Food, like fashion, has fads that take hold for a period of time: some are new; some have been in vogue before. Looking back at 2018, the Bay Area food scene had an abundance of new restaurant and bar openings featuring curious trends, as well as an overarching theme; escapism. Food provides a few moments of pleasure, a respite from work, and some might say that dining out at a great restaurant is always an escape. But given the distopian, Trumplandian world we live, the idea of an escape was urgently needed, and many prominent local food happenings and openings played the idea up. From ‘new school Italian’ to a retro invasion, here are a few trends that caught our eye.

Tons of Tiki

Speaking of escape, what better destination than a tropical island? This year, the Bay Area saw an explosion of tiki bars and exotic restaurants. We witnessed the openings of Kon Tiki in Oakland, Last Rites off Market Street, Hawaiian eatery Outer Orbit in the Mission and towards the end of the year – the very fun Bon Voyage and Trailblazer Tavern, where Michael Mina did the impossible and turned a Salesforce building foyer into a lush hut with delicious bites and strong drinks to match.

New School Italian Restaurants

Only Prairie, which opened towards the end of the year and instantly became a favorite, calls itself that, but plenty of other new establishments this year fell into the category. The It-place of the year, Che Fico, serves chicken hearts and salmon crudo, elegant Sorrel has caviar on its polenta and back at Prairie, you can find mochi and rice cake pasta. Is it still comfort food? Yes, but less boring.

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The charcuterie plate (seafood) @ Ayala in SF

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Extra-Fancy Seafood

Seafood was never an everyday affair, but 2018 was all about really, really, fancy twists on it. Angler, Joshua Skenes’ (Saison) new establishment, leads the pack with a raw bar, fire roasted fish and a menu that doesn’t list the prices (assuming the Angler customer simply doesn’t care about them). Then, there’s Kaiyo, with its gorgeous ceviches and sushi rolls, and Ayala, which opened last month to offer us ‘seafood charcuterie’ and decadent seafood platters.

Mid-Century Galore

Escapism doesn’t have to involve some far off locale; from the eclectic, mid-century Bardo Lounge & Supper Club in Oakland, to the retro-inspired, fondue-serving Beehive and the swanky cocktail bar True Laurel, 2018 was all about escaping into the past.

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Sneak peek #1

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Oakland – Alternative and Mainstream

2018 belonged to Oakland, thanks to small independent spots that blew up (Nyum Bai), new commercial kitchens that welcomed entrepreneurs (Alice Collective, Forage Kitchen) and big, dazzling projects popping up around Jack London Square (Dyafa, Farm Kitchen’s second location).  No matter what you were looking for, a Bon Appetit-awarded Cambodian place or an excuse to eat all of Reem Assil’s breads, Oakland gave us more reasons to cross the bridge than ever before.