I get asked for restaurant recommendations constantly. In a city with so many options it can be overwhelming to try to keep up with what's hot and new, let alone the institutions that have been around forever. In order to keep up with the latest and greatest, I often focus on new places for my personal dining. This is certainly a disservice to the excellent cuisine served up at thousands of Bay Area eateries. So, when I need to spark some ideas, I head to the intrawebs to get inspiration. Here are some of my favorite places:
Opentable.com - If I am joining and we have any sort of time restrictions (meaning we don't want to wait for a table as a walk-in), I will first go to opentable.com. What better way to know what is available. I am often surprised at what I can find even last minute. Given, some restaurants don't use the service (which is really unfathomable to me) but I always seem to find something worthwhile. I wish they included the date the restaurant opened, but that's certainly asking a lot.
Google Maps (maps.google.com) - If I need to be in a certain location I'll pull it up on Google Maps and then check what is nearby. You simply type "restaurant" in the "search nearby" link. Don't restrict yourself to the callout results. The little red dots are also viable results and a simple click will give you more details on those. There are a lot of great places hiding outside the realm of the primary results.
Tablehopper.com - Marcia keeps a list of "Fresh Meat" recommendations on her site. I can't say she updates it often enough, but it is still one of the better places to find something new and different. She sorts it by neighborhood, which is very helpful. Also, if you check out her e-column section you can scroll through the archives to see what places she's talking about, new openings and general insider info.
Eater SF (sf.eater.com) - This is probably the most comprehensive news site for Bay Area restaurants, but it takes some culling to find details. Still, when I want to see if the new place in the Mission is open, it's often here first. Scroll through the multiple daily posts and you're bound to find some insightful help in picking a hotspot.
There are many more traditional sites that offer listings, but I frankly don't find myself relying on them. Still, a couple woth mentioning are:
Citysearch - a very comprehensive and searchable list. Editorial and customer reviews. Yelp - if you want other people's opinion, and can decipher what is worthwhile, there is no better aggregator. Around Me - An iPhone application that is great for finding a place close to where you are now. Urbanspoon - Another iPhone application that works like a slot machine to suggest a random restaurant based on a variey of criteria. If you're felling lucky.....