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    Favorite Restaurants For 2023

    By David Landis, The Gay Gourmet–

    It’s become a tradition for The Gay Gourmet to capture some of my favorite restaurants to visit in the New Year. Here are some of my top picks from the past year, with a couple of new suggestions added, that I’d recommend readers try in 2023.

    Fable: this Castro mainstay is a tropical vacation within the heart of the City. Although it’s been there for years, its lush, heated outdoor courtyard has gotten even better with time. Lunch or brunch is fun for the buzz (and the sun) and the California cuisine (think a tasty Cobb salad, and a great veggie burger or satisfying smashburger) is perfectly executed.

    Rooh: elevated and contemporary Indian cuisine in a setting (outdoors or indoors) that is design-forward and sophisticated. Artisanal cocktails start the evening off on a bright note. Some of my dinner favorites include edamame fava kebab with huckleberry jam, sugar pea broth, and pea shoots; and the restaurant’s take on traditional butter chicken. Come with a big appetite, as the portions are splittable. Rooh has locations both in San Francisco and Palo Alto.

    Greens: with young and talented chef Katie Reicher at the helm, Greens is better than ever. At this gourmet vegetarian restaurant, everything’s super fresh – either from the Ferry Market, local purveyors, or their own Green Gulch Farms. The innovative menu offers a variety of upscale vegan, gluten-free and vegetarian choices (plus, homemade pastries) and changes regularly. The knockdown Golden Gate Bridge and Bay view thankfully stays the same.

    AsiaSF: for an evening out on the town, it just doesn’t get any better than AsiaSF. It’s one of the oldest transgender restaurant/bars in the country. Dinner and a show takes on a new twist here, with a tasty 3-course Asian-fusion meal, a surprisingly diverse wine list and crafty cocktails (named after the waitstaff). It’s all served by the transgender “ladies of AsiaSF,” who perform for your pleasure on the runway stage.

    Mitchell’s Ice Cream: a San Francisco ice cream favorite since 1953, these homemade 16% butterfat treats aren’t just your typical vanilla. They’re the first ice cream shop to feature such unique flavors as macapuno, ube, and mango. There’s often a line, so show up early. Or better yet, make new friends as you’re waiting for these luscious desserts.

    Scoma’s: the best seafood on Fisherman’s Wharf (under the guidance of chef Gordon Drysdale), Scoma’s delights in a retro-Frank Sinatra way. In season, the Dungeness crab is among the best, but the homemade clam chowder always shines, as well as whatever fish is fresh that day. That’s partly because Scoma’s has their own fish receiving station right on the bay. Plus, in San Francisco, there’s free valet parking! Scoma’s has an additional location in Sausalito, also on the Bay.

    La Balena, Carmel: one of the best restaurants in Carmel, this Italian indoor-outdoor eatery is neighborhood-y but surprises with authentic homemade pastas alongside seafood and steaks. The wine list presents both wellknown and lesser-known great Italian wines. Owner Emanuele Bartolini hails from Florence, but trained with some of the best chefs in Manhattan at Le Cirque and also with Mario Batali and Alain Ducasse.

    North Block Restaurant, Yountville: North Block is set in a courtyard at a charming hotel straight out of old Europe with a contemporary indoor design (and a lovely outdoor patio). In a town filled with Michelin star restaurants, this under-the-radar choice is one of my new preferred and approachable restaurants in Yountville. The Hamachi starter with Buddha’s head fruit, the Korean-style pork ribs, a divine and juicy “duck a la gray,” and the burnt Mt. Tam cheesecake all are highlights. A varied wine list and full bar complete the offerings at this fine eatery.

    Wilfred’s Lounge, Napa: my loyal readers know I’m a sucker for a great Mai Tai and Wilfred’s serves one of the best. It’s the real McCoy, using Trader Vic’s original 1944 recipe. The setting is a tiki-inspired dreamscape right on the Napa river in downtown Napa. Rum drinks and island-inspired small bites are the star of this show, but the Polynesian décor and the outdoor riverview deck make for a great getaway.

    The Trident, Sausalito: a throwback to the beatnik days of the 50’s and the hippie days of the 60’s, The Trident sits on the dock of the Bay in Sausalito with a view to die for. Fresh seafood, great tacos, straight-from-the-garden salads, and marvelous drinks (they re-invented the Tequila Sunrise here) are mainstays. You might even be lucky enough to witness a celebrity sighting of my San Francisco Bay Times columnist colleague and Trident regular, Jan Wahl.

    Harris’ Restaurant: a beef eater’s dream and San Francisco’s homage to the great steakhouses of the 50’s and 60’s. Superb corn-fed filet mignon, retro cocktails served in a mini-carafe with a personalized tub of ice, great service, and sides that will make you think of those glamorous Continental restaurants of yesteryear.

