S.F.'s Top 20 New Restaurants & Bars Of 2012 — So Far!

In the culinary capital that is San Francisco, it's not so much about deciding when to eat out, but where. There's a plethora of insanely yummy options lining the streets of this 7x7 patch. But, will you try out one of the buzzy new kids on the block, which are literally popping up every week? Because wading into this culinary whirlpool sort of makes our heads spin (yours, too?), we've decided to cobble together a cheat sheet on the coolest new restaurant and bar openings of 2012 … so far.
From an insane, people-watching outpost serving Neapolitan pies to a Jewish-style deli already getting national praise, we suggest you plan your grubbing itinerary accordingly. Who knows, you might even find your new, fave spot in the bunch. As if you needed another…
1 of 20
Farina Pizza & Cucina Italiana
As if the corner of 18th and Valencia could get any more buzzy, in August the folks at Farina opened a delectable pizzeria that's definitely giving Delfina a run for its money. After two years in the making, this spot (a prime people-watching perch) has opened its doors, serving up Naples-style pies and pastas in the afternoons and evenings, and an espresso-bar experience in the AM. Bonus: The pizzas are a cool $15 a pop, a far cry from the pricier fare at the mothership restaurant, just a block away.
Farina Pizza & Cucina Italiana, 3560 18th Street (at Valencia Street); 415-565-0360.

Photo: Courtesy of Farina/Aubrie Pick
2 of 20
The Abbot's Cellar
Speaking of awesomeness hovering around that hallmark corner of 18th and Valencia, new rustic-chic spot The Abbot's Cellar is just a few doors down from Farina Pizza, and comes courtesy of the owners of another popular Mission watering hole, The Monk's Kettle. The sprawling space, with gorgeous woodsy interiors, debuted in July and is already a must-hit for folks into stellar food-and-beverage pairings, which include picks from a super-extensive beer list and hearty farm-fresh menu.
The Abbot's Cellar, 742 Valencia Street (between 18th and 19th streets); 415-626-8700.

Photo: Courtesy of Abbott's Cellar/Christian Albertson
3 of 20
Craftsman and Wolves
Rounding out the newbie trifecta on Valencia between 18th and 19th is William Werner's long-awaited baked-goods outpost, Craftsman and Wolves. Located in the same building (with walls in between) as The Abbott's Cellar and soon-to-open Dandelion Chocolate, the modern space is highlighted by exposed beams and brick, and chalkboard-black pastry cases that let the treats do the talking. And boy, do they speak to you. From the famed The Rebel Within breakfast muffin (stuffed with cheese, sausage, and an egg) and the Peach Vanilla Travel Cake to fancy lunchtime sandwiches and a knock-your-socks off hot cocoa (Sightglass serves up the java), belt loosening is probably in your future. Note that this is the first project by Outfit Generic, a design- and grub-savvy collective.
Craftsman and Wolves, 746 Valencia Street (between 18th and 19th streets); 415-913-7713.

Photographed by Anna Alexia Basile
4 of 20
Namu Gaji
Um, did we mention there's a helluva lot going on in the Mission? With all of the hot openings hitting the hood this year, a remarkable thirteen venues out of our top 20 are located here, including Namu Gaji, which occupies the enviable high-traffic corner of 18th and Dolores, catty-corner to the park. The family-run haunt dishes out what it considers "humble" Korean cuisine, with just the right amount of innovation mixed in. Think: A rotating menu featuring rare wild fish straight from Japan, braised local veggies, sake-marinated pork ribs, and noodles. Yum.
Namu Gaji, 499 Dolores Street (at 18th Street); 415-431-6268.

Photo: Courtesy of Namu Gaji
5 of 20
SoMa StrEat Food Park
What’s even more genius than a food truck? A whole park full of them. If you’re a fan of good eats on the cheap (and really, whose isn’t?), you’re in major luck. SoMa StrEat Food Park features a rotating selection of vendors including S.F. fixtures like Curry Up Now, The Chairman, Bacon Bacon, and tons more. In addition to the food, the covered pavilion, free Wi-Fi, music, and picnic tables make this the perfect place to pop a squat when the weather’s nice.
SoMa StrEat Food Park, 428 11th Street (between Bryant and Harrison streets); no phone.

Photographed by Anna Alexia Basile
6 of 20
Rich Table
The brainchild of husband-and-wife chef team Evan and Sarah Rich (Coi, Quince, Michael Mina) and wine director Maz Naba, Rich Table delivers a steady dose of culinary prowess to Hayes Valley. The cozy-cool decor is lived-in pretty, and everything on the constantly updated menu is absolutely stellar. We're talking tomato-braised oxtail, paired with octopus and collard greens, duck lasagne served on a bed of plums and chervil, grilled sugar snap peas coated in honey mustard (who knew?!), and other upgraded comfort-food wonders. The best part: The prices are just right, too.
Rich Table, 199 Gough Street (at Oak Street); 415-355-9085.

