A great drinks list has the power to take a restaurant or bar from pleasant and satisfying to seriously exciting. Whether it’s mezcal you’re seeking or bargain-priced grower Champagne, new-wave California wines or a list deep in Old World classics, we’ve found 50 places that consistently surprise and delight, opening up new worlds of flavor to go along with whatever’s on your plate.
Here is our latest SF50, the Bay Area’s best destinations for both food & drink.
Named for the highway that runs from Naples to Bari, A16 is centered around properly blistered Neapolitan-style pizza and Shelley Lindgren’s eye opening list of southern Italian wines, from aglianico and Etna Rosso to biancolella and zibibbo.
Off Valencia Street in the Mission District, this wine-forward hangout is not quite a restaurant, not exactly a bar. On any given night, it’s filled with a mix of wandering tourists, millennials and industry locals who wish they’d come up with the idea first. A dimly lit backdrop of figurines, unicorn wines and sabered bottles lines the bar. The music is strictly vinyl, an homage to the record store that once occupied the space, and it’s chosen by owner Bodhi Freedom or whomever else is working that night. Such ambiance plays a supporting role to a rotating cast of crisp, chilled rieslings and new-wave California wines that have made this place such a vaunted locale—one that’s known to have closed the book on where to find the best deviled eggs in the city.
One big reason to visit 1760: Every Monday, sommelier Gianpaolo Paterlini knocks 20 percent off the price of all his grower Champagnes. San Francisco’s Polk Gulch isn’t a food mecca, but now a detour to the neighborhood can lead to a fried duck sandwich made more satisfying by Bérêche Réserve or Chartogne-Taillet’s Heurtebise Blanc de Blancs.
This small restaurant in Oakland’s upscale Rockridge neighborhood boasts possibly the Bay Area’s most eclectic wine list. Locals come for the Mediterranean-focused small plates and wine recommendations from the knowledgeable staff; industry folks and some wine-geek regulars end their days at the bar, where Jeff Berlin has held court for over a decade and delights in pouring far-out wines like kalecik karasi from Turkey, moradella from Lombardy or an areni noir from Armenia.
If you’re looking for mezcal, stop by this Mission District bar. Ryan Fitzgerald, one of ABV’s founding partners, is the brand ambassador for Del Maguey, and has gathered an impressive range of the brand’s mezcals, as well as a careful selection of Tequila, rare Scotches and Japanese whiskeys. For a more curated option, head upstairs to Over Proof, a reservations-only bar with a rotating food-and-spirits focus.
From the team at Brass Tacks, Anina opened its doors nearby in March 2017, just in time to take advantage of the weather with what may be the most agreeable outdoor patio of any bar in the city. Both the menu and the light, airy space have a summery feel, with low-alcohol cocktails and spritzes to match, but perhaps the best way to enjoy Anina is to sit outside with a punch bowl and a big group of friends on a sunny afternoon.
Acquerello boasts an epic selection of Barolo and Barbaresco, with the likes of Conterno Monfortino going back to 1945 and Gaja Costa Russi to 1978. Still, don’t overlook Gianpaolo Paterlini’s Champagne list, with wines priced to sell. Chef Suzette Gresham’s elegant, Italian-influenced menu offers plenty of excuses to indulge, but save room for fromaggi: her cheese cart is off the hook.
At Bellota, legs of Cinco Jotas bellota—one of Spain’s most coveted cured hams—hang behind glass in a large industrial space warmed by Moorish design elements; the open kitchen brims with paella pans and clay tureens, the restaurant’s large hearth blazes. Start with tapas from the circulating cart and plates of briny seafood before moving on to thrilling paellas and whole roasted fish and meats. The all Spanish wine list is deep and wide—Galician godello and mencía by the glass, verticals from top Rioja producers and plenty of Sherries.
Delightfully quirky, Angela Valgiusti’s wine bar is about the size of a small living room—at lunch, you might end up elbow to elbow with a wine rep showing their wares. You won’t find the usual suspects here, but rather things like sparkling pineau d’Aunis from the Loire, Béla Fekete’s volcanic whites from Somló in Hungary and six vermouths by the glass to go along with the charcuterie and olives and a soundtrack that veers from Beyoncé to salsa.
