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The Izakaya Scene in San Francisco Is Just Getting Started

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Welcome to Taking the Temperature, in which Eater checks the vitals signs of various food scenes across the country to find out what's exciting and what's DOA. Today: Izakayas in San Francisco.

Izakayas, restaurants serving the Japanese take on bar food that is often grilled, are a trend that just won't quit in San Francisco. The Bay Area has had a Japantown — and the Japanese restaurants that go with it — since the great earthquake of 1906, but over the past few years there's been a new wave of izakaya openings. Starting with the opening of O Izakaya Lounge in the Hotel Kabuki in 2007, the boom really hit its stride about a year ago when, according to Eater SF editor Carolyn Alburger, "at least one new, notable izakaya was popping up every month."

And of course there's an izakaya for everyone: Sustainability your thing? Try Ki. Or perhaps you'd like to support your local farmers through izakaya dining? Nojo's on it. Hecho gives the trend a Mexican twist; Nombe has "elevated ramen"; Ippuku in Berkeley is the critical darling; there was even a pop-up izakaya. Of course, if the izakaya insanity is a little much for you, you could go old school with places like Izakaya Sozai and Oyaji.

Below, chef Greg Dunmore of Nojo talks seasonal Japanese/California food, the beauty of letting the kitchen order for you, and his favorite San Francisco izakayas. Plus, a selection of San Francisco restaurants serving izakaya style food, both new and classic.

Interview With Greg Dunmore of Nojo

Why do you think San Francisco in particular has such an exciting izakaya scene?
Currently, I feel, the izakaya scene is really just starting here in San Francisco. I hope in a few years, people will have really embraced the idea of izakayas and there will be many more.

What sets Nojo apart from the pack?
One of the biggest things that sets Nojo apart is we are a farm-to-table California izakaya. We prepare Japanese food through a California lens using local farms. Most if not all our dishes can be traced to a farmer, rancher, fisherman, etc.

What advice would you give to someone trying out this style of dining for the first time?
Order a drink and few dishes, then see how you feel. If it is large party we usually ask if we can order for them so everyone can taste a little.

What makes for a quality izakaya?
Heart and soul, but that goes for anything.

Where do you eat when you're not at Nojo?
What an impossible question! Izakaya wise, my favorites are Ippuku, Yuzuki and Halu. Some of the other izakayas are closed on the day Nojo is closed so I have not been able to go.

Finish the sentence: I wish more San Francisco izakayas would... use seasonal ingredients.

A Selection of Izakayas in San Francisco

Did we miss your favorite San Francisco izakaya? Let us know in the comments.

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Kappou Gomi

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Ki Sushi

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Nojo Restaurant

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Nombe Restaurant

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Izakaya Yuzuki

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O Izakaya Lounge

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Oyaji Restaurant

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Halu Restaurant

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Tekka Japanese Restaurant

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Izakaya Sozai

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Kappou Gomi

Ki Sushi

Nojo Restaurant

Hecho

Nombe Restaurant

Ippuku

Chotto

Izakaya Yuzuki

O Izakaya Lounge

Oyaji Restaurant

Halu Restaurant

Tekka Japanese Restaurant

Izakaya Sozai

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