When San Francisco floods with that infamous fog, restaurants that are stunning to behold are all the more important for a fabulous night out. Many of these gorgeous restaurants hold Michelin stars or claim James Beard Awards. Some are swanky jazz bars, longtime Chinatown favorites, and even nonprofit supper clubs where kids learn how to cook. In any case, all 13 options on this list are the type of establishments that provide breathtaking views upon walking in the door.Read More
Take a Look at San Francisco’s Most Beautiful Restaurants
Try these restaurant for thoughtful and striking design — on top of excellent food
For cicchetti, or Italian small bites, and coastal elegance, look no further than FiDi’s glass-walled Bar Sprezzatura. Stepping into the bar might feel like being transported to the set of White Lotus with the added benefit of being able to enjoy black cuttlefish served with white polenta and sip a negroni sbagliato in a space that’s a glimmering testament to both modernity and luxury.
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Empress by Boon
In 2021, chef Ho Chee Boon and Atelier LLYS design studio returned the historic Empress of China banquet hall to its former splendor, redesigning the nearly half-a-century-old restaurant but retaining some elements including the impressive wooden pergola just inside the entryway. Teal leather-wrapped booths and wooden partitions retain diners’ sense of privacy, while modern art and black tilework do little to distract from the sweeping views of Chinatown and North Beach. The old-meets-new approach to the restaurant design appropriately echos the chef’s approach to modern Cantonese cuisine.
Leo's Oyster Bar
Stepping into Anna Weinberg’s Financial District seafood haven Leo’s Oyster Bar feels a bit like receiving an invitation into a tropical garden party of the highest order, as brightly colored floral wallpaper makes an eye-catching backdrop for rattan chairs and checkerboard tiles. The idea of excess drives both the almost over-the-top decor and the menu, which stars full caviar service, a $155 grand plateau, and a popular lobster roll.
Acclaimed designer Ken Fulk gave this Embarcadeo standby a glamorous refresh in 2021, so now diners not only flock to the 30-year-old restaurant for classic California cuisine from chefs Nancy Oakes and Dana Younkin, but also to soak up the look of the handsome dining room, flush with peacock feathers and velvet-wrapped chairs. Tiffany lamps adorn the bar and taxidermy birds guard the revolving door, granting the space a pleasant air of Belle Epoch drama.
Akikos has been a San Francisco sushi destination for more than a decade but in January the restaurant moved into a new home in the East Cut, marking an elegant new era for the family-run business. Chef Ray Lee and his team prepare omakase menus for guests from a 24-seat Chef’s Stage inspired by black box theaters. Working with AvroKO, the chef and owner aimed to give the space an East-meets-West aesthetic blending shiplap and plank wood with artwork inspired by the Japanese Gutai art movement.
This moody new Union Square-adjacent bar comes from the ever-expanding Future Bars group and is housed in the Monadnock Building built in the early 20th-century Beaux Arts style. Step inside: a curtain draws back while a ladder slides along a back-lit wall of bottles running to the ceiling. The headliner playing throughout the evening, be it jazz vocalist Azure McClure or saxophonist Tom Catanzaro, is revealed to thunderous applause while flights of peaty scotch and buzzy coffee cocktails land on patron’s tables.
The high ceilings and striking chandeliers at this FiDi restaurant make an undeniably grand impression. Chef Mourad Lahlou’s eponymous restaurant, designed by local firm Lundberg Design, centers around its bold and modern dining room, slightly softened with the warm glow of inset lights and clusters of plants. Comfortable U-shaped booths bound the room on both sides, with a handful of tables running down the center. The cobalt and black space, augmented with concrete and metal accents, makes a perfect backdrop for the menu of modern Morrocan food including the chef’s hand-rolled brown butter couscous and delicate, flower-topped basteeya.
Star chef Srijith Gopinathan and partner Ayesha Thapar stunned diners and designers with the opening of Cal-Indian destination Ettan in early 2020. Now they’ve taken their talents back up to San Francisco, debuting Copra earlier this year. The light-filled dining room embodies the bohemian chic aesthetic with vines that climb from floor to ceiling and towering shelves stocked with ceramic vessels and woven baskets. Light woods and warm neutrals only serve to underscore the abundance of greenery winding around the restaurant, which specializes in dishes from Gopinathan’s home state of Kerala in southwestern India.
This Divisidero Street pasta and pizza destination housed inside a former auto garage has always made for a one-of-a-kind dinner setting — but after reopening in 2022 following a pandemic closure and redesign, it’s more impressive than ever. Bunches of dried herbs swing from rough-hewn rafters and tangles of vining plants add texture to an already vibrant space overlooking the neighborhood. Floral wallpaper, an eclectic mix of patterned tiles, and a glassed-in charcuterie room make this one of the most visually stimulating restaurants in town.
In the former Cala and Farming Hope space, fine dining newcomer Kiln serves lengthy tasting menus in an airy room painted creamy white. Whether it be while supping beef tendon with sweet potato or enjoying venison four ways, the minimal and moody aesthetic works as a perfect backdrop for the avant-garde food. Throughout the experience, the attention to detail — including the hip-hop-heavy soundtrack, the dramatic spotlighting, and the single olive tree anchoring the room — makes this a master class in understated elegance.
Across the hall from Aspen lodge-inspired Liliana is Osito’s massive single dining room. At a gorgeous long table fit for Nordic royalty, with an old school record player spinning Marvin Gayeat the far end of the room, guests are treated to a full view of the live-fire pit that earned chef Seth Stowaway’s restaurant its Michelin star. Studio Terpeluk, the firm behind Liholiho Yacht Club and other San Francisco favorites, created the warm aesthetic using sugar pine and dark reclaimed Redwood.
Birch & Rye
Walking into the city’s premier upscale Russian restaurant, diners pass an open kitchen on the left and a display of housemade vodka infusions on one’s right. At the rear, a wood-columned patio waits for any large groups, designed with help from Architects II to transport diners to the Russian countryside where chef Anya El-Wattar grew up. A not-so-subtle nod to the restaurant’s name, the space showcases birch trunks, a birch branch light fixture, and painted a birch mural.
Old Skool Cafe
The Bayview’s storied supper club Old Skool Cafe is home not only to a program training young folks on the service industry, but also to sultry red curtains, blue plush seats, and gold-framed portraits of jazz performers through the decades. Designed to evoke the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, the restaurant serves crispy fried chicken and West African peanut butter stew amongst other dishes ideated by its program participants.