6 Rooftop Restaurants Are Raising San Francisco’s Dining Scene To New Heights

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Charmaine's
Charmaine’s

Photo Credit: Manolo Yllera

Everyone knows that October is one of the warmest months of the year in San Francisco. And after an abnormally chilly July and August, things are finally looking up for San Franciscans—quite literally. Rooftop hotspots—restaurants, and bars with gorgeous views, tantalizing cocktails, and tasty eats—have always been popular in places like New York and Los Angeles, but until recently, SF lacked such spectacular venues. However in the last year, a crop of new rooftops have opened, and for the first time, roofs have become a thing. Here, are the best spots, old and new, for dining alfresco on those (Indian) summer nights. 

A cocktail at Charmaine's
A cocktail at Charmaine’s

Photo Credit: Charmaine’s

Located on top of the Proper Hotel, Charmaine’s is the creme de la creme of new rooftops. Socialites Sonya Molodetskaya and Farah Makras frequent it, and Mayor London Breed hosted her August birthday party at the posh space. What makes it so fabulous? Xavier Bon, the director of sales and marketing for Proper, explains it like this: “There is nothing like Charmaine’s in San Francisco right now. It’s a true rooftop bar, with lavish lounge areas, stunning city views, and beautiful cocktails. With attentive service and genuine hospitality to match the surroundings!” We couldn’t agree more with Bon.

Charmaine's
Charmaine’s

Photo Credit: Manolo Yllera

The beautiful Kelly Wearstler designed space feels like a wildly chic living room. With a wrap-around outdoor patio, plenty of seating options, and protection against the elements (wind blocks, strong heaters, and fire pits), Charmaine’s is the type of place where you want to linger with friends all afternoon long. Sip a Proper Cup, Charmaine’s riff on a traditional Pimm’s and order delectable bites—kale salad with seeded vinaigrette, char-grilled sliders with melty cheddar cheese, or tender pickled vegetables with avocado black sesame dip—from chef Mikey Adams. Charmaine’s is so popular that there is often a wait to ride the elevator up to the eighth floor. Skip the line by booking a table or a room at the hotel.    

Dirty Habit
Dirty Habit

Photo Credit: Dirty Habit

Although it opened four years ago, Dirty Habit, at the Hotel Zelos, is as hot as ever. The fifth-floor patio was once a dead area for the hotel; however, a former executive chef had the idea of transforming the space into a 50-seat patio, and the rest is rooftop history. With various types of seating, fire elements, and industrial accents, Dirty Habit’s outdoor space feels like a private hidden courtyard.

The restaurant's rooftop patio
The restaurant’s rooftop patio

Photo Credit: Dirty Habit

“Dirty Habit is a special place where three hours on the patio feels like 30 minutes,” the restaurant’s general manager EJ Varela says. “We’ve created a relaxing but sophisticated atmosphere to enjoy your time in. It’s like a backyard in the middle of San Francisco with trendy music and seasonal shared plates.” With its downtown location, Dirty Habit is a great spot for happy hour, so grab a group of friends and order a punch bowl and platter of charcuterie. Or plan a movie night on the rooftop. On select Sundays in September and October, the team is transforming the patio into an outdoor movie theater complete with specialty cocktails and concession-inspired menu items.

Rooftop 25
Rooftop 25

Photo Credit: New Revolution Media

25 Lusk has always been home to two distinct dining experiences—the Social a sleek and sexy downstairs bar and the Dining Room, a fine dining establishment. Recently, the team added a third dimension. Rooftop 25 is their new outdoor rooftop space. The upscale modern roof feels like your cool neighbor’s backyard. Lush plants, warm wood, wicker chairs, and graphic light fixtures dot the space.

