Bay Area food trends come and go like Karl the Fog or unicorn tartare. San Francisco and the rest of the bay have long been famous as a trend-setting foodie haven, and continue to roll out some compelling and occasionally bizarre trends that often have national and international impact (fancy toast anyone?). To find out what the Bay Area and the rest of the US is eating this summer, we surveyed the restaurant landscape to find the trendiest eats. This is what we discovered.
1. Alt Milks
The world’s major supplier of almonds, California is a natural hub for almond milk production. The world of milks not sourced from animals exploded to include everything from oat and hemp to soy and pea. Marin’s Equator Coffees keeps oat, almond, and cashew milks on hand at their cafes for the dairy-averse. Cassava in San Francisco’s Outer Richmond delivers coffee from Ritual Roasters with a soy or almond milk option and BOL Superfood Café in Mill Valley’s Lumberyard serves up a Supermylk Latte, chockfull of coconut and cashew milk.
2. 4th Wave Coffee
With single-origin, micro-sourced beans locally roasted for optimal freshness before grinding and brewing, Fourth Wave coffee brings coffee’s far-flung terroirs to local cafes to the delight of coffee connoisseurs. Wrecking Ball Coffee in San Francisco’s Cow Hollow neighborhood exemplifies the trend with sustainably-sourced coffees, expertly roasted and poured. Sightglass Coffee’s Affogato Bar at its flagship SoMa location uses single-origin espresso in this frothy drink and even serves a customized single-origin chocolate affogato and a dairy-free affogato with toasted coconut and spiced pear. And Equator Coffees’ new Yemeni coffees explore the burgeoning coffee scene from that country’s Port of Mokha.
3. Açai and Juice Cafes
BOL Superfood Café dishes up some colorful bowls of the hydrating superfruit, açai. The Bright Blue Indigo pops with the aquamarine-hued blue agave spirulina. Across town, Nékter Juice Bar whips up a new Popeye’s Açai with just enough spinach to boost the drinks fruity profile. Urban Remedy’s many Bay Area locations and recent move into grocery means their cold-pressed juices and nut milk elixirs are readily sourced to soothe and refresh even the most weary and dehydrated traveler (try the Cold Crusher).
4. Next Gen Asian
No, Asian food isn’t new, but the Bay Area’s awareness of the broader scope of Asian cuisines has popped to include everything from Burmese to Bangladeshi. Recent Marin Magazine Best of the County winner, Burmatown in Corte Madera, makes bao that sell out long before 7 p.m. and a mean coconut curry. Contemporary Sri Lankan is the name of the game at San Francisco’s 1601 Bar & Kitchen (the tasting menu is a must for flavor exploration). Though it recently closed its Mission location, Guamian Prubechu has a full slate of pop-ups around the Bay and long-running Vik’s Chaat in Berkeley not only serves up a rotating menu of regional Indian and Bangladeshi food but got a running head start on the exploding fast-casual trend.
A stop at Marufuku Ramen in San Francisco’s Japantown is a must for the house-made Hakata-style ramen (thin noodles and a milky-colored broth), but the explosion of Japanese ramen brands has been bringing noodles of note to seemingly every Bay Area community. There’s a branch of Japan’s famous Ippudo on San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Lane, featuring tonkotsu ramen, made from boiled pork bones, and another tonkotsu chain, Ramen Nagi, in Palo Alto. In Oakland, the freshly made noodles cause lines at Soba Ichi and in San Francisco, Iza Ramen serves the summer seasonal hiyashi chuka ramen, where the noodles are served cold. San Rafael’s Uchiwa Ramen serves vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free versions of this traditionally meaty dish.
Fans of this Hawaiian import have more choices than ever as the sushi trend morphs to include this simply seasoned dish of raw fish and seaweed. Pacific Catch’s recent menu updates brought a slew of new pokes to its menu, including guaca-poke (yes, mixed with guacamole) and Citrus Kanpachi with yuzu, mint, and crispy quinoa. Poki Time’s “pick your bowl” allows endless customizable options like wild blue crab and Spicy Seoul sauce. And I’a Poke’s new location on Fillmore Street serves up a signature poke bowl with tuna, shrimp, salmon, and octopus.
Returning to the Bay Area after 16 years in Japan, Eric Gower founded Breakaway Matcha to share his obsessions with this finely milled, ceremonial green tea with the world. The matcha latte found its Bay Area footing with this recipe from Navitas Organics. And, while the menu brings matcha to almost every dish, the matcha cream pie at Stonemill Matcha in San Francisco’s Mission District is a must-try. Not to mention the plethora of matcha ice cream places sprinkling the Bay Area.
8. Fancy Toast
The trend of four dollar toast, rolling since at least 2014, shows no sign of stopping as denizens of carb-y goodness pile proteins and veg of all kinds atop their fancy, house made toast. At Stonemill Matcha, the fluffy white bread that is ubiquitous in Japan is slathered with matcha butter for a toast experience unlike any other. At Mill Valley’s Flour Craft Bakery, fancy toast has its own menu board, including ricotta toast with hazelnuts, all atop the house gluten-free white bread, toasted of course. In San Francisco’s Divisadero Corridor, The Mill serves its toast menu all day, including avocado toast with sea salt and pepper that may have single-handedly kicked off the toast trend in the Bay Area.
9. Snobby Ice Cream
With flavors like mulberry fig leaf and ylang ylang sesame plum, Larkspur’s Posie has developed a dedicated following for its artisanal scoops and fresh baked goods, like their melt-in-your-mouth chocolate cookies. San Francisco hometown favorite Humphry Slocombe boasts scoop shops and distribution in grocery stores (try the Secret Breakfast – bourbon ice cream infused with cornflakes) and Portland’s Salt and Straw kills with West Coast-inspired flavors like goat cheese marionberry habanero.
Whether you prefer the old-fashioned “donuts” or the new-fangled “doughnuts,” there is no doubt that the Bay Area is mad for fried discs of sweet dough. AllStar Donuts in the Inner Richmond is a must for classic flavors (and classic pricing), like a white cake doughnut with rainbow sprinkles, as is Bob’s Donuts (try the chocolate bar, a Boston-style doughnut filled with custard and slicked with chocolate). Marin favorite Johnny Doughnuts, which opened its first brick and mortar shop in San Rafael and now has a branch in San Francisco, has a dedicated following for its crodough, a hybrid croissant-doughnut concoction that spins heads, and its wheat-free fritter thang.
Christina Mueller is a long-time Bay Area food writer. She hails from the East Coast and has spent way too much time in South America and Europe. She discovered her talent as a wordsmith in college and her love of all things epicurean in grad school. She has written for Condé Nast Contract Publishing, Sunset, and the Marin Independent Journal, among others. She volunteers with California State Parks and at her child’s school, and supports the Marin Audubon Society, PEN America, and Planned Parenthood. When she is not drinking wine by a fire, she is known to craft excellent edibles and spend time with her extended family.