A Guide to Great Outdoor Dining and Drinking in San Francisco

| May 31, 2014 | 1 Comment
  • 1 Comment
Warm summer days send San Franciscans fleeing to the beaches. Photo: Simon Bisson/Flickr

Warm summer days send San Franciscans fleeing to the beaches. Photo: Simon Bisson/Flickr

With the heat wave last month, San Franciscans flocked to parks and beaches and asked each other that often-forgotten question in our foggy city: Where can one eat outdoors? Well, it’s bound to be a hot summer now, so you’ll have plenty of time to try these cool spots on the hot days.

Either enjoy a meal and cold glass of wine on a hidden backyard patio or drink the warm nights away on rooftop lounges. Of course, don’t forget to bring a jacket — this is still San Francisco afterall. Our list certainly isn’t comprehensive, but includes some of our favorite outdoor restaurants and bars. Share your best outside spots — if you can spare them — in the comments below.

Restaurants

The Beach Chalet
Brewery, American, $$
1000 Great Highway
(415) 386-8439
Mon-Thurs, 9 a.m. – 10 p.m.;  Fri, 9 a.m. – 11 a.m.; Sat, 8 a.m. – 11 a.m.; Sun, 8 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Why? Sure, you think it’s just for tourists, but the Beach Chalet is a chalet – on the beach. What’s not to love? Extra bonus: the beers brewed on site are delicious at the end of a busy day. The place is bound to be crowded, though, and if you’d rather stick to a locals-only crowd, then this is not the spot for you.

Arlequin Café
Sandwiches, Wine, Coffee, $$
384 Hayes St.
(415) 626-1211
Mon, 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Tues-Fri, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Sat, 9 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Sun, 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Why? Enjoy some wine and a cheese plate on the hidden back patio. In between the gardens, stone, and wrought-iron, you’ll feel like the mac n’ cheese is a secret you discovered.

Foreign Cinema
American, Brunch, $$$
2534 Mission St.
(415) 648-7600
Mon-Wed, 6 – 10 p.m.; Thurs, 6 – 11 p.m.; Fri, Sat, 5:30 – 11 p.m.; Sun, 5:30 – 10 p.m. (Brunch: Sat, Sun, 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.)
Why? I once had a friend who drove up from Los Angeles for a cheese plate at Foreign Cinema. It’s not that good, but there’s a reason Foreign Cinema is a San Francisco classic. Enjoy foreign and independent films screened in the outdoor courtyard during dinner. (A schedule is on their website.) There’s also an art gallery and the adjoining bar, Laszlo, is open until 2 a.m. every night.

SoMa StrEat Food Park
Food trucks, $
428 11th St.
Mon-Fri, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. and 5 – 9 p.m.; Sat, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.; Sun, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Why? You can’t experience outdoor dining in the city without experiencing a food truck park – and no location is more varied and popular than the one in SoMa. Ignore the strange capitalization. Vendors change daily; check online for a schedule. Events include karaoke and comedy nights outside amid the trucks.

Zazie
French, Brunch, $$
941 Cole St.
(415) 564-5332
Brunch: Everyday, 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. Dinner: Sun-Thurs, 5 – 9:30 p.m.; Fri, Sat, 5 – 10 p.m.
Why? Yes, the line for brunch is always insane. But, after you get in the front door, head to the back to enjoy your coffee and breakfast on the patio.

Photo: Courtesy of Sociale Restaurant

Photo: Courtesy of Sociale Restaurant

Sociale
Italian, $$$
3665 Sacramento St.
(415) 921-3200
Lunch: Tues-Sat, 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. Dinner: Mon-Sat, 5:30 – 10 p.m.
Why? The only thing missing from a tasty Italian dinner is sipping your glass of wine in a charming rustic courtyard. Tucked down an alley in Presidio Heights, Sociale feels like a small part of Europe in the middle of San Francisco.

