Where to eat right now

Bacon Twix, rabbit curry, spicy panuozzo, avocado tacos: the hottest new spots in the city (that won't break your bank)

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culture@sfbg.com

TABLEHOPPING If we were finance people, we'd say Q1 of 2014 was a hella strong start to the year. But since we're food people, we're just going to hook you up with our version of a PowerPoint slideshow of all the latest openings, hot spots, and new dish faves. Please, leave your Google Glass at home, turn off your iPhone flash when taking food pics for Instagram, and just dig in.

 

WHAT'S THAT? I CAN'T HEAR YOU OVER THE BUZZ

Any of you SF old-timers will remember how nuts it was when Blowfish and Tokyo Go Go opened in the city. Yeah, both those places were bonkers. Well, the new incarnation of ICHI Sushi and NI Bar (3282 Mission, SF. www.ichisushi.com) in Bernal is registering on the same Richter scale, with hip-hop blasting, hour-plus waits at the sushi bar — on a Tuesday! — and crazy-delicious izakaya dishes, like miso asari clams (you will want to drink the entire bowl of porky and garlicky broth, trust) and ICHI's famed yuzu-fried chicken wings. Why have spinach gomae when you can have asparagus gomae? Exactly. And deep-fried ocean trout in dashi is the best of both worlds: beautiful sushi-grade fish with a homey and belly-filling presentation. Be sure to try the ICHIBIER, a partnership with local brewer Almanac: It's a shiso-yuzu ale that's built for lather, rinse, repeat.

 

YOU HAVE TO BE HOT TO WORK HERE

Well, that's not exactly true, but it sure seems that way at the new Valencia Street digs of Loló (974 Valencia, SF. www.lolosf.com). When you're not busy ogling the darling servers, the caliente bartenders making you mezcal-y cocktails, or the cute clientele, the menu will also be winking at you with sabrosito dishes like fried-in-panko avocado tacos (you gotta get 'em!), smoky and juicy gorditas with mezcal barbecue beef, and the tuna tacon with seared albacore and a shellfish aioli. Ay, papi. The megawatt interior provides all kinds of color therapy — you'll definitely leave even happier than you were when you arrived, for a multitude of reasons.

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A classic Margherita pizza at Il Casaro

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THE NEXT GREAT HAWT BRUNCH

Have you hit Verbena (2323 Polk, SF. www.verbenarestaurant.com) yet on Russian Hill? What, you don't like the sound of sourdough pancakes with maple butter, biscuits and herb sausage gravy with pepper vinegar, and poached eggs with braised duck ragout with peas and their leaves — plus excellent craft cocktails, handsome dining room decor, and an appealing wine list? Maybe the new brunch launching the weekend of April 5th is what's going to get you to come visit. Really, you ought to experience the flavor-packed vittles from chef Sean Baker, also of beloved Gather in Berkeley.

 

IT'S OK TO DRINK YOUR DINNER (BUT REALLY, YOU SHOULD EAT SOMETHING, TOO)

You may be inspired to simply hit the sauce once you look over the thirst-inducing drink lists at Trou Normand (140 New Montgomery, SF. www.trounormandsf.com) and The Coachman (1148 Mission, SF. www.coachmansf.com), both new joints in SoMa with exceptional cocktail pedigrees. But that would be a mistake, because you would miss the beef tartare topped fried smelt at The Coachman, or the charcuterie plate and the honking pork chop at Trou Normand. You can still down a whiskey-laced Calvados cocktail at Trou, or let ye olde Coachman's barkeeps fix you up a sherry cobbler or three. Just do it all. More is more.

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