clock menu more-arrow no yes
Foreign Cinema

12 Restaurants With Feel-Good Vibes in San Francisco

Restaurants where the atmosphere provides almost as much pleasure as the food itself

View as Map

In the year 2016, good vibes and the pursuit of them have become a fluid metric that no one can quite explain, but everyone understands. They exist in places where the atmosphere provides almost as much pleasure as the food itself, as a result of the combination of a cool location, unexpected decor, buzzy energy, and perfectly dim lighting, all of which are important to achieving this X factor.

San Francisco has been acquiring and fine tuning restaurants that feel naturally, well, cool for years. Places that you just feel good in, where you want to grab a drink before you sit down, have an accidental three hour dinner, and maybe even stay for a nightcap. Are good vibes an abstract concept? Perhaps. But that feeling of awesomeness is also tangible. And these 12 restaurants nail it with the best vibes in SF.

Read More
Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Tosca Cafe

Copy Link
242 Columbus Ave
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 986-9651
Visit Website
Tosca Cafe is the absolute OG of good vibes in San Francisco. No matter the time of day, it's just dark enough, just lived in enough, and just crowded enough to be incredibly pleasing. The vibiest part is at the bar, where you can interact with bartenders for some expertly-crafted cocktails and plates of pasta, all while people-watching the subtly mafioso dining room.

2. Del Popolo

Copy Link
855 Bush St
San Francisco, CA 94108
(415) 589-7940
Visit Website
Just like movies that aren't as good as the book, the same can be true for restaurants that started as food trucks. Not so for Del Popolo — the restaurant is a graceful and mature second iteration of the food truck concept with an interesting wine list and delicious appetizers. Cozy, understated, and centered around a huge wood fire oven, Del Popolo is relaxed and easy-going without being too casual. It's a rare feat for any restaurant, let alone an endearing pizzeria.

3. Trestle

Copy Link
531 Jackson St
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 772-0922
Visit Website
Trestle may be relatively new, but it is already firmly in place as a weeknight go-to. The petite space and simple menu structure add to the never-trying-too-hard charm. The room is thoughtfully put together — a space where people can come and relax and feel as though they're not in a restaurant, but in a friend's dining room having a casual meal.

4. Cala

Copy Link
149 Fell St
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 660-7701
Visit Website
Cala may have opened just months ago, but it's already nailed its status as a scene. Though the space is huge, Cala somehow manages to feel intimate. The hidden walkway into the restaurant helps, as well as the iridescent lighting refracting off the simple white interior and perfectly placed plants. The whole place has a magical glow about it, making you feel as though you actually are in Mexico City (home of chef Gabriela Camara's other triumphs). Better still, the secret standing nook in the back (which doubles as a taco stand during the day) is just as charming to sip on cocktails as you wait for a table.

5. Mister Jiu's

Copy Link
28 Waverly Pl.
San Francisco, CA 94108
(415) 857-9688
Visit Website
Tucked away on a little alley in Chinatown, Mister Jiu's has perfected the formula for good vibes. Its off-the-beaten-path location, swanky bar in the entryway, and mystical lighting throughout all tee up your experience to be awesome. Then comes chef Brandon Jew's food, which is more than just the cherry on top.

6. Cotogna

Copy Link
490 Pacific Ave
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 775-8508
Visit Website
Cotogna is the stuff second date dreams are made of, a place where you can lose track of time over a bottle of Barolo and too many courses of pasta. Are you at an Italian friend's summer manor or are you in the heart of San Francisco? Who knows and who cares.

7. Marlowe

Copy Link
500 Brannan St
San Francisco, CA 94107
(415) 777-1413
Visit Website
Marlowe is what would appear if you searched Pinterest for "bright restaurant with chic bar." Whether it's with a burger and beer at lunch on a Friday, drinks at the bar any night of the week, or a birthday dinner in the delightfully charming back room, Marlowe's attention to detail (right down to the floor tiles) makes for a picture-perfect experience.

8. Zuni Cafe

Copy Link
1658 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 552-2522
Visit Website
Many restaurateurs would look at Zuni's layout and gasp. With about five separate areas, an oddly shaped upstairs, and location on the busiest street in the city, it could have easily succumbed to soul-crushingly bad vibes. Luckily the smell, the lighting, and the nonchalance of Zuni is so charming that you actually end up being glad the chicken takes an entire hour to cook.
Bill Addison

9. Foreign Cinema

Copy Link
2534 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 648-7600
Visit Website
Despite being plastered on every Trip Advisor San Francisco list, Foreign Cinema takes it all in its stride. You simply can't beat a dimly lit courtyard with casually strung tea lights, and streaming classic movies doesn't hurt, either. Somehow, even after all these years, Foreign Cinema has a relaxed romance and remains novel without ever venturing toward kitschy.
Foreign Cinema

10. Nopa

Copy Link
560 Divisadero St
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 864-8643
Visit Website
Nopa has achieved a good vibe despite nearly all of its patrons having to essentially promise their first born to get a table. Somehow, even after waiting two hours to get one of the coveted seats, all the stress and anxiety melts away as soon as you step inside. Spacious yet inviting with a soft hum of conversations, Nopa always has an upbeat buzz, whether it's at Sunday brunch or late night any day of the week.

11. Wayfare Tavern

Copy Link
558 Sacramento St
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 772-9060
Visit Website
Wayfare Tavern is like the country home of your dreams: warm, cozy, and always hustling and bustling. The giant hearth, dark wood floors, and taxidermy all give it an immediately welcoming feel. Many restaurants would struggle with a two-floor setup, but Wayfare actually thrives off it, allowing the dual floors to enhance the homey, comforting feel of a house party.

