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January 2, 2020
Photo by @a_well_traveled_life

13 San Francisco Restaurants You Need to Eat at in 2020

A single "best restaurant" list could never begin to do justice to the variety of eateries in and beyond San Francisco, so we recommend starting with these new and buzzy spots.

AL's Place (1499 Valencia St.) & AL's Deli (598 Guerrero St.)

AL's Place isn't the newest kid on the block, but if it's not on your list, it deserves to be. Chef Aaron London's reputation for reinventing dishes as simple as French fries has earned him accolades. The Mission District spot was named Restaurant of the Year by Bon Appetit in 2015, and it has a coveted Michelin star. In 2019, London added a deli on Guerrero and 18th streets, where you can feast on Mediterranean items alongside traditional deli favorites like brisket sandwiches.

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Beit Rima (138 Church St.)

This Arabic comfort food destination is the embodiment of a family business. Chef Samir Mogannam's dishes celebrate the cooking of his Jordanian mother, also the restaurant's namesake. His father, who founded local chain Burgermeister, is an investor in this new endeavor, which opened in February 2019. The experience and food are equally warm, with friendly counter service and scrumptious takes on Middle Eastern classics.

Birdsong (1085 Mission St.)

If you love exquisite food but hate choosing what to order, then you're doubly sure to enjoy Birdsong in SoMa. It's one of a new breed of chef-helmed establishments that forego an à la carte menu. Leave your taste buds in the capable hands of Chef Christopher Bleidorn on the "Journey," a finely tuned 13-course meal that pays homage to the Pacific Northwest. Or, drop by Tuesday through Thursday for the "Discovery," an 8-course option that's just as transporting.

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Che Fico Alimentari (834 Divisadero St.)

It takes a lot of confidence to open an Italian restaurant in San Francisco. There's no shortage of beloved spots, especially in North Beach, the city's historic Little Italy. But this grocery-meets-salumeria near Alamo Square Park offers both food and service that shine. Expect classic, hyper-seasonal dishes and preparations with tantalizing attention to detail. Order anything on the menu—or one of everything! You can't go wrong.

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Dear Inga (3560 Eighteenth St.)

San Francisco is known for its eclectic cuisine, and Dear Inga gives the city's Eastern European pedigree a welcome boost. The so-called "new old world cooking" embraces traditional Hungarian methods like smoking and fermentation, and plays around with standard dishes like kielbasa and stuffed cabbage. In other words, Dear Inga is inspired by its roots, but not tied down by them.

Eko Kitchen (167 Eleventh St.)

Speaking of filling culinary gaps, Eko Kitchen is a fast-casual Nigerian upstart that's grown a devoted following since opening in the SoMa neighborhood. Chef Simileoluwa Adebajo quit her job as a financial analyst to jump headfirst into the restaurant business, and the gamble seems to have paid off. If you've never had Nigerian street food, chances are you're a fan and don't know it yet - especially if you're down with some spice.

Elda (3198 Sixteenth St.)

The California cantina vibe at this Mission cocktail bar is evident from the exterior, which flaunts a colorful mural by Toro Y Moi and musician Brijean Murphy. There's plenty of color to go around inside, too; from the palm tree-green bar stools to cocktails like the Pink Flamingo, made with Oaxacan rum, lime, Tiki-Tivo, pineapple and absinthe. The Latin American and Carribean-inspired small plates are a crave-worthy accompaniment.

Mahila (1320 Castro St.)

Mahila opened in Noe Valley in the summer of 2019, the culmination of a long personal and professional journey for chef Azalina Eusope. She comes from several generations of mamak food vendors in her home country of Malaysia and has been building a reputation with her street food and curries at a stall in The Market. Now she has graduated to a brick-and-mortar and an expanded menu, featuring items like mee mamak (a fiery noodle stir-fry) that locals are raving about.

Matterhorn Restaurant + Bakery (2323 Van Ness Ave.)

In 2018, the beloved Swiss fondue restaurant Matterhorn closed down after 24 years in business. It was happily revived in 2019 by Natalie and Jason Horwath, who've spruced up the interior - including a gondola for two you can dine in - and added a bakery, which provides fresh pastries and specialty breads for dipping into pots of creamy gruyere, emmental and other cheeses. We're hoping its the next fad diet.

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Moongate Lounge (28 Waverly Pl.)

This lunar-inspired lounge in Chinatown is the newest project from Chef Brandon Jew, whose restaurant Mister Jiu's has been a smash hit since opening a couple of years ago. Conveniently, Moongate Lounge is located upstairs, so you've got plenty of food options if hunger strikes. The swanky space features intimate, high-back booths off to one side of a couch-stuffed lounge areas that's perfect for mingling.

Nari (1625 Post St.)

Chef Pim Techamuanvivit created a sensation with the Michelin-starred Kin Khao inside the Parc 55 hotel, so maybe it makes perfect sense that her newest, Nari, is located inside of another hotel - Japantown's Hotel Kabuki. "Nari" references the Thai word for women, and Techamuanvivit's menu delivers a mix of authentic Thai flavors and California sensibilities. Show up hungry with some friends and sample lots of things, including cocktails from the impressive drink menu.

ONE65 (165 O'Farrell St.)

Among the most anticipated openings of 2019 was this six-story building in Union Square, which houses a multi-concept French epicurean tour de force. The street level is a patisserie that pipes out elegant macarons, pastries and chocolates. Occupying the second and third floors, The Bistro at ONE65 specializes in California-French comfort food. Upstairs, Elements Bar & Lounge serves creative cocktails with a view, and spanning the top floors in O', a high-end restaurant by Chef Claude Le Tohic, who has three Michelin stars and accolades from the James Beard Foundation under his apron. Ooh-la-la.

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Palette Tea House (900 North Point St., Ste B201)

Presentation is key at Palette Tea House in Ghirardelli Square, the newest sibling of Willy Ng's popular dim sum restaurants Koi Palace and Dragon Beaux. Inspired by art, Palette's menu features a wide variety of camera-friendly treats to delight both your eyes and your taste buds. The vibrant xiao long bao dumplings are already quite Insta-famous, thanks to their photogenic array of colorful wrappers (the hues come from spinach, squid ink and beetroot). Save room for the pretty dessert sampler that includes mango pudding, truffles, an egg tart and blueberry sesame ball.

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