(415) 983-0102, www.wexlerssf.com
FARM : TABLE
One of my two favorite cafe openings of the year is this postcard-sized spot in the TenderNob. I was drawn in by the beautifully bitter espressos, strong cappuccinos, and other finely prepared coffees from Verve Coffee Roasters in Santa Cruz. But it's the baked goods and organic lunch items that'll keep me coming back. Unless you follow the friendly staff on Twitter, you never know what'll be on the menu offerings could be anything from apricot bread pudding to sloppy joes. But there's never a question that it will be good. Plus the welcoming, relaxed atmosphere will encourage you to stay and lounge, whether it's at a communal table inside, sidewalk seating, or near the picturesque (and usually open) window.
754 Post, SF. (415) 292-7089, www.farmtablesf.com
You may have already heard about the chicken and waffles proffered from a window in an alley from the folks who brought us Farmer Brown. But it's the Southern/New Orleans-influenced specials (all under $10) that get me going. In particular are the grits: usually the right mix of savory with a hint of sweet, with additions like cheese, andouille sausage, and a touch of maple syrup or bacon, brown sugar, and pecans. Worth noting too are the po'boy sandwiches, which come loaded with changing specials of shrimp, sausage, eggs, and more.
360 Ritch, SF. (415) 777-2777, www.littleskilletsf.com
Is it a coincidence that my other favorite new café is also tiny? Maybe. Or maybe there's something inherently charming about a lovely little spot that only a handful of people can enjoy at a time. Either way, I'm delighted by this Sunset District purveyor of coffee and garden/home décor items. The java (from Ritual Coffee) is prepared with finesse and delicious alongside delicate truffles and baked goods. The staff is friendly. And thanks to the owner's interior design training, the low-ceilinged, narrow space is a visual wonderland worthy of Victorian poetry or J.R.R. Tolkein.
1435 Irving, SF. (415) 242-4119
With sausage slingers making appearances all over the city, perhaps we should declare 2009 the "Year of the Dog." There's the delightful Zog's Dogs in FiDi. Among my favorite mobile offerings are Ryan Farr's, which he serves some Sundays outside Elixir and Thursdays at the Ferry Plaza farmers market. True, Rosamunde Sausage Grill is a reliable classic, but my vote for best new dog restaurant is Showdogs. Brave the trek to the less-popular stretch of Market Street next to the Golden Gate Theater to be rewarded with fine beers on tap (available in 4-, 8-, and 16-ounce pours) and dogs showcasing the Bay Area's best sausage and hot dog makers (including Farr's 4505 Meats). There's something for everyone classic, lemon chicken, Louisiana hot link, a crispy (and huge) corn dog, duck sausage with kimchi, and even a boudin noir and none cost more than $8.50. The only way to improve a Showdog meal is to include a side of buttermilk onion rings ($4).
1020 Market, SF. (415) 558-9560, www.showdogssf.com
There's never quite enough German food around, especially now that we're losing long-timer, Schnitzlhaus, leaving us with the fabulous but few: Suppenküche and Walzwerk. That is, until the gracious (and smart) owners of Walzwerk opened this new spot in the Mission District. A casual deli with German groceries for sale, German beers on tap, and a spare, beer-hall feel to the clean dining room, this spot provides everything you need for your own mini Oktoberfest (minus the lederhosen).