To keep tabs on every San Francisco restaurant and bar opening is folly. But to keep tabs on the most worthy? Yeoman’s work, and we’re proud to do it. Thus we present Table Stakes, a monthly rundown of the five (or so) must-know spots that have swung wide their doors in the past thirty (or so). Bon appétit.
Blanchard's Fried Chicken
Why now: The best-pedigreed fried chicken in Napa comes from Master Somm Chris Blanchard, better known as DJ Vitamix of mid-1980s hip-hop fame/former wine director at REDD in Yountville.
Order this: Order everything. This is not an exaggeration: We'll take the $20, 8-piece bucket of fried chicken, the buttermilk biscuits (2 for $5), the mashed potatoes, and the gruyère and cheddar mac + cheese (also $5). OK, we're skipping the cole slaw. But everything else.
Check website for dates and pick-up location
The Castro Fountain
Why now: The last couple months have been huge for lovers of sweet, cold things in S.F., what with the city's first-ever Salt & Straw as well as Hayes Valley's Smitten. This one's a spin-off of a personal Cole Valley favorite, The Ice Cream Bar, and we expect it to achieve the same level of neighborhood success.
Order this: At press time, the shop is in a soft-open phase — so ice cream floats and more complicated sundaes are a couple weeks away. In the meantime, put that fiver toward an organic ice cream sandwich and call it a day.
Why now: The Financial District is slightly more manageable with a plate of pirjoki (you may know them as "pierogies") in your belly. If you're new to Russian, Ukrainian, and Central Asian food, this counter is a terrific place to start.
Order this: The borscht soup, plus as many of the pirjokis as you can stomach. In order, we like the potato, mushroom, pepperoni, beef, and apple. We'll also take some beef pelmeni.
Why now: Café Rouge is dead. Vive Pompette!
Order this: Our faves from local-centric menu courtesy of ex-Chez Panisse chef David Visick: asparagus with baked ricotta, Bolinas black code with clams, and, without doubt, "an entire" Il Niciolo cheese, walnut bread and honey.
El Toque (a.k.a. La Toque)
Why now: Make room on your calendar for this Cinco de Mayo event at the Michelin-starred La Toque, when members of La Toque's kitchen staff present a five-course tasting menu of family favorites — with proceeds benefiting Napa's Puertas Abiertas Community Center
Order this: The five-course meal. Spoiler: It'll include chips, guacamole and family salsas; tostada de mariscos; pambazo with potato, chorizo and queso chihuahua; a selection of tacos; barbacoa in adobo; and chocoflan.