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Sure, the city has some incredible restaurants. But so do the East and South Bays, from Michelin starred spots to fantastic holes-in-the-wall. We’ve noshed and sipped our way through hundreds, seeking out the very best — and now we’re ready to proclaim the Bay Area’s top 50 non-SF spots. We’re rolling out our restaurant critics and food writers’ top picks this week, starting with Nos. 41-50 on Monday and Nos. 31-40 yesterday.
Today, we’re diving into the next batch. So let’s get started — because when you’re yearning for a glamorous 1940s throwback, a Spanish tapas spot or a NOLA gem, it makes no sense to tarry.
Selby’s, Redwood City: When the celebration calls for retro classics
It’s a new restaurant with the elegance of a 1940s supper house and updated classics such as Lobster Consomme, Sweetbreads Piccata, Braised Rabbit Vol-Au-Vent and Delmonico Steak with Bordelaise Sauce. The decor is equally glamorous. Thanks to the Bacchus group and executive chef Mark Sullivan, destination dining has returned to this stretch of the Peninsula that for years housed the upscale Chantilly and John Bentley’s.
Order: Dry-aged Roast Crown of Duck for Two with Robuchon’s Potatoes.
Details: 3001 El Camino Real, Redwood City; www.selbysrestaurant.com; $$-$$$
Shakewell, Oakland: When your ‘Top Chef’ obsession skews Spanish
We can’t exactly jet-set off to Spain whenever we crave croquetas, but this tapas spot helmed by “Top Chef” alums caters to all our obsessions, from the craft cocktails — Shakewell, get it? — to the jamon Iberico de belotta, Spanish octopus and wood-fired paellas. Chef Jen Biesty’s Mediterranean-but-mostly-Spanish small plates pair perfectly with cava, rosé sangria and cocktails made with rhum agricole and habanero-infused tequila. (Psst, they do a more global brunch, too. Hello, fried chicken and churros.)
Order: Bacalao croquetas with squid ink aioli, clam-studded paella
Details: 3407 Lakeshore Ave., www.shakewelloakland.com; $$
Black Sheep Brasserie, San Jose: Where everything tastes good because it’s hearth-roasted
Trendy restaurants come and go, but modern classics, like Black Sheep Brasserie, tend to have staying power. This refined brasserie, perfect for a date or dinner with the folks, helped put Willow Glen on the fine dining map, and it’s no wonder: Everything from executive chef Jeff Fitzgerald’s kitchen is good, especially if it’s coming out of the hearth, like “burnt” French onion soup with beef broth or a half chicken that’s first poached in mushroom butter. Desserts, including warm buttermilk beignets with maple-calvados caramel, are also consistently delicious.
Order: Duck liver mousse, house-made gnocchi, braised pork osso bucco.
Details: 1202 Lincoln Ave., Suite C; https://bsbwillowglen.com; $$
Gather, Berkeley: When you want to delight vegans and omnivores alike
It’s all about root-to-shoot, head-to-tail, farm-to-fork deliciousness at this renowned 10-year-old restaurant that caters every bit as much to vegans and vegetarians as it does to omnivores. The ingredients come from local farms and heritage breed ranches, and the meat is butchered in-house — but those veggie-forward flavors are so bold and bright, you may give up meat altogether. (Well, not the pancetta on the roasted corn pizza. Let’s not be hasty here.)
Order: Acme French toast for brunch, heirloom grains risotto or that roasted corn pizza for dinner.
Details: 2200 Oxford St., www.gatherrestaurant.com; $$
Donato Enoteca, Redwood City: When it’s time for white-tablecloth Italian
Italian-born Donato Scotti’s roots are in Bergamo, near Lake Como, but his flagship restaurant and newer outposts (Donato Co. in Berkeley, Cento Osteria in San Francisco) highlight many of the country’s regional cuisines. Housemade pastas and house-cured meats, along with California ingredients, turn rustic dishes upscale. A risotto is studded with crispy Niman Ranch pork belly. Monterey Bay calamari stars with tonnarelli pasta. And the wood-fired oven turns out pizzas topped with Watsonville artichokes and housemade Calabrian-style nduja sausage.
