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The Best New Restaurants to Try Now

We check Souvla, Nobilis, Abrazo, and Cambodian Street Food


Souvla’s spit-fired chicken salad.

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Frozen Greek yogurt from Souvla.

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Meat roasting on the rotisserie at Souvla.

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Photo: Courtesy of Nobilis

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Photo: Courtesy of Abrazo

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Cambodian Street Food

Photo: Courtesy of Cambodian Street Food

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Perhaps more than any other restaurant, this local minichain of Greek rotisserie joints has helped inspire San Francisco’s recent wave of ambitious “fine casual” counter-service spots. Souvla’s fourth and newest location, a tiny shop in the Marina, doesn’t stray from the chain’s established formula: Pita sandwiches and salads come out lightning-quick on a tray, but you can still get a nice glass of wine served in proper stemware. Here, a salad of spit-roasted chicken studded with orange slices and soaked through with the bird’s flavorful drippings, feels like a special occasion, and tangy, lush frozen Greek yogurt makes a fine and refreshing end to a meal. If anything, the meats are seasoned with a little too much restraint, but that’s nothing a few shakes of the housemade harissa-based hot sauce can’t solve. 2272 Chestnut St. (near Scott Street), 415.400.5458 –Luke Tsai

The last 10 minutes of the drive out to this self-described “finer diner” takes you up a pothole-ridden, endlessly winding road far beyond any other sign of civilization. There’s something magical, then, about sitting down for a bowl of clam chowder at the counter or on the patio that overlooks the San Pablo Bay waterfront, especially on a day when the fog curls around the boats docked in the harbor. It helps that the chowder is great—a full-flavored white broth flush with clams and garlicky croutons—and that chef Stevie Neal is the kind of hospitable host who’s liable to slip a just-fried crabcake onto your plate while you’re waiting. The menu isn’t pretentious: griddlecakes, Benedicts and an assortment of sandwiches. But the fried-oyster “Po’ Bolt,” a bacon-loaded, four-toothpick monster, is the kind of sandwich that’s worth navigating any number of potholes to eat. 1900 Stenmark Drive (near Point San Pablo Marina Road), 510.233.3224 –LT

Russian Hill
After nearly 25 years, Zarzuela has moved on, but its Spanish soul lives on in the same Russian Hill locale. New co-owners Amanda Banks Barker (Mamanoko) and her chef-boyfriend, Frascati vet Michael Pawlik, have modernized the space and menu to conjure Catalonia by way of California. You can taste the mingled currents in the tortilla Española, a classic updated with chorizo aioli, and in the grilled octopus slicked with chorizo oil and splashed with grilled scallion vinaigrette. While the cozy corner address sports a new look, it retains its warm neighborhood welcome. Never mind the chocolate hazelnut mousse is three times too sweet. The sweetness of the restaurant is just right. 2000 Hyde St. (at Union Street), 415.872.9239 –Josh Sens

Cambodian Street Food
At this humble takeout spot, tucked behind an East Oakland convenience store, Malinda Bun and her mother, Mach, turn out dishes like prahok ktiss, a smoldering ground pork stew shot through with chiles and fermented fish paste; and a beef soup called salaw machu kreung, which draws on sugar, lemongrass and makrut lime leaves to play a sweet-and-sour jingle on your tongue. While not everything on offer strictly qualifies as Cambodian street food, there’s plenty to satisfy the purist—most notably the grilled skirt steak with prahok sauce. Wrap a slab of meat with lettuce and cucumber, and dip it in a medley of lime, fish sauce, radish and baby eggplant. You’ll be happy you did. 2045 Foothill Blvd. (at 21st Avenue), 510.842.3134 –JS


Originally published in the March issue of San Francisco 

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