Star restaurateur Matt Semmelhack's 8 Bay Area favorites
Matt Semmelhack is known for having great taste. The rising restaurateur is responsible for San Francisco's award-winning AQ, TBD, and the upcoming Bon Marché. Here he gives us the scoop on where to go for the best potstickers, oysters, and hillside make-out sessions in the Bay Area.
Shanghai Dumpling King
Hands down the best dumplings in San Francisco, which is saying a lot! Expect a wait, then curt but speedy service—no time for manners, just get the dumplings into your mouth hole as soon as possible. Along with the namesake Shanghai dumplings, be sure to try the classic potsticker and spicy pork dumplings.
Bernal Heights Park
Many tourists head to Twin Peaks or Coit Tower for great views, but for my money ($0.00) Bernal Heights park has the best vistas of the city, including the Mission, downtown, the Bay, and Golden Gate Bridge in the distance. Parking is pretty easy and a short hike around to the north face of the hill is well worth the effort.
In my wildest dreams, my kitchen and pantry are a smaller version of Shed, a market and cafe run by a community of ranchers and artisan producers in Healdsburg. The place is stocked with items from their larder, olive oil from their trees, and home and garden products that are too beautiful to actually use. Winner of a 2014 James Beard Award for restaurant design, it’s an incredible collection of curated objects and artisan goods like no other in wine country.
Philo and Boonville
Lombard Street's got nothing on the 27 miles of hairpin turns along highway 128 leading to Boonville and Philo. Yes, it’s a solid two and a half hours from downtown S.F., but the drive is beautiful and the pristine Mendocino wine country is an amazing escape from the city. Stay at either the Philo Apple Farm or the Boonville Hotel for the great farm-to-table experience and friendly locals.
Sightglass Coffee's Affogato Bar
Perhaps the best kept secret in SOMA is the upstairs Affogato Bar at Sightglass Coffee. Until recently a lowly espresso bar, the addition of Salt & Straw gourmet ice cream and a very knowledgeable staff adds up to an amazing afternoon pick-me-up. Single origin espresso from Rwanda over Blood Orange Olive Oil ice cream is a must.
Avoid the mobs headed to the official scenic overlook on the east side of the Golden Gate Bridge and instead drive up a steep hill on the west side of the 101 for a spectacular view of the city and the Pacific. Around sunset, it's the closest thing San Francisco has to a "make-out point."
Vik's Chaat House, Berkeley
The casual, cafeteria-like setting may seem a little odd until you see the place begin to fill up with families, students, and nearby workers and the lunch line wrap around the block. The downscale ambiance is forgotten when your name is called on the loudspeaker and a colorful array of elevated Indian street food arrives, each dish more delicious than the last. Go with a group so you can try most of the menu (or at least lie to the cashier when you order everything on the menu for yourself).
The Marshall Store, Marshall
Considering the many miles of spectacular coastline, the Bay Area has surprisingly few waterfront dining options. But, after enjoying a cold beer and BBQ oysters bubbling in chorizo butter, or slurping fresh raw oysters pulled directly from the water in front of you as the boats bob in the sun, the reason may become clear: nothing beats the Marshall Store in in Tomales Bay. I can only assume all other would-be waterfront restaurant owners threw in the towel after realizing that this is the pinnacle of the Northern California experience, and instead pulled up a stool and ordered another dozen oysters.