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Four New Restaurants to Try Soon

Gastropubs, Korean, and more.


Scallop crudo at True Laurel.

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The Mai O Mai cocktail at True Laurel.

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True Laurel

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Photo: Courtesy of Foxsister

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Hawking Bird

Photo: Courtesy of Hawking Bird

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True Laurel
Gastropub veterans might roll their eyes upon encountering yet another high-concept version of bar nuts, pork ramen, or a loaded baked potato—no matter how decorated the chef or how shiny the Mission district digs. But even the most jaded elevated-bar-food eater will be forced to admit that chef David Barzelay (who also runs Lazy Bear) makes a damn good patty melt; that his umami-rich take on sour-cream-and-onion dip, served with batter-fried hen of the woods mushrooms, is absurdly addictive; and that it takes superhuman restraint to eat just one of his decadent, lardo-topped broiled oysters. The fact that the food actually plays second fiddle to some of the tastiest, and most dangerously easy-drinking, cocktails in town—try the funky-sweet Top Dawg—means a night at True Laurel can be a good night indeed.
753 Alabama St. (Near 20th St.), 415-341-0020 —Luke Tsai


The name makes it sound like an indie rock band, but the dining room, with its string lights and neon-pink booths, resembles a K-pop set. Fittingly, chef-owner Brandon Kirksey’s food is inspired by Korea, with crisply executed versions of hot pot and barbecue that marry nicely with the boozy mood. Fried oysters (pictured), with spicy Kewpie mayo, emit a gentle flame, while roiling “kimchi hellfire stew” cranks the heat up higher. On the milder side, there are mung bean pancakes, crisp and golden, and Dungeness crab noodles, the sweet meat nesting in translucent vermicelli and bok choy. The presence of a DJ some nights underscores the party-hardy atmosphere, in case the soju slushees weren’t reminder enough.
3161 24th St. (Near Shotwell St.), 415-829-7814 —Josh Sens

Juanita & Maude
A neighborhood not known for destination dining has a new restaurant worth a drive. The cooking comes courtesy of chef and co-owner Scott Eastman, a Corso vet whose multicultural menu (New American is the common nomenclature) might range from smoked-pork-bolstered borscht to blistered flatbread, blanketed with anchovies and broccoli rabe, to crisp-skinned duck breast with braised collards, pigeon peas, and Carolina rice that would be at home in New Orleans. This is the kind of personalized place you root for, with its owner in the kitchen and a staff that seems invested in the operation. Though the crowd is largely blue-rinse, the mood, like the food, is youthful and energetic. With the help of artful cocktails, it stays that way well into the night.
825 San Pablo Ave. (Near Solano Ave.), 510-526-2233 —J.S.

Hawking Bird
Lao-food lovers are still mourning the day that James Syhabout closed the Oakland flagship location of Hawker Fare, which embraced the funk and fire of Lao cuisine in a way perhaps not seen before at a mainstream American restaurant. Hawking Bird, a chicken-centric spot in a different Oakland neighborhood, isn’t quite a Hawker Fare reprise, but it does revive its antecedent’s most popular dish, khao mun gai: poached chicken—and chicken liver, too, if you order it “dirty” style—served over aromatic chicken-broth rice. In typical fast-casual fashion, diners can enjoy their chicken in any number of crowd-pleasing packages—say, nested on top of a salad, or batter-fried and doused in charred-chili jam as part of one of the better fried-chicken sandwiches (pictured) in town.
4901 Telegraph Ave. (At 49th St.), 510-593-2376 —L.T.


Originally published in the March issue of San Francisco 

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