To keep tabs on every S.F. 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.
Gibson (3 images)
Why to go: A gorgeous art deco bar with decent prices in the Hotel Bijou, Gibson is good looking enough for a date night, casual enough to become a staple. Vying for best bite on the menu is the fresh sourdough bread: Break with your hands. Share. Savor. Repeat. They also boast a tasting menu that’s shorter and more memorable than the usual stuffy, hours-long affairs. Oh, and once you're inside, do look up. There are babes on the ceiling.
What to try: The smoked trout with farmer’s cheese on rye, and the fresh sourdough with their house-cured butter.
foxsister (4 images)
Why to go: Generous portions and pitchers in a colorful, casual Korean spot that’s the perfect backdrop for meeting friends or a memorable first date (between the handmade ricecakes, deejays and “trash glam” interior, conversation starters abound).
What to try: The original fried chicken with seaweed salt, grilled shortrib and soju slushies (mmm ... soju slushies).
Esan Classic (3 images)
Why to go: If you live here and you like Thai food, you know Lers Ros. The owner’s long-awaited Esan Classic is now open, and its menu focuses in on the northern Esan region of Thailand, where the culinary preferences call for more intense, spicier flavors. A couple of excellent bonuses: the kitchen’s open till 2 a.m., and you can get alligator as your protein in the no. 4 stirfry.
What to try: The Pla Rad Prik, a crispy Tilapia, fried whole; the Hoy Jur, a crab roll cake with homemade plum sauce; and the oyster pancake.
Starbird Chicken San Jose
They make chicken sandwiches, so that's what you get: Yes, it’s fast food. Yes, it has a cult following. Yes, it considers itself healthy. We can’t speak to the dietary necessity of a fried chicken sandwich, but can speak to its life-affirming properties. This San Jose outpost is Starbird's third location, with more to come (even closer to us) in the coming months. Please, eat these chicken sandwiches, because while their mission to redefine fast food in America is a noble one, that’s eclipsed by the way the golden-perfect crunch is tempered with soft, chewy, fresh bread. (Or get it in a tortilla, or on greens ... just get it.)
les arceaux (3 images)
Why to go: A provencal-inspired French cafe by day, and a sultry, cozy wine bar once the time card’s been punched. Brought to you by the team behind Two Sisters Bar & Books, Les Arceaux is something of a triple threat: it wants to be your favorite breakfast, happy hour and dinner/wine bar spot.
What to try: The roasted Romanesco salad with hazelnuts, grapes and olives; the charcuterie; the drumsticks with smashed purple potatoes; and the house spritzers.