SFGuide

The Hit List: New San Francisco Restaurants To Try Right Now

The new spots we checked out—and loved.
Burger on metal tray with toasted bun and a pile of pickled veggies.

photo credit: Joanie McCollom

When new restaurants open, we check them out. This means that we subject our stomachs and social lives to the good, the bad, and more often than not, the perfectly fine. And every once in a while, a new spot makes us feel like experiencing the first ray of sunshine after a month of straight fog. When that happens, we add it here, to the Hit List.

The Hit List is where you’ll find all of the best new restaurants in San Francisco. As long as it opened within the past several months and we’re still talking about it, it’s on this guide. The latest addition might be a buzzy omakase counter, a new taqueria, or a Thai spot with food we can't stop talking about. Or maybe it’s even a restaurant with caviar priced by the bump.

Keep tabs on the Hit List and you will always know just which new restaurants you should be eating at right now.

New to the Hit List (2/22): Zona Rosa Mexican Grill, The Rabbit Hole

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Ricky Rodriguez

Mexican

Castro

$$$$Perfect For:Walk-InsLunchQuick Eats
Earn 3x points with your sapphire card

We weren’t expecting much from a taqueria in the Castro—after all, why not just head over a few blocks to the Mission? But we admit when we’re wrong, and we were definitely wrong about this place. Zona Rosa is a casual taqueria (named after the queer district in CDMX) that stands out for its smoky and slow-cooked meats, plus seriously spicy salsa. The interior is small but colorful, with two calavera murals adorning the walls and loud rancheras blaring on speakers. There are no wrong choices, but ordering tacos is the way to go. There are two different styles, but we prefer the El Jefe that’s topped with just cilantro, onion, salsa, and lime. No matter which version you go for, you’ll have a choice of seven meats, but pick the carne asada en chile de arbol for a spicy red salsa journey.

We just finished a long and hard best burger research journey, and the smashburger at The Rabbit Hole in Mission-Bernal was a serious standout. This casual Taiwanese-inspired restaurant and bar is pumping out a burger that’s loaded up on a shimmering brioche bun with pickled vegetables, juicy patties, and melted sharp cheddar that forms one of those ultra-crispy cheese crusts. Meanwhile, the nam pla honey glaze on the spicy chicken sandwich lit up our taste buds with its tart and vinegary flavor. Both are served with a heaping pile of thinly cut fries topped with nori and a side of gochujang ketchup that’s so great we had to beg for a second serving. Down it all with a tamarind margarita as you sit under decorative lantern lights that give this slightly industrial spot a moody vibe.

photo credit: Z&Y Peking Duck

RESERVE A TABLE

POWERED BY

OpenTable logo

You’ve heard of Z&Y, the institution offering mouth-numbing Sichuan dishes in Chinatown. But their more modern-looking offshoot just across the street, dubbed Z&Y Peking Duck, is a Jackson Street newcomer worth rounding up a group and clearing your calendar for. The titular whole duck (which is $69 and, PSA, must be reserved ahead of time over the phone), is phenomenal. It’s carved to order when you arrive and touches down on your table with all the fixings: housemade hoisin, cucumber, and translucent flour pancakes for wrapping. And the skin, which crunches audibly, is ridiculously light and crackly. The rest of the menu is packed with Chinese dishes that help round out your meal, like plump xiao long bao and dan dan noodles. But you’re mainly here to pack around a table for a big old poultry party. 

photo credit: Carly Hackbarth

RESERVE A TABLE

POWERED BY

Tock logo

The two-hour, $225 tasting menu experience at Kiln is sensory overload, like being front row at a Coachella performance so good you immediately start looking up the act’s next tour date. High tempo punk rock music blasts throughout the Hayes Valley warehouse as the 20 courses hit you in rapid succession. It's all very new-age, industrial-chic fine dining, and we love it because the seasonally changing menu is both surprising and firing on all cylinders. There are creatively constructed dishes like the puffed beef tendon crisp that looks like a cross between a chicharrón and a strand of DNA. Then, you'll get incredibly rich dishes like the broth of smoked trotters with koji oil that you’ll slurp down like a cup of warm jello. You never know what you’re going to get at Kiln, but you will leave knowing that you’ll want to do it all over again.

We were big fans of Marlena, the tasting menu spot that closed earlier this year—so when its former chefs opened 7 Adams, our hypothetical tails started wagging. The Fillmore restaurant feels like Marlena 2.0. There’s a similar five-course menu ($87, which feels like robbery), and it showcases seasonal, frequently changing dishes that are beautiful and mind-bendingly fantastic. The pasta course, perhaps a squash-filled caramelle paired with chanterelles bursting with savory, juicy flavor, will make any other pasta you eat taste sad. Other dishes, from the puffy milk bread starter to the buttery black cod and housemade orange and bay leaf ice cream, are executed to perfection. The dimly lit space, full of teal tones and shiny mushroom lamps, is a romantic setting for any date night when you want fancy without the credit card debt.

photo credit: Bread & Butter

$$$$Perfect For:Special Occasions
RESERVE A TABLE

POWERED BY

Tock logo

Aphotic is a moody fine dining restaurant in SoMa that makes seafood the main character. The ten-course, $165 tasting menu is a parade of entirely pescetarian dishes like milk bread with decadent crab hollandaise, uni-topped risotto with prawn foam, and bite-sized trout onigiri, all of which should make you forget that meat exists. Cocktails, house-distilled spirits, and approximately a few thousand bottles of wine are on deck as well, perfect for sipping while you admire the towering floral arrangements and wood-fired hearth that dramatically lights the whole space. Consider this your new special occasion spot even if you’re not someone who goes feral over fish.

