The best of No Salad

You tried 100 things, ate in all 38 restaurants and checked in on every one of the top places Michael Bauer inked on the page. So here it is, the second installment of Best of No Salad (a.k.a. just another San Francisco restaurant list). Go ahead, share, tweet, like or bitch about it. And as always, feel free to ask me where to eat.

Best Bay Area fine dining

The French Laundry

Thomas Keller's epicurean temple still holds the highest rank in the Bay Area, ahem, in the country. It's well worth the months spent trying to get in.

Chef Daniel Patterson's 11-course sensorial extravaganza is, by elimination, the best tasting menu in San Francisco.

Keller's protégé, Corey Lee, has created an exciting restaurant offering Laundry-level food as a tasting menu or à la carte (if you don't feel like eating the whole enchilada).

Best Bay Area casual elegant dining

If Bouchon was any closer, I'd have a sandwich named after me. Keller's second restaurant offers the best French bistro fare in the Bay Area. Authentic, modern, delicious.

With a wine list that will make your head spin before you even start drinking and a Laundry-trained chef in the kitchen (Jason Berthold), RN74 is one of my favorite restaurants in SF.

Chef Joshua Skenes' intensity comes across in his thoughtful food. The price of the tasting menu has gone up since my first visit but it is still worth the try.

Best Bay Area casual dining

This Oakland restaurant is one of the most exciting new places I've been. Fine-dining cuisine in a casual, neighborhoody atmosphere. Sit at the chef's counter, let James Syhabout impress you.

While Central Richmond may not be the epicenter of fine cuisines (maybe a reason Aziza will soon move), chef Mourad Lahlou's Moroccan-inspired food is worth fighting for a parking spot.

Quince's little sister may be the best new restaurant in SF. With an outstanding Italian fare and a casual atmosphere, it's been called the Flour + Water of Jackson Square (yes, it's that hard to get in).

Best Bay Area Brunch

The North of Panhandle favorite started brunch service only a few months ago and already has the best morning fare in SF. By far. Why? Ask chef/owner Laurence Jossel who is always there (that's why).

Where else can you have a 3-course tasting menu on a Sunday, at 10am? Thomas Keller's American eatery changes its menu every day and manages to make it always delicious, no matter when you go.

Foreign Cinema
The dining room is always packed and same-week reservations are not easy to come by. Two good signs this is a place you need to try.

Best Bay Area small plates

In the last "Best of No Salad" list, no restaurant made to the top of this category. That was before Contigo opened its doors, of course. And now, this Spanish tapas place is where I find myself always coming back to. It's that good.

Plum is what Cotogna is to Quince. A casual sister to high-end COI that offers the same inventive cuisine in a neighborhood vibe.

Okay, this is not technically a small plates restaurant but the appetizer list at Kokkari is second to none. So good you may finish your meal before you even get to the entrées.

Best Bay Area restaurant Burger

Chef Laurence Jossel once told me Nopa's burger was better than Spruce's. He said it was on the house if I didn't agree. Suffice to say, I paid for my bill.

It's not just the burger but all the accouterments. The pickled onions, the top-quality cheeses and, of course, the duck fat fries. Like a high-end happy meal.

Hop off Caltrain and grab a burger before you head home. But not just any burger. How about one with caramelized onions, cheddar, bacon, horseradish aioli & French fries?

Best Bay Area restaurant desserts

No sweet tooth can resist the Churros with hot chocolate at Contigo. It's my favorite dessert in SF. No wonder I order it every time, even if I want to try something else. Then I get both.

If you believe chocolate to be better than sex, this is like an orgy on your plate. Order the Chocolate orbit cake, have seconds.

Pastry chef Melissa Chou has the difficult challenge of following Mourad Lahlou’s outstanding cuisine. And she does it brilliantly. Every time.

Best Bay Area bakery

Bouchon Bakery
How far would you go for a morning bun? I drove many times all the way to Yountville just to get a coffee and pastry in this tiny bakery. The line is always long but it's always worth the wait (and the trip).

Tartine Bakery
Speaking of long lines, come rain or come shine. Every morning locals queue for a freshly baked scone, morning bun and chocolate croissant. No better way to start your day.

Best Bay Area on the cheap

Limon Rotisserie
For under 10 bucks you get half roast chicken—likely the best you ever had, and two sides. Get the fried yucca, you’ll find there’s something better than French fries.

Roti Bistro
This West Portal spot serves what I think is the best Indian food in SF. At lunch service, a special menu offers a dozen dishes for about 10 bucks. It’s a steal.

Caffe Museo
The restaurant at SF MoMA serves good Californian/Mediterranean fare for a decent price. Fried gnocchi and Strawberry rhubarb pavlova (when in season) are a must.

Best Bay Area original design

This ambitious SoMa project gave SF something that was long overdue—a restaurant design that is as exciting as its food. On par with some of the coolest dining rooms in NY.

Bar Agricole
The sweeping space in this new SoMa hotspot is beautifully designed with wood panels and glass tube chandeliers. Definitely worth a visit.

Morimoto Napa
This namesake Iron Chef restaurant brings the posh vibe of an LA lounge to the heart of Napa Valley. And somehow it all makes sense.

Best Bay Area restaurant. Period.

The French Laundry
Drum roll. End drum roll. Some may find my choice not surprising, even obvious. I agree, allow me to explain. It takes a lot to make a restaurant great, but it takes a lifetime to make it perfect. Keller himself questions the concept of perfection but if you've been to The French Laundry, you know there's nothing more perfect than that. Some of the best chefs in the US passed through it; Grant Achatz, Corey Lee and Top Chef Richard Blais to name a few. People from all over the world come to it (or try to) every year. More than a restaurant, it's a destination. Or a school, depending on how you look at it. But must importantly, it's absolutely unforgettable. It's been over 2 years since I've been there and I can still remember every course, every taste. As if it was yesterday.


Elizabeth said...

I hold heartedly agree with you on this one!(French Laundry) My husband and I went there for our 25th wedding anniversary, and there are no words for how wonderful it was!!!
Have you ever been to Meadowood in Napa? I was shocked that it had received 3 stars!!! We went there when it was two stars, and I was un impressed beyond words. To say that place is on par to French Laundry is a crime!

juliemarg said...

Your list looks delish. I've got a week in San Francisco in November, so I'll have some new spots to try. Thank you.

Have you been to The Kitchen in Sacramento? It's our best.

Nate Davis said...

Christian, have you eaten at Meadowood since they were anointed with their third star? I'd be curious to hear how it'd compare. The other thing I've heard from people who have been to the Laundry is that it may be 50% more expensive than 2-stars like Cyrus, for example, but is the experience 50% better? I say that because our tasting menu dinner at Cyrus was a flawless symphony of synchronized waiters and everything else one would expect at that level.

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