One of the challenges of living in San Francisco is the ever-changing weather. You never know when the fog will roll in—or out—and the climate can vary greatly depending on the neighborhood. While it may be sunny and warm in the Financial District, it could be cold and chilly in the Sunset. It also fluctuates, almost manically, per day. On Friday, it could be beautiful outside, but then on Saturday, the wind might pick up and create an arctic chill. This constant inconsistency means that when it is hot out, you must take advantage of the weather immediately. You can not wait until tomorrow to enjoy an alfresco meal, you must seize the moment and head to a restaurant with an outdoor patio today. To ensure that you know where to go when the temperatures rise above 70°F, we’ve rounded up our favorite spots for outdoor dining. Here is where you’ll find us when San Francisco heats up.
1 54 Mint
Unfortunately, European-style plazas—the kind that are filled with multiple restaurants each with their own outdoor seating—do not exist in San Francisco. However, if you’re looking to emulate that sort of magical plaza experience, you can’t go wrong with 54 Mint. This Italian restaurant is located off of Fifth Street in the historic Mint Plaza in downtown SF. The outdoor tables, which sit in front of the restaurant are simple, functional, and unfussy—the ideal spot for a leisurely lunch or dinner under the sun or stars. The food is comforting, but elevated Roman cuisine. Tomato risotto croquettes have molten smoked mozzarella centers, traditional brushetta is decadently topped with creamy burrata and fresh sea urchin. The housemade pasta is simply prepared—fettuccine with porcini mushrooms, cacio e pepe, and rich carbonara—but sensational. Although many other SF restaurants are more widely known for their Italian food, 54 Mint ranks up there with the best of them. The plaza patio makes it a worthy eatery to visit.
16 Mint Plaza San Francisco, CA 94103
Although MarketBar has substantial seating indoors, we’ve been to this Ferry Building standby more times than we can count and have always sat outside. The Embarcadero Street restaurant is easily visible thanks to its always packed patio and bright yellow umbrellas and signage. It is the ideal place to relax, people watch and devour a delicious meal. It’s close proximity to the waterfront means seafood is the thing at MarketBar. Order oysters on the half shell, squid ink linguine with prawns and manila calms, seared ahi tuna Nicoise, and smoked salmon bruschetta. There is also a full bar and wine list that features both local and international vintners. On Farmers Market days—Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays—the patio fills up quickly and rarely does the crowd slow down.
1 Ferry Building San Francisco, CA 94111
Over in Cole Valley is the beloved neighborhood restaurant Zazie. The French bistro-inspired eatery has a charming garden patio that is filled with wicker back chairs, flowers, wooden banquets, and twinkling mini Edison bulb lights. Zazie is quite possibly the city’s most popular brunch spot, but what people don’t know is that their dinner is equally delicious. Menu items include chicken liver and brandy pâté with grilled garlic levain bread; trout Meunière with wild rice, toasted pecans, and lemon-herb butter; and crispy duck leg with haricots verts and warm fingerling potato salad. For brunch, diners can choose from six different types of egg Benedicts (the Albert, with bacon white cheddar, and salsa fresca, is a personal favorite), seven scrambled egg preparations and a handful of sweet sensations from the griddle. The gingerbread pancakes with Meyer lemon curd and Bosc pears are a must order. The best thing about Zazie is that it’s open every day of the week, for brunch until 2 p.m. on weekdays and 3 p.m. on weekends. Dinner begins every night at 5 p.m.
941 Cole Street San Francisco, CA 94117
4 Bar Agricole
While it has bar in its name, Bar Agricole feels more like an upscale restaurant than it does an actual bar. Think of it more contemporary tavern than conventional bar. The entire front section of the eatery is a gorgeous open-air fenced-in wooden patio. Lush planter boxes are filled with flourishing greenery. Industrial tables and chairs keep the space sexy and minimalist. Pop in for a late afternoon snack of a dozen oysters, Josey Baker bread with Sierra Nevada butter, and a glass of rosé or savor a complete meal of dishes that feature local ingredients such as the Monterey Bay squid with farro, spinach, and lemon and saffron mayonnaise. Note that owner Thad Vogler is a long time bar star who happens to have a degree from Yale. His cocktails are potent, complex, and downright dangerous.
355 11th Street San Francisco, CA 94103
If you find yourself in the Presidio on a warm day, grab a table at Traci Des Jardins’ Arguello, which is located at the Presidio Officers’ Club. The restaurant’s patio gets plenty of direct sunlight and has an outdoor comal, a traditional Mexican griddle used for tortilla making. Arguello is named after the first Mexican governor of Alta California, Luis Antonio Arguello, and the cuisine reflects this layered Latin heritage. There are chicken taquitos with tomatillo-avocado salsa; polkanes, Yucatan bean fritters; Oaxacan mole lamb with black beans and pickled onion; and an assortment of Mexican favorites like chips, salsa, guacamole, cilantro rice, refried beans, and crispy papas. Arguello is open weekdays for lunch, weekends for brunch, and Tuesday through Saturday for dinner. Note that Arguello’s patio is a haute spot for private events, so if your heart is set on enjoying a meal outdoors, call ahead to make sure that the patio is open.
50 Moraga Avenue San Francisco, CA 94129