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San Francisco’s food tradition can be traced back almost as far as its Gold Rush roots. On the West Coast, San Francisco’s dynamic food culture rivals that of New York City and Chicago, mixing time-honored favorites such as Tadich Grill, The Old Clam House and The Cliff House with culinary newcomers like Cotagna, All Spice and Flour + Water.

With each New Year, the city still manages to welcome a freshman group of restaurants that leaves critics and foodies impressed and salivating for more. Last year, it was AQ, Dixie, Hakkasan and M.Y. China. This year, the San Francisco Business Times picked Hi-Lo, The Company Bar & Kitchen, The Ramen Shop, Hard Water and Michael Chiarello’s Coqueta as the most anticipated San Francisco restaurants, saying the “lineup gives a clear indication that the industry isn’t slowing down, with a new trend toward established chefs surprising us with new concepts.”
Here is a peek at three top restaurants bursting onto the San Francisco food scene this year.

  1. Hi-Lo (The Mission, 3416 19th St.) Opening tonight, Hi-Lo is the long-awaited California-style barbeque restaurant from Hog & Rocks chef-owner Scott Youkilis.  Although the name comes from the fact that the food will be prepared high on the grill and low on the smoker, the high of menu just might be reached with the St. Louis-style spare ribs, pork loin brined in hard cider and duck wings with bourbon-Sriracha glaze. Of course, there could be no true “low” with Scott Beattie behind the cocktail concoctions—but there is nothing highbrow about the classic buck with bourbon, lime, and ginger beer and a rum punch with housemade falernum.
  2. The Company Bar & Kitchen (SoMa, 133 Steuart St.) Earlier last year, “the Michael Mina group delighted and confused fans with his new Indian restaurant concept that’s expected to open near the Embarcadero next summer,” writes reporter Renée Frojo. We’d say we’re more delighted and intrigued by the new, nearly 5,200sqft, 130-seat Indian restaurant, which is slated to offer a selection of “sharable plates blending classic Indian flavors and techniques with the bounty of locally-sourced ingredients available in the Bay Area,” according to SF.Eater.com. When you’ve got guys like Michael Mina president Patric Yumul and Sommelier Rajat Parr (along with a longtime childhood friend and chef from India, whose name has yet to be revealed) behind the venture, it’s bound to be a restaurant worth trying.
  3. Coqueta (Embarcadero, Pier 5) If anyone has been to Michael Chiarello’s Bodega restaurant in Napa Valley, then you know you will be treated to bold, soulful flavors at his new Pier 5 Spanish-inspired restaurant, Coqueta—which means “flirt” in Spanish. Right now, the star chef and Food Network host is flirting with Spanish cuisine…and our palates would like to flirt right back…when it opens in the spring! Already the 3,000-square-foot eatery is creating all sorts of buzz: aside from featuring dishes from Madrid, Catalonia and the Basque Country, it’s going to be designed by Spanish architect Alberto Rivera, along with San Francisco-based Michael Guthrie & Co.

We know there are many more exciting restaurants opening in San Francisco this year than we’ve listed here.  Which new restaurant are you most excited to try this year?

Lead image courtesy of: seriouseats.com