In Ten Restaurants That Changed America, Paul Freedman describes how the Grill Room at the Four Seasons in New York City helped to create the “power lunch,” changing the way business people eat in cities. Now, at the Four Seasons’ newest outpost in Downtown San Francisco, a new Tuscan and Calabrian restaurant called Orafo is changing the game once again.
Honoring the neighborhood’s Gold Rush origins with an Italian name meaning “goldsmith,” chef Gunnar Planter—previously of James Beard Award-winning French restaurant Mille Fleurs in Rancho Santa Fe and Costa Kitchen & Bar in Santa Barbara, has designed large format porchetta and branzino, but his pasta menu truly shines, with squid ink linguine and wild mushroom pappardelle. Orafo is an all-day eatery, so keep it in mind if you’re looking to close a big deal, or if you’re just looking for a great breakfast or dinner.
1. Zocalo Coffee & Kitchen
📍 265 Ninth Ave., Oakland
Building on the success of its San Leandro cafe, women-owned and ethically sourced Zocalo Coffee just debuted a roomy new spot in Brooklyn Basin along the Oakland waterfront and Bay Trail. The baristas are quick to recommend the mocha—for good reason—which goes well with their selection of breakfast sandwiches on a croissant or biscuit.
2. Sing Siu Zai Min
📍 321A West Portal Ave., SF
Previously a retro diner called the Manor Coffee Shop, there’s a new hidden gem in West Portal that’s serving up traditional Cantonese dishes and Japanese-influenced favorites. The mantou fried buns come with condensed milk for dipping and the tonkotsu ramen broth is rich and nourishing. Sadly, they’ve cleared out the diner’s old booth and counter, but now it’s spacious enough to accommodate families and other large groups.
3. Hungry Cafe
📍 1550 Evans Ave., SF
A simple solution to a complex problem, Hungry Cafe opened in Bayview-Hunters Point’s Southeast Community Center this past month as a way to evolve past the neighborhood’s reputation as a food desert. The casual eatery serves Middle Eastern and North African comfort foods, like bamia, or stewed okra, chickpea confit and falafel—all with lavash flatbread.
4. Uchiwa Ramen
📍 5614 Bay St. Suite 233, Emeryville
The very first ramen shop in Marin just expanded to the East Bay, sliding into a prime spot within the Bay Street shopping corridor. Though ramen was largely popularized by Japanese chefs—and disseminated in instant cups in dorm rooms across America—the soup finds its origins in Chinese pulled noodles, a tradition that the first-generation Chinese American owners carry on at Uchiwa. Along with tonkotsu and miso broths, the ramen shop also offers yakitori, musubi and other izakaya-style standbys.
Sarah Holtz can be reached at [email protected]