Rosa Mexicano (SoMa)
The FiDi happy-hour crowd has descended upon the latest outpost of this high-end restaurant group. But get past the smothering bar crowd, and the scene mellows into expenseaccount dinners that start with fundido with chorizo and end with churros. A good entrée choice is the crispy pork shank—a tasty hunk of meat served with chipotle-creamed spinach. Comparably tasty tacos are available elsewhere; here they cost up to $14 for two. 30 Mission St. (at Steuart St.), 415-874-4300
Et Al (Russian Hill)
The owners of beloved wine shop Biondivino have teamed up with the crew of equally adored Boulettes Larder to bring a touch of sophistication to Polk Street. Inside the narrow 28-seat space, a cluster of vintage wine glasses dangling from the high ceiling serves as a chandelier. Have a seat on one of the translucent Lucite stools and start with caviar with potato crisps, then dive into the duck cassoulet. The wine list focuses on rieslings. On the horizon: brunch. 2255 Polk St. (at Green St.), 415-655- 3155
In an industrially fashionable space on the scruffy edge of Jack London Square, this cozy newcomer shines with a menu of sharply composed Mexican cuisine. Drawing on feelgood meats and organic produce, the kitchen ranges farther for its flavors, which pop in such dishes as poblanoand cotija-stuffed quesadillas and wild-caught halibut in a golden batter with smoky aioli and chili-dusted papas—a south-of-the-border spin on fish and chips. 444 Oak St. (near 4th St.), 510-444-6436
Bartavelle Coffee & Wine Bar (Berkeley)
Chez Panisse Foundation offshoot Café Fanny is no more, but its shell is once more filled with worshippers of all things seasonal. What they get at this coffee and wine bar are the obvious, but lovingly made, tapenades, toasts, and rustic sandwiches, as well as artful platters (think smoked trout, pickles, bean purée, and hard-cooked egg) and Acme bread that’s baked right next door. The aim is to be a European-style hangout, a familiar theme at this West Berkeley address. And Bartavelle pulls it off—without its predecessor’s precious airs. 1603 San Pablo Ave. (near Cedar St.), 510-524- 2473
Originally published in the January 2013 issue of San Francisco.