The Bay Area’s Best Restaurants for Outdoor Dining This Winter

Credit: The Vault

Outdoor dining flies any time of year around San Francisco — provided you bring a jacket! — but right now it’s a lifeline for both restaurants and diners. Put on an extra layer and take advantage of closed streets, pop-up patios, and cozy heated seating areas.

From dim sum on a balcony overlooking Chinatown to seafood towers alongside epic Bay Bridge views, these are the best places to make a reservation for dining outside in the Bay Area.

For leaning into winter: The Vault

Rather than shying away from the temperature change, The Vault, from the restaurateur behind Trestle, has embraced the season, creating a winter wonderland in the restaurant’s enormous courtyard. Two 80-foot tents span the space, partially covering seats while still allowing ventilation. Lined with heaters, garlands and winter floral arrangements, it’s a festive space to enjoy a holiday-focused American menu, featuring favorites such as Maine lobster and prime beef.

A plate of lobster and a glass of wine

Credit: Hardy Wilson for The Vault

For outstanding wine: A16 

Known for its top-notch wine list and charming garden, A16 in the Marina focuses on the cuisine of Campania. The Italian restaurant has a wood-burning oven, making for exceptional Neapolitan-style pizza, panzanella salad, and various pastas. The restaurant has added heaters to the patio-style set-up out front so you can dine comfortably even when the temperatures drop. 

For tapas al fresco: Canela 

Do as the Spanish do and settle in for croquetas and patatas bravas al fresco under Canela’s heaters on Market Street. Don’t know what to order? Book a Paella & Tapas Experience in advance on OpenTable — for $65 per person, diners receive their choice of paella, two tapas, and a dessert. The restaurant also sells throw blankets on site in case you need another layer. 

For a Chinatown immersion: Chinatown Restaurant

Enjoy lunch on sunny days while gazing down at historic Chinatown streets from Chinatown Restaurant, a 101-year-old Chinese restaurant serving a wide range of Chinese fare. Dim sum, Cantonese, Sichuan, and American-Chinese food all appear on the menu in dishes such as shrimp dumplings, chow mein, mapo tofu, and General Tso’s chicken, currently served on the restaurant’s second-floor balcony. 

For epic views: EPIC Steak & Waterbar

There’s no better place to gaze at the Bay Bridge lights than from the heated patios at EPIC Steak and Waterbar on the Embarcadero. Next door to each other and from the same team, both restaurants serve up American fare, one with a focus on meat and the other on seafood. Dine on soups, salads, and grilled steaks at EPIC, or raw bar and grilled seafood at Waterbar — all with sweeping views of the bay. For an extra special meal, a semi-private table can be booked under the pair’s covered piazza, complete with an outdoor fireplace.

Book EPIC Steak

Book Waterbar

For a garden brunch: Fable

Fable’s partially-covered patio feels like another place, chock full of lush greenery, statues, fountains, heaters, and string lights. The Castro Californian restaurant is especially known for brunch, when it serves up dishes such as beet-cured salmon eggs benedict, chocolate chip banana bread with whipped honey butter, and a deluxe cheeseburger on a housemade bolillo bun.

For pizza and pasta: Fiorella Clement

Pizza and pasta is Fiorella’s specialty in dishes such as a burrata pie, sweet corn pie, and cacio e pepe. An all-local beer list, locally sourced produce, and city-themed murals and wallpaper make the restaurant strongly San Franciscan. The compact backyard has socially distanced tables with sunny yellow chairs, string lights, and heaters for cool Richmond nights.

For iconic San Francisco: Foreign Cinema

Perhaps San Francisco’s most renowned patio, Foreign Cinema’s outdoor space is still going strong in the Mission, with classic films being projected al fresco onto the garden wall. Tables are a bit more distanced and the big bar inside isn’t open, but heaters help keep the party going into the winter. Foreign Cinema’s Californian-Mediterranean menu includes dishes such as raw bar, tuna carpaccio with white grapefruit and green olive relish, sesame fried chicken with hummus, and those famous homemade pop tarts at brunch.

