1499 Valencia Street
Photo by Lisa Corson, AFAR Media
Al's PlaceAs far as culinary origin stories go, it’s hard to beat Aaron London’s. As a rebellious teenager in Sonoma, he taught himself to cook in his family’s home kitchen. Flash forward a decade and he’s at the helm of his own pioneering restaurant—one that was named the best in the country in 2015 by Bon Appétit. Fruits and vegetables take center stage at Al’s Place, but London’s approach expands on the California cuisine of previous generations. Instead of preparing ingredients simply to stand on their own, London takes them through their paces. The fries, for example, take four days to prepare, while the season’s freshest offerings show up in unexpected ways: peach mayonnaise accompanies perfectly tender asparagus spears. But while London is known for being meticulous, the vibe of the dining room is laid back. Staff dress casually in a style befitting the neighborhood (plenty of kitchen-appropriate clogs and sleeves of tattoos) and are friendly, knowledgeable, and free of pretension. Pro tip: Show up early and join the loyalists and super fans who wait in two lines—one for those with reservations, one for walk-in guests—and then find out for yourself what a four-day fry tastes like.