Feature

Best Outdoor Dining in San Francisco for Any Occasion

By Trevor Felch  |  May 16, 2016
Credit: La Mar Cebicheria Peruana

Dining outside in San Francisco is a year-round affair, meaning this city has an amazing selection of restaurants with patios, sidewalk seating and hidden gardens. And if it's a little chillier during summer? Throw on an extra sweater and enjoy a picnic in the Presidio or a romantic candlelit dinner in a courtyard with films playing in the background. These 12 SF restaurants do outdoor dining right, no matter what kind of experience you're in the mood for.

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  • Credit: Trevor Felch

    For an afternoon of sun and rosé: Salumeria

    Mid-afternoon is quiet at most restaurants, but not at this cafe-market's handful of sidewalk tables. After the lunch rush and well before happy hour, relaxed diners soak up rays in one of the sunniest corners of the city, while digging into salads and the stellar roast beef sandwich on a pretzel roll. Most importantly, there is always tempting rosé by the glass and bottle — the perfect sunny afternoon companion.

    3000 20th St.; 415-471-2998

  • Credit: ATWater Tavern

    For a giant patio with amazing views: ATWater Tavern

    Mission Rock's new, enormous restaurant and bar can’t be beat for blockbuster views of the Bay and AT&T Park, paired with ahi poke and local sand dabs grilled a la plancha. The main attraction at the bar from the owner of fellow waterfront favorite Hidive is the two-level outdoor deck complete with heat lamps, live music, and space for 100 guests. It's the place to be before or after a Giants game.

    295 Terry A. Francois Blvd.; 415-512-7153

  • Credit: Al's Place/Facebook

    For sidewalk seating that eases a long wait: Al's Place

    The addition of seats at this perpetually packed Mission destination is welcome news since the cozy dining room books a month in advance for a prime-time reservation and competition for walk-in seats is fierce. Yes, there are still lengthy waits — but at least 18 sidewalk seats added last month and reserved for walk-ins help a few more diners enjoy Aaron London’s always compelling seasonal plates.

    1499 Valencia St.; 415-416-6136

  • Credit: Trou Normand

    For cocktails and charcuterie surrounded by skyscrapers: Trou Normand

    Look around. Then look up. While snacking on lardo toast, savor this gorgeous courtyard oasis amidst some of the tallest buildings in the city, in the heart of the FiDi. It’s surreal. What could be better? That the brandy-focused cocktails and in-house butcher program (incredible roast pork) are amongst the city's elite. Tip: Call ahead to make sure the patio isn't reserved for a private event.

    140 New Montgomery St.; 415-975-0876

  • Credit: Charlie Villyard/Foreign Cinema

    For a patio dinner with a film: Foreign Cinema

    This 17-year-old Mission Cal-Mediterranean classic has one of the best brunches in the city and best patios for enjoying daylight. It’s equally enjoyable at dinner when the overhead Edison bulb strings softly light the tables and foreign films play as a backdrop for habanero-laced sea bass tartare and a juicy lavender-marinated pork chop. Magical? You bet. No wonder the patio is popular for weddings.

    2534 Mission St.; 415-648-7600

  • Credit: Trevor Felch

    For a fresh air break from the office: Pabu and The Ramen Bar

    When the nearby Ferry Building clock chimes at noon, FiDi workers sprint out en masse to lunch, seeking fresh air and fresh food. Fronting a grand plaza at the base of one of the skyline's most stunning buildings, Michael Mina’s neighboring ramen shop and izakaya offer excellent alfresco seating. The bigger question: do you opt for a bowl of ramen or miso black cod and sushi rolls?

    101 California St.; 415-668-7228
    101 California St.; 415-684-1570

  • Credit: Arlequin Cafe & Food To Go/Facebook

    For a backyard garden: Arlequin Cafe

    Outdoor dining setting at its best is in lush, secluded gardens. Tucked away from the main shopping stretch of Hayes Valley, this daytime-only French-Californian cafe's peaceful, tree-packed backyard garden is simply idyllic. Order a Reuben and a few homemade pastries, then find a quiet corner table, and you will wish every lunch could be here.

    384 Hayes St.; 415-626-1211

  • Credit: Dirty Water

    For an unlikely new courtyard patio: Dirty Water

    One of several dining options within Mid-Market's Twitter Building, this constantly buzzing restaurant and bar takes advantage of the newly renovated outdoor courtyard turned mini-park located between the building and its neighbor. An emerging neighborhood, outdoor tables to enjoy craft cocktails and deer tartare (order it!), and drought-conscious landscaping — this is San Francisco 2016.

    1355 Market St.; 415-792-5101

  • Credit: Dirty Habit/Facebook

    For a stylish rooftop patio: Dirty Habit

    San Francisco has a tremendous number of outdoor spaces — at ground level. The chic, sexy vibe from the fifth-floor dining room and bar carries over to the candlelit outdoor rooftop lounge with its fire pit, abstract sculptures, and fashionable crowd. It's heated year-round, and you can enjoy the same creative food and cocktails as inside. For happy hour after a conference at the nearby Moscone Center, this is the place to be.

    12 Fourth St.; 415-348-1555

  • Credit: La Mar Cebecheria Peruana

    For a waterfront patio with a dock: La Mar Cebecheria Peruana

    After a day on the Bay, dock your boat at globally renowned chef Gastón Acurio's Peruvian restaurant and stroll right into the sleek waterside outdoor covered dining area. Even without a boat, land dwellers on the Embarcadero should seek out the patio for plates of ceviche and beef heart anticuchos with a pisco sour (or two), while watching the Bay’s boat and seagull action.

    Pier 1.5, The Embarcadero; 415-397-8880

  • Credit: All Good Pizza/Facebook

    For a beer garden setting that specializes in pizza: All Good Pizza

    The name isn’t deceiving. Whether topped with kale or a Hawaiian with ham, pineapple and chèvre, the Neapolitan-style brick oven-fired pizza is special and so is the beer garden setting (note that it's a daytime-only operation) with a kitchen trailer in the Bayview. Don’t just stick to pizza — the paninis and salads are also good, especially what might be the city's best Cuban sandwich and muffaletta.

    1605 Jerrold Ave.; 415-933-9384

  • Credit: Off the Grid

    For the ultimate food truck and outdoor setting experience: Off the Grid Presidio

    As one of San Francisco’s marquee green spaces, the Presidio has abundant outdoor dining opportunities. The highlight is this mobile food vendor gathering Thursday evenings and Sunday afternoons (come early for one of the wind-protected cabana tents). Seek out pan-fried dumplings from newcomer truck Tonli Dumpling, and it's always a wise choice to swing by longtime standbys Johnny Doughnuts for dessert and Wanna-E for Burmese cuisine. Restaurants-wise, Arguello and Presidio Social Club have excellent patios within the national park.

    105 Montgomery St.