The 15 Bay Area restaurants the Chronicle food team kept going back to this year

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The nature of the food journalist’s gig is that we, The Chronicle Food + Wine staff, are constantly trying new restaurants all over the Bay Area. That means even when we find a restaurant we think is fantastic, we sometimes don’t end up going back.

But every year, there are a few restaurants that emerge as reliable standbys: places that feed us affordable lunches; that nourish us with much-needed veggies; that manage to consistently surprise and delight us.

So yes, please check out our recommendations for 2022’s best new restaurants, best new bars and best new wine tasting rooms. But this list might be the most useful of all: Here are 15 restaurants the Food + Wine staff kept going back to off the clock. — J.B.

Champa Garden

When picking dinner becomes too complicated, I know Champa Garden in Oakland has my back. I could probably eat the Southeast Asian restaurant’s nam kaow (fried rice salad) every day: The dish combines snappy fried rice, cilantro, chiles and diced sausages into a colorful confetti that crackles in your mouth like Rice Krispies. For extra freshness, and more crunch, it comes with a side of crisp lettuce, cilantro and mint, to use for lettuce cups.What keeps me coming back to Champa are the snacks, my other regular order being the Champa sampler, which features crisp Lao sausages, the aforementioned fried rice salad and fried spring rolls. The dishes are perfect for when I want a lazy dinner — it travels well if you choose takeout or delivery — but with strong, energetic flavors. — C.H.
2102 Eighth Ave., Oakland. 

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