Through their entrepreneurship, culinary creativity, and fortitude, women have made the Bay Area’s food scene the cultural powerhouse it is today. We’re celebrating their incredible talent with a guide to our favorite women-owned restaurants in the Bay Area. From a dumpling spot to a plant-themed bar, these are the 23 women-owned spots in the city you should know about.
At Besharam in the Dogpatch, owner and chef Heena Patel showcases her take on foods she grew up eating in the state of Gujarat in western India. And the dishes, packed with subtle layers of sweet, sour, and spicy flavors, are incredible - from the blue cheese-stuffed paratha to the fiery charred eggplant stew to the drunken pani puri, semolina puffs filled with crushed peas and doused in an herby lemon-tamarind-mint-and gin water. Everything on the mostly-vegetarian menu is meant to be shared and accompanied by a range of chutneys and pickles, or sopped up with hearty opo squash theplas. Long story short, you can’t go wrong with anything here.
What makes the city’s only German pastry shop a must-try is the attention to detail chef and owner Ha Do puts into her beautiful cakes, pies, and other sweets. Case in point: the Berliner. These seasonal jam and custard-filled donuts are fluffy and light thanks to the sunflower seed oil they’re fried in, and topped with a super fine powdered sugar that gets all over the place (in a wonderfully messy way) with every bite. Hahdough has two locations you can order a box of a dozen from - the original takeout window in Hayes Valley, and a larger spot in NoPa.
This cocktail bar in Oakland was set to open last March, but pandemic-related reasons led them to push back the date. And after about a year of just takeout and outdoor dining on their parklet and back patio, they finally got to open their bright, high-ceilinged interior in May. Kick back with excellent cocktails and something from their brief (but still fantastic) menu of things like grilled cheeses, a little gem salad, and a snack plate with sourdough crostini and pickles, and enjoy it all while listening to great music in the warm, inviting space. Don’t leave without a slice of their carrot cake, which is some of the best we’ve had ever - it’s made fresh daily by owner Blake Cole’s mother.
At B. Patisserie in Lower Pacific Heights, you’ll usually see lines stretching down the block, a testament to the incredible pastries that Belinda Leong has been churning out since 2013. The buttery, flaky kouign amann are top tier, and you shouldn’t leave here without at least one. The financiers and chocolate caramel toffee mousse are must-orders, too. You can also find her sweet treats two doors down at Routier, a casual French restaurant co-owned by Leong.
The Castro chocolate shop is run by chocolatier Carol Gancia, and specializes in colorful truffles and gift-ready chocolate box sets. The reason to come here is the tropical-inspired truffle flavors, like mango lemongrass, banana caramel, pineapple coconut, and macadamia praline. Kokak, which means “ribbit” in Tagalog, also operates as a cafe, so definitely drop by for a hot chocolate or mocha. And don’t sleep on the champorado, a thick chocolate breakfast porridge topped with crunchy bubu arare and a splash of condensed milk.
For excellent wood-fired pizza and cocktails, head straight to Damnfine in the Sunset. This spot debuted last year, and has nine different pies on the menu, each made with flavorful, well-balanced combinations of colorful toppings - think purple potatoes, pancetta, and pesto, or pork shoulder with kale and Calabrian chilis, all atop a chewy, bubbly crust. Be sure to add on an order of their sweet hot honey - it’s great drizzled on any of their pies, but especially the pepperoni.
Stepping into this Downtown Berkeley breakfast and lunch spot, you’ll smell the welcoming aroma of fresh pulled espresso and buttery pastries. Beautiful house plants will line the window sills. And you’ll get to choose from a menu of bagels, hashes, omelettes, soups, and sandwiches. If you really want something special, get a tartine, which comes on a gluten-free pao de queijo-like waffle, and has various savory toppings like avocado mash or heirloom tomatoes and balsamic “caviar.”
We love Nari. The well-lit dining room with high ceilings and lush plants will make you feel like you’re eating inside the world’s most stunning botanical atrium. And every dish from the Kin Khao sister restaurant in Japantown perfectly matches the bold, beautiful space. The food layers sour, sweet, and spicy flavors and textures that command your attention, like a plate of sweet pork jowl covered in a sticky sauce, or lettuce cups with a charred mushroom and puffed rice salad that’ll make your tongue tingle. Instead of their usual a la carte menu, Nari is serving a weekly-changing prix fixe dinner for $85 per person.
