My hopes for the Bay Area restaurant world in 2022

My hopes for the Bay Area restaurant world in 2022

Let’s start 2022 with a great deal of hope. After two real years of kicking butt, keeping faith that things will get better is a real job for most of us, so this is a reminder to try, at least articulate the world we want so that we can take small steps. towards its update. Okay, sermon over. Let’s talk about restaurants.

What do you hope will develop in the world of restaurants this year? (Write me! I would love to know). Here are my aspirations for the industry. If you are a restaurateur, consider this a source of free ideas.

More vegetarian and vegan takes on meaty concepts

In the Bay Area, we recently got a good glut of vegan concepts: Malibu’s Burgers (fast food), Vegan Mob (barbecue), Señor Sisig Vegano (Filipino-Mexican), and Baia (Italian). My craving for vegetarian quesabirria tacos was answered by gooey veggie-filled variations at Oakland’s La Santa Torta and La Q Marin. But why not go further? Someone could turn the hit of Joanne Lee Molinaro’s “Vegan Korean Cookbook” into a plant-based Korean restaurant, complete with spicy gochujang glazed fried oyster mushrooms and army stew, hold the spam. Or I would even go for a veggie steakhouse, where the menu is only on the sides (because those are usually the highlights anyway).

More restaurants inspired by African food

While the Bay Area has some great (and thriving) Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurants like Mela Bistro in Oakland and Zeni in San Jose, food from other African countries can still be hard to find. There are some notable outliers, such as the Algerian Kayma at Mercado Municipal de La Cocina and the Somali Jubba at San José. And I’m buoyed by the opening of Jolly-Jolly Coffee and Kitchen, where a Nigerian expat weaves his jollof rice with incredible depth, and the success of Oko, a dinner series that serves Afro-Caribbean flavors in a tasting menu format.

But in a region where you can’t throw a rock without touching a California Italian pasta place, there’s room for more. I miss the casual Somali restaurants in Minneapolis, where they serve spicy casseroles and rice dishes with bananas on the side, and the delicious curry-filled buns (bunny chows) of South African cuisine.

Things to take home (bread, frozen meatballs, condiments, chili oils)

If you’re reading this newsletter, you likely have a refrigerator full of hot sauces, jams, and other condiments from local chefs. Selling salsa macha and crunchy chili oil is a brilliant way for restaurants and pop-ups to expand their takeout offerings and keep their brands on top of diners’ minds – and I hope they continue to do so. In the diverse Bay Area, it also provides home cooks with an even more formidable arsenal for experimentation: Why not throw some Sichuan oil on your pizza or marinate mushrooms in beet miso? This trend has certainly made me a better cook, and I can’t wait to see how it will expand in the next year.

Safer outdoor dining setups

Recently, there was a lot of uproar over the chaotic way the San Francisco city government handled restaurant parklets. In short, the city published a new list of regulations for outdoor structures aimed at solving a host of problems, including making them less of a hindrance to pedestrians and alleviating problems for emergency services like the fire department. Communication on when restaurants were required to comply was confusing, ultimately resulting in the mayor’s office delaying the deadline until 2023.

Although the implementation was a disaster, that does not change the fact that some reform is necessary to make cities with many restaurants like San Francisco safer for everyone. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen pedestrians choose to walk on a busy street rather than fight their way through a group of unmasked diners on the sidewalk – it’s a sign that something isn’t working here, and needs to change earlier. how late. . The San Francisco city government can improve this process by designing it in a less punitive way and by focusing on helping finance those renovations.

Federal aid for restaurants and workers

Speaking of money, it has become very clear that the federal government has finished helping Americans overcome this pandemic. While the past two years have been characterized by a scramble for aid in the form of federal stimulus checks, business loans and grants, there is no more help for restaurants to support each other, despite the fact that the pandemic has continued to disrupt services and putting workers in danger at the forefront. At the end of the year, during what would have been a lucrative holiday season, many restaurants in the Bay Area made the difficult decision to temporarily close to prevent the spread of the highly contagious omicron variant. They’re just eating those losses, but they shouldn’t have to.

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