Pull up a seat at one of spring’s influx of tantalizing hot spots.
RAMEN SHOP | OAKLAND Along the rustic Douglas fir bar—set up like a sushi counter—diners at this no-reservations Rockridge eatery are patient for good reason. Sam White, Rayneil De Guzman and Jerry Jaksich have imbued a Japanese culinary tradition with the daily-changing, sustainable NorCal ethos learned during their runs at Chez Panisse. Steaming bowls of savory broth are a base for tangles of hand-pulled noodles and a bevy of local ingredients, whether Monterey Bay sardines, spit-roasted pork or various incarnations of miso. Early consensus: Here, the national ramen frenzy finds perhaps its most impressive expression. 5812 College Ave., Oakland, 510-788-6370; ramenshop.com.
A.O.C. | BEVERLY HILLS It’s hard to imagine a time in L.A. before small plates existed. But, a decade later after A.O.C. first opened, the spot credited with popularizing the concept has moved to the previous home of Orso/il Covo. On the patio, fragrant bay leaf trees and cocktail garden herbs, courtesy of Edible Gardens L.A.’s Lauri Kranz, set olfactory notes for fireside dinners of old and new favorites—from cheese and charcuterie to “ode to Zuni” roasted chicken and lamb shank with zingy feta-salsa verde. This being a wine bar, don’t miss sommelier/co-owner Caroline Styne’s 150 boutique labels. Two dozen are available by the glass. 8700 W. Third St., B.H., 323-859-9859; aocwinebar.com.
SEVENTH TEA BAR | ORANGE COUNTY Earl Grey truffles with Ti Kuan Yin oolong? Yes, please. Local roaster Portola Coffee dives into tea service at The OC Mart Mix in Costa Mesa. Marbled and wallpapered with a little dose of old-school British style, this matte-black, white and taxi-yellow lounge-cafe proffers a fine selection and variety of brew methods (à la Eva Solo), heavenly breads smothered in piquant strawberry-black pepper-olive tapenade, and iced tea on brass taps. 3313 Hyland Ave., C.M., 949-284-0596; seventhteabar.com.
FARMSHOP | MARIN COUNTRY MART, LARKSPUR This Golden State mainstay arrives in charming Marin with Commune Design’s stamp—thick walnut tabletops, Heath Ceramics tiles and teal mohair upholstery— and Thomas Keller vet Mark Hopper manning the open-hearth grill. Expect all the elements of what makes Jeff Cerciello’s Brentwood counterpart so beloved: wild greens with griddled local provolone; angry crab spaghetti with house-made tasso ham; and the addicting fries critic Jonathan Gold once nominated as the potato’s Platonic ideal. With a full cocktail program, you might never want to cook again. 2257 Larkspur Landing Cir., Larkspur; farmshopla.com.
Written and edited by Alison Clare Steingold