wines. A not-so-fun perk: inevitably fighting over the leftovers. 

There’s a new quick, counter-service spot in NoPa filling our never-ending desire for big, hearty, and rich dashi-based soup. Katsuo + Kombu’s Fukuoka-style udon is made from scratch, and the noodles are slightly thinner than the chewier ones you’ll find at the city's other udon counters. The broth is always umami-packed, so you’ll devour a bowl faster than your favorite artist's new album. There are both hot and cold options, perfect for the range of weather the city throws at us. The finely chopped Kurobata pork and eggplant are a savory complement to the chewy tan tan dry noodles underneath, and the fukuoka signature bowl includes some of the best tempura around. You could come here with a friend, but you'll probably be too busy slurping—so maybe just show up alone and enjoy your silent soup bliss.

Tacos Del Barrio in the Mission makes the best tacos in this city—and yes, that’s a bold claim, and we stand by it with every ounce of our being. The Mexico City-style tacos at this taqueria are served on oh-so-corny tortillas with perfectly cooked seafood and meats: crispy carnitas, fatty, juicy suadero, and fried pieces of fish that melt in your mouth. Not a single taco disappoints. So order at the counter, join the families chatting over free chips and (many) salsas, and sip on one of the rotating aguas frescas—you’re going to need one after you slather your perfect taco with a roasted salsa from the salsa bar (prepare for a mouth on fire). And run here, because you sure as hell won’t be running after you finish stuffing yourself to the brim.

Traditional muffulettas make this counter-service lunch spot feel like it was teleported from New Orleans straight into the Haight. Only a limited number of these signature sandwiches are made per day, and theirs is thicker than the stack of parking tickets on our desk—it's layered with mortadella, prosciutto, soppressata, provolone, Duke's mayo, and spicy olive spread, which come together to create one of the funkiest sandwich flavors in town. The hidden star of the show is actually the pickled egg salad sandwich—fermentation adding to the potential of something so simple. It’s a tangy, creamy mishmash of egg, garlic, and chives between two slices of pillowy sourdough, and then stuffed to the brim with Voodoo potato chips. You’ll instantly be taken back to your middle school potato-chip-stuffing era and converted into an instant egg salad fanatic.

Prik Hom is a new spot in Laurel Heights putting out creative takes on Thai dishes that are unlike anywhere in the city. There's no pad thai or pad see ew here, but rather more seasonal, eclectic dishes, like a grilled beef wrap curry, and a fried branzino salad smothered in passion fruit dressing. Each dish oozes with flavor. The homemade aromatic curry with beef is so tender it'll instantly fall apart in your mouth. The scallop and lemongrass “shot” topped with chili jam will put you into a state of wistful limerence for the rest of dinner. And the smoked young coconut ice cream that comes in a glass dish with Thai incense is a next-level, multi-sensory experience. The vibe here is decidedly understated fancy. And because it’s on a part of Geary with not much foot traffic, it’s never packed. Run to this spot before everyone else figures out the secret. 

Popi’s Oysterette is here to remind you that you live in a city surrounded by water. It’s a castle of knockout seafood right in the middle of the Marina. The menu covers nearly everything that swims. You’ll throw back grilled and raw oysters topped with zingy yuzu tobiko, dive into creamy Dungeness crab sandwiches, and scoop cured trout dip with crisp saltines. One sleeper hit is the rich clam chowder that’s leveled up with gigantic chunks of bacon. The space gives off a mildly nautical vibe with ropes overhead, blue tiles, and tons of natural light from the Chestnut Street-facing windows. It’s a very pleasant spot to spend an afternoon alongside a cold glass of wine and half a dozen bivalves.

Amid the sea of high-end restaurants in SF, Copra stands out. The Fillmore spot (from the people behind Ettan in Palo Alto) is turning out new takes on South Indian classics that feel downright celebratory. Slow-cooked octopus is brightened up with pomelo and dill. Chutneys that range from wild gooseberries to ghost chilies are deeply flavorful (and nose-clearing). And delicate rasam poori are refreshing with the subtlest hint of tangy passionfruit. Plus, at what other upscale spot can you get down and dirty over a bowl of extra-napkins-required, shell-on crab curry? Even the inside of this place is a party. It looks like a spot where you'd host a wedding reception with its Tulum-core-beach-house aesthetic. Macrame, hanging plants, and shelves full of baskets and ceramic pots are everywhere. Lean into this over-the-top feel. After all, you’re here to celebrate in a place that’s as impressive as the meal. 

Dinner at this upscale-ish Northern Italian restaurant in Nob Hill moves at a slower clip, which is fine by us. We want as much time as possible to appreciate their perfectly light fritto misto, seafood skewers grilled over binchotan, and deceptively simple pastas, like the cream-filled ravioli carbonara topped with crispy guanciale. The only complaint we have is that we wish the menu of dishes were longer. This spot looks like a cafe, filled with neutral tones, black-and-white photos, and bistro chairs. It’s also all about warm ambiance—so embrace the delightful five-minute chat you might have with the chef about the handmade copper fork rests, and order that third glass of wine, even if you think your night is over. You won’t want to leave. 

We want to keep Saru Handroll Bar in Russian Hill a secret so we can always get a seat, and also tell everyone we know to get here immediately. The bar seating-only spot (formerly Saru Sushi Bar) stands out for its cozy space that'll inspire you to spend all future spontaneous date nights here—and for keeping their temaki simple and well-executed. There are no gold flakes or dramatic flourishes to these temaki—just rice and seafood rolled up in a crisp nori sheet and handed to you from across the counter. The fillings like salmon, scallops, and spicy tuna shine front and center. We also like this place because it’s an in-and-out situation (for any LA transplants, think Kazunori) that’ll keep you coming back. 

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photo credit: Ricky Rodriguez

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