Les Arceaux

 

Beet cured salmon belly at Nomica

8 romantic Bay Area restaurants that truly care where they source their food

By Virginia Miller

In the Bay Area, “local,” “sustainable,” and “organic” long ago moved from buzzwords to standard, even routine, whether for fine dining or burger joints. In the region that started the farm-to-table movement decades back, restaurants often don’t mention their sources and practices. And quality doesn’t always mean local. Many are committed to sourcing the best ingredients, whether that be matcha tea from Japan or organic eggs from a California farm. Covering the gamut from casual to refined, here are eight unexpected Valentine’s (and beyond) date night options that put care into their ingredients and sources.

Nightbird

Nightbird
From talented chef/owner Kim Alter, splurge-worthy Nightbird has “special occasion” written all over it, starting with cocktails in its seductive back bar, Linden Room, and moving to the tasting menu–only dinner in the pleasantly spaced out yet still intimate dining room. A five-course menu changes often, with timely global ingredients, whether caviar or truffles. Merely listing a few ingredients as a teaser, each dish is prepared with playful surprise, such as “meatloaf,” a meatloaf-inspired beef tartare. Cocktails heavily reflect the season, utilizing produce from the kitchen.
Neighborhood: Hayes Valley MAP

Nomica
The team behind legendary Sushi Ran in Sausalito opened Nomica mid-2016 as, no, not another sushi restaurant but a forward-thinking, modern Japanese dining destination. While the bustling restaurant sources ingredients from Japan as well as NorCal, thoughtfulness shows in organic butter as the base for their silky-grassy matcha butter, featuring top-notch matcha from Japan, or in green-certified Ōra king salmon for their beet-cured salmon belly. Sip a boozy boba cocktail or saké with dreamy house favorites, like karaage chicken and Japanese beer waffles with that killer matcha butter and maple syrup.
Neighborhood: Castro MAP

Kabocha squash raviolini at SPQR (photo: Matthew Accarrino)

SPQR
Intimate, packed SPQR is like a trip to Italy in Pac Heights—but with chef Matthew Accarrino’s inspired, Northern Californian flair. His pastas are Italian-inspired, the more traditional intermingling with forward-thinking options, like kabocha squash raviolini in coconut milk with kaffir lime and pumpkin seeds. Alongside James Beard award–winning wine director Shelley Lindgren’s all-Italian wine list, impeccable ingredients hail from Italy to California—pristine flours for the pastas, acorn-fed ham or real balsamico. You might as well give in and order the pasta tasting menu.
Neighborhood: Pacific Heights MAP

Les Arceaux
So you don’t do Valentine’s, but you do want a chill, tasty meal with that special someone. Although we greatly miss the owners’ former, truly unique Two Sisters Bar & Books in SF, Les Arceaux hit Berkeley late 2016 with casual-but-quality, Cal-French café flair, from quiche to root vegetable cassoulet. Paired with wine, local beers, and low-proof cocktails, local sources include meats from Marin Sun Farms and ice cream from Straus Family Creamery. As of January, they've launched a cocktail menu which includes some Two Sisters favorites including the Two Sisters Manhattan and the Smoke & Flowers.
Neighborhood: Berkeley MAP

Ho Ho's at The Saratoga (photo: Ed Anderson)

The Saratoga
With over 700 spirits, including vintage Chartreuse, Benedictine, and Fernet bottles dating back to the 1800s, The Saratoga is an easy place to make a memorable splurge. But its bi-level setting allows for a range of date approaches, from the lofty, laid-back upstairs to the low-ceiling, white tablecloth downstairs. Serving upscale American comfort food, they source certified organic Chino Valley Ranchers’ eggs or Fiscalini Cheddar from Modesto in their beloved ‘Toga Tots (try the Jenga Tots–a tater tot tower version during Sunday brunch). Feel like a kid again with desserts of house-made Cracker Jack or Ho Hos.
Neighborhood: Tenderloin MAP

The Brass Rabbit
Opened on Healdsburg’s town square mid-2017, The Brass Rabbit walks that fine line between relaxed and upscale, convivial and romantic. Chef Shane McAnelly (also of nearby Chalkboard restaurant) uses only locally sourced meats and produce from Chalk Hill Vineyards’ 4.5 acre organic farm. A six-foot wood-burning Grillworks grill gives meats the rotisserie and plancha treatment, whether it’s a smoked pork loin served with flannel hash or wild mushroom pot pie topped with a parmesan custard.
Neighborhood: Healdsburg MAP

Lowell's

Lowell’s
Open since 2007, Lowell’s is a Sonoma classic, one that is the ideal date for those who like it familial and unpretentious. More importantly, Lowell Sheldon and Natalie Goble—who also run sustainable, fast-casual restaurant Handline—have focused on homegrown ingredients from their idyllic Two Belly Acres Farm since the beginning, sourcing meats and seafood from local partners. Chef Joseph Zobel showcases the seasons in killer salads, pastas, and creative pizzas.
Neighborhood: Sebastopol (Sonoma County) MAP

Fog Harbor Fish House
Locals avoid Fisherman’s Wharf unless visiting family or friends insist. But with Fog Harbor Fish House’s admirable move to 100 percent sustainable seafood in 2017, it’s worth playing tourist in our own town, celebrating Dungeness crab season with those romantically breathtaking Golden Gate Bridge and Bay views from Fog Harbor booths. In fact, they plan to be 100 percent green by 2019. Meeting Monterey Bay Aquarium’s standards for sustainability, dig into a guilt-free seafood feast of their rightly-lauded cioppino, clam chowder, and refreshing specials like a crab ceviche in coconut milk and lime.
Neighborhood: Fisherman’s Wharf MAP

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