It’s been a while since restaurants have been fully back up and running, and diners are filling them up day and night, eager to get back to their sorely missed favorites. To help guide on the best of the current dining scene, MICHELIN Inspectors — the anonymous professional eaters that give restaurants their MICHELIN ratings — are back on the road around the globe. These are the San Francisco, Sonoma, and Los Angeles dishes that Inspectors missed most during the pandemic, gloriously back for dine-in bliss.
Though it feels like it’s been around for decades, celebrity chef Tyler Florence’s FiDi favorite is actually a toddler — at least in tavern years. It’s become a standby for business types doing deals or enjoying post-work cocktails. Hearty Americana with seasonal accents defines the menu, and meals here usually begin with piping-hot popovers, and then proceed to buttermilk-brined fried chicken — both of which are the chef’s signature dishes.
Micro-seasonal and thoroughly Californian, Spruce spotlights cooking that’s both simple and undeniably elegant. Rustic and homey starters may include a sweet corn velouté mingled with cornbread crumble, pickled padrón peppers, and a delicate quenelle of basil crème fraîche. Save room for dessert, which could include a square of devil’s food cake coated with a chocolate mirror glaze sits decorated with a serpentine ribbon of milk chocolate mousse, adorned with white chocolate pearls and dots of sour cherry puree.
Healdsburg’s Chalkboard is a laid-back boîte, with a casual vibe and a buzzing bar that offers a refreshing counterpoint to a day of wine tasting. The dining room’s low vaulted ceilings and marble tables might feel a touch austere if not for the rustic wooden chairs, open kitchen, and warm, easygoing service. Sip a little wine as you nosh on sweet, tender maple-glazed pork belly biscuits in the cozy backyard.
In its ten-year run, this buzzy restaurant has spawned a to-go counter, highly popular bakery, and cookbook. Brick floors and creeping vines fashion a picturesque, garden-like setting that’s an idyllic match for the simply prepared Mediterranean menu of pizzas, vegetables, and shared plates. For lunch, order the pastrami salmon sandwich with pickled cucumber, arugula, and romesco aioli on lightly grilled miche.
The delicious cooking at this humble osteria has been drawing crowds for more than two decades — and in a city that rolls out the red carpet for the hottest new thing, that’s no small feat. This simple, authentic charmer is the real deal, right down to the red scarf-bedecked chef in the kitchen as well as those regulars sipping and supping on Italian wines and fresh pasta in the dining room. A crowd favorite is the lasagne verde “nonna Elvira,” made with spinach pasta and beef and veal ragu. It’s named after chef Gino Angelini’s nonna, Elvira, so you know it’s got heart.
Its name is displayed in elegant gold script on the red brick corner building, instantly setting the stage for this self-described “modern chophouse.” The enticing menu highlights varied salad starters and meat-based entrées, as well as a lengthy list of daily specials. This cooking relishes global flavors and creativity, so expect such inspired items as char siu pork chop or lemongrass jidori chicken to be cited alongside more traditional chophouse fare such as broiled steaks or pot roast.
Beneath a striped awning, this corner location is warm and elegant, with sleek leather banquettes, wood cabinetry, and rustic woven chairs adorning the dark blue interior. For dessert, try the rich sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream, toffee sauce, and candied pecans.
Make your way into the bright space at Pizzeria Mozza donning bare wood tables and skylights. Pizzas here are next level, beginning with that unmistakable cornicione — perfect spots of charring that rim the crust and bring the flavor. Toppings are just as fanciful with pecorino, ricotta, and peppercorns making up the cacio e pepe’ pie; or squash blossom with burrata and tomato.
To book these MICHELIN selections and explore all the MICHELIN Guide-rated restaurants, download the MICHELIN Guide iOS app.