San Francisco’s 10 most exciting restaurant debuts of 2023

La Connessa in Potrero Hill serves modern riffs on trattoria staples including local rock cod in broth with Castelvetrano olives. | Credit: La Connessa
Local rock cod in broth with Castelvetrano olives at La Connessa in San Francisco

Doom loop be damned—San Francisco’s new restaurants tell a much happier story. The city’s most promising debuts include a nationally acclaimed Thai spot in Laurel Hill and a Potrero Hill trattoria that’s making the TikTok rounds for its exceptional lemon spaghetti.

Get ’em while they’re hot: Here are San Francisco’s 10 most exciting restaurant openings of 2023.

Dalida (Presidio)

Butter-roasted lamb dumplings, garlic-yogurt, and tomato sauce at Dalida in San Francisco
Star chefs Laura and Sayat Ozyilmaz throw down Eastern Mediterranean feasts at Dalida. | Credit: Isabel Baer

Locals were crushed when star chefs Laura and Sayat Ozyilmaz decamped to wine country for a couple of years during the pandemic. Which explains all the hype surrounding the power couple’s return to San Francisco: Dalida,a stunning, mural-clad Presidio National Park spot they unveiled in June. Here, they throw down Eastern Mediterranean feasts with puffy pitas, Aegean-style dips, and seafood platters piled high with oysters, taramasalata, bottarga, and more. Absolutely no one was surprised when Dalida earned a rave review from the San Francisco Chronicle, underscoring its status as an east-meets-west force.

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Blue Whale Restaurant & Lounge (Cow Hollow)

Malaysian rojak with spicy peanut dressing in a blue dish at Blue Whale Restaurant & Lounge in San Francisco
The menu at Blue Whale features Southeast Asian snacks by acclaimed chef Ho Chee Boon. | Credit: Blue Whale Restaurant & Lounge

After cementing his status as a top SF chef at Empress by Boon, chef Ho Chee Boon expanded his empire in September with this luxe pan-Asian lounge with a sought-after backyard. While Boon has proven he’s a pro at Cantonese classics like knockout crab meat dumplings, here he’s giving Southeast Asian dishes like rojak salad and Malaysian noodles their overdue main-character moments. Blue Whale was destined for big things—it comes from the man who led the kitchen at Hakkasan, after all.

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Prik Hom (Laurel Heights) 

This Thai spot opened quietly in February, but blew up when The New York Times named it one of the best restaurants in the country. Don’t be fooled by its unassuming storefront exterior: Prik Hom serves extra-creative dishes that don’t hold back on funk and spice, like fiery beef-wrap curry and scallops spiked with chile jam. Chef Jim Suwanpanya trained at a couple of MICHELIN-starred restaurants in Bangkok, and his sister Tanya Suwanpanya runs the bustling dining room with grace. Reservations go fast, so plan well in advance for a meal at this Geary Boulevard gem.

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Corzetti (Union Square)

Corzetti pasta with taleggio crema, pancetta, hen of the woods mushrooms, brown butter, and sage flanked by two other pasta dishes at Corzetti in San Francisco
Ligurian dishes dominate the menu at Corzetti in Hotel G. | Credit: Corzetti

San Francisco saw a streak of new Italian openings this year, but Corzetti, which debuted at the Hotel G in July, is one to watch. Owner Adriano Paganini’s impressive portfolio includes other coastal Italian hotspots like Beretta, Delarosa, and The Tailor’s Son, and he brings his magical Mediterranean touch to this Ligurian restaurant. Expect spectacular seafood like whole branzino swimming in olives and fennel, shellfish cioppino, plus Lambrusco spritzes—and an easy-breezy nautical vibe to match, complete with striped banquettes and porthole-like windows. The result is a chic yacht party in Union Square.