Photo: Courtesy of Rich Table/Aubrie Pick
7 of 20
Local's Corner
Meet another ultra-charming neighborhood restaurant from the people behind the 24th Street hotspot Local Mission Eatery. With dishes like oysters on the half shell, Belgian waffles with berries, and slow-poached chicken, Local Corner is the place to be for well-executed, unfussy seafood and brunch favorites. And because it’s a little off the beaten path, those with wheels can snag nearby street parking pretty easily, too.
Local’s Corner, 2500 Bryant Street (at 23rd Street); 415-800-7945.

Photographed by Anna Alexia Basile
8 of 20
Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen
Solid Jewish food is tough (if not impossible) to come by in these parts, but the two dudes behind Wise Sons have quickly fixed that, winning national accolades as one of the best Jewish delis in the U.S. after a mere six months in business. Settled on the bustling 24th Street strip in the Outer Mission, the simple, but expertly designed spot has an extensive menu, featuring classics like challah french toast, chopped liver, and matzo-ball soup, along with originals like the $5 Semite Sandwich (pastrami, swiss, mustard, and a fried egg on griddled rye). For folks on the run, there are baked goods to-go.
Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen, 3150 24th Street (at Shotwell Street); 415-787-DELI.

Photo: Courtesy of Wise Sons
9 of 20
Mission Bowling Club
A bowling alley that serves specialty cocktails, gets consistently rave reviews for its food, and has lots of room to park bikes — yes, this is truly an establishment after any San Franciscan’s own heart. Although Mission Bowling Club does accept walk-ins, there are only six lanes, and they fill up fast, so we’d recommend making a res. Tip: They let you book online at missionbowlingclub.com.
Mission Bowling Club, 3176 17th Street (between South Van Ness Avenue and Shotwell Street); 415-863-2695.

Photographed by Anna Alexia Basile
10 of 20
Central Kitchen and Salumeria
Sure, it may not be 18th and Valencia, but the corner of 20th and Florida is still sprouting some serious restaurant action in its own right. Just a few blocks away from their first baby, Flour + Water, famed chef and owner Thomas McNaughton and his team opened the equally buzzed-about Central Kitchen and Salumeria in May. The former opens at dinner and offers upscale, locally-sourced California fare, the latter is a daytime sandwich shop with fancy (and scrumptious) house-made salumis and prosciuttos, plus a selection of pasta and cheeses — and both share an airy courtyard for those alfresco days.
Central Kitchen and Salumeria, 3000 20th Street (at Florida Street); 415-471-2998 and 415-826-7004.

Photo: Courtesy of Salumeria/Aubrie Pick
11 of 20
State Bird Provisions
This up-and-comer was recently dubbed the “Best New Restaurant in America” by Bon Appetit magazine, and we can totally see why. While State Bird Provisions is clearly a spot that takes good food seriously (it’s amazing), the vibe is super playful with a modern-farmhouse bent. The dishes are served dim-sum style, and the constantly changing menu is peppered with items that sound like they’re fresh from the barn (à la “guinea hen” and “birdseed crunch”). The décor shares the same country-casual feel, complete with funky, outdoorsy bouquets, and a toolshed-style pegboard wall.
State Bird Provisions, 1529 Fillmore Street (between Geary and O’Farrell streets); 415-795-1272.

Photo: Courtesy of State Bird Provisions
12 of 20
Southern Pacific Brewing
Tucked away in an alley across from a storage facility, passerbys might never expect to find the cavernous, lively converted warehouse that is Southern Pacific Brewing. With its lunch and dinner fare (a tried-and-true lineup of burgers, fries, and other bar food), reasonably priced, $4 to $6 locally brewed beer, seemingly endless indoor and outdoor space to hang out in, and a cool split-level interior, we can’t think of much else we’d ever want in a brewery.
Southern Pacific Brewing, 620 Treat Avenue (between 19th and Mistral streets); 415-342-0152.

Photographed by Anna Alexia Basile
13 of 20
Bar Tartine’s Sandwich Shop
Clearly, there can never be too much goodness to come out of Mission gem Bar Tartine. Much to every San Franciscan’s delight, the Tartine Sandwich Shop opened as a lunch counter inside the restaurant in August. It’s open Wednesday through Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and has both sit-down and take-out options. At $6 each or three for $15 (which you’ll probably need to feel full), the sammies don’t come cheap, but they sure are tasty.
Bar Tartine, 561 Valencia Street (between 16th and 17th streets); 415-487-1600.

