Amid San Francisco’s supercharged 2019 economy, the concept of “value” might seem irrelevant. But when we asked restaurant and retail wine buyers around town where they go on their nights off, value turned out to be a major consideration. The places that made it onto our list of the top 50 Bay Area restaurants and bars—crowdsourced from some of our favorite wine geeks—aren’t necessarily cheap. Still, every spot we selected offers a distinct value proposition, whether a surprisingly great price on cru Beaujolais, or a high-end wine-pairing program that ditches the obvious critical darlings in favor of overlooked classics and soon-to-be rock stars. Any restaurant with significant financial backing can stock up on trophy wines, and, in San Francisco these days, they aren’t hard to find. But does the sommelier really know whether that 2015 Vosne-Romanée is perfectly balanced or a bit over the top? And are they willing to take a risk and steer you toward a new find that will change your whole perspective on a region? If there’s one thing a wine geek values as much as a great price on a bottle they love, it’s a pleasant surprise.
Luke Sykora with additional reporting by Barbara Haimes and Julia Weinberg