Welcome back to Good Taste, your weekly peak at food in the Bay Area. In this edition, we’re sticking up for local restaurants!
About 10 seconds after reading a Bon Appétit opinion piece called “San Francisco Restaurant Culture Is in a Bad Place. Don’t Blame the Chefs,” I tweeted the author, restaurant editor Elazar Sontag, “Harsh!”
I never do that, but Sontag’s article made me want to say, “Hey, wait a minute!” I immediately thought of how many really interesting and even downright thought-provoking meals I have had in the Bay Area just in the first quarter of the year, and everything I’m looking forward to seeing open for the first time this year.
Sontag has lived in the Bay Area, and I know he’s not coming down hard on us. His piece was timed as a reaction to the news that our region only received three James Beard Foundation Awards this year. Usually, there are many more nominations.
“I return to the Bay Area several times a year,” he wrote. “And every time I’ve gone to find contenders for our annual Best New Restaurants list, or just to visit family and friends, it’s been impossible to ignore: New restaurants in the Bay Area aren’t driving national dining culture anymore.”
Yeah, we got overlooked this year, but that doesn’t mean we should be written off by New York City even more than we usually are. The biggest mistake made in the JBF nominations this year is that Vincent Medina and Louis Trevino of Cafe Ohlone were named as semifinalists in the Emerging Chef category, but did not ultimately receive a nomination.
I honestly would love to know which new restaurants in New York City, Los Angeles, or anywhere else that I love that’s deemed a hotspot for food have more innovation and meaning than ‘oṭṭoy, Cafe Ohlone’s collaboration with UC Berkeley. The partnership has prompted multi-generational healing between the university and the Ohlone community, the Bay Area’s original citizens, as ancestral remains long held by the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology have begun to be returned.
The JBF Awards are ridiculously dull, anyway. Have you ever tried to watch it? I’m still haunted by the most boring night ever spent in a press room, covering the event for Zagat circa 2010. I picked up a boxed chocolate at the afterparty, and that thing tasted like fish. It wasn’t a good night.
Sontag points to the closure of Tanya Holland’s Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland, but I must admit that I am really excited about the successor in her old space, the new Colombian restaurant Parche. Owner Paul Iglesias told me that Holland has been supportive and helpful as they begin a fresh chapter at 2295 Broadway. Dinner there has been one of my favorites so far this year and, with a high percentage of gluten free dishes, it’s become my new go-to recommendation for the wheat averse. I’ve longed to have local Colombian restaurants that are as delicious and fun as what I’ve experienced during visits to Manhattan and Brooklyn, and I think Parche has finally come to the rescue.
I’m also encouraged by how our best eating boulevards (like Clement Street in San Francisco) are getting even better, have overly enjoyed meals at new Asian spots like Gao Viet Kitchen, Okaeri Japanese Bistro, and HK Lounge Bistro, and am marveling at our new Bay Area-wide rooftop dining scene, which I’m going to report on in next week’s Good Taste.
Though I try my best, there isn’t enough time, money, or stomach room to really keep up with what is happening in the Bay Area restaurant scene. I know Beard himself would be excited to eat here right now.
Keep on eating with your eyes at Tamara’s site California Eating.