A movie is projected on a wall while people dine on a patio below

Credit: Leonard Martin Hughet for Foreign Cinema

For any vegan needs: Gracias Madre

Top-notch Mexican food is prolific in San Francisco, but making it vegan is not. That’s where Gracias Madre comes in, serving up vegan Mexican fare such as sweet potato quesadillas with spicy cashew nacho cheese, potato and zucchini enchiladas, and jackfruit carnitas nachos. The outdoor dining area is small but sits on a covered, walled streetside pavilion with heaters to ensure a comfortable experience.

For Moroccan in the Mission: Khamsa

Moroccan fare gets filtered through a California lens at Khamsa in the Mission. The mainly halal menu includes dishes such as chicken basteeya (pot pie); lamb couscous; fish, beef, chicken, or duck tagines; and beef and lamb meatballs. It’s all available on the outdoor patio, with twinkly lights, heaters, and plenty of foliage.

For ceviche and cocktails: Mochica

Potrero Hill neighborhood favorite Mochica is the spot for ceviche, pisco sours, rotisserie chicken with chimichurri, and other bright Peruvian fare. Outdoor seating now spans onto the street under a covered area that’s livened up with green turf, planters, string lights, and most importantly: heaters. Don’t miss the extensive cocktail menu that focuses on pisco, the clear liquor made from Peruvian grapes.

For a sushi fix: Ozumo

Score sweeping views of the bay from a seat at Ozumo. The Japanese restaurant just off the Embarcadero serves up all the greatest hits of Japanese cuisine, including ramen, tempura, sushi, donburi, and robata. Outdoor tables are separated from the street by planters, with string lights for some added ambiance and heaters to help on those chillier nights.

For upscale Indian: Rooh

No detail is left unattended at higher-end SoMa Indian restaurant Rooh, even down to the branded fleece blankets available for diners to purchase. The menu’s progressive dishes include vegetable dumplings with saag gravy, chili sambal prawns, jackfruit tacos, and grilled sea bass with lemongrass coconut curry. Rooh’s industrial brick, high-ceilinged building offers a striking background for the heated outdoor courtyard.

For street-side seafood: Anchovy Bar

The newest restaurant from the acclaimed team behind State Bird Provisions and The Progress brings European seafood traditions to the Bay Area, most evident in the house specialty, California

Outdoor tables with heaters

Credit: Anchovy Bar

favorite avocado toasts topped with  local anchovies cured in vinegar, boquerones-style. The menu also includes shellfish such as oysters, mussels, and clams, along with a few meat dishes — all ready to be enjoyed on the restaurant’s heated streetside patio.

For a casual beer hang: Willkommen 

Sausage and beer is ideal outdoor fare, and Willkommen nails both. From Black Hammer Brewing and Rosamunde Sausage Grill, the Castro beer garden serves up 10 types of sausages prepared in various styles alongside rotating drafts and cans. Picnic-style tables out front are separated by large planters and heaters, making for a nearly private dining situation.

For the city’s best dim sum: Yank Sing

San Francisco dumplings are synonymous with Yank Sing. The iconic dim sum parlor has set up outdoors at its SoMa location, making changes such as eliminating carts to accommodate for safety protocols. But the 62-year-old restaurant is still serving up all its favorites each afternoon, from steamed shrimp dumplings to sesame balls for a true dim sum feast.

For an outdoor fireplace in Redwood City: Mistral Restaurant & Bar

Mistral has always boasted an outdoor fireplace, patio heaters, and extensive outdoor seating, making it particularly well-positioned for current times. Need more warmth? Grab a bowl of the restaurant’s famous spicy seafood chowder, packed with calamari, shrimp, seasonal fish, and sweet peppers.

For fresh tortillas in Corte Madera: Flores 

Flores prides itself on authentic Mexican food, building the menu from recipes passed down through the owner’s families. Tortillas are made from fresh masa every day, perfect for soaking up a bowl of warming pozole verde on the restaurant’s large heated patio.

Patio tables sit under umbrellas and heat lamps

Credit: Flores

For casual French in the East Bay: Rêve Bistro

This neighborhood bistro serves high-quality food in a low-key setting, emulating the local restaurants chef and owner Paul Magu-Lecugy loved during his time cooking in Paris. Grab a seat on Rêve’s heated patio to enjoy classics such as escargots and steak frites, served alongside a mostly-French wine list.

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