Dear Ask Eater,
My parents wanted to do a big gathering for Christmas and have tasked me with finding places to take our out-of-town family members. They’re all ages. I’m talking college-aged cousins, retired aunts and uncles, and younger families with 5-year-olds in tow. I could use some day-of Christmas options, group options, and places where maybe the bar-age group can go to escape. Help!
Definitely Not Home Alone
Dear Definitely Not Home Alone,
As a professional restaurant recommender, I feel your pain. And I have to assume we’re not the only ones in this situation at the moment. Over the coming days, an estimated 11.5 million Americans will take to the roads and skies to visit friends and family for the holidays. Fortunately, there are plenty of San Francisco restaurants, bars, and bakeries open during this holiday season.
The Eater’s Guide to San Francisco is a great place to start since it includes sections on hot new restaurants, classics, and neighborhoods not to miss. But with Christmas falling on a Monday, many of the city’s most sought-after restaurants won’t be open on the holiday itself. Thankfully there are a handful of Christmas Day dining options across the city including James Beard Award-recognized Cassava in North Beach, which still has availability for both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and Villon at the Proper Hotel. For a more classic San Francisco Christmas dining experience, there’s John’s Grill — though you’re probably there for the history as opposed to the quality of the food.
Outside of Christmas Day, the 38 Essential Restaurants in San Francisco has something for just about every kind of diner. Fisherman’s Wharf Filipino restaurant Abaca is serving brunch on Christmas Eve and will be open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day next week except for December 25. Michelin-starred Thai restaurant Kin Khao is open and has lunch and a few dinner reservations available for the day after Christmas, as does Cal-Italian standard Delfina. Hot Taiwanese-inspired restaurant Piglet & Co. is open for brunch on Christmas Eve and resumes dinner service on Wednesday, December 27 — and there are still a few reservations open on both dates.
If you want something quintessentially San Francisco for out-of-town guests, we’ve already whittled down a list of tourist traps that are worth your while and classic San Francisco restaurants. Down by the water, Scoma’s will be serving cioppinos and Dungeness crab cocktails every day from December 26 through New Year’s Day. While you’re in the area, you must stop by Buena Vista Cafe for a legendary Irish coffee. The classic bar and restaurant is open Christmas Day until 5 p.m. and for regular hours the rest of the week. Tonga Room at the Fairmont doesn’t take reservations, but you can knock two things off your bucket list: a visit to the immersive (and kid-friendly) tiki bar and a chance to check out the hotel’s famous gingerbread house.
For large groups, try R&G Lounge for dim sum in Chinatown or Nopa, a casual standby on Divisadero. And when the folks with the energy to get out at night want to grab a cocktail, check out LiPo Lounge for an Anthony Bourdain-approved drinking den with famous mai tais; the Mission’s ABV, which is closed Christmas Eve and Day, for solid cocktails and a reliably good vibe; or Bar Part Time for a natural wine-fueled bacchanal. Additionally, this is a city with many great dives to explore, if that’s more the vibe.
A few final pieces of advice: You’re unlikely to get a last-minute reservation at House of Prime Rib (sorry), but you can always try to walk in for dinner at the bar. Just plan to show up well before the restaurant opens at 5 p.m. Michelin-starred Niku Steakhouse, however, has tables available on December 26. Or, for a more vegetable-forward meal, head over to Greens restaurant, which has dinner availability throughout the week.
Hopefully, that should cover the essentials for your family-filled holiday. Best of luck!