The Corner Store (NoPa)
Nourishing a part of the city that was starved for a stylish place serving cocktails and a good Cal-Americana menu, this restaurant has been packed since day one. Diners enjoy everything from farm-fresh salads to a great burger topped with bacon jam. Even vegetarians get the delicious option of a rustic multigrain sort of risotto, cooked in a savory parmesan-mushroom broth and topped with greens. For outdoor types, there’s a smartly heated covered patio—key for an often fog-swept corner.
5 Masonic Ave. (near Geary St.), 415-359- 1800 $$ Sara Deseran.
Amber Dhara (Mission)
Amber Dhara is the sixth incarnation in a group of upscale Indian restaurants dotted around the Bay Area. The sweeping location serves what Amber calls contemporary-casual cuisine, which in this case translates to cocktails, food plated with an artful smear, and some nontraditional dishes such as a salad of figs, arugula, and couscous. From the tandoor comes a Niman Ranch pork loin with apple chutney, as well as breads like Punjabi corn bread. Those craving Indian-food best hits will find rogan josh, biryani, and butter chicken.
680 Valencia St. (near 18th St.), 415-400-5699 $$ Sara Deseran.
Terrapin Crossroads (San Rafael)
It’s not only Deadheads lured by Phil Lesh’s musical legacy who swarm to his welcoming multilevel Marin restaurant and music venue. Great music, often featuring Phil Lesh and Friends, is expected, but the food is surprisingly good—contemporary but not showy. Terrapin takes on classics like a Hangtown fry of herb crepes with fried oysters and offers an heirloom tomato and hand-pulled mozzarella salad with briny pickled cherry tomatoes. A crispy half chicken comes with a spoonful of rich jus.
100 Yacht Club Dr. (near Francisco Blvd. E.), 415-524-2773 $$$ Tanya Henry
Beauty’s Bagel Shop (Oakland)
Montreal bagels—wood-fired and dense—are the specialty at this unassuming little spot on a stretch of Lower Temescal. Have one warm, slathered with butter, egg salad, lox, or one of three different brands of artisanalish cream cheese. The housemade pickles (cucumbers, green tomatoes) are just sour enough; ditto for the homemade lemonade. Flying Goat coffee is the brew, and there’s lots of room for spreading out with the Times (or your iPad) on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
3838 Telegraph Ave. (near 38th St.), 510-788-6098 $ Nina Martin