Summer is a foodie’s hunting season, if you will. It’s the time of year where we come out of our winter food comas, in search of new gastronomical greatness. After all, it’s when top chefs hit the Rockies for the Aspen Food & Wine Classic, there’s local restaurant weeks galore and Bon Appétit picks its top new restaurants in America.
The magazine recently announced its top 50 new restaurants for 2015. And we must say: we’re pretty pleased to see that there were 10 new California restaurants on the list. Whether you’re into wood-fired pizza or classic French cuisine, there’s plenty of deliciousness to hunt down across the Golden State this year.
Allimento. Photo courtesy of www.alimentola.com
Ok, Angelenos—two years ago, you took the top spot in America for best new restaurant (Alma). Will you ever be able to repeat that honor? You’ll have to wait until August 18 to find out. Bon Appétit isn’t releasing which dining establishments made the coveted top 10 until then—but at least you know these four eateries are in the running:
1710 Silver Lake Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026
Zach Pollack (from Sotto fame) brought his acclaimed Southern Italian food to Silver Lake in October 2014—long after last year’s top 50 were out. Alimento offers a “modest but clever menu,” according to the LA Times. Twists on classics like Tortellini in brodo are favorites, while pigs in a blanket (little finger sandwiches made out of seared mortadella, puff pastry and seedy mustard) satisfies your creative side. And what about the classic Italian-American chopped salad? Well, Pollack has elevated that too with slivered greens and salami on a smear of puréed chickpeas. The restaurant is so popular that “the valet station occasionally backs up Silver Lake Boulevard” and even TV stars can be spotted at the bar.
20 Sunset Ave
Venice, CA 90291
Another October 2014 opening brought the European-meets-American flair (with a pinch of Middle Eastern flavor) of Gjusta to Venice. From the team behind the ever-popular Gjelina and GTA, Gjusta is carved out of an industrial building just a block from bustling Rose Avenue and serves similar fare to GTA (Gjelina Take Away) but with more variety. Menu options range from sweet (think scones and cookies) to savory (think sandwiches, pot pies and salads). The tuna conserva is an absolute must-have.
Jon & Vinny’s
412 N Fairfax Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90036
If you were waiting for Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo—the guys behind Animal, Son of a Gun, Trois Mec and Petit Trois—to offer up their fashionable take on pizza, then Jon & Vinny’s will satiate you on every concievable level. Located across the street from Canter’s Delicatessen on Fairfax, the restaurant is already a popular hipster haven, booming with music, garlic and flames despite being only four months old. Whether you’re a classic Marinara gal or an adventurous dude hell-bent on trying concoctions of mortadella and sharp provolone or ham and pickled chiles, you’ll find just about anything to satisfy your pie craving. (Just don’t leave without trying “L.A. Woman.” According to LA Times’ Jonathan Gold: “It may well become your second-favorite pizza in Los Angeles, top 10 for sure.”)
718 Highland Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038
As we mentioned above, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo can virtually do no wrong in Los Angeles. As the second collaboration between the Animal duo and chef Ludovic Lefebvre, Petit Trois is the accessible version of their nationally famous, ticket-only Trois Mec. There are 22 stools and a stripped-down menu that is designed to be just as accessible. Lefebvre’s twist on the French Bistro has a croque-monsieur, a Nicoise tuna sandwich called pan bagnat and a simple baguette with ham, butter and a little honey. However, it’s the escargot that truly shines: six fat snails, shells brimming with garlic, minced parsley and melted butter.
Al’s Place. Photo courtesy of www.alsplacesf.com
San Francisco has been an established fixture on the Bon Appétit 50 list. However, last year was a bit of a let-down for the tried-and-true food city, since only two local favorites made the list: Kin Khao and Tosca. We’re happy to see San Francisco reclaim its elevated position among the nation’s culinary heavyweights with six game-changing eateries as Bon Appétit declares, San Francisco is the Best Food City in the Country Right Now. (Only New York City had six in the top 50—if you include Brooklyn).
