San Francisco Restaurants Bounce Back

For a sense of how San Francisco’s restaurant business is being altered by the recession, consider flavors like “sweaty gasoline” and “armpit.”

That is how two wines are described on the menu at Heart, a new Mission District wine bar that uses Mason jars to serve obscure wines in terms designed to attract the Generation Y crowd. It is all part of setting a “simpler and cheaper” tone—with an edge to attract a younger crowd with money—that 25-year-old owner Jeff Segal says he is trying to achieve at the Valencia Street bar.

“I wanted to make it look like it was well thought out but didn’t cost a million dollars,” Mr. Segal said of Heart, which opened in late January.

That sentiment is guiding an emerging comeback of San Francisco’s restaurant business. While high-end restaurants like Aqua and Bacar have recently shut, new eateries and bars are popping up that exploit the downturn’s benefits—such as cheaper rents, plentiful workers, lower wine costs—and cater to a clientele that is spending less money but is still going out.

“The trend is for opening smaller neighborhood-focused restaurants, and the trend is a way from the palaces,” said Kevin Westlye, executive director of Golden Gate Restaurant Association, a trade group.

Continue reading . . .