If you haven’t heard, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is back on this year in Golden Gate Park. San Francisco’s free-to-attend festival dedicated to country, folk, and, of course, bluegrass is a massively popular chance to see big acts like Brandi Carlile and the Drive-By Truckers. A big difference between this fest and its contemporaries, like the far more expensive Outside Lands, is that Hardly Strictly allows attendees to bring their own food and drink.
It’s well worth checking the festival’s FAQ regarding which containers and bags can get through security. And while some overlap exists with OSL in terms of places to eat and drink before and after the shows, Hardly Strictly takes place mostly in the Outer Sunset and Richmond-adjacent portion of the park. For those taking public transport, note that there are also plenty of stops along the N line MUNI on the way to the fest. Here is Eater San Francisco’s guide to the best restaurants and bars to fuel your weekend of music.
If you’re looking for takeout
Hanging your coat on the back of your chair at this much-loved Inner Sunset restaurant to tuck into coconut-driven, spice-infused Thai food is more or less a sacred act in this part of the city. With never too long a line, nor too pricey a bill, it’s tough to see why someone would not sidle up at Marnee Thai. For takeout, an order of pad se-ew and a side of the coconut cakes is a good call.
The pizzas here, including the potato and pesto and the sausage pie, are, indeed, damn fine. A large pizza runs about $24, and in San Francisco, that’s a bit of a bargain. Working through one of these, perhaps while taking in Jim Lauderdale, is a surefire guarantee your day at Hardly Strictly will be a win.
El Cielito Lindo
Serving surprisingly filling vegan enchiladas, this Balboa Avenue shop has a spacious parklet right outside and a downhill track to the beach and the park. Indoor dining is sparse or unavailable, so this is perfect for a quick reboot before heading back to the show. The ultra-popular quesabirria tacos and the hefty tortas are not to be missed.
If you’re going to dine-in
Hook Fish Co.
There will likely be an enormous line outside of this fish burrito mecca, but it’s worth the wait. Hook Fish is your shop if you enjoy tortillas wrapped around fresh-caught Pacific seafood. Ceviche, poke bowls, and sandwiches are all options, too. Do it like a pro: Order in advance, and opt for the grilled fish of the day burrito.
Taqueria Los Mayas
The Inner Richmond’s spot for panuchos and empanadas now can add an awesome sister location, Cantina Los Mayas, to its long list of praises. Whether walking, biking, or driving to the westernmost entrances of the event, a stop by either of these Mexican restaurants is a smart move. You can grab dinner at either, but lunch is only available at Taqueria Los Mayas, and beer and wine are available at both.
If you’re grabbing drinks
This is the absolute epitome of a neighborhood sports bar. Head here for cheap beer and liquor, a fairly large backyard space for smoking and vaping and chatting with potentially other bluegrass-loving people, or to unwind after singing along (and crying) to Brandi Carlile’s “The Eye.”
Complete with a gorgeous wooden parklet, this Woods outpost allows beer-lovers a chance to peep an ocean-bound sunset mere steps from the N line stop at 46th Avenue. It’s well worth hitting the back patio to make new friends around the fire pit or bellying up to the bar to try whatever crazy new beer is on tap. Wine and, inexplicably, empanadas are available, too.
This is the Outer Sunset’s go-to spot for wine and nationally recognized Philly-style sandwiches. The hoagie haven is straight-up iconic at this point and ideal for a down-to-earth haunt to knock back a couple of glasses of natty wine and score a roasted cauliflower sammie.
This low-key neighborhood shop is terrific for a cheap cup of tea and a table to duck out to for an hour or so. Sandwiches and other food options are available, though it’s perhaps best to think of this addition to the lineup as the no-frills cafe perfect for a chance to replenish your energy and get out of the sun (or fog, whatever).
And if you’re looking for snacks and small bites
Eddo and Clara Lee’s ode to the Korean bodega does numbers when it comes to potato chips, snacks, and ready-to-eat rolls. If you’ve got the time or the wise inclination, hop off the train to load up at this popular addition to the Ninth Avenue corridor.
It’s a bit of a hike up to this chunk of Balboa Avenue, but well worth the trek. Hidden within the walls of Egyptian restaurant Al Marsi is some of the best baklavas in the city, and certainly in the neighborhood. Cashew, pecan, and traditional variants are all on-hand.
This bakery and cafe earned the hell out of its James Beard nomination in 2022. The horchata latte and egg coffee are terrific and hardy pick-me-ups, and any of the rotating baked goods (don’t sleep on the kaya bun) are worth every penny.