Roasted chicken at Nido in Oakland

San Francisco Chronicle Restaurant Critic Michael Bauer has just released his highly anticipated list of the Bay Area’s top 100 restaurants. We talk with Bauer about his picks. What Bay Area restaurants are at the top of your list?

Michael Bauer, restaurant critic and executive food and wine editor for The San Francisco Chronicle, and a member of the James Beard Foundation Restaurant Awards Committee

  • Guest

    I think eating out is overrated. I went to one of these “top 100”, highfalutin restaurants in SF recently, and while it had some good ambiance, the actual food was not better than that of the previous restaurant I went to, which was a medium-priced unpretentious place near Real Food supermarket in the Marina.

    • Thank you! The whole foodie thing is so annoying. I would hope that there is more to life than food and dining.

  • ES Trader

    I have been disappointed by “best” lists in various categories for years. Regardless of the “expertise” of the rater, opinions are just that and subjective. Standards may exist, like an Olympic event, for atmosphere, service etc. but I have my own standards that may not be important to another judge and vice versa, just as for movies, books, fashion, athletic teams/players.

    I patronize San Francisco restaurants like “Hayes St Grill and Soto Mare” because of the quality of the food and addressing particular need, others like “Greens, Delfina, Mustard’s Water Bar, Epic Roasthouse, McCormick & Kuleto’s serve a different need.

    I go to certain eateries for a particular item, like clam chowder etc.

    Other establishments like “Slanted Door or Michael Minna’s” are just to inconvenient for seating, too over priced, or the food is too exotic for my palate.

    The bottom line is I am more disappointed by recommendations by food critics as well as friends and acquaintances more often than not. For instance, the last time I was in Monterey in January, I asked an employee at Monterey Bay Aquaraium, a local, for a recommendation. He highly recommended a place near Seaside, away from the tourist places, and I thought it was awful !


    • erictremont

      The next time you go to Monterey, I recommend Cafe Fina, an excellent, unpretentious seafood restaurant. Despite its location in the touristy Fisherman’s Wharf, it is a gem.

      • ES Trader

        I will put it into my contacts, thx for the tip

  • William – SF

    Mason Pacific @ Mason and Pacific.
    Food is memorable, staff are wonderful.

  • dorothy

    The noise symbols mean a lot to me. I definitely don’t choose to go anywhere with 3-4 bells. I like to have a conversation with my friends and don’t enjoy coming home feeling hoarse and ears ringing from noisy restaurants. Limone is an example of that. In fact, many of these restaurants in the Mission with high, concrete walls are extremely noisy. Sometimes you’re out with a group so one can’t really choose based on bells (food is the reason, after all).

  • First off I’d like to thank Mr. Bauer for his years of sophisticated reviews and his editorial leadership of the best newspaper Food section in the country–the NY Times included. I do have a question regarding his Top 100 list. In past years, he would list “emeritus” restaurants whose continued presence on every year’s Top 100 list qualified them for a kind of permanent status, and allowed him to remove them from each year’s list in order to make room for newer contenders. Specifically, I’m wondering about Betelnut; does it still qualify as a Top 100 emeritus? It’s one of my all-time favorite restaurants, and has been since it opened well over 10 years ago.

  • dorothy

    Gary Danko used to be my favorite for a special occasion restaurant but now it’s way too crowded because they choose to have too many tables too close together. So unnecessary! So maybe that’s a criteria to consider is space allocation. I don’t want my butt in someone’s salad because I need to get up and leave the table!

  • Dan

    I enjoy fine dining but neither myself and my partner enjoy eating foods such as scallops, bone marrow, offal and so on. So many of these top restaurant lists only ever seem relevant to those with the most evolved/adventurous palate.

  • Jill Sazama

    Is a Atelier Crenn on your list and if not why not? It would be the only Michelin two star restaurant in the city of San Francisco that is not on your list.

  • RodB

    Marin County often seems to be off the map for the Chronicle. Odalisque Café & Grille in San Rafael has wonderful Mediterranean food in a 130 year-old former opera house, a chef’s table in the kitchen, live music in the cellar, cobble-stone patio, and a wine cellar for private dining. Love the tagines and mesquite grilled meats and seafood.

  • Everybodhi

    My daughter took me to Dosa on Fillmore for my birthday recently, my new favorite.

