Our 11 Top Picks for Dining Outside in a Reopened SF

Here’s where to go, when you head out

August 7, 2020 2:21 pm
zazie outdoor dining sf
Brunch en plein air at Zazie
Zazie SF

Welcome to the new normal, or at least the semi-permanent abnormal. At least it includes outdoor dining(?). 

Obviously, this isn’t a return to February 2020: Things are still weird. Destination eateries like Atelier Crenn have yet to reopen — though hurrah, that one’s back on July 14 (aka Bastille Day). See here for our talk with chef Dominique Crenn on what to expect. Baby steps. 

For the moment, outdoor dining in S.F. is permitted. Everything else reads like a midterm in a high school philosophy class: To open or to hold out? To eat out (and at least try to suck the marrow from life) or stay in (and out of a sick bed)? Restaurants need our patronage. Just because they can open doesn’t mean they have — each owner faces the unenviable challenge of weighing their financial obligations against their entrepreneurial spirit against their staffs’ most pressing concerns: The 21-year-old busboy needs to pay rent, but the 55-year-old sous chef who just finished chemo needs to safeguard their health. And as we share this information here, we’d be derelict in our duty if we didn’t stipulate that we’re still eating at home (at this point, we’re just adding whatever’s in the fridge to a base layer of avocado toast). We’re more Bill Burr than Joe Rogan on this. 

If you’ve done the math and want to support your neighborhood restaurants (and possibly eat better than you have in months), these are our picks of the restaurants currently open for outdoor dining. Plan on making a reservation, to help restaurants avoid crowds. And bring your mask (and a sweater)!

Beit Rima, Cole Valley

The sensational “Arab comfort food” spot is open with red-checked tablecloths — order the mezze platter and grilled halloumi and thank the health department for permitting us this one good thing. 

The Blue Plate
Cozy dining with a side of plaid (The Blue Plate)
The Blue Plate

Blue Plate, Bernal Heights

The new “Garden Menu” features our favorite meatloaf in S.F., plus smoked jalapeño buttermilk-fried chicken with spring lettuces, berries and ricotta salata. 

Charmaine’s, Civic Center

Before we might have said that rooftop Charmaine’s is sometimes too windy; now we’ll just say that it’s magnificently ventilated. (FTR, El Techo’s rooftop is open, too.) The low-key all-day menu tops out at steak frites, and also includes cheeseburger sliders, a pork banh mi, and a “sprouting grain porridge bowl.” 

4505, Fillmore & Oakland

The city’s best garlic fries, and now you can eat them the way they were meant to be eaten (immediately, rather than 25-30 minutes after leaving the restaurant, on your couch). 

Hog Island oysters
Raw or grilled, these oysters are fantastic (Hog Island)
Hog Island Oyster Co.

Hog Island, Embarcadero

With the North Bay locations already open, the Ferry Building Hog Island lagged behind — until now. Maybe you were hedging on their mail-order oysters ‘n’ Bloody Mary service; if you never pulled the trigger, here’s your chance to sip and slurp. 

Le Marais, Marina

Forget the chain bakeries — Le Marais is the real deal, and for our money, has a better croissant than Tartine (fight me! It’s just true!). They’re open now on Chestnut Street and on Sutter; check out their Instagram to support them as they argue with the city for more access. 

Rosamunde Sausage Grill, Mission 

Again, our heart goes pitter-patter for a bacon-wrapped knockwurst sandwich (aka a Mission Street), now available for patio dining in S.F., with on-site eating coming soon to the Downtown Oakland location. 

An excellent view indeed. (Waterbar)

Waterbar, Embarcadero

One of our favorite special-occasion spots is open for oysters and lotsa wine on a frankly expansive patio, with the same killer views of the Bay Bridge as always. 

Willkommen, Castro

The patio’s open (with both two-tops and picnic tables) for all the German beer you can’t go to Germany to drink anymore, plus a hearty menu of wursts, brats and assorted sausages. 

Zazie, Cole Valley

Full disclosure: Having once lived around the corner from Zazie, we will say, optimistically, that few staffs should be better accustomed to crowd management than this one, given the last-battle-in-Lord of the Things-crowding on a normal day. (Eggs benedict for the victors.) 

Zeitgeist, Mission

The beer garden is open, but check their Instagram for new, and evolving, rules: You’ll enter by the garden (not through the bar), mind the hours (optimized around good weather), and limit your stay to an hour.


Join America's Fastest Growing Spirits Newsletter THE SPILL. Unlock all the reviews, recipes and revelry — and get 15% off award-winning La Tierra de Acre Mezcal.