Just when you thought California’s already-stellar restaurant scene couldn’t get any better, here comes 2020 to set the bar even higher. In the coming year, dozens of new eateries are set to open across the Golden State, serving up everything from tacos to fresh seafood to Mediterranean fare with an only-in-California twist.
Here are 13 of the state’s most highly anticipated restaurant openings for 2020, listed from north to south.
Wit & Wisdom
In his first foray into wine country dining, superstar chef Michael Mina is opening an upscale tavern at the Lodge at Sonoma, near the town’s historic plaza. Along with a bocce court and happy hour specials, Wit & Wisdom will feature regional California cuisine cooked in a hearth oven and—of course—a fabulous wine list.
Chef Brandon Rice, a veteran of Michelin-starred Coi and Rich Table, is set to launch his own venture in the Mission District early this year. Named for Rice’s grandfather, Ernest will apply global inspiration from Rice’s international travels to locally sourced ingredients. Expect bold, innovative dishes and creative twists on familiar flavors.
Empress by Boon
A new empress will soon hold court in the old Empress of China restaurant space on Grant Avenue, housed in one of Chinatown’s most iconic buildings. Ho Chee Boon, previously the executive chef at the Michelin-starred Hakkasan chain, will launch Empress by Boon in the spring, focusing on modern Cantonese cuisine.
B. Patisserie’s Belinda Leong and Michael Suas are cooking up a new Pacific Heights bistro with former Manresa chef John Paul Carmona. Anticipated to open in the first quarter of the year, Routier will feature a cozy vibe, contemporary takes on French classics, and a stellar dessert lineup.
Followers of pit master Matt Horn’s Central Texas–style barbecue pop-up are sure to stampede to Horn’s new permanent home in West Oakland, slated to open in February. The menu will feature Horn’s acclaimed brisket, pork ribs, hot links, and pulled pork—all pit smoked to perfection.
Tuna belly burgers are about to become a thing in Uptown Oakland. Masa Sasaki of San Francisco’s Sasaki sushi bar will serve up panko-breaded burgers made with the fatty belly of the yellowfin tuna, fried to tonkatsu-like crispness and nestled in a bun with sliced radishes, lettuce, onions, and mint. Masabaga is targeting a February launch.
SANTA CRUZ COUNTY
David Kinch, executive chef at the three-star Michelin restaurant Manresa in Los Gatos, will pay homage the cuisine of southern France and the Italian Rivera at his new casual restaurant in Aptos, just south of Santa Cruz. Dishes will include sourdough crust pizzas made with house-milled flour, artisan pastas, and other elevated eats.
Girl & the Goat
One of Chicago’s most beloved restaurants will open a West Coast outpost this summer in L.A.’s Arts District. Expect to find Chef Stephanie Izard’s signature family-style dishes—all packed with bold international flavors—as well as new, L.A.-inspired creations that showcase fresh local produce.
Hollywood’s La Brea Corridor will soon be home to Gigi’s, a casual French bistro that takes a lighter approach to classic French dishes while showcasing locally grown produce. Chef Matt Bollinger, former chef de cuisine at Trois Familia and Winsome, will work his magic behind the burners.
Enrique Olvera of Mexico City’s Pujol and New York’s Cosme is bringing his culinary genius to Los Angeles. Combining the food cultures of Mexico City and L.A., Olvera’s new Arts District eatery, Damian, will feature Cali-Mexican cuisine rooted in Mexican flavors and traditions, while celebrating local ingredients and L.A.’s culinary diversity.
San Diego’s farmers and fisherman are set to take center stage at Callie, the new California-Mediterranean concept by Travis Swikard. Chef Swikard fell for the flavors of Greece, Spain, Italy, Morocco, and the Middle East while working at Boulud Sud in New York City, and plans to marry elements of those cuisines with his hometown “terroir.”
Carte Blanche Bistro and Bar
Brandon and Ryan Ross are joining forces with their dad, San Diego restaurant veteran Chuck Ross, to open a French-inspired Mexican bistro in Oceanside. Headed up by local chef Alex Carballo, Carte Blanche will present inventively delicious mashups combining French farmhouse fare with Mexican classics like street tacos and chile verde.
RMD Group of Volcano Rabbit fame is transforming the Gaslamp Quarter’s historic Grand Pacific Hotel building into a sophisticated steak house boasting one of southern California’s largest Japanese whisky collections. To make the dry-aged Wagyu steaks at Huntress even more succulent, executive chef James Montejano will poach them in butter, then give them a sizzling turn on a Japanese Binchotan coal-fired grill.