Restaurant openings are a difficult thing to predict, even in previous years before the coronavirus pandemic, where any long-term planning became frustrating as the litany of endless pivots, shutdowns, and reopening of restaurants slowed businesses down.
However, the dream of bringing new restaurants to life continued among restaurateurs and local chefs. From homey Puerto Rican Arroz Con Gandules to upscale, Michelin-pedigreed Korean, these are some of the most thrilling and diverse lineups of new openings in modern history as they offer a glimpse at what’s ahead in 2021.
La Perla Puerto Rican Cuisine
Opening on Valentine’s Day, February 14, at 3409 Fruitvale Avenue, Oakland, the La Perla Puerto Rican Cuisine is the first full-fledged Puerto Rican restaurant in Oakland. Cheo Ortiz and his family operate their business in a small kitchen inside a convenience store in Dimond Neighborhood.
The Ortiz’s are equipped with a large area where customers could expect a more diverse menu inspired by homey classics like pernil and Arroz Con Gandules. The restaurant would eventually open up indoors for live music and dancing.
Californios projects its opening in early 2021 in 355 11th Street, South of Market. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Val Cantu’s elegant, two-Michelin-starred version of fine Mexican dining has been put on hold.
However, guests will soon be able to enjoy the chef’s seasonal tasting and innovative menus again in a new outdoor venue. The restaurant would stand atop the previous Bar Agricole space and expected to have a 1,700-square-foot patio.
When the restaurant opens, it would be an instant candidate for the city’s most compelling outdoor tasting menu experience.
La Santa Torta
Expecting to open in early 2021, La Santa Torta is located at 95 Linden Street, Oakland. Victor Guzman and Leo Oblea built up a massive fanbase for their Jalisco-style beef birria tacos and tortas in the three years that they ran the La Santa Torta food truck. They were also one of the early Bay Area quesabirria movements.
The couple’s first standalone restaurant was in a West Oakland space, formerly occupied by Old Kan Beer & Co (whose brewery and taproom are still next door), and offers an even deeper menu of Jalisco-style dishes, such as brunch specials and a dripping-wet torta ahogada.
La Cocina Municipal Marketplace
La Cocina’s latest food hall is a platform for the kitchen incubator’s roster of mainly migrant, POC, and female food entrepreneurs; it is one of the most eagerly awaited ventures to be held back by the pandemic in 2020. It targets to open early spring in 101 Hyde Street, Tenderloin.
Together with the day-to-day operations of former Farmerbrown chef Jay Foster managing the marketplace, individual kiosks will feature Boug Cali gumbo and Algerian Kayma couscous. It plans to start offering takeout by early spring while the indoor food hall will not be open until at least the fall, said the San Francisco Eater.
Fiorella Inner Sunset
Fiorella’s new Inner Sunset spot, one of a number of rising environment of buzzy restaurants on and around 9th Avenue, will introduce massive wood-fire pizzas, fresh pasta, and low-ABV cocktails to the former location of Park Chow in 1240 9th Avenue, Inner Sunset in early spring, despite its opening being one that the pandemic has caused.
Uncle Sok Hee
In 499 Ellis Street, Tenderloin, Uncle Sok Hee plans to open in spring. Azalina Europe’s (Mahila) new restaurant project named after a beloved family friend back home in Malaysia is the chef’s love letter to the Malaysian-Chinese, or Kopitam coffee shops, which can be seen all over the island of Penang. Laksa, char kway teow, charcoal-grilled kaya toast, and butter coffee are the menu highlights.