San Francisco’s Best Restaurants for Outdoor Dining

The view at night from Waterbar | Photo Credit: Waterbar

Outdoor dining flies most any time of year in San Francisco, but right now it’s a lifeline for both restaurants and diners. Take advantage of closed streets and charming patios that offer a place to dine without having to do the dishes.

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 SF. Just don’t forget a sweater.

For guides to the best outdoor dining in other cities around the U.S. and Canada, head here.

For outstanding wine: A16

Known for its top-notch wine list and wood-fired oven, A16 in the Marina focuses on the cuisine of Campania. The Italian restaurant churns out exceptional Neapolitan-style pizza, panzanella salad and other antipasti, and various pastas. A new patio-style set-up out front allows for socially distanced dining.  

For tapas in an alley: B44

Dining in B44’s pedestrian-only Financial District alley feels like being transported to Spain. A mural of Salvador Dalí greets diners upon arrival, and tables take over the entire alley. All the tapas classics are here — patatas bravas, jamón Ibérico, and tortilla — as well as seven types of paella.  

Balcony seating overlooking San Francisco's Chinatown

Chinatown Restaurant’s balcony seating | Photo Credit: Chinatown Restaurant

For a Chinatown immersion: Chinatown Restaurant

Gaze 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 Chinese-American 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 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.

Reservations for EPIC Steak:  

Reservations for Waterbar:  

For a garden brunch: Fable

Fable’s 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. Tables are a bit more distanced and the big bar inside isn’t open, but the same backyard party vibes are alive and well. 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.  

For any vegan needs: Gracias Madre

Tables outside

Foreign Cinema’s patio | Photo Credit: Foreign Cinema

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 it’s separated from the street, so with a bit more of a private feeling.  

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, with green turf, planters, and string lights to liven it all up. Don’t miss the extensive cocktail menu that focuses on pisco, the clear liquor made from Peruvian grapes.  

For a casual meet-up: Oasis Cafe

Eritrean and Ethiopian food meets casual coffee shop at Oasis Cafe in NoPa. A full coffee menu, sandwiches, and smoothies are on the menu, but the real gems are the entrees with injera, or Ethiopian sponge bread, such as spiced lamb and spiced fish. Tables outside along the street sit underneath an overhang with foliage. Walk-ins only.

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.  

A roasted shellfish platter

Waterbar’s roasted shellfish platter | Photo Credit: Waterbar

For upscale Indian: Rooh

No detail is left unattended at higher-end SoMa Indian restaurant Rooh. 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 Michelin-starred dining: The Progress

Weekends can feel special again at The Progress, Fillmore’s Michelin-starred New American restaurant from the acclaimed State Bird Provisions team. Only open Saturdays and Sundays for brunch, The Progress serves up a playful menu with sandwiches such as a duck meatball sub, grilled wild salmon with smoked onion mayo, and open-face eggplant parm on colorful streetside tables.  

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, 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, from steamed shrimp dumplings to sesame balls for a true dim sum feast.