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La Connessa (Potrero Hill)

Cracker-thin focaccia with stracchino cheese and rosemary at La Connessa in San Francisco
La Connessa’s blistered pizzas and fresh pastas have earned all sorts of social media cred since the restaurant opened in September. | Credit: La Connessa

Yes, this is another new trattoria, but it’s from the hit-making Bacchus group that’s best known for the award-winning Californian spot Spruce. The team’s been in serious expansion mode in Potrero Hill, where they opened a burger spot and doughnut shop, each getting more buzz than the last. La Connessa kicked off in September, and it’s a go-to dinner destination sprawled out in a splashy 86-seat space with moody blue tiles and golden lights. Its blistered pizzas and fresh pastas—especially the lemon spaghetti—have earned all sorts of social media cred, even making the rounds on TikTok.

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Bistro Ember (Noe Valley)

Noe Valley got a bold Mediterranean restaurant from a globe-trotting Turkish chef in June. Deniz Sezer’s glowing resume includes MICHELIN-starred kitchens in Spain, luxury hotels, and private yachts that have sailed the world. For his very first restaurant, he chose a quaint Victorian with bay windows on Church Street. Area residents can’t get enough of its artfully plated scallops, 12-hour lamb shank, and massive Turkish breakfast spread. Grab a reservation before the rest of the city gets in on this neighborhood legend in the making.

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alaMar Dominican Kitchen (Oakland)

Pollo guisado wings with sour orange, roasted tomato, and achiote at alaMar in Oakland
When chef Nelson German reinvented alaMar’s menu in June, he added Dominican dishes like pollo guisado chicken wings. | Credit: Eric Wolfinger

alaMar had a rep for being one of the Bay Area’s best crab-boil parties, but the restaurant recently went all in on its Dominican roots. Top Chef alum Nelson German reinvented the menu after nine years in June, trading Vietnamese, Cajun, and Mediterranean flavors for the Afro-Caribbean dishes he grew up with in Washington Heights, New York, like grandma-style braised oxtail and chile-glazed sweet plantains. alaMar is the only dedicated Dominican restaurant in the Bay Area, and that’s reason enough to check out German’s thoughtful reboot.

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Good Luck Gato (Oakland) 

After more than a decade in business, chef Kyle Itani wanted to switch up his celebrated Japanese-fusion diner Hopscotch, teaming up with chef Matthew Meyer and bartender Daniel Paez of Low Bar for the result, which opened in September. Good Luck Gato mashes up the owners’ Japanese and Mexican heritages in dishes like okonomiyaki-stuffed potatoes and hamachi tostadas and pours delicious nori-infused mezcal cocktails. The cross-cultural experiment is a hit and a lovable izakaya-cantina hybrid you won’t find anywhere else in the area. 

Popoca (Oakland) 

The Bay Area is home to an excellent pupusa selection, but fine-dining chef Anthony Salguero digs deeper into Salvadoran cooking traditions for his versions. Salguero opened his pupusa paradise in August after refining the concept as a pop-up in a vintage car dealership. He’s a stickler for details, freshly grinding his own masa and griddling corn cakes over wood-fired smoke. His precise approach paid off—even though Popoca’s only been open for a few months, it’s already scooped up praise from Eater and other local outlets for its excellent Salvadoran staples and cocktails like a boozy cafe con leche with sweet cinnamon cream.

Copra (Japantown) 

There aren’t many star chefs serving regional Indian food in San Francisco, but Srijith Gopinathan is an exception. He left MICHELIN-starred Cali-Indian favorite Campton Place in 2022 and opened a much more personal restaurant in February. Copra is all about dishes from his home state of Kerala and neighboring Sri Lanka, including slow-cooked octopus and jackfruit steamed in banana leaves, plus a shareable chutney palette featuring four different kinds made with ingredients like gooseberries and ghost chiles. It’s all served in a jungle palace strung with ropes and vines, and the whole experience has dazzled diners—and MICHELIN inspectors, who added Copra to their California guide this year.

Tried them all? Check out other options here.

Becky Duffett is a food writer living and eating in San Francisco. Follow her on Instagram at @beckyduffett.

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