Cocobreeze is a Trinidadian restaurant in East Oakland that’s run by Annabelle Goodridge and her daughter. And we love them because we feel (and can taste) warm, heart-tugging joy infused in every dish. From the pholourie (fried split pea dough and turmeric) with a side of chunky tamarind dip to the thick chicken roti stuffed with chickpeas and potatoes, eating here always feels a lot like sinking into a hot bubble bath. Our favorite thing to order is the herby, tender jerk chicken, which packs some serious heat.
Minnie Bell's Soul Movement
The former soul food pop-up is a staple in the Emeryville Public Market, and for good reason: Fernay McPherson makes an excellent rosemary fried chicken that’s lightly crispy on the outside and moist on the inside. Don’t be surprised when you end up Googling “Minnie Bell’s Rosemary Fried Chicken recipe” after devouring it - you won’t be the first. Get the four-piece combo (they also have two- and eight-pieces), which comes with dense cornbread and two sides - make sure the life-changing mac and cheese is one of them.
You could spin in circles 15 times, blindfolded, then point a finger at a map of San Francisco and it’d land near a great dumpling spot. And one of the newest ones to join the pack is United Dumplings in Bernal Heights, which owners Sandy Zheng and Julia Olson opened during the pandemic (no easy feat). In addition to traditional dumplings like xiao long bao or pork and Napa cabbage dumplings, they also pull off creative takes on fillings really well, like a potsticker filled with chicken, sweet corn, and mozzarella that’s then hand-folded into a delicate, chewy skin. You can also get noodle dishes and entrees like Mongolian cumin lamb, along with garlicky string beans and sautéed pea shoots that are worth a return trip on their own.
Rich Table is one of the rare places that always surprises us, in the best way, every time we visit. We marvel at the ever-changing mix of creative dishes, like sardine potato chips with a whole sardine slotted through the middle, porcini-dusted donuts with a side of melted cheese, or bread infused with actual Douglas fir. Their menu changes depending on what’s in season, but you’ll also see things like sea urchin cacio e pepe, aged duck with fattoush and sumac, or a creamsicle and mandarin granita for dessert. After your first dish hits the table, you‘ll probably start plotting your return visit.
If you want to make sure to do one thing right today, grab lunch at Bini’s Kitchen. This Nepali restaurant in SoMa makes some of our favorite momos in the city. We love everything about them - from the well-spiced turkey, lamb, or veggie fillings to the delicate flour wrappers to the tasty roasted tomato and cilantro sauce that comes on the side. Get the combo meal if you’re really craving momos, and want to enjoy owner Binita Pradhan’s other great dishes, like the sautéed cauliflower with peas, green onions, and spices. You can also grab Bini’s food at the weekly Ferry Building farmer’s market and at the new La Cocina Marketplace in the Tenderloin.
Co-owned by Gayle Pirie, Foreign Cinema is hands-down one of the most unmissable and unique dining experiences in the city. To get here, walk on a red carpet down a long hallway before emerging into a beautiful courtyard with high white walls, twinkling string lights, and a movie playing in the background. The relaxed patio setting isn’t the only reason Foreign Cinema is a standout. It’s also the perfect spot to hunker down over wine and oysters, or one of the dishes from their changing menu of things like beef carpaccio, smoked salmon, or ceviche. Getting to the sunlit patio for brunch is also never a bad idea. Order the fried chicken or the Persian omelet.
Decades after opening Chez Panisse, Alice Waters is still the “mother of farm-to-table” and California cuisine. Not much has changed since the restaurant opened in 1971 - local, seasonal ingredients are still the name of the game. And despite nixing the daily-changing set menu during the pandemic, Waters has kept things going with the restaurant’s first-ever takeout menu. Their dining room is still closed, but you can order things like wood-fired pizzas, sandwiches, whole roasted chickens, and more to go. And on Sundays, they offer curated organic farm boxes with seasonal produce from local farms.
