Enjoy dining al fresco? Let yourself be romanced by the sidewalk sounds of a big city or pampered by the peacefulness of a patio garden. Flock to the terrace, deck or boulevard table and share a bite under the sun, an oversized patio umbrella or the stars. Be it a brunch in the breeze, sunset supper or long lunch, all of it tastes best outside. Check out our list of the Top 5Restaurants for Outdoor Dining in San Francisco/Bay Area, presented in alphabetical order.
Adam and Stacy Jed’s sprawling Market Street brasserie showcases sustainably minded, deceptively simple modern American dishes from chef John Griffiths (Advocate). A singular steelhead trout tartare bursting with color incorporates fresh-roasted pistachios and smoked caviar. We relished the brisk pop of coriander in the silky chicken liver mousse with candied kumquats and chervil. Supple Maine scallops with roasted pumpkin receive the slightest sear and a toss of bacon-oat crumble, and the pan-roasted pork chop is served atop celery root and a bright Meyer lemon confit. Crisp asparagus in preserved Mandarin hollandaise and savory young broccoli in garlic confit and ricotta are rewarding accompaniments, but it is the seared cauliflower mingled with green harissa and fish sauce that beckons our return. A decadent quartet of desserts from pastry chef Lori Baker (Baker & Banker) features an indulgent tower of vanilla bean yellow cake, strawberry cheesecake, strawberry butter cream and strawberry jam. A well-rounded wine list includes a dozen on tap, and a cocktail lineup featuring hyper-seasonal ingredients is led by the bourbon-driven Call of the Wild, with its smooth honey-lemon start and delightful tannic Earl Grey finish. Diners can opt for the rooftop patio, overlooking the bustle of Market Street.
Bars and booze define Dirty Habit. There’s a small bar at the entrance to the fifth floor venue in the Hotel Zelos, and a much longer bar that runs the length of the inner restaurant, with backlit, glass-shelved libraries of spirits as extensive and artful as you’re likely to find. Seating for dinner is available inside and out — the outdoor covered patio is a highlight. The vast cocktail list is classically printed and bound, but to sample individual spirits you’ll need a second list, this one on a digital tablet; the rye category alone outdoes the total whiskey inventory at most places, and bourbon and Scotch come in dizzying ranges. The food menu of shareable small plates is shorter in scope. Thick-cut fries with harissa aïoli are optimal for spirits support. Squash flan is an intriguing soft play, exactly as one would expect from flan, and only lightly flavored from the squash. Some dishes are a bit erratic: sausage meatballs with cashews presented as an odd array of textures that didn’t work, and deconstructed lamb steamed buns were simply difficult to eat. But drinkers won’t mind the food’s inconsistencies, and may not bother with it anyway.
El Techo de Lolinda
With lush tropical cocktails, imaginative bites and expansive city views in all directions, El Techo is a fiesta in the sky. It’s the rooftop bar perched atop popular and usually packed Argentinian-style steakhouse Lolinda. Many guests start at El Techo before continuing Phase Two of their meals downstairs, but why not just stay up here above the fray? Less dark, less noisy, more casual and offering far more elbow room than its downstairs partner, this lofty aerie feels like a friendly private club. Its ample drinks menu includes nearly thirty tequilas, mezcals, rums and piscos, plus south-of-the-border classics such as peppy Cuba Libres (made with authentically super-sweet Mexican Coca-Cola) and bright, refreshing caipirinhas. Topped with perky paper umbrellas, El Techo’s piña coladas are extravagantly creamy and long-lastingly tall. Big hearty bites include ceviches, soups, sandwiches and exotica such as plantain patties and kale quesadillas. Still hungry? Consider the dulce de leche flan. The rooftop is tented and heated, so you can raise those glasses happily even on rainy days. Reservations are taken for brunch only.
Fish. is right on the water in Sausalito (off the main drag — bring a map), and its broad picnic table-filled patio offers a view of the boats moving in and out of the docks. The restaurant offers sustainable seafood prepared in the East Coast clam shack tradition, ranging from fish ‘n’ chips to grilled line-caught halibut so pristine you know the fish isn’t more than hours out of the water. We recommend the white clam chowder with bacon, and locals have been known to come from all over the county for the Saigon salmon sandwich, tangy and spicy with Vietnamese relish. Be prepared to pay upwards of $23 for the sandwich — steep but worth it. Daily specials and salads round out the menu. The thoughtfully-edited collection of beer and wine includes something to complement everything from a plate of barbecued oysters to a tuna melt. Note: Most of the seating is at picnic tables with backless benches, both inside and out.
La Mar Cebicheria Peruana
Celeb chef Gastón Acurio picked an apt location for his first stateside eatery: smack-dab on the waterfront. A loungy bar, heated dockside patio (which seats 130 after an extensive expansion) and lofty dining room with floor-to-ceiling windows, tall potted plants and turquoise décor create a comfortable, modern indoor-outdoor feel. The vivid peppers that are Peruvian staples — red rocoto, yellow aji amarillo, orange aji panca — inform dishes that are as sculpturally striking as they are seductively piquant. Classics from chef de cuisine Victoriano Lopez include causas (whipped-potato pedestals), empanadas (Peru’s answer to the knish) and anticuchos (grilled skewered meat and seafood). House-specialty cebiches include cebiche clásico, tender chunks of halibut transformed by tangy lime-based “leche de tigre.” We particularly like the bandeja de cebicheria, an assortment of ceviches and fish, and la gran bandeja criolla, an equally expansive array of cooked meats. Whole fish varies by the catch and is an impressive presentation. Rich, fruity desserts and complicated pisco cocktails introduce yet more memorable, if initially unfamiliar, flavors.