We’re not a city known for hot dogs (our precious street vendors aside), but Hayz Dog is trying to change that. They’re putting out creative new spins on classic dogs, and they always leave us wanting one, or three, more. While you can find a Chicago-esque hot dog, this small Hayes Valley spot and takeout window doesn’t stick to any kind of convention when it comes to the seven other hot dogs on the menu. The Hayz, which is covered in kimchi relish, kewpie, and spicy ketchup (yes, that’s a thing) is funky in all the right ways, and our new favorite, The Bahn Mi, is a crunchy revelation full of crispy daikon and carrot that rivals the city's best bánh mì. The only way this place could be even better is if they were open past 11pm (11:30pm on Saturday)—you know, for the perfect post-party pick-me-up.

photo credit: Carly Hackbarth

Anyone who gets the celebratory zoomies just thinking about shellfish should get ready to spend a lot of time at Little Shucker. The seafood spot in Pacific Heights (by the team behind The Snug down the street) has an airy and open space, perfect for chilling with a seafood tower and sparkling wine for hours. Get the creamy lobster roll on your table—it’s a butter-soaked dream—along with the halibut crudo and baked oysters drenched in garlic beurre blanc. This place works well for long dates with a lobster-loving East Coast transplant, and any time you have a hankering to throw back a dozen cold, briny stunners at the bar. 

El Mil Amores is a casual Mexican spot in the Mission focusing mainly on Mexico City-style breakfast and lunch plates. Forget about overcooked eggs, this spot is hit after hit. The Yulis breakfast sandwich? Think of it as the ultimate morning starter, with scrambled eggs, tender arrachera, and a hint of avocado, all within a cloud-like telera roll. And if that doesn't get you going, the CDMX plate will. It's an amazing mix of tangy salsa verde-drenched chilaquiles, soft scrambled eggs, and dreamy concha french toast. The portions are massive (more of a feast like a Las Vegas buffet). You’ve been warned: after, you’ll daydream about lounging at Dolores Park for days on end. Cancel your plans, grab your brunching friends, and dive into this decadent experience.

This counter-service spot in Bayview will make you feel like you're in your grandmother's kitchen, eating the most comforting meal—their slow-cooked chicken and sausage, smoked turkey, and vegan gumbos have a lot to do with it. They’re incredibly rich, buttery, and creamy at once. The explosion of flavors will have your eyes popping out of your head like a cartoon. There’s also a selection of po'boys that rotate constantly, but if you can get the shrimp you should—it’s a standout with a thick and creamy sauce that’ll have you licking your fingers. The food here is so good that it often runs out, so get in early, especially if you want seconds (you’re gonna want seconds). 

Funky Elephant in the Mission is a celebration of Thai food. Every dish is like a hot new reggaeton song, a high-octane dance of sweet, spice, and acid that makes you want to break out into a two-step. Take the pad thai old skool, it's a rich blend of gulf white shrimp, tofu, and bright tamarind, or the fresh papaya salad, a crispy mix of snake beans and Thai chilies that'll get you sweating (and maybe even happy-crying). And since this is a party, there’s pink lights, bumping music, and even a disco ball—so grab a glass of natural wine and get the night started.

photo credit: Carly Hackbarth

$$$$Perfect For:Big Groups

This Thai barbecue place is the Richmond’s new Fun Group Dinner spot. So get pumped to eat enough meat to fill a school bus with more people than a basketball lineup. The perpetually hazy dining room is a hodge podge of groups flipping sizzling pork belly, pork shoulder, and rib-eye over a sloped charcoal grill. Like a waterfall, meaty juices drip into the moat of soup to add salty, umami flavor (it gets more concentrated as the broth boils down throughout the night). Slurp it back alongside a Singha or two as you watch music videos play overhead—and try not to set off the smoke alarm (which does happen on occasion). Muukata6395 does pretty good hot pot, too, and Thai staples like rice plates and a saucy papaya salad. But you’re here for the barbecue—and to play table Tetris with gigantic platters of ready-to-grill meat and seafood. 

Chase Sapphire Card Ad

Suggested Reading

Several dishes at Farmhouse Kitchen Berkeley.

San Francisco's New Restaurant Openings

The new SF restaurant openings you should know about.

The Hit List: New East Bay Restaurants To Try Right Now image

We checked out these new restaurants in Oakland, Berkeley, and beyond—and loved them.

The Most Fun Dinner Spots In San Francisco image

A night out at one of these places feels overwhelmingly of the moment.

35 Great SF Restaurants That Are Actually Open On Mondays image

These restaurants make Mondays suck less.

Infatuation Logo

Company

2024 © The Infatuation Inc. All Rights Reserved.

FIND PLACES ON OUR APP

Get it on Google PlayDownload on the App Store