If Fellini had filmed a cozy yakitori lair, he might have gone for the same effect as Aster, with its mirrors infinitely repeating the thin train-tracked light bulbs and softly polished wood-grain tables. Chef Brett Cooper, with stints at Coi, Saison and Outerlands under his belt, crafts a nightly prix-fixe menu that transforms local ingredients into exotic experiences. One night, cucumbers came with seaweed, pluots and yogurt; instead of pasta, there was rye spaetzle with chanterelles, corn and okra, or green farro with peas, ramps and nasturtiums. Umami-rich and ever-changing, the menu presents pairing challenges that Sarah Blau turns to feats: Her wine pairings range from bonedry sakes to sweet chenins from Moulin Touchais. Her list is as eclectic as the food, especially strong in Austria and Germany, as well as lesser-known, acid-forward California whites and reds. And most bottles run under $100.
With its focus on European wines, Healdsburg’s Bergamot Alley has become a magnet for local winemakers who like to drink outside the Sonoma box. Grab a stool at the wooden bar and order a glass of Moncuit Champagne with a grilled cheese sandwich. The wine list is loaded with geek favorites like Skerk Vitovska and Philippe Tessier Cheverney—buy a bottle to go or drink it on premises for a $20 corkage fee.
This new Indian restaurant adds to the ways tech has impacted the Bay Area. To get the level of Indian food she wanted, former Google employee Hetal Shah hired Manish Tyagi, a former chef de cuisine at Rasika in DC, who riffs on street foods and royal dishes with local ingredients. Here, gol guppa crispy pastries filled with spiced potatoes—arrive with a flight of brightly fruit-flavored waters, poured in at table to maintain the crispness and burst of flavor with each bite: biryani is made elegant with long, long grains of rice and perfectly balanced seasonings. Austin Ferrari’s tightly curated wine list is in perfect sync with the food, focused on spicy, earthy wines like Stoka teran rosé and Inconnu Sonoma County cab franc. Cocktails like Tulsi Boba and Moneypenny G&T taste even better under the watchful gaze of the Maharaja’s portrait amid lush peacock-blue walls and teal velvet booths.
Sarah Trubnick was studying laser physics before she got into wine; maybe it’s her scientific training that allows her to keep track of
the ever-shifting wine program at The Barrel Room, where the food and wine theme changes quarterly. A recent South American focus hit everything from Uruguayan tannat to traditional old-vine carignan and país wines from southern Chile.
Colleen Fleming and Aubrey Bailey’s downtown Napa wine bar has become a winemaker hangout, thanks to a by-the-glass list that mixes old-school California wines (Ridge Cabernet), wine-geek specialties (Olga Raffault Chinon) and easygoing quaffables (Txakoli rosé). For food, there’s prosciutto and other charcuterie sliced to order, along with a rotating selection of French and California cheeses
In a converted Hayes Valley garage, Mexico City–born chef Gabriela Cámara turns out vividly flavored Mexican food, often seafood-driven—think halibut ceviche with fennel, daikon radish and jalapeños. And Lauren Feldman’s tight wine list is clearly chosen with Cámara’s food in mind. The smokiness of the chipotle-laced trout tostadas sings with Vini della Staffa’s sparkling sangiovese, and Jolie-Laide’s gamay from the Sierra Foothills shimmers with just about anything on the menu.
Any American restaurant that uses words like “farm to table” or “sustainable” has Chez Panisse in its genes. The same goes for “seasonal.” A dish like local quail with fried green tomatoes and creamed corn captures summer on a plate. Jonathan Waters (no relation to chef Alice Waters) selects wines made with the same care given to the food, from by-the-glass house staples like Tempier Bandol Rosé and Green & Red Zin to Rhône legends like Clape Cornas and Vieux Télégraphe.
With its roaring open-fire grill and wood oven, this Italian taverna is more rustic than Quince, its formal sibling next door. The wine list is succinct, all-Italian and all priced below $100, though you can also order from Quince’s 950-bottle cellar. Whatever you do, order some of the toothsome pasta, like raviolo filled with ricotta and a runny egg yolk, or taglierini with spicy Dungeness crab and toasted breadcrumbs.
Less than a year old, The Corner opened with a cellar to compete against Napa Valley’s three-star Michelins. Trevor Sheehan runs the wine list, indulging his obsessions with Burgundy, Champagne, old California and whiskey; Dustin Falcon is in the kitchen, turning out the sort of precise, seasonally driven food you’d expect from a Thomas Keller protégé. Stop in for a drink at the boisterous bar, or move into the more subdued dining room for a full-blown meal; either way, don’t miss the pork pastrami toast. If you can’t linger, however, know that all 1,000 selections on the wine list are available to go.
