Whatever we expected at the beginning it all hit the ground quickly: what a wild ride for food and drink trends this year, from anyone baking their own sourdough and panicking beans to exploring fresher formats such as meal sets and frozen dumplings and finally make yourself comfortable with cakes and cocktails. Not to mention sandwiches. From the food-obsessed city by the bay, even in this tough year, we couldn’t stop eating in San Francisco in 2020.
The sourdough trend got off to a strong start at the beginning of the pandemic, though it may not end with as much enthusiasm – many home cooks seemed to fall off the train in a matter of weeks. Even so, this spring it was a fun collective moment to watch local bakeries like Thorough Bread offer starters and kits for budding home bakers.
Gluttonous bean hoarders
While panic buyers across the country cleaned Costco of toilet paper, the eaters here in the bay hoarded heirloom beans: Rancho Gordo reported that sales quadrupled at the start of the pandemic. And if someone is still working through a supply, their latest cookbook is magical and a great inspiration for simmering a pot of beans in the back of the oven.
Palette Teahouse / Facebook
Of all the dining experiences that were discontinued this year, the Franciscans sorely neglected to sit at a large round brunch table, watch the dim sum carts, and choose a quartet of dumplings in a cloud of steam. But to keep us going, authorities like Dragon Beaux were selling frozen dumplings to cook at home.
Pasta, pasta, pasta
“People really need carbohydrates now,” joked David Nayfeld of Che Fico in the first week of the shutdown, calling it off. Lasagna family dinners have been a comfort this year, from Che Fico’s own offerings to the latest from Little Original Joe’s. But carbohydrate cravings have many layers: restaurants have also rolled out pasta dishes like ravioli, tortellini, macaroni, and more.
Nice chirashi bowls
Compared to last year, the service trend has changed from intimate omakase counters to beautiful chirashi bowls. Switching from a sitting experience to a take-out container was of course a necessity, but sushi spots turned them so great, especially stars like Ju-Ni and Wako.
Gorgeous bento boxes
Eaters can’t stop talking about these cute bento boxes either. Fans loved popping lids from Hina Yakitori with this chicken box for just $ 18, Gozu with this Wagyu steak bento for a luxurious $ 95, and Rintaro in lots of small compartments week after week.
Breakouts of the meal set
Meal sets were a whole new format for restaurants that seems to be ubiquitous by now, but was actually only new six months ago, remember? The restaurants have made it easy to ask guests to warm up dishes, toss salads, cook pasta, and roast steaks. It was a breakthrough: Takeout suffers for so many reasons, and one little montage can go a long way.
Big ass sandwiches
And when everyone was fed up with the cooking, the overwhelming trend by summer was the big ass sandwich. To begin with, 2020’s grand sandwich streak kicked off with two meaty openings: the Philly-style Hoagies from Palm City and the Pitbull-approved mortadella submarines from Lucinda’s. But on the Peak Sandwich it seemed like everyone was taking up the menu, and you can still make out Dutch crunch giraffe markings roaming the town.
Poppy seed bagels
It’s been a surprisingly tight year for bagels on the bay. In pop-ups, Poppy Bagels broke out with New York nostalgia, in contrast to Midnite Bagel with its sourdough sourdough and freshly ground grains. Poppy’s Reesa Kashuk claimed, “Maybe the California bagel has yet to be defined.” Lots of people try: Schloks showed up at the Snug, Early to Rise returned with luscious salmon, Boichik opened in Berkeley and Wise Sons took over Beauty’s in Oakland.
Take away cocktails
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: If there’s one silver lining to be thankful for in 2020, it’s take-away cocktails. In all categories, from spicy margaritas in summer to hot toddlers this winter, they’re the gift that keeps simple. Bars really hurt right now. So if you’re able, order something strong from your favorite watering hole. Let’s raise a glass to put the end of this year out of sight.