Locals know that autumn is the real summer in San Francisco and when the weather’s nice, enjoying a great meal or drink alfresco is at the top of anyone’s list. Here are the city’s best outdoor spots, from the picnic to the patio.
Waterbar is arguably the city’s best-known destination when it comes to bayside dining. Its outdoor tables sit under the glimmering lights of the Bay Bridge and offer panoramic views of the bay, Treasure Island and the Ferry Building. The seafood-focused menu features the widest selection of oysters on the West Coast. Also on the Embarcadero just north of Waterbar, La Mar Cebicheria Peruana features an open-air space on the pier that looks out onto the bay. Seafood is the top-draw at this Peruvian restaurant, along with its famous Pisco sour. On the city’s eastern waterfront in Mission Bay, The Ramp is a casual patio restaurant with a backdrop of the bay and a collection of docked sailboats. You might recall the popular brunch spot as the setting in a scene from Woody Allen’s 2013 film “Blue Jasmine.”
In the Mission neighborhood, El Techo is a popular rooftop eatery and bar with views extending to the downtown skyscrapers. The menu features Latin American street food, from ceviche to chicharones, along with creative summer cocktails. Expect a wait on warm days, and on cold days, heat lamps and tall windows have you covered. In Lower Nob Hill, Jones features a huge heated terrace surrounded by tall buildings that’s almost always packed with an energetic, young crowd. On the fifth floor of Hotel Zelos in the SoMa neighborhood, Dirty Habit is an upscale bar with an elegant outdoor patio outfitted with low sofas, cocktail tables and a fire pit. The craft cocktail menu emphasizes rare brown spirits and the kitchen serves up highlights including chicken wings with spicy chili vinaigrette and foie gras.
Patios and Courtyards
One of the city’s top date-night destinations, Foreign Cinema is home to a charming courtyard where a foreign or classic 35mm film is always playing in the background. The Mission District restaurant offers a mix of Mediterranean and California fare and has received multiple James Beard award nominations. In Hayes Valley, the secluded garden patio of Arelquin Cafe is one of the city’s most tranquil getaways. With a perfect balance of sun and shade, this is a great spot to enjoy the cafe’s artisanal sandwiches, desserts or wines. Located within the historic Presidio Officers’ Club—the oldest building in San Francisco—Arguello’s intimate patio sits under the tall trees of the Presidio and is equipped with heaters and a fire pit on cold days. The restaurant from award-winning chef Traci Des Jardins serves Mexican cuisine and features a full bar with more than 50 types of tequila.
Embarcadero Center—Another popular lunch destination for downtown workers, this elevated promenade is known for its innovative design and unique views of the Ferry Building.
Crissy Field—Perhaps the city’s best picnic location, Crissy Field is a beautiful bayside setting with views of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Columbus Street—North Beach’s main artery, Columbus Street is lined with solid restaurants offering sidewalk tables for that European dining experience.