Chef Christopher Kostow and restaurant director Nathaniel Dorn, of the three Michelin-starred Restaurant at Meadowood, opened Charter Oak in Napa this past May. It coalesces around a massive wood-fired hearth, where Kostow’s menu incorporates but doesn’t binge on smoke and ash. Often, vegetables take star turns, as in the coal-roasted cabbage with clams, and charred avocado with rhubarb and ember oil. Dorn built a Napa Valley–only wine list that’s wide and deep, then turned it over to Douglas Kahn, a W&S Best New Sommelier of 2017. The list does a deft job balancing new-wave stars like Ferdinand Albariño with cellar curios like 1971 Inglenook Charbono. A serious bar program offers 50 scripted cocktails, new and classic, and an all-California beer card. Tables in the expansive, tree-shaded courtyard are reserved for walk-ins.
Gayle Pirie and John Clarke took over Foreign Cinema in 2001, two years after it opened, and on most nights one of them can still be found on premises, making sure everything’s running smoothly. Stop in for a glass of bubbles and some oysters or sit down for one of the city’s best renditions of fried chicken. There’s always a film playing in the central courtyard, and there’s always something good to drink, whether a cocktail at the attached Laszlo bar, or one of many chenins on Shannon Tucker’s Loire-heavy wine list.
This wine bar from Michael Ireland and John Vuong—both former fine-dining sommeliers—is a much-needed addition to SF’s Richmond District, long a wine desert. Ireland’s collection of punk, electronic and hip-hop records creates a playlist that mirrors the adventurous wines, from savory Hervé Villemade Cour-Cheverny to Valdespino’s rich Viejo C.P. Palo Cortado.
For 30 years, Great China has been the Berkeley destination for Peking duck and top-notch northern Chinese cuisine. The secret was always that the cramped restaurant had a solid wine list if you knew whom to ask. After a fire gutted the restaurant in 2012, the family moved to a nearby corner where they built out an airy space brimming with large round tables full of families or Chinese students from the nearby Cal campus sharing platters of crab and steamed buns, duck-bone soup and Chinese greens. The food has continued to evolve, too, with new dishes and more refined Shandong flavors. And the secret list is no longer a secret. James Yu, the second-generation owner, along with Mark Yatabe, rebuilt the now 700-bottle list. In addition to rieslings and California pinot selections, the core of the list is Burgundy, from Mâconnais to Côte d’Or grand cru, often at prices barely above retail. This is the place to bring a group, order a bottle from Coche-Dury, Ramonet or Anne Gros, and ask Yu to create a menu for the wine: It might be the duck, thrice-cooked pork belly, and crab on a bed of noodles, or the restaurant’s signature “double skin” appetizer.
Owner Matt Strauss based the wine list at Heirloom Café on his own collection of properly aged gems, which range from back vintages of Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet to Hanzell pinot noirs from the 1970s and ’80s. The food is simple and unpretentious, served in a setting that looks like the dining room of a Victorian farmhouse, Dixieland jazz playing in the background. Strauss encourages guests to bring in older wine, offering $10 corkage on bottles at least ten years old.
With its Craftsman aesthetic, chalkboard menu and Mason jar–encased light bulbs, Hillside Supper Club is a casual Bernal Heights spot offering elevated takes on farmhouse fare. Austin Ferrari handles the wines, and places coveted crus from Coche-Dury side by side with $40 bottles, like the Broc Cellars sparkling rosé; some of the dishes, meanwhile, stray well beyond the farmhouse conceit, like cuttlefish “noodles” with romesco sauce, agretti and smoked oyster aioli.
Thanks to Massimiliano Conti’s Sardinian food and the hospitality of his wife, Lorella Degan, La Ciccia emanates warmth. Ask for a recommendation rather than trying to navigate the wealth of Sardinian wines yourself—perhaps you’ll end up with a refreshing, stone-fruited semidano with the spicy baby-octopus stew, or spaghetti with bottarga alongside a passito-style moscadeddu from Dettori.
Chef Ravi Kapur, from Hawaii via Boulevard and Prospect, works magic in the open kitchen at Liholiho, turning out umami-rich dishes like tongue, kimchi and pickles in a poppy seed–encrusted bun, or beef carpaccio and crispy fried oysters. They sing with the eclectic wine list, rich in classic aromatic whites from Italy, Germany and Alsace, as well as esoterica like Ravines Riesling from the Finger Lakes, Sandlands Trousseau from Sonoma and Eszterbauer Kadarka from Hungary
Miminashi is wine-nerd heaven: Of the 100 or so bottles Jessica Pinzon DiFede lists, nearly 30 are riesling or Champagne. She finds that they pair particularly well with the food offered by her husband and partner, Curtis DiFede: precise and inventive izakaya dishes honed through ongoing studies in Japan. Pro tip: The shaved cabbage salad with umeboshi dressing, seasonal fried rice and yakitori are musts—as is the soft-serve ice cream available to go from the walk-up window.