Photo: Courtesy of Park Chow

Photo: Courtesy of Park Chow

Park Chow
American, $$
1240 9th Ave.
(415) 665-9912
Mon-Thurs, 7 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.; Fri, 7 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.; Sat, 8 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.; Sun, 8 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Why? Chow has a number of locations, but the one you want for sunshine is the spot next to Golden Gate Park. Head to the upper roof deck and order some pumpkin ice cream.

Bars

Zeitgeist
Beer, Burgers, $
199 Valencia St.
(415) 255-7505
Everyday, 9 a.m. – 2 a.m.
Why? Order a pitcher, hang out at the outdoor picnic tables, and wait for the Tamale Lady to come by. The spot is so hipster it’s practically not even hip anymore, but it’s still a dive bar classic. Bring cash and don’t be thrown by the famously insulting service.

Photo: Courtesy of El Techo de Lolinda

Photo: Courtesy of El Techo de Lolinda

El Techo de Lolinda
Latin American, Cocktails, $$
2518 Mission St.
(415) 550-6970
Mon-Thurs, 4 – 11 p.m.; Fri, 4 p.m. – 1 a.m.; Sat, 11 a.m. – 1 a.m.; Sun, 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Why? At the street level is the sister Argentinian restaurant Lolinda, but head up upstairs for the casual El Techo de Lolinda. The rooftop patio has amazing skyline views and amazing margaritas. Oh, and the food isn’t bad either.

Biergarten
Beer garden, $$
424 Octavia St.
(415) 252-9289
Wed-Sat, 3 – 9 p.m.; Sun, 1 – 7 p.m. (Mon, Tues, closed)
Why? Germans do beer right. The outdoor spot provides an authentic beer garden right in Hayes Valley. Have a bratwurst, pretzel, and of course some beer. Blankets are provided on cold nights. On sunny afternoons, though, spots are hard to come by when the whole courtyard fills up.

Pilsner Inn
Bar, $
225 Church St.
(415) 621-7058
Mon-Fri, noon – 2 a.m.; Sat, Sun, 10 a.m. – 2 a.m.
Why? It doesn’t look like much on the outside, but walk through the small bar and you’ll end up in one of the most lush garden patios in the city. Cheap beer and a low key vibe is the order of the day in this Castro bar.

The Ramp
Seafood, Bar, $$
855 Terry A Francois Blvd.
(415) 621-2378
Mon-Fri, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Sat, Sun, 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Why? If you can’t drink on the Bay, then what’s the point of living by the Bay? South of AT&T Park in Mission Bay, the waterfront, umbrella-covered patio is the place for a Bloody Mary and some Eggs Benedict.

Jones
American, Lounge, $$$
620 Jones St.
(415) 496-6858
Tues-Thurs, 5 p.m. – midnight; Fri, Sat, 5 p.m. – 2 a.m.; Sun, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Why? Jones’ motto is: ‘It’s a bar. It’s a restaurant. It’s inside. It’s outside.’ It’s a rooftop party. The bar is cash only, but if you bring some then you should enjoy the wide open space.

Photo: Courtesy of El Rio

Photo: Courtesy of El Rio

El Rio
Bar, $
3158 Mission St.
(415) 282-3325
Everyday, 1 p.m. – 2 a.m.
Why? The quirky location has an overgrown patio, a well-priced happy hour, live salsa, and Rocky’s Frybread in the backyard. The only problem is that people are starting to catch on to this local secret. Expect crowds, especially around choice tables and trying to order drinks.

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Category: bay area, Bay Area Bites Food + Drink, beverages, local food businesses, restaurants, bars, cafes, san francisco

About the Author ()

Kelly O'Mara is a writer and reporter in the San Francisco Bay Area. She writes about food, health, sports, travel, business and California news. Her work has appeared on KQED, online for Outside Magazine and in Competitor Magazine, among others.
  • Jack Fagan

    Yes to StrEat Food, The Ramp, and Zeitgeist. Also, Benders @19th&So.VanNess; Dr. Teeth @Mission&19th, and especially Wild Side West on Cortland in Bernal Hill