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    The Gay Gourmet’s Top 22 for 2022 List

    By David Landis–

    2021 was a zinger, especially for the restaurant community, so let’s hope 2022 is better. To start the year off right, The Gay Gourmet celebrates my own favorite 22 of the Bay Area’s best eateries (many of them right in the Castro!):

    Zuni Café: A San Francisco classic. Order the wood-fired brick oven roasted chicken for two. Sitting outside, you can watch international streetcars passing by.

    Absinthe Brasserie and Bar: Like a slice of Paris, right in Hayes Valley. Still the best French onion soup and chocolate pot de creme around, along with one of the most sparkling parklets.

    The Vault Garden: Elegant, downtown outdoor atmosphere. The drag brunches are a hoot and don’t miss the fab smash burger and tater tots. Crafty cocktails and cool outdoor lounge, too.

    Poesia: If you can’t make it to Calabria, visit the Castro’s Poesia instead and dine outdoors in their faux Italian piazza. The best Bolognese in the city.

    Canela: San Francisco’s winning Spanish tapas, with seasonally-changing gazpachos.

    La Méditerranée: A Mediterranean mainstay in the Castro for more than 40 years; love the varied Middle Eastern plate (and the homemade broccoli soup) for lunch.

    SPQR: A splurge, neighborhood restaurant from chef Matthew Accarrino. Still has one of the most innovative, contemporary takes on Italian cooking with a California flair. Well-deserving of its Michelin star.

    Waterbar: Impeccably fresh seafood and affordable oysters with one of the city’s best waterfront views; outdoor dining at its best.

    Balboa Café: After more than 100 years, this remains the gathering place for San Francisco’s cognoscenti, politicians, artists, techies, and society. And, the best burger in town.

    Palm House: Fun, great brunches, terrific Mai Tais, and super dog-friendly. Buzzy and hip, with food to match.

    Anchor Oyster Bar: Fresh seafood that puts the rest to shame and we’re lucky enough that it’s right in the heart of the Castro. San Francisco’s #1 cioppino (but portions are huge, so bring a friend!).

    Original Joe’s North Beach: The heart of San Francisco’s North Beach, traditional and tasty Italian-American that’s a part of San Francisco history. Happening “see and be seen” bar where you’ll meet city denizens from all walks of life.

    Foreign Cinema: After 20 years, still on the cutting edge with tasty California cuisine and outdoor films to entertain.

    Bistro Don Giovanni: Locals’ favorite in Yountville with superb and authentic Italian cuisine. The most delicious Mandilla (“silk handkerchief” pesto pasta) anywhere and a terrific Italian wine list.

    RH Yountville: The most elegant restaurant in Yountville: chandeliers, hundred-year-old olive trees. California cuisine but you think you’re lunching in Tuscany.

    Scott’s Chowder House, San Francisco: A welcome new addition to Union Square with some of the best crab and chowders in the Bay Area.

    Boulevard: The Cal-French gem of uber chef Nancy Oakes, re-born and renewed but still with quality, elegance, and class.

    Anchovy Bar: A seafood newcomer from the team at State Bird Provisions and The Progress that was named one of America’s top 11 restaurants by Eater.

    Via Veneto: Neighborhood Italian at its best on Fillmore Street. Fresh homemade pastas, varied wine list, and welcoming service.

    Perbacco: Splashy, downtown Italian restaurant where owner Umberto Gibin makes you feel like part of the family. I adore the pappardelle with short rib ragu.

    Cotogna: Special occasion modern Italian in Jackson Square with one of the city’s prettiest parklets (set amidst an urban olive grove). I’m always partial to the agnolotti del plin sugo arrosto.

    Marlena Restaurant: A relative newcomer in Bernal Heights with one of the most interesting (and affordable) prix-fixe menus around. The menu changes seasonally but if it’s on offer, I love the seared black cod.

    Bits and Bites

    A fun Oakland happening: Chef Sergio Emilio Monleón, owner of Berkeley tapas bar La Marcha, just opened an Ibéxico pop-up residency at Oakland’s Mad Oak Bar ‘n’ Yard on January 11. The culinary concept, inspired by Monleón’s dual heritage, fuses traditional Spanish and Mexican-American flavors in delicious and unexpected ways. Ibéxico is Mad Oak’s latest resident pop-up kitchen, its popular year-round program that hosts Bay Area restaurants and concepts.

    This year, the Big Sur Forager’s Festival is a hybrid of “Fungi Fun,” which includes: a January 22 mushroom hike, post-hike brunches, and an online marketplace. It’s a benefit for the Big Sur Health Center.

    On my radar is Jaranita, which opened at the end of January 2021 in the heart of San Francisco’s Marina District and highlights the authentic, traditional flavors of Peru. It reflects the variety of ethnic cultures that have influenced the cuisine and features free-range, pasture-raised chickens and slow-roasted meats cooked over a custom-built charcoal rotisserie grill. It is a new concept from the award-winning La Mar Cebicheria Peruana culinary team.

    I love this idea for Valentine’s Day (or any other holiday): Sweeter Cards, the first-ever greeting card and gourmet chocolate bar all in one. The company has 40+ occasion specific chocolate bar cards, including: Valentine’s Day, birthday, sympathy, women’s empowerment, and more. Plus, it’s fair trade certified, 100% woman-owned, and all of their cards are designed by women as well. As a plus, it’s all made in the USA and the company provides jobs to adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Brava!

    Vico Cavone, run by an alumnus of Poesia, just opened in the Castro in the old Firewood space on 18th Street, featuring aperitif cocktails, pizzas, and pastas.

    I’ve heard good things about catering company King Knish,which claims to be “the only artisan Bay Area food producer dedicated to making this popular Eastern European snack food.” Available for ordering online.

    Zuni Café:
    Absinthe Brasserie and Bar:
    The Vault Garden:
    La Méditerranée:
    Balboa Café:
    Palm House:
    Anchor Oyster Bar:
    Original Joe’s North Beach:
    Foreign Cinema:
    Bistro Don Giovanni:
    RH Yountville:
    Scott’s Chowder House, SF:
    Anchovy Bar:
    Via Veneto:
    Marlena Restaurant:
    King Knish:
    Sweeter Cards:
    Vico Cavone:
    Ibexico at Mad Oak Bar ‘n’ Yard:
    Big Sur Forager’s Festival:

    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:

    Published on January 13, 2022