Though San Francisco is just the 13th-largest city in America, it has for decades wielded an outsize influence on how Americans eat and drink.
And now the Bay Area boasts some of the best restaurants in the country, including State Bird Provisions, where dim sum-style carts serve an array of hip and modern small plates. It was created by husband-and-wife chef team Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski and has garnered countless accolades, including a Michelin star and James Beard Awards for Best New Restaurant in 2013 and a joint award for Best Chef: West for Brioza and Krasinski last year.
Their latest restaurant, The Progress, is right next door to State Bird and flips the script on that spot’s small-plates specialty by serving banquet meals family-style, with heaping dishes of things like golden tomato polenta with charred salmon or fire-roasted potatoes and shiitake mushrooms, along with an impressive wine list and seasonal cocktails.
So, who better to ask where to get a drink than a chef? I was able to get Krasinski, who is a big cocktail fan, to share with me her current top three tipples in the area. Try these the next time you’re in the City by the Bay.
Manhattan at Bix
Before San Francisco had a cocktail scene, there was Bix, which opened back in 1988. Located in an alley in the historic Barbary Coast district, the establishment’s Art Deco-inspired dining room is a throwback to pre-Prohibition elegance, though its food menu has stayed on top of the trends and continues to evolve. The drinks program here is all about classics, and that’s just fine with Krasinski. “In my opinion, a Manhattan is good almost anywhere,” she says, “but at Bix, the bartenders are true professionals and take this classic drink as seriously as I do.”
Shop Highball at Ramen Shop
You’ll have to cross the Bay to get to this casual Oakland spot, where clever modern takes on the Japanese ramen bowl (like a tomatillo-miso ramen with ground pork belly and a vegetarian Meyer lemon-spiked version) are paired with trendy produce-driven cocktails. The menu includes three different versions of the whiskey highball, a perennial best-seller in Japan. Krasinski’s pick is the Shop Highball, which combines lemon oil, seltzer, and Baller Single Malt Whiskey, a spirit inspired by Japanese whisky but distilled in Northern California. “This drink is so refreshing, and the subtle smokiness and lemon undertones pair beautifully with the ramen,” she says. “I can’t go without having a few!”
Kave Becshipett at 20th Century Cafe
Meaning “tipsy coffee” in Hungarian, this cocktail features cold-brew coffee, sherry, and Meyer lemon. It sounds simple, but Kransinski says, “it’s euphoria in a glass, and it’s legal!” The cafe itself is deceptively casual, serving baked goods, salads, and sandwiches inspired by the favorite foods of Central Europe from Vienna to Prague to Budapest.