  • Amy

    What about The Plumed Horse in Saratoga? I always have a great meal there and the service is impeccable!

    • AdamWho

      Apparently nothing south of SF is worthy of note even though most of the people and restaurants are south of SF….

  • Screaming Lou

    Has your guest tried Maurizio’s in Morgan Hill. Although a small restaurant, the location and friendly staff make it quite cozy, and their egg plant parmesan is to die for.

  • dorothy

    Michael: You mentioned earlier that you can get a good steak at many restaurants and don’t need to go to a place that specializes in that. I will say that I took my husband to Harris’ and it was a huge disappoint from every aspect (our first and last visit). He enjoys a good steak so what would you recommend?

  • Another Mike

    I would let “delicious” override “authentic” every time. First, cannot a chef from, say, India, or China, create new dishes outside his home country? Do national cuisines actually have closed canons, where no new dishes are allowed to be added? I think the answer to the first is no, and the second is yes.

  • Sari

    Can you talk about the restaurant explosion in Oakkland right now? Is Oakland developing it’s own style of cuisine? Can you recommend some new Oakland restaurants to try? I live in Oakland and I am having trouble keeping up with all the new places!

  • PeterL

    You compared SF with NYC or LA. How about comparing with places with real food culture, like Tokyo, Paris, Vancouver? (Compared to SF, Tokyo is a bargain (at least if you speak Japanese) … great food, better service, and no tipping)

  • Daroom

    What Pop Ups is Michael excited about?

  • Guest

    Fuse Box in West Oakland is amazing! Food is affordable, creative, and exceptionally balanced.

  • Stan

    Yank Sing over Koi Palace? Most Chinese would say otherwise. Baume should be on the list.

  • Mel

    Have to second the kudos on seafood at Hayes Street Grill – which is NOT owned by Alice Waters – , and couple the great food and service with performances. Any new wine country destinations? We love a getaway.

  • Amanda

    Thank you for the great list. Can you tell me why, in your opinion, there aren’t more great restaurants in the south bay? I live in Palo Alto and just don’t get it – everything is so mediocre.

  • Ann Marie

    My husband and I will be celebrating our 13th wedding anniversary at the end of the month. We’re adventurous but don’t want to break the bank. Any recommendations?

    • lalameda

      Consider if you’re up to going as far as Healdsburg. But, it might be too hot to dine alfresco under the twinkling lights.

    • ES Trader

      Sociale on Calif, its small, intimate, and romantic w/ a menu that is challenging & Caprice in Tiburon, its away from the tourist area, on the water, menu is standard steaks & seafood but as dusk nears, the lights from The City, the Bay, and the intimate dining area is something appropriate for an anniversary

  • Amanda

    thanks for the great list. what, in your opinion, is the reason for the dearth of great restaurants in the south bay? I live in Palo Alto and can’t understand the mediocrity down here. Evvia is an all time favorite, however. thanks again.

    • Another Mike

      Have you been to Manresa?

  • Yecatstevir

    Yume-Ya on El Camino Real in Sunnyvale deserves recognition as being one of the best Japanese sushi restaurants in the Bay. Living in various locations in the Bay, this restuarant has the best omakase hands down. You will find the majority of the best food served is located the south bay. Amazing authentic flavor for a reasonable price.

  • victoria s.

    Burmese food? Where is the best authentic Burmese food to eat in the Bay Area? I am willing to travel…

    • dorothy

      Someplace other than Burma Superstar?

    • Another Mike

      We like Mandalay, on California a block or two away from Burma Superstar.

  • Ralph

    I used to enjoy dinning at hotels perhaps like the dining room in the ritz the W hotel also the four seasons what can you tell us about the future of dining in hotels and it’s changes?

  • David Bourke

    I still am a major fan of Delfina Pizzeria, but I definitely think the best pizza in the Bay Area is Woodfire Woodie in Scotts Valley. I could eat the dough with every meal 🙂

    • ES Trader

      If you enjoy either Delfina, try Gialina in Glen Park as a change of pace

  • kathy

    Liked a lot of the restaurants on the list, but have to disagree with the selection of “Greens” for inclusion in the top 100. “Millenium” is also a vegetarian/vegan restaurant in Union Square that has a much more creative menu with flavor combinations that compliment and taunt the pallet. Servings are generous and include much more than just the entree. Wine pairings complement the entire meal. Only complaint is that they’re not open for lunch…

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