8 spots for outdoor dining

Pub date April 22, 2008

San Francisco and dining al fresco aren’t necessarily allies. But they’re not exactly enemies. We do have those gorgeous sunny spring days and plenty of places to enjoy them while we drink and dine. If you’ve been heartbroken over the closed kitchen at Zeitgeist, or if the rooftop deck at Medjool feels more like a frat party gone wrong than an afternoon social gathering, you can rest assured there are even places outside of the Mission that serve food and cocktails outside. So hop on your Yamaha, Bianchi, or Muni and check out some of these fabulous places to catch some sun with your buzz. Keep in mind these spots are best for brunch and lunch. And bring a hoodie in case the sun subsides — San Francisco fog is about as forgiving as a hangover.


Check out views of the Bay Bridge and Coit Tower from this waterfront café with surfboard decor. Rain or shine, this dive gets packed with beer guzzlers and sunbathers. Enjoy buckets of Pacificos and top-shelf margaritas alongside pub grub like burgers, nachos, and the best fish tacos in town, until your vision’s blurred and skin is blistered. Then enjoy the live music on warmer nights and heat lamps on cooler ones.

The Embarcadero, SF. (415) 362-5125, www.pier23cafe.com


The faint of heart need not attempt Café Flore — sharking a table here takes more nerve than buying booze underage. But there’s a reason to steel one’s resolve: this Castro hotspot, voted Best Café in our 2004 Readers’ Poll, is ideal for any occasion, be it brunch, coffee, or an afternoon brew. With breakfast served daily until 3 p.m. and a full bar, there’s no better spot for sun-drenched boozing and cruising.

2298 Market, SF. (415) 621-8579, www.caféflore.com


The garden patio at La Note is worth the wait — and wait you will, because they don’t take reservations for weekend brunch. Grab a java beforehand to stave off caffeine withdrawal as you watch other patrons enjoy their succulent crème fraîche pancakes. And don’t worry, you’ll get your turn. Complete with blue-and-white checkered tablecloths, this is the perfect spot for brunch bliss or an afternoon assiette de charcuterie.

2377 Shattuck, Berk. (510) 843-1535, www.lanoterestaurant.com


If bike rides through Golden Gate Park leave you craving a wet one to quench your thirst, this spot — located behind the oceanfront Beach Chalet and just steps from Queen Wilhelmina’s Windmill — offers the perfect spot to rest on your laurels and soak up some sun. Choose from an extensive list of beers from the onsite brewery, and when the fog rolls in, head inside to cozy up to the stone fireplace in the glass-ceilinged dining room. On weekends you can nurse a hangover and get a head start on your day’s drinking with crab benedict and a Bloody Mary.

1000 Great Highway, SF. (415) 386-8439, www.beachchalet.com


Located in a secluded alley between Union Square and the Financial District, Café Claude is a scrumptious substitute to the crowded Belden Lane. This quaint sidewalk café is reminiscent of Parisian bistros, and is therefore the perfect spot to nosh on a Niçoise salad and sip Sancerre. Plus there’s jazz on weekends.

7 Claude, SF. (415) 392-3505, www.cafeclaude.com


For those days in deep summer when everywhere but the Mission District is covered in heavy fog, there’s no reason to look farther than El Rio for a bit of sunny respite. Its multilevel back deck, barbeques, margaritas, and live salsa bands draw a mostly gay male crowd on Sundays, but you can get down with the ladies every fourth Saturday of the month, when the line to get in snakes down the block.

3158 Mission, SF. (415) 282-3325, www.elriosf.com


If the summer fog has taken even the Mission captive, escape to Sam’s via the Tiburon ferry. From here, you can sip margaritas on the waterfront deck while viewing the cloud-engulfed city. Snack on fried calamari or head inside post-sunset for fine dining and seafood.

27 Main, Tiburon. (415) 435-4527, www.samscafe.com


The Pilsner doesn’t serve food, but its state-of-the-art cooling system, which keeps draft beers chilled to 31 degrees, makes this Park Chow neighbor a Castro gem for gay and straight clientele. Expect to throw back a few on the garden patio with cleated patrons just back from the fields, because Pilsner Inn supports a handful of sports teams, including softball, soccer, bowling, and pool.

225 Church, SF. (415) 621-7058, www.pilsnerinn.com *