Chica started as a pop-up and takeout window in the city before eventually landing a full-service restaurant in Oakland several years ago. Here, co-owner Maria Esquivel makes beautiful, fresh “Mexi-Bowls” with proteins, rice, or greens. You choose one base (lettuce, rice, or veggies) and one topping (we love the carnitas or the fried chicken). The bowls are then dressed up with cucumber, pickled red onion and jalapeños, pumpkin seeds, and herbs - basically, everything you need to feel like you’ve stepped into the world’s greatest farmer’s market. Chica also makes tacos, tortas, excellent chilaquiles, and agua frescas. And we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention their iced Dirty Horchata, which comes with a double shot of espresso.
After closing her popular fast-casual restaurant Ba-Bite, Mica Talmor launched Pomella on Oakland’s Piedmont Avenue last year during the pandemic. The quick-serve California-Israeli spot focuses on cold mezzes, wraps, beet salads, soups, and chicken tagines, which are always the perfect brain food or midday fuel up needed to get through any busy afternoon Plus, Pomella makes some of the creamiest hummus ever.
This plant-themed cocktail bar in Nob Hill has a beautiful interior with plenty of lush plants that hang from the ceiling and line the walls. And despite having just opened in March, it’s already got the feel of a neighborhood bar that’s been around for a while, with friendly bartenders, lively music playing, and a “no wifi” mentality - you won’t see people sitting glued to their phones. Another reason we love them is their rotating list of fruity, plant-inspired cocktails, like the “Plantasia” with mezcal, matcha, wheatgrass, pineapple, and lime, or the “A Million Reasons,” a piña colada with acai and champagne.
Getting the momos at this Nepali spot in the Mission is always one foolproof way to raise our serotonin levels - or at the very least, our mood for the next hour. The curry chicken-filled dumplings are served with a spicy tomato and roasted soybean sauce that we’d love to bottle up and keep in our fridge. Another reason we stop by Dancing Yak is for their massive, lightly golden-brown samosas with spiced potatoes and peas, and excellent lamb, chicken, or seafood tandoori plates.
La Guerrera’s Kitchen closed their restaurant in Oakland’s Fruitvale in spring 2020, and reopened in Old Oakland in December. We’re glad they did because what comes out of their kitchen is incredible. La Guerrera’s mother-daughter team makes everything from a delicious chicken pozole verde and slow-cooked beef barbacoa to chile-rubbed pork tacos topped with a tangy-sweet pineapple salsa. But knowing what makes La Guerrera’s so great means experiencing their flavorful and super tender tamales - pork in salsa roja, chicken in mole, and cheese with rajas, which are each a creamy, gooey delight with each bite.
Reem’s California started in Oakland before eventually landing a second location across the Bay Bridge in the Mission in 2020. Which is a good thing, because now there is more than one place to experience this amazing Arab bakery. Owner and activist Reem Assil’s neighborhood spot and community space serves incredible pastries, chicken wraps, oven-baked flatbreads, and hummus in a bright, sun-lit space. If you only get one thing, make it their excellent shakshuka, which they only serve on weekends.
Lion Dance Cafe originated as a pop-up called S+M Vegan, and seven years later, they opened a brick-and-mortar in Downtown Oakland. Their menu features entirely plant-based Singaporean dishes that each strike great balances of spicy, salty, and sweet - like laksa with rice noodles, tofu puffs, and steamed pumpkin, and jackfruit rendang. But you should definitely focus on their rotating shaobing sandwich. The golden-brown, house-made sesame flatbread is filled with things like charsiu seitan or hotpot-braised tofu, and it’s packed with texture and flavor. Several times a month, Lion Dance also donates hot meals, pantry items, and water to a Town Fridge - you can contribute to those efforts when you order.
Viral bagel article or not, Boichik Bagels is one of the best bagels spots in the Bay, and have been since opening in late 2019. But, thanks to the article, lines now wrap around the block for these petite, perfectly springy New York-style bagels. They’re baked with a satisfyingly crunchy crust, and come in flavors like everything, pumpernickel, or a combination of the two called “pumperthingel.” Walk up to order if you possess extreme levels of patience, or pre-order online.