Chef Brandon Jew transforms flavors and textures you may have encountered before at a Chinese restaurant into singular dishes, like an ethereal, silken crab custard topped with crabmeat and accented with a few shavings of pickled carrot. Mister Jiu’s wine director, John Herbstritt, heads toward European wines with abundant acid and minimal tannins, a fine counterpoint to the umami-dominant cuisine.
While running the wine program for Melissa Perello at Frances and joining Daniel Patterson as a partner at Coi, SF sommelier and all-around wine geek Paul Einbund began planning his own restaurant, stocking up wines over time. Earlier this year, he opened The Morris, a showcase for his many finds. His obsession with vintage Madeira and aged bottles of Chartreuse is front and center, while the table wines lean toward French classics, especially Chablis, the Côte d’Or, the Loire and the northern Rhône. A bottle of 2010 Dauvissat Chablis provides a clarion counterpoint to seafood-based small plates, and one of his more recent discoveries—the floral, delicate 2014 Babylone St-Joseph from Julien Cécillon—is perfect with chef Gavin Schmidt’s meltingly tender smoked Muscovy duck. But before you get to all of that, you might start with a “Chartreuse smoothie.” Its bracing herb-and-citrus chill makes a great aperitif, and is as whimsical as the wine list is serious.
In 2006, Nopa came onto the scene as a red-hot farm-to-table restaurant that energized an entire neighborhood. Amazingly, it’s still a hard-to-get reservation. Chef Laurence Jossel and crew turn out rustic dishes made with great, often local ingredients—from fried duck wings with peach jam to a simple but legendary dish of wood-baked butter beans—while wine director Dennis Cantwell’s list accommodates a wide swath of flavors and textures, including Calabretta’s Etna Rosato and a smattering of Jura whites.
Like Frances, Melissa Perello’s Castro restaurant Octavia feels comfortable and unassuming, with wooden tables and little in the way of décor. Start with cold squid-ink noodles with bottarga, a salty and primal introduction to the purity of her cooking. Joshua Thomas’s wine list boasts a modest but smart collection of Burgundies, with plenty of options for those who can’t afford Volnay, from Moric blaufränkisch and Montlouis to new discoveries like Skinner mourvedre from California’s Sierra Foothills.
Dominique Crenn rocketed to fame after Michelin awarded Atelier Crenn two stars. Our favorite, however, is Petit Crenn, a small, more casual spot where she pays homage to her mother and her native Brittany. Lunch features tartines and a fines herbes omelette; dinner is a seven-course tasting menu offering snapshots of Brittany: radishes with Breton sea salt, an oyster or a gougère, with fish always the main. Wine director Mikayla Cohen’s white-dominant list emphasizes minerality, whether it’s via Normandy ciders or Burgundies like Dureuil-Janthial Rully
Oysters are the main event at this new SoMa wine bar, alongside chef Jennifer Puccio’s menu of French bistro classics, like deviled eggs and beef tartare. To match, Jennifer Gomez has crafted a Champagne-heavy wine list with other oyster-ready pours, from Yuste Manzanilla and Urionde Txacoli to Lapeyre Jurançon.
John Rittmaster presides at this Walnut Creek restaurant and wine shop, which boasts one of the Bay Area’s largest and best Italian lists. It’s been the local choice for celebrations since 1974; since Rittmaster took over the wine buying in 1994, has turned it into a destination for wine lovers as well. His affection for Piedmont in particular is especially clear in the deep array of nebbiolo, with bottles from greats like Vietti, Voerzio, Gaja, E. Pira and Produttori. Chef Peter Chastain respects the wines, with straight-ahead house-made salumi, pastas and meats; think Sassetti Brunello paired with rabbit cacciatore.
