Festive and low-key restaurant openings have dominated the beginning of 2018 and we’re taking a moment to breathe in between courses and share some favorites we’ve found along the way. For example, have you heard about the long-awaited Italian resto, an authentic Thai spot in an unlikely location, or the high-profile venture by restaurateur Daniel Patterson? Have you been? Here’s your cheat sheet before a new wave of dining hot spots strikes the City.

True Laurel

Opening at the very tail end of December and really taking root in the Mission this year, True Laurel is a cocktail-focused bar from Lazy Bear’s chef/owner David Barzelay and partner/bar director Nicolas Torresis that has a food menu that will give any fine dining establishment a run for its money. The cocktails are great (of course!) but so is the fare; the miso butter baked potato will have you begging for more, the patty melt is made with premium beef, and the crab fondue is the elevated appetizer any drink needs.

753 Alabama St

Che Fico

After lots of social media buzz and a few delays, chef David Nayfeld’s project Che Fico is finally open. Even if you hadn’t tried Nayfeld’s imaginative food at the quirky pop-up Mama Galina, trust the chef’s ambition and reserve a spot right away. Salumi and antipasti are made in-house, the pastas are inspired by Jewish-Italian traditions, and decadent desserts finish the meal in style.

838 Divisadero St. 

Bar Crenn

Chef Dominique Crenn’s latest project, Bar Crenn, is similar to True Laurel, in its approach of combining elevated dishes with a sexy bar atmosphere. The new mecca of French chic is a decadent addition to Crenn’s empire; from the fatty terrines and pates (some feature a photogenic dough crust) to the Euro-Californian marriage of Dungeness crab and avocado, every little bite is spot on.

3131 Fillmore St

fritters.

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Kaya

As summer approaches, the city warms up to exotic flavors and dreams of escaping the fog. Enter Kaya, the Caribbean establishment by Daniel Paterson Restaurant Group, where colorful Jamaican cocktails mingle with hearty dishes like sauteed string beans and spicy piri piri chicken. Offering up an Irie Hour and brunch, the ambitious project has been receiving mixed reviews so far, but a tropical cocktail and jerk chicken are never a bad idea.

1420 Market St

And in the East Bay: Funky Elephant

In Los Angeles, amazing restaurants and unassuming strip malls are almost synonymous. Now the Bay Area has a worthy contender to the formula, in the shape of Funky Elephant, a tiny, soulful dining spot hiding at a parking lot near Berkeley’s Fourth Street shopping. On the small menu, cooked by the former Chef de cuisine of Hawker Fare San Francisco, you’ll find familiar dishes like green beef curry and crispy rice salad, but they’ll taste unlike anything you’ve ever tried.

1313 Ninth Street Suite 120, Berkeley