Photo: Courtesy of Bar Tartine
14 of 20
This sprawling space is the latest offering from the team behind the Mission’s hip Italian joint, Beretta, so you know it's got to be good. Formerly home to Medjool, the massive, two-level locale calls itself a “new kind of Argentinian steakhouse” with a Californian spin. The fare is served family style, with dishes like ceviche, croquetas, and empanadas. And while it offers a hefty number of meat dishes, of course, it’s one of the few steakhouses we’ve seen with plenty of equally tasty veggie options, too.
Lolinda, 2518 Mission Street (between 21st and 22nd streets); 415-550-6970.

Photo: Courtesy of Lolinda/Jennifer Yin
15 of 20
Local Edition
If there’s any trusted team in this city when it comes to creating great bars and lounges, it’s the one behind Bourbon & Branch and Rickhouse. The good news is, in August the crew added Local Edition to its lineup, in the form of a newspaper-themed bar that was once the publishing floor of The Examiner. Although it’s located smack in the middle of FiDi on Market Street, the entrance is small and unassuming but opens up to a super-spacious interior, which creates a hidden, museum-like feel.
Local Edition, 691 Market Street (between Geary and Kearny streets); 415-795-1375.

Photo: Courtesy of Local Edition
16 of 20
St. Vincent
Another newbie Valencia Street spot, St. Vincent sits in the former Heart wine bar space on the corner of 24th Street. The vino-lover's venue boasts the talents of chef Bill Niles and owner/sommelier David Lynch (formerly Quince, Cotogna, and a James Beard Award-winning food journalist), California-centric dishes (quail, sirloin, and sea urchin combined with local produce), an extensive wine and beer list, soaring ceilings, and an all together romantic atmosphere. We suggest combining your booze with the hand-rolled soft pretzel (with mustard and butter) and make a (very) happy hour of it.
St. Vincent, 1270 Valencia Street (at 24th Street); 415-285-1200.

Photographed by Anna Alexia Basile
17 of 20
A Temporary Offering
Although hanging out on the corner of Market and 7th Street (helllooo, Sketchville!) might not sound like a good time, the A Temporary Offering pop-up space in the Renoir Hotel is looking to change all of that. Located on the ground floor of the hotel, the concept includes the Trailhead shop and cafe manned by the folks at Farm:Table (see our pics here), the Rio Grande bar courtesy of The Bon Vivants cocktail gods, and FoodLab, a daily restaurant with a rotating roster of A-list chefs. Check it out for yourself and see if your mind can be changed.
A Temporary Offering at the Renoir Hotel, 45 McAllister Street (at Market Street); no phone.

Photo: Courtesy of Rio Grande/Aubrie Pick
18 of 20
The Corner Store
Serving the relatively under-served corner of Masonic and Geary (across from that sad, closed Mervyns), The Corner Store is hoping to be both a neighborhood joint and a destination. With jars of candy by the hostess stand and a full soda bar as the focal point, there's a definite throwback vibe going on, but with plenty of modern touches. In addition to the artisanal cocktails and fountain drinks, we're loving the classic soda offerings (Shirley Temple in a bottle? Yes, please!). Meanwhile, the upgraded diner fare includes a stellar burger, cornmeal-crusted trout, wedge salads, and an incredible mixed-grains and wild-mushroom dish, doused in shiitake-parmesan broth, for you veggies.
The Corner Store, 5 Masonic Avenue (at Geary Boulevard); 415-359-1800.

Photo: Courtesy of The Corner Store
19 of 20
West Of Pecos
Should you find yourself hungry and thirsty on Valencia, West of Pecos is a bar and grill that opens for dinner and not only serves up Tex-Mex grub (think queso and Texas ribs), but also offers a party-ready vibe and a solid selection of alcoholic beverages. For starters, the drink list includes a hefty collection of tequila, among other spirits like mezcal and rye, plus wine, beer and spicy cocktails with names like “Cortez the Killer” and “The Grandote.” Olé!
West of Pecos, 550 Valencia Street (between 16th and 17th streets); 415-252-7000.

Photo: Courtesy of West of Pecos/Michael David Rose
20 of 20
The name is deceiving at this teeny-tiny bar in the Tenderloin. For those into speakeasy-like environments, look out for the lantern lit up on the outside, which is the only signal that this watering hole, reminiscent of a Victorian library, exists ... and is even open. And, to add to that cloud of mystery, there aren't even menus in here, just a bartender that's willing to whip up whatever your little heart desires. Trust, it'll be a doozy.
Big, 761 Post Street (between Jones and Leavenworth streets); no phone.

Photo: Courtesy of Big/Toshio Photography