Bradford Taylor opened Ordinaire while working on his PhD in English at Berkeley, studying the concept of taste in early 20th-century European novels. He modeled the store on the Parisian caves á manger, wine shops that also serve food and drink—establishments Taylor frequented back when he was working in a Paris bookshop. Like many of its Parisian counterparts, his small shop on Grand Avenue near Lake Merritt is stocked with natural-leaning wines. But it’s not all French. In fact, California is represented more than anything else, the local wines organized by region rather than variety. In early spring, there were spritely rosés from all over the state, from the Sonoma Coast (Cep) and the Sierra Foothills (Edmunds St. John) to Lake County (Arnot-Roberts). Thirsty and hungry? Settle into one of the two communal wooden tables and order a plate of salami and a glass of Matthiasson aglianico on tap, or just grab a bottle off the shelf and pop it open (there’s a $10 markup on the bottles, with the fee waived for wines over $35). On a recent visit, the soundtrack was Jamaican—Toots and the Maytals’ infectious proto-reggae, perfectly in tune with a sunny afternoon in Oakland.
Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski’s The Progress is the follow-up to State Bird Provisions, their runaway hit right next door. The food is restlessly innovative and international; the wine list, run by Jason Alexander, is filled with mildly geeky, eminently drinkable wines by the glass and bottle, with plenty of thirst-quenching grüner and riesling, including a section of Grösses Gewächs rieslings from Keller, Clemens Busch and Emrich-Schönleber.
At D.C. Looney’s lively natural-wine bar in Oakland’s Uptown neighborhood, you can almost pretend you’re at a natural-wine bar in Paris, with its tiled walls and wooden back bar. The list is French-dominant, to go with the menu (think marrow bones and Comté cheese plates), though you’ll also find plenty of local glou glou from producers like Chad Hinds of Methode Sauvage and Hardy Wallace at Dirty & Rowdy. A small retail room showcases wines available to go.
Some of Sara and Evan Rich’s dishes—like the porcini-dusted donuts and the sardine chips—have already taken on an iconic status in San Francisco, and the wine list, once a mere 40 bottles deep, has grown significantly under current wine director Dominique Henderson. She offers something for everyone, from grand cru Burgundy to delicious $40 table wines like Pieropan Soave and Basque rosé.
There’s been a line out the door since Jen Pelka opened this Hayes Valley Champagne bar in early 2017, backed by an all-female team of investors and managers. The corner space looks like a Parisian wine bar with its wide windows, gold-leaf ceiling and marbled table tops. Grab some popcorn from the machine on the bar while you peruse the by-the-glass list, a dozen choices that may feature Kir-Yianni Akakies sparkling xinomavro from Greece or Champagnes from Gonet-Médeville and Dom Pérignon. Move on to caviar and potato chips for the bottle list: The 100 labels span the globe and include numerous pét-nats, but Champagne is clearly the main event, from grand marques like Veuve Cliquot 1985 La Grande Dame and 2002 Salon to Special Club selections like the 100 percent meunier Moussé Brut.
Behind a veneer of tinted glass on a quiet block in Hayes Valley, Smuggler’s Cove looks like it was decorated by Captain Hook after a few too many Mai Tais. The drink menu features more than 80 cocktails from every corner of Tiki-dom, as well as many house originals. Plus, with more than 550 bottlings, Smuggler’s Cove has the largest selection of rum in the Western Hemisphere.
The latest addition to the Bacchus group of restaurants (which includes Spruce, among others), The Saratoga occupies the bottom two floors of a historic building in the Tenderloin. There’s food (New American) and cocktails (barrel aged), but the real draw is the focus on vintage spirits, unrivaled in the Bay: 1950s Bénédictine and Fernet, Chartreuse selections that span six decades, and even the holy grail for Bourbon drinkers, the A.H. Hirsch 16 Year Old.
A small, clubby, dark-wood-paneled dining room sets off the brightly lit open kitchen and large wall of wines, making clear that they are the focal points of this Pacific Heights modern Italian restaurant. Chef Matthew Accarrino coaxes the most from his deceptively simple ingredients, creating polished dishes particularly pastas—that are delicate yet deep in flavor. Shelley Lindgren’s wine list is an adventure tour of Italy’s regions and multitude of indigenous grapes. There’s as likely to be a freisa as a nebbiolo from Piedmont available by the half or full glass, or a Sicilian “orange” catarratto and a Morro d’Alba from the Marche to order alongside house-made strozzapreti with rich rabbit and greens.
A tasca is Lisbon’s answer to a wine bar. Now Sonoma has one of its own, just off the town square, complete with plenty of Vinho Verde to whet the palate and alvarinho for the bacalhau. There are light Lisbon reds for the chouriço and Douro tourigas for a goat stew. It’s run by Manuel Azevedo, who was born in the Azores, and has spent years promoting Portuguese food at LaSalette, an upscale restaurant across the square.
