09 Sep Jonathan Cartu Said: 7 highly anticipated Bay Area restaurants still opening thi…
It’s been a strange year for restaurant openings.
At the start of the pandemic, hardly any new places opened as construction halted, permitting stalled and everyone sheltered at home. But slowly, restaurant owners who already had new locations in the works opted to open them, sometimes with entirely different menus than previously planned. That’s happening even more this fall, creating a remarkably exciting lineup of fall restaurant openings given the circumstances.
Some are pop-ups transitioning to brick-and-mortars. One is an entirely new concept, created during the pandemic from first-time restaurant owners — a glimmer of hope as winter approaches and with it, the prospect of more restaurants closing for good.
This batch of seven highly anticipated openings runs the gamut from sit-down restaurants from fine dining chefs to casual vegan takeout, with buttery smoked brisket, prized imported anchovies and modern Vietnamese rice porridges all worth looking forward to.
Here’s what to look out for this fall, listed by planned opening date.
A combination oyster bar and seafood shop in Noe Valley, this concept from the former chefs behind S.F. wholesale seafood company Four Star Seafood and Provisions will highlight local fish and specialty seafood that can be hard to find outside of high-end restaurants. Located next to a small park where a farmers’ market takes place each Saturday, Billingsgate is named for a historic London fish market. The menu will include made-to-order ceviche with chocolate clams from Baja and griddled brioche served with lobster or shrimp salad. The dishes, which will range from $12 to $25, will be available to go to start and later at a 27-seat dining area surrounded by reclaimed brick and pendant lights. Owners Ismael Macias and Adrian Hoffman, who met while chefs in the Lark Creek Restaurant Group, are also working on nailing down a space for a second location of Billingsgate in the East Bay. —T.D.
Opening: Sept. 11. 3859 24th St., San Francisco. https://www.fourstarseafood.com/billingsgate
Lion Dance Cafe
More and more vegan restaurants keep opening in the Bay Area, but one particularly enticing addition to the scene is Lion Dance Cafe, the downtown Oakland brick-and-mortar evolution of long-running pop-up S + M Vegan. Chefs Marie Chia and Shane Stanbridge are known for their distinctive, genre-bending takes on Chinese-Singaporean fare with Italian influences. One of the pop-up’s most popular offerings that will carry over to the restaurant is the constantly changing shaobing sandwich, which might be stuffed with faux char siu or fried mapo tofu but always features a naturally fermented version of the Chinese sesame seed-crusted flatbread, modeled after Sicilian-style pizza. For the first few weeks, the restaurant will be open just two nights a week and will require online orders in advance. — J.B.
Opening: Sept. 12. 380 17th St., Oakland. liondancecafe.com
The pandemic may have shaped Serena Chow and David Fisher’s forthcoming San Francisco restaurant, Marlena in terms of service, but the project’s culinary approach — using fine-dining techniques to create affordable comfort food — has been set in stone for more than a year. Chow and Fisher are opening Marlena in the former Hillside Supper Club space in the city’s Bernal Heights neighborhood, and due to its proximity to Precita Park, their opening menu will focus on picnic baskets loaded with multiple items, including sandwiches and hand pies, for about $40. Among the more ambitious menu options is a pork collar that the duo plans to cook sous vide, then finish over binchotan coals. Fat from the pork will be used to create a glaze for the meat, and because of the smokiness given to the meat from the coals, Fisher and Chow say the dish will be reminiscent of Southern barbecue, but with more intense flavor. Marlena will also offer compact baskets for two with cheese, house-made charcuterie, crackers and fresh fruit for $25. — J.P.
Opening: mid-September. 300 Precita Ave. San Francisco. www.marlenarestaurant.com
After closing his popular pan-Asian restaurant Butterfly in 2017, chef Rob Lam is returning to San Francisco with a modern Vietnamese restaurant called Lily — an exciting addition in a city bursting with casual options but few higher-end Vietnamese restaurants. It’s a project with first-time restaurant owners Lily and Lucy Lieu and marks the first time that Lam, who was born in Vietnam and currently operates French-leaning wine bar Perle in Oakland, will focus on Vietnamese food. While Lam hopes to eventually open Lily as an upscale, dine-in restaurant, he created a takeout menu focused on banh mi, eggy breakfast plates and chao, Vietnamese rice porridge, to get the doors open during the pandemic. What hasn’t changed is his goal is to deliver traditional flavors with top-notch local ingredients, French techniques and house-made sauces and charcuterie. One version of chao, for example, will be crowned with five-spice duck confit. — J.B.
Opening: mid-September. 225 Clement St., San Francisco. instagram.com/lilyonclement
Since launching his Texas-style barbecue pop-up roughly four years ago, Matt Horn has quickly become the talk of barbecue world. Horn’s pop-ups became the stuff of legend in West Oakland, where out of a rundown service station, he would sell brisket and ribs to lines stretching city blocks. Horn’s new project, which will be called Horn Barbecue, will fill the former home of Brown Sugar Kitchen, a pioneering soul food restaurant in West Oakland that closed in 2018. On the new menu, Horn plans to serve the hits from his pop-up, including house-made sausages, lamb shoulder and pulled pork, among other things. But the star is sure to be Horn’s brisket — which he cooks for hours over oak or hickory wood, creating a reddish-pink halo around the edges of each slice, and a notable peppery bite. In line with the menu’s Southern influences, Horn is going to offer beef ribs, oxtails, and on the weekends, he plans to smoke whole hogs. — J.P.