2174 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94114
Nothing says Spain like tapas and gin. Aatxe, which opened earlier this summer in the 100-year-old Swedish American Hall building by the team from Flour + Water and Central Kitchen, takes these great Spanish traditions and turns them up a notch. Take, for example, its gin menu—a color wheel that divides the 54 gins by styles. (A corresponding color-coded bar along the bottom shows the suggested tonic to complement the distinct categories of gin.) Then there’s the small bites: smoked salmon deviled egg, a croquette with morel mushrooms, olives skewered with boquerones and of course—a charcuterie and cheese plate. For heavier fare, you would be remiss if you did not try the patatas bravas. And the traditional bites are fun too, as they’re served in glass jars: plump mussels suspended in red wine gelee and preserved clams in a green herb sauce. The menu, conceived by Ryan Pollnow, who was the chef de cuisine at sister restaurant Central Kitchen, is lots of fun.
1499 Valencia St
San Francisco, CA 94110
Debuting at the beginning of 2015 and housed in the former South End Grill ‘n Bar space at 26th and Valencia, Al’s Place is a pescetarian’s heaven. It’s the first solo project from Aaron London, acclaimed former Ubuntu chef, who’s held a Michelin star and a nomination for a James Beard Award. The casual vibe blends perfectly into the neighborhood, while diners dine on plates like black lime-cod and rotating meat items offered as “sides”—such as duck with strawberry mole. London’s genius interpretation of vegetable dishes, such as brine-fermented fries with a vegan, apple-based BBQ sauce and sunchoke curry with cod, black lime and grapefruit, are an added bonus to an exciting dining experience.
3416 19th St
San Francisco, CA 94110
It’s hard to believe the ticket-only reservation phenomenon that took Los Angeles and New York by storm has also breezed its way into a city that prides itself on its unpretentiousness—but Lazy Bear has proved that San Franciscans love a good challenge. Chef-owner David Barzelay, who started the concept as an underground venue in 2009, brilliantly brought it to the light of day with a brick-and-mortar business in the Mission this year. If you are lucky enough to score a $120 dinner ticket for the 11-plus course dinner, you can expect either two seatings each night—6 and 8:15 p.m.—and a set menu that changes seasonally. You could be dining on Shigoku oyster on apple gelee one night; and duck confit the next. As SF Gate’s Michael Bauer pointed out, “Lazy Bear is not a restaurant—it’s a dinner party.” Just make sure you get an invitation.
Liholiho Yacht Club
871 Sutter St
San Francisco, CA 94109
One of 2015’s most anticipated restaurant debuts was Tendernob’s Liholiho Yacht Club. Chef Ravi Kapur (San Francisco Magazine’s newly crowned “Best Chef of 2015”) and the management team behind Nopa have managed to keep the house packed with his Heritage-driven food and California ingredients. You’ve got marinated squid with crispy tripe, fried game hen and tuna poke on crisp nori crackers among the the menu favorites. And for a true adventure, there is an off-menu spam dish that shouldn’t be missed.
1525 Fillmore St
San Francisco, CA 94115
The buzz for The Progress—the long-awaited, much-anticipated sequel to State Bird Provisions—was nothing short of monumental when it opened next door to the Fillmore favorite at the beginning of this year. Lines for State Bird are nothing new—but The Progress stays true to its name. It’s progress for chef-owners Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski. For starters, it’s easier to snag a seat in the new eatery and the large family-style dishes have been scaled down to a snackable size. Menu highlights include shaved cauliflower romanesco with crispy pig’s ears, wild mushrooms and kale with pickled nori, grilled squab and a crepe made of pecorino roti with truffled buttermilk.
82 14th St
San Francisco, CA 94103
Few restaurant openings have created as much buzz as izakaya Rintaro on 14th Street. Chef-owner Sylvan Mishima Brackett has made a name for himself with his Zen-like approach to Japanese cuisine. A nightly changing menu features savory dishes like dashimaki tamago (a fancy folded omelet with Kaki eggs), millefeuille katsu, riverdog chicken tsukune with yuzu and dungeness crab. For dessert? The soft, delicate ginger chiffon cake with lightly whipped cream and a little pot of lemon syrup shows Brackett’s roots, perhaps a nod to his days working under epicurean/food revolutionary Alice Waters of Chez Panisse.