It turns out parklets are here to stay, altering the landscape of San Francisco forever. Outdoor dining spaces rose out of the fog of the pandemic, taking over sidewalks and parking spaces, creating a new cafe culture. Restaurants have spent tens of thousands of dollars on plywood, and plenty of parklets resemble sad boxes, while others have suffered damages and fallen into disrepair. But a few imaginative restaurateurs found creativity out of necessity and built beautiful structures, which they intend to keep. Step inside the top 10 coolest parklets in San Francisco.
Cal-Italian Cotogna in historic Jackson Square took over four parking spots and spent more than they would care to share on their rustic and intimate parklet. Co-owner Lindsay Tusk asked “wood whisperer” Evan Shively of Arborica in Marshall to recommend the right salvaged wood, and the results are an oasis of soft sugar pine and silvery olive trees.
Palette restaurant-slash-gallery blends food, art, and tech, and its “terrace” is bold, black, and striking. Project manager David Middletown worked with ShopFloor design firm to metalwork industrial steel artfully around parking meters. Now the same design runs across the entire building and parklet, with seafoam stylized bubbles undulating through.
Wildseed tempts the plant eaters of Cow Hollow with a fresh coat of clean white paint, sunny patio umbrellas, and succulents thriving behind and between tables. The popular vegan restaurant took over four parking spaces to build no fewer than five parklets, which cost a pretty penny at $10,000 each, but it’s hardly struggling to fill them.
State Bird Provisions
At the Michelin-starred restaurant known for its dim sum–inspired small plates, diners can now take a seat in a softly lit parklet filled with spiky green leaves and paper lanterns floating overhead. Chef-owner Stuart Brioza collaborated with Levi Hunt of Cookline to take over three parking spots, the length of both State Bird and sister restaurant the Progress.
When historic Tosca Cafe finally reopened after two long years, the big reveal was the lovingly restored interior. But the parklet is just right for North Beach, too. Acclaimed designer Ken Fulk decked it out with red checkered tablecloths and vines and twinkle lights overheard.
The dapper Mr. Digby’s took over a cantina with a bull on the side, and repainted and refreshed it with a snappy black-and-white cocktail bar, and a parklet to match. It’s an extension of the handsomely renovated interiors by ROY, with an illustration of the tavern’s namesake canine standing guard on the sign.
San Francisco Wine Society
San Francisco Wine Society debuted a luxurious outdoor living room, complete with cushy velvet sofas and tufted armchairs, a central fireplace and several chandeliers, and a library of books and knick knacks. Owner Danielle Kuzinich designed it herself for no less than $32,000, with the goal to make it “as cozy as possible.”
Sutter Station Tavern
There’s a classic San Francisco cable car permanently parked outside of Sutter Station Tavern in the FiDi. Okay, it’s not actually a derailed cable car, but a fun parklet designed to look like one, down to the details: the bench on the side, the poles to hang off, and windows and doors.
Woodhouse Fish Co.
Woodhouse casual seafood restaurant has a parklet shaped like a ship, so you can now feast on crab melts from the stern. She’s a nautical navy and white and kitted out with a ship’s wheel, porthole, and life preserver. And an open-air vessel, at least for now, although co-owner and parklet captain Dylan MacNiven says he may add a roof if the rain ever returns.
Joe’s Ice Cream
“It’s so cute!” everyone says when they see Joe’s fresh parklet, covered in cartoon cheeseburgers and ice cream cones, with rainbow slats and extra sprinkles. It cost $20,000, half donated by friends and family, and architect Alec Hawley volunteered his time, in order to create the cutest parklet ever for the old-school soda shop. It’s wheelchair accessible, just the right size for little kids, and already a hit for ice cream socials.