First, ask for two orders of flatbread. Soft, warm and yeasty-rich, with a crisp wheat-bran crust on the bottom, the loaves will disappear alongside an order of the rich, tangy fava-based ful medames. Ful is a transnational dish, a spread prepared in various ways from Lebanon to Egypt. Tawla’s food is similarly transnational in its reach, drawing inspiration from all over the eastern Mediterranean and welcoming distinctly Californian contributions, like a salad based around fresh Early Girl tomatoes. Tawla is owned by Azhar Hashem, who grew up in Amman, Jordan, studied business at Berkeley’s Haas School and built a successful career in marketing at Google before leaving the tech world to open her restaurant. She brought on former Delfina chef Joseph Magidow to take charge of the kitchen. Wine director Shaundon Castonguay fills the one-page list with affordable wines that subtly elevate Tawla’s Middle Eastern flavors, from Andrea Felici’s rich, mineral Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi to Copain syrah from nearby Mendocino County. You’ll also find a few older vintages of Château Musar, in case your party of four needs something special to drink alongside the leg of lamb with three sauces.
At Torc, husband-and-wife duo Sean and Cynthia O’Toole offer the truffles and blue-chip wines of a fine-dining destination without the pomp and hush. Come for handmade pastas, locally raised heritage meats, and vegetable sides featuring produce grown at neighboring farms or foraged by Sean himself. Then settle in to take advantage of Cynthia’s wine list, deep in library vintages of seminal Napa wines like Dominus, and in Old World wine-trade favorites like Allemand Cornas.
Home base of the Bon Vivants, the cocktail and design firm run by Josh Harris and Scott Baird, Trick Dog is as famous for its menu design and conceptual hijinks as for the cocktails themselves. The current menu, a Dr. Seuss–inspired book, features drawings and poetry from Bay Area locals. Don’t forget the Trick Dog, a cheeseburger shaped to fit a hot-dog bun, slathered in special sauce
When chef Telmo Faria opened Uma Casa in January 2017, it became—remarkably—San Francisco’s first Portuguese restaurant. Adorned with hand-painted blue and white tiles, the restaurant emphasizes seafood. Faria also cooks up traditional dishes like piri piri chicken, polenta cake in Madeira sauce, and caldeirada, a Portuguese fish stew. Save for two Californian exceptions, all of Uma Casa’s wines come from Portugal, and beverage director Nora Furst goes far beyond Port, Douro reds and Vinho Verde. Bairrada, Dão, Alentejo and other off-the-beaten-track appellations dominate the cellar. Don’t leave without trying the pastel de nata, a traditional sweet egg tart, paired with a glass of Alambre Moscatel de Setúbal.
Run by Jay Esopenko and Melissa Gugni, who also own the Little Vine wine shop in North Beach, Union Larder is where the cool kids hang out after work, thanks to an abundance of cheeses (around 60), over a dozen selections of house-made charcuterie, and a wine list dominated by trend-setting producers from up and down the California coast—like Cruze, Scholium Project and Liquid Farm. Most bottles are priced between $40 and $60. If you’re visiting from out of town, it’s a great first stop to acquaint yourself with what’s trending in California wine.
Even without chef Judy Rodgers, who passed away in 2013, Zuni remains San Francisco’s go-to spot for classic cocktails, oysters with a glass of Chablis, Caesar salad followed by a burger for lunch, or the iconic wood oven–roasted chicken for two, washed down with a bottle of good Burgundy, or maybe California pinot noir from Hirsch or Mt. Eden, or Lapierre’s Morgon.
To call Whitechapel a shrine to gin is to undersell it. Whitechapel is gin’s St. Paul’s, its Taj Mahal. If someone took over a decommissioned Victorian-era tube stop and turned it into a private club and gin distillery, what would it look like? It would look like Whitechapel, recreated down to the vaulted ceiling, distressed white-tile walls and subway timetable. That the fantasy is realized with tiki-like totality is unsurprising, given that owner Martin Cate is best known for his astonishing tiki temple, Smuggler’s Cove. The gin-based cocktails number over 100, and can be made from selections from 350 gins, including rarities dating to the 1930s. The food is on point, with an Anglo-Dutch-Bangladeshi mash-up menu channeling food you’d find in England and Holland, gin’s two seminal countries, and the spice trade that fostered gin’s creation.