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04.04.2005

Top 100 Bay Area Restaurants From The Chronicle

The San Francisco Chronicle, and more specifically, Restaurant Editor Michael Bauer released their list of the top 100 restaurants in the Bay Area. With all such lists, the making of which I utterly dislike as a concept, it must be taken with a grain of salt.

Here are the top 17 restaurants according to Bauer (in reverse alphabetical order by star rating):

4 STARS:
The French Laundry (Yountville)
La Folie
Fleur de Lys
Chez Panisse (Berkeley)

3.5 STARS
Zuni Cafe
Terra (St. Helena)
PlumpJack Cafe
Oliveto (Oakland)
Michael Mina
Jardiniere
Gary Danko
Farmhouse Inn (Forestville)
Farallon
Dry Creek Kitchen (Healdsburg)
Campton Place
Aqua
Acquerello

Interesting list in a number of ways. For starters I wouldn't put Fleur de Lys in that top 4. I've only been there twice, but neither time has been spectacular. Barring some significant new changes in the kitchen, I think it has no right to be in the top four.

It's amazing that the city of San Francisco actually only has two 4 star restaurants and that a full 30% of the top 17 restaurants are not in the city limits. Perhaps our reputation as an international dining destination is being floated by the 3 star and below categories?

Looking at the 3.5 star places it's interesting to see there's a real mix of restaurants in there, from the ultra-executive aspirations of Gary Danko to the casual bistro settings of Zuni Cafe and Plumpjack to the B&B atmosphere of the Farmhouse Inn (which I haven't been to).

Conspicuously absent of course, are any restaurants from south of San Francisco, which I think is a real shame. If we're going to include Berkeley and Forestville, why not go the same number of miles south and include Mountain View, Los Gatos and Santa Cruz? This would allow you to get in a few more fantastic 4 star places like Le Papillon and Manresa, not to mention Chez TJ and a few others that would fall easily into the 3 or 3.5 star category. While I understand the need to limit the scope of inquiry at some point, it seems more arbitrary than logical to not include the Peninsula and South Bay.

I have lots more quibbles as well with various individual placements (Where's Quince? Delfina?) but I'm not going to turn this into a personal referendum on Michael Bauer reviews.

The full list is accessible and (barely) searchable on the Web. Keep in mind that when you sort by star rating, the restaurants with the most stars are at the bottom. How's that for intuitive?

Comments (10)

Jerry Jeff wrote:
04.04.05 at 2:55 PM

Alder - Maybe you didn't notice the sort by name or rating pull down. But Delfina and Manresa are on the list - 3 stars - the same rating as Park Chow which is pretty much Dennys in my book, but I guess out of a 100 ratings, everyone's going to disagree with a bunch of them.

Alder wrote:
04.04.05 at 3:04 PM

Jerry,

I did see the "sort by ratings" pulldown but I'll be damned if it didn't sort them in REVERSE order when I first used it. Seems to be working correctly now, as you point out.

I saw Delfina only got 3 stars, my question was not why it wasn't on the list, but why it wasn't higher. Thanks for pointing out that Manresa WAS on the list, which I didn't see. It's amazing to me that it only got 3 stars, considering, as you said places like LuLu, where I've enjoyed many meals, are sitting on three stars after having the same menu for 8 years. They're clearly not anywhere in the same ballpark.

chuck wrote:
04.04.05 at 6:13 PM

I'm glad to see Farmhouse Inn recognized - it's definitely a 3.5 if not a tad higher. (Alder, i haven't steered you wrong yet - go!)

And I'm *ELATED* to see Gary Danko @ 3 stars... that's all it is and i'm continually dumbfounded as to why it's always ranked higher...

Delfina gets 3 stars b/c you have to make a reservations 5 years in advance just to get a decent seating time :-)

chuck wrote:
04.04.05 at 6:20 PM

and on your "city" comment - i've found lately that i enjoy meals outside of the city most.

manresa, farmhouse inn, a certain sushi place in sunnyvale, iberia, cafe gibraltar, flea street cafe, and i haven't really worked my way up north yet.

everytime i eat in the city (first crush this past weekend), i'm a little disappointed in the food.

Greg wrote:
04.05.05 at 8:22 AM

Curiously, the online listing of Manresa in the Top 100, features a star rating. The print version does not. The star rating for the online version appears to have been picked up from the Bauer review of Manresa that appeared in the Chronicle, September 2002. To the best of my knowledge, Bauer's online star rating for Manresa has not been updated since 2002.

Amy wrote:
04.12.05 at 11:28 AM

My issue is the inclusion of places like Matterhorn, House of Prime Rib, La Taqueria and Vik's Chaat. All good but NOT top restaurants. In the case of La Taqueria and Vik's, those should be included in the Bargain Bites edition. But top means best. I'm sorry places like RNM and Hayes Street Grill didn't make the cut.

Steve-o wrote:
04.12.05 at 1:44 PM

Tell me - is La Taqueria a get-in-line, huge burritos, with classic-rock-music-playing kind of place? In Brooklyn, I live about 30 paces from a place called La Taqueria (which fits that description). I wouldn't normally assume any kind of connection with a same-named restaurant in the Bay Area --- EXCEPT that they give discounts on Wednesdays to anyone who shows a California State ID. Now I'm starting to wonder. Is this a chain, or a two shop deal (with the second shop being somewhat confusingly located in Park Slope, Brooklyn?)

Alder wrote:
04.12.05 at 1:59 PM

Ah, La Taqueria,

Sloppy green salsa juicy burrito goodness. It is definitely one of the places I eat more meals than any other in San Francisco.

Steve-o, I'd be VERY surprised that it was the same place. There are two La Taquerias in San Francisco, but they are dives and look like they are both very family-run and not national.

Amy, yeah, it's hard to imagine that this is on the list but RNM is not. I guess maybe it's a best-in class (i.e. La Taqueria is the best taqueria, but RNM is not the best cal-french outfit) thing? But if we're talking about restaurants that people would, say, actually visit san francisco to eat at, it's hard to justify the trip for La T, but RNM could clearly motivate a trip.

Steve-o wrote:
04.12.05 at 2:58 PM

Hrmm.. I of course am skeptical of any connection, too - "my" La Taqueria is pretty dive-like and family-run, too. BUT: the SFGate description of the interior and seating, the food, the atmosphere... all seems spot on.

By the way, even if they /are/ in fact related businesses, I don't mean to suggest that they're "national" in a "now with 52 locations" way. Just in a "our cousins moved east and decided to open one up" kind of thing.

But there's probably no connection. Just to satisfy myself, though, next time I'm there, I'll ask about the Cali ID discount and get the straight dope.

Kat wrote:
10.17.05 at 9:39 PM

I would like to share my experience at Nectar Wine Lounge, me and friends thought we would just have drinks, but when we see the menu we decided to order their food, and it was SO GOOD THAT WE END UP ORDERING A LOT.
It is so amazing how this young executive chef so creative and yummy.
We would like to recommend this restaurant and we hope we will meet their young chef personally.

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