Order: Bigoli pasta with Nebbiolo-braised oxtail and, during late fall, the white truffle menu
Details: 1041 Middlefield Road, Redwood City; www.donatoenoteca.com; $$
The Slanted Door, San Ramon: When Charles Phan’s shaking beef and cellophane noodles invade your dreams
It was a big deal when Charles Phan opened The Slanted Door in the East Bay. The City Center Bishop Ranch restaurant lacks its sister’s Embarcadero view, but the food is just as memorable and there’s a massive, wrap-around exhibition kitchen to watch cooks and bartenders on bustling Saturday nights. Best of all, there is no longer a bridge separating you from that legendary shaking beef or cellophane noodles brimming with gulf crab. There’s also a killer Sunday afternoon happy hour not too many people know about — yet.
Order: SD spring rolls, shaking beef, cellophane noodles, lemongrass tofu
Details: 6000 Bollinger Canyon Road, Suite 1300; www.slanteddoor-sanramon.com; $$-$$$
Restaurant Asa, Los Altos: When you’d like to mix and match Mediterranean
Andrew Welch’s Asa has developed a loyal following for his menu of Spanish- and Italian-influenced dishes. Call it mix-and-match Mediterranean: Start with the duck-fat-roasted baby potatoes with house aioli, then veer toward the Iberian peninsula with the shrimp-chorizo Paella Valencia or head east with the Exotic Mushroom Pasta, handmade fettuccine with a silky sauce that gives the dish a roasted garlic finish. Speaking of compass directions, Welch’s next venture, Asa South, will open soon in Los Gatos.
Order: The Bowl of Soul bathes the fresh fish of the day and Gulf shrimp in a tomato-seafood broth.
Details: 242 State St., Los Altos; www.asalosaltos.com; $$
Vineyard Table Tasting Lounge, Livermore: When you want a stellar wine country meal without the stuffiness
Shrimp a la Plancha with Green Goddess is served at the newly opened Vineyard Table Tasting Lounge at Wente Vineyards. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)Wente Vineyards’ estate restaurant has transformed from a stodgy, white table-clothed steakhouse into a chic, yet relaxed, family-friendly destination that plays ’80s music and serves fresh, hyper-seasonal organic food grown on-site by a master gardener. Look for memorable shared plates, like tomato salad with fried halloumi and smoked pork tenderloin with sweet corn relish, as well as inventive desserts, including a garden peach pop that’s served with a side of brut. Wine cocktails and flights — all Wente, natch — add to the updated wine country experience. Still want that steak? It comes from Wente’s estate beef program, and it’s fantastic.
Order: Diane’s Garden Bowl, dry-aged New York steak, smoked pork tenderloin
Details: 5050 Arroyo Road, Livermore; https://wentevineyards.com/dine/restaurant; $-$$
The Bywater, Los Gatos: When you know what it means to miss New Orleans
Head to Los Gatos when you want a taste of New Orleans, minus the humidity. Manresa’s David Kinch opened this restaurant in late 2015 as his paean to the city where he fell in love with cooking. His chef de cuisine, Dave Morgan, has been drawing from his own experiences in NOLA as well as highlighting the city’s other culinary influences. That’s why you’ll find dishes like Vietnamese Braised Short Rib, Dave’s Famous Fried Mortadella Sandwich and Yaka Mein, a Chinese/Creole noodle soup, sharing menu space with the po boys and the red beans and rice. The lagniappe? A terrific New Orleans soundtrack.
Order: Any gumbo, jambalaya or soft-shell crab dish on the menu, plus beignets for dessert.
Details: 532 N. Santa Cruz Ave., Los Gatos; www.thebywaterca.com; $-$$
Oliveto, Oakland: When you crave handmade pasta — and audible conversation
California meets Mediterranean fare at this venerable restaurant, where even the grains and flour are locally milled. The ingredients are impeccable and the seasonal menu offers something for everyone, from the pasta — hello, rigatoni with peaches and basil — to the mains. Adding to the bliss: The second floor dining room isn’t just a perfect setting for date nights or other special occasions. It’s been acoustically engineered, so you can actually — gasp! — hear your dining companions.
Order: Any pasta — but especially the swoon-worthy doppio ravioli
Details: 5655 College Ave., https://oliveto.com; $$