    Berber: who doesn’t love an affordable Moroccan dinner featuring a cirque-du-soleil style show, starting at $95? When it’s North African-inspired, with all those unique spices to enhance the flavors, all the better. Plus, the restaurant has a beautiful parklet on Broadway and presents semi-regular weekend Bone Jour brunches just for dogs and the humans who love them.

    Ristobar: happily, this elegant Italian offering from Emporio Rulli has re-opened at the corner of Chestnut and Scott St. The re-designed, glamorous interior with the hand painted ceiling is made for bigger parties at hightops, but they also have a private, more intimate, room in the back. The outdoor parklet fronts both Scott and Chestnut streets. Look for authentic Italian offerings such as arancini with wild mushrooms, organic butter lettuce with pine nut-pomegranate and citrus dressing, some of the lightest and crispiest fritto misto in town and an always fresh fish of the day. With hard-to-find Italian wines on offer and a service staff that makes you feel at home, you can’t miss.

    Rosemary & Pine: I’ll be writing soon about this new design district gem from Michelin-starred chef Dustin Falcon. Suffice it to say, put this California cuisine restaurant on your “go-to” list. Gorgeous courtyard, luscious double-cut pork chops, bintje potatoes, inventive pastas and creative cocktails make this a restaurant to watch.

    Montesacro Marina: the Marina outpost of the original Montesacro on Stevenson St. downtown, this authentic Roman mini-chain bills itself as “America’s first pinseria.” They feature the now popular pinsas, an oval version of a regular pizza made with soy, rice, and wheat flour; and they’re topped with everything from mortadella to tomato and sausage. Pastas include one of the best carbonaras (with crispy guanciale) in town. The indoor design is modern and clean and the outdoor parklet on Steiner St. is welcoming to dogs. Don’t miss the homemade Italian breads and pastries, as well as a wine list featuring unusual Italian varieties, plus a full bar. Montesacro also has locations in Walnut Creek and Brooklyn.

    Maybeck’s: the team from Baker & Banker (Lori Baker and Jeff Banker) and chef/owner Aaron Toensing have re-united to re-open this stylish supper club in the Marina. Monkey bread, grilled avocado, and seared local black cod are on the menu. Better yet, the restaurant’s popular Beef Wellington Wednesdays are back once more.

    And one more: I haven’t been yet, but the buzz about Chez Noir in Carmel – from husband and wife chefs Jonny and Monique Black – is certainly piquing much interest. The establishment describes itself as modern, but seafood-centric. It’s on my radar to try this year. Stay tuned.

    There you have it! There’s always a lot to celebrate when it comes to places to dine in the San Francisco Bay Area. I look forward to helping guide you through the New Year.

    Bits and Bites:

    I had the pleasure of being introduced to BLK & Bold, an African-American owned coffee roastery which donates to at-risk youth, including Sunset Youth Services in San Francisco. The packaging is eye-popping and I had my test taster Brianne try their medium roast. Here’s what she had to say: “BLK & Bold medium roast is a delicious bright morning brew. It has notes of honey and butterscotch and a very mellow flavor with none of that lingering coffee aftertaste you can get with darker roasts. Perfect for the ‘I need coffee, but I don’t really like coffee’ and the ‘Mornings aren’t really me’ person.”

    Chef Eric Huang is coming back to Turntable at Lord Stanley this January to feed San Franciscans more of his deliciously addictive chili fried chicken and introduce his salted egg fried chicken. After last February’s residency at Turntable, Huang returned to Brooklyn to successfully open a Pecking House brick and mortar in Brooklyn. He heads back to the Bay Area to arm the to-go window at Turntable through January 28 with more of his mouth-watering chicken, sides, and sandwiches.

    Nonprofit Plant Futures is sponsoring its annual symposium, “Paving Plant-Based Pathways: Empowering the Next Generation of Food System Leaders,” which takes place January 28-29 at UC Berkeley (and will be live streamed). Marion Nestle, professor and award winning author, is the keynote speaker. Other speakers include Priera Panescu, senior scientist at the Good Food Institute; AJ Albrecht, managing director at Mercy for Animals; and Nivi Jaswal,President of The Virsa Foundation Inc. Ticket sales benefit Plant Futures.

    Mitchell’s Ice Cream:
    La Balena:
    North Block Restaurant:
    Wilfred’s Lounge:
    The Trident:
    Harris’ Restaurant:
    Rosemary & Pine:
    Chez Noir:
    BLK & Bold:
    Turntable at Lord Stanley:
    Plant Futures:
    Montesacro Marina:

    David Landis, aka “The Gay Gourmet,” is a foodie, a freelance writer, and a retired PR maven. Follow him on Instagram @GayGourmetSF, or email him at:

    Or visit him online at:

    The Gay Gourmet
    Published on January 12, 2022