Pizza is on the menu at 25 Lusk's rooftop
Pizza is on the menu at 25 Lusk’s rooftop

Photo Credit: 25 Lusk

“It’s a beautiful outdoor beer garden-like setting designed to be communal and casual, great for groups of friends and after work outings,” Chad Bourdon, the director of operations, explains. “We want you to feel like you’re on vacation! Our team is very proud of our food and beverage programs, and there is definitely something for everyone! Also, the music is awesome.” There are frozen cocktails, otter pops, and classic outdoor coolers like sangria and piña coladas. A wood-burning oven churns out finger-licking-good pizzas and delectable burgers. The hot dog in a housemade pretzel bun with cheddar sauce and caramelized onions is one of the best hot dogs you’ll ever taste. It’s a must order.

Via's rooftop overlooks AT&T Park
Via’s rooftop overlooks AT&T Park

Photo Credit: Hotel Via

What do a boutique fitness studio and caviar-selling company have in common? Seemingly nothing, but superb venue selection—the Hotel Vias new rooftop bar to be exact. The Rooftop at Via hosted Barry’s Bootcamp’s four-year anniversary and The Caviar Company’s annual National Caviar Day celebration on different dates over the summer. Thus, establishing itself as the best new place to throw a private party. The rooftop is across the street from AT&T Park and has unique views of the stadium and entire Bay.

A cabana
A cabana

Photo Credit: Hotel Via

“I don’t know of any other space that offers 360 views of the quintessential San Francisco hills, America’s most beautiful ballpark, the bay and downtown all from one vantage point,” Jerry Leap, the Via’s director of sales and marketing, says. “It truly is a spectacular and intimate venue to come and enjoy a drink away from the daily commotion of the city.” The rooftop has cabanas that can be reserved for groups of six or more, but be sure to plan your trip. The space is booked for private events five to six nights a week.

The view from El Techo
The view from El Techo

Photo Credit: El Techo

For a time, El Techo was San Francisco’s only rooftop bar. The glorious Mission eatery is the outdoor space of Lolinda, a popular Argentine restaurant from Adriano Paganini. El Techo, which in Spanish means “the roof,” is a no-frills patio that serves Latin American street food and pitcher drinks. Happy hour happens 4 to 6 p.m. every Monday through Friday and brunch is a thing on weekends. Enjoy quesadillas, empanadas, and meat skewers alongside unparalleled views of the city. On hot days, there is almost always a line to get into El Techo, so arrive as close to opening time as possible.

A rendering of the rooftop at the Virgin Hotel
A rendering of the rooftop at the Virgin Hotel

Photo Credit: Andrew Freeman & Co.

Coming soon: The Virgin Hotels San Francisco flies into town mid-November and with it comes another rooftop bar. The atypical indoor-outdoor space will feature a lounge, cocktails, and cuisine by a yet-to-be-announced culinary team. Expect 360° views of the entire city skyline and sleek decor. The rooftop will host themed parties for events like Cinco de Mayo and Halloween, plus weekend brunch, nighttime DJs, and more.

Mersea has stunning views of the city
Mersea has stunning views of the city

Photo Credit: Sarah Chorey

Although it’s not a rooftop, Mersea should be on your Indian summer radar. Located on Treasure Island with remarkable views of the city, Mersea is a casual, but cool restaurant with massive outdoor space that includes a putting green and bocce courts. From Waterbar’s Parke Ulrich in partnership with MeeSun Boice, the eatery has a beachy vibe that brings to mind Maine lobster shacks and San Deigo’s waterside taquerias. The kitchen, a custom-made shipping container, is open all day. The cuisine is Waterbar quality, but a fraction of the price.

The food at Mersea
The food at Mersea

Photo Credit: Sarah Chorey

Ulrich excels with seafood, and here fans can experience a more relaxed side of the refined chef. His creamy, rich chowder is one of the best in the city; the coconut milk ceviche is a revelation. Ulrich also shows diners that a loaded baked potato can be scrumptious and a Philly cheesesteak can indeed be made with pork instead of beef. Boice is a fan of little known French wine producers and has curated an expert list of Provencal rosé. With its fantastic food and excellent drinks, Mersea is your new warm-weather destination for daytime dining.

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