What is a find? Maybe it’s a well-known restaurant that Chowhounds give a second look; maybe it’s simply an off-the-beaten-path spot that would never make the cover of Bon Appétit. Whether they required a jacket and tie, a lobster bib, or nothing but a fist full of cash, these were the discoveries that Chowhounds were crowing about in 2012.
1. ATELIER CRENN
3127 Fillmore Street, San Francisco
As the first and only female chef in the U.S. with two Michelin stars, Dominique Crenn—and her skill—is widely known. But Chowhounds were also keen on the playful inventiveness and sheer gustatory delight of pastry chef Juan Contreras’s desserts, which are available in a six-course dessert tasting menu.
2. THE COMPASS STAR CAFÉ — CLOSED
915 Main Street, Martinez
A good pastrami is a thing of beauty, and The Compass Star Café, which cures its own meat, gave us one of the best.
3. MAYA’S CAFÉ
2616 Union Avenue, San Jose
On the hunt for less typical Latin American cuisine, one hound uncovered superb sopa de mondongo (tripe soup) at this Honduran-Mexican restaurant.
4. MICHELLE’S PANCAKE HOUSE — CLOSED
19060 Stevens Creek Boulevard, Cupertino
Who’s up for a ride to Cupertino to get beautifully pleated dumplings, house-made noodles, and awesome dipping sauces? Everyone? That’s what we thought.
5. THE MILL
736 Divisadero Street, San Francisco
Fans of self-taught zen bread master Josey Baker once needed to raid Four Barrel during his occasional appearances there, or subscribe to his CSA-style service. We picked up loaves Wednesdays and Saturdays at The Mill, which operated out of a tent while construction continued on the building’s interior, due to be completed … any minute now.
6. PARDEE HOME MUSEUM
672 11th Street, Oakland
We figured out we could make reservations at this Oakland architectural gem and enjoy an excellent afternoon tea, with tender-crisp pavlovas and lemon curd tartlets prepared by museum volunteers.
7. THE RICHMOND (no website)
615 Balboa Street, San Francisco
Top-notch wines, well-prepared proteins, and an outstanding chocolate–peanut butter dessert had one Chowhound wondering why this Richmond District mainstay wasn’t on everyone’s 2012 must-try list.
8. SATELLITE REPUBLIC — CLOSED
Mobile, check Facebook for location
Food linked with regional history has long proven a draw, and Boris Portnoy’s Satellite Republic, a moped-based food business (pictured above), buzzed through the culinary trail of Georgia (the one in the Caucasus), telling Northern Californians a story about dumplings, flatbreads, volcanic mountain ranges, and bracing Black Sea air.
9. TONY’S PIZZA NAPOLETANA
1570 Stockton Street, San Francisco
To those from St. Louis, it was a taste from home; for natives of other lands, a curiosity worth the nightmarish parking in North Beach. There’s now an SF source for St. Louis–style pizza: a cracker-crisp crust topped by sweet tomato sauce and Provel, a processed cheese
10. ZEN YAI THAI RESTAURANT (no website)
771 Ellis Street, San Francisco
We crowded into this Tenderloin gem for the “boat noodles,” a.k.a. Thai beef noodle soup.
Photo by Chris Rochelle / CHOW.com
This list was updated on December 1, 2017 to reflect restaurant closures.