12. Loló

Copy Link
974 Valencia St
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 643-5656
Visit Website
Loló is where a chill rock band would go post-show for tequila and tacos. The colorful decor is like a designer's fever dream, and it's always busy, always buzzy, and never has a bad crowd. Sure, it can be a bit disorganized at times, but you hardly notice amidst the effortlessly trendy hubbub.

1. Tosca Cafe

242 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133
Tosca Cafe is the absolute OG of good vibes in San Francisco. No matter the time of day, it's just dark enough, just lived in enough, and just crowded enough to be incredibly pleasing. The vibiest part is at the bar, where you can interact with bartenders for some expertly-crafted cocktails and plates of pasta, all while people-watching the subtly mafioso dining room.
242 Columbus Ave
San Francisco, CA 94133

2. Del Popolo

855 Bush St, San Francisco, CA 94108
Just like movies that aren't as good as the book, the same can be true for restaurants that started as food trucks. Not so for Del Popolo — the restaurant is a graceful and mature second iteration of the food truck concept with an interesting wine list and delicious appetizers. Cozy, understated, and centered around a huge wood fire oven, Del Popolo is relaxed and easy-going without being too casual. It's a rare feat for any restaurant, let alone an endearing pizzeria.
855 Bush St
San Francisco, CA 94108

3. Trestle

531 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94133
Trestle may be relatively new, but it is already firmly in place as a weeknight go-to. The petite space and simple menu structure add to the never-trying-too-hard charm. The room is thoughtfully put together — a space where people can come and relax and feel as though they're not in a restaurant, but in a friend's dining room having a casual meal.
531 Jackson St
San Francisco, CA 94133

4. Cala

149 Fell St, San Francisco, CA 94102
Cala may have opened just months ago, but it's already nailed its status as a scene. Though the space is huge, Cala somehow manages to feel intimate. The hidden walkway into the restaurant helps, as well as the iridescent lighting refracting off the simple white interior and perfectly placed plants. The whole place has a magical glow about it, making you feel as though you actually are in Mexico City (home of chef Gabriela Camara's other triumphs). Better still, the secret standing nook in the back (which doubles as a taco stand during the day) is just as charming to sip on cocktails as you wait for a table.
149 Fell St
San Francisco, CA 94102

5. Mister Jiu's

28 Waverly Pl., San Francisco, CA 94108
Tucked away on a little alley in Chinatown, Mister Jiu's has perfected the formula for good vibes. Its off-the-beaten-path location, swanky bar in the entryway, and mystical lighting throughout all tee up your experience to be awesome. Then comes chef Brandon Jew's food, which is more than just the cherry on top.
28 Waverly Pl.
San Francisco, CA 94108

6. Cotogna

490 Pacific Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133
Cotogna is the stuff second date dreams are made of, a place where you can lose track of time over a bottle of Barolo and too many courses of pasta. Are you at an Italian friend's summer manor or are you in the heart of San Francisco? Who knows and who cares.
490 Pacific Ave
San Francisco, CA 94133

7. Marlowe

500 Brannan St, San Francisco, CA 94107
Marlowe is what would appear if you searched Pinterest for "bright restaurant with chic bar." Whether it's with a burger and beer at lunch on a Friday, drinks at the bar any night of the week, or a birthday dinner in the delightfully charming back room, Marlowe's attention to detail (right down to the floor tiles) makes for a picture-perfect experience.
500 Brannan St
San Francisco, CA 94107

8. Zuni Cafe

1658 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94102
Bill Addison
Many restaurateurs would look at Zuni's layout and gasp. With about five separate areas, an oddly shaped upstairs, and location on the busiest street in the city, it could have easily succumbed to soul-crushingly bad vibes. Luckily the smell, the lighting, and the nonchalance of Zuni is so charming that you actually end up being glad the chicken takes an entire hour to cook.
1658 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94102

9. Foreign Cinema

2534 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110
Foreign Cinema
Despite being plastered on every Trip Advisor San Francisco list, Foreign Cinema takes it all in its stride. You simply can't beat a dimly lit courtyard with casually strung tea lights, and streaming classic movies doesn't hurt, either. Somehow, even after all these years, Foreign Cinema has a relaxed romance and remains novel without ever venturing toward kitschy.
2534 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94110

10. Nopa

560 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117
Nopa has achieved a good vibe despite nearly all of its patrons having to essentially promise their first born to get a table. Somehow, even after waiting two hours to get one of the coveted seats, all the stress and anxiety melts away as soon as you step inside. Spacious yet inviting with a soft hum of conversations, Nopa always has an upbeat buzz, whether it's at Sunday brunch or late night any day of the week.
560 Divisadero St
San Francisco, CA 94117

11. Wayfare Tavern

558 Sacramento St, San Francisco, CA 94111
Wayfare Tavern is like the country home of your dreams: warm, cozy, and always hustling and bustling. The giant hearth, dark wood floors, and taxidermy all give it an immediately welcoming feel. Many restaurants would struggle with a two-floor setup, but Wayfare actually thrives off it, allowing the dual floors to enhance the homey, comforting feel of a house party.
558 Sacramento St
San Francisco, CA 94111

12. Loló

974 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110
Loló is where a chill rock band would go post-show for tequila and tacos. The colorful decor is like a designer's fever dream, and it's always busy, always buzzy, and never has a bad crowd. Sure, it can be a bit disorganized at times, but you hardly notice amidst the effortlessly trendy hubbub.
974 Valencia St
San Francisco, CA 94110

Related Maps