Yes, it’s ever rarer to get a break from the gray and rain in the Bay these days. But on a clear day when the sun makes the San Francisco Bay glimmer like doubloons in a treasure chest, one is reminded why people visit from around the world just to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. Industry publication Travel Weekly reports it’s the outer neighborhoods in the city that show an uptick in tourists in 2023, citing also an overall increase in visitors from 2022. Whether you’re a local or a guest, these 17 restaurants, bars, and cafes make a case for what the real jewel of the Bay was all along: the views.Read More
17 San Francisco Restaurants With Spectacular Views
Restaurants to best view San Francisco’s natural splendor and gorgeous man-made wonders
Mersea Restaurant, Bar and Venue
Treasure Island is still technically part of San Francisco — in fact, it offers the best views of the city from halfway across the Bay Bridge. Mersea is a restaurant built into an old shipping container, and the cafe serves comforting burgers, fish and chips, chowder, and cioppino.
Sitting on the proverbial dock of the bay, Scoma’s is a seafood institution, serving local fish pulled straight from the boat since 1965. The restaurant is kind of slung low like a ship’s cabin, winding through several bars and dining rooms, filled with warm woods and rich leather. But slide into a booth to look out the window, and the bay is lapping just outside, with boats floating by.
The sights from Golden Gate Bridge remain some of San Francisco’s most iconic vistas. Now that Equator took over the Round House at the bridge, it’s home to phenomenal coffee and pastries, too. Opened in 1937, the Art Deco-style space is a gorgeous cafe itself while providing world-famous views of the Bay.
This groundbreaking vegetarian restaurant first opened as part of the San Francisco Zen Center in 1979. It was a pioneer of Californian farm-to-table cooking in the 1980s and 1990s, with all due respect to the legendary nut loaf. Today, it’s still well worth a visit to Fort Mason, where it serves fresh vegetable soups, salads, pastas, pizzas, and more in a warehouse space with views of the bay, bridge, and headlands.
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Fort Mason beer hall Radhaus is lined on one side with large windows that offer a panoramic view of the Golden Gate Bridge. The Bavarian-style restaurant has a menu of wursts, salads, and cheeses, as well as nine taps of German brews.
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Taking over the former chef Traci Des Jardins’s Commissary space, Eastern Mediterranean restaurant Dalida might be San Francisco’s hit of the summer in the Presidio. Chefs Laura and Sayat Ozyilmaz say the Presidio reminds them of the Mediterranean, which is fitting as the two plate lamb shoulder tandoor and sea urchin tahdig with views of the water and the greenery of the park.
Colombus Avenue lit up at night is truly a sight to behold. It’s a straight shot down the street to the Transamerica Tower and offers a good view of historic haunts like City Lights Bookstore and Vesuvio. From inside Red Window, with its prime location where the thoroughfare meets Stockton Street, you can soak it all in over a low-ABV cocktail and a feast of Spanish tapas. By night it’s a cozy spot for a date or casual dinner, but weekend brunch in the colorful space is worthwhile, too.
Hog Island Oyster Co.
The Ferry Building has plenty of great dining options but if a memorable view is on your checklist, here’s the pro-move: grab a seat either on the Hog Island Oyster Co. patio or at the raw bar. From either perch you’ll be able to watch the ferry boats come and go, take in the Bay Bridge, and gaze upon the gorgeous blue waters while you slurp fresh-caught oysters and sip a glass of something bubbly.
Empress by Boon
The Empress of China — a Chinese banquet hall that ruled for nearly half a century — always had a regal view from its sixth-story vantage above Chinatown. It sadly shuttered in 2014, but now the new Empress by Boon has opened in the historic space and serves modern Cantonese fare, as well as views north across Chinatown and North Beach, and east looking down into Portsmouth Square and the Financial District.
San Francisco’s downtown may be slower to rebound from the pandemic than some other cities, but Union Square remains a shopping mecca where there’s no better place to get a bird’s eye view of the action than the Rotunda. Perched at the top of the multi-level Neiman Marcus store just off the square, the rounded dining room allows diners to take in the bustle of the area while sipping on a glass of bubbles and tucking into a plate of the famous popovers served with strawberry butter. Tea service is a favorite, but no matter what you do make sure to look up: the view of the gorgeous stained glass dome is also incredible.
Red's Java House
At Red’s Java House, you can score big on Bay Bridge views without having to break the bank. This old-school, no-frills burger spot (though there are other food options including fish and chips and sandwiches) sits right on the water, practically underneath the bridge, so you can gape up at the blue sky, down toward glittering water, and out at the city itself while enjoying a cold beer and a basket of excellent onion rings.
One of San Francisco’s newer rooftop rarities, Kaiyo soars above the SoMa skyline, just a block or two away from Oracle Park. The location southeast of the freeway means you can take in the full expanse of downtown skyscrapers from one side of the Peruvian-Japanese bar and restaurant, while the other direction features a panoramic view of the Bay Bridge and Berkeley Hills in the far distance.
Here’s a little secret: From one of the patios at this new Latin American rooftop bar you can pretty much see the outfield of Oracle Park. That means you can sneak free peeks at any events that may take over the baseball field, including games, yes, but also concerts, when the sound carries nicely on the bay breeze over to the bar. The cocktails fuse less-common spirits like pisco and cachaça with flavors from south of the border — think delicately floral papaya and purple chicha morada. If you need a bite, the menu of aguachiles, flaky Brazilian pastels, and arepas should more than suffice.
Andytown Coffee Roasters
The westside of San Francisco has a penchant for surfing and It’s-Its, and the newest Andytown Coffee Roasters location across the street from the Pacific Ocean satisfies both. Taking over the ground floor of 800 Great Highway, this cafe shares in the expansive views of Ocean Beach with building-mates Ocean Plant. Books, swag, and, yes, surfboards are all for sale at this buzzy coffee shop, too.
Mission Rock Resort
This double-deck waterfront restaurant hovers over the Bay, providing a great view of passing boats and ships. The lunch and dinner menu is focused on seafood, and brunch (which, on warm days, is best enjoyed in its outdoor seating area) is an eggs and oysters affair.
Perched above 16th and Market streets, the Lookout isn’t just a Castro District gay bar with a reliable menu of sandwiches, tacos, and pizzas: It’s also one of the best views one can get of one of the city’s busiest and most fascinating intersections.
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El Techo de Lolinda
Ascend to the El Techo rooftop to gaze on Mission Street below. El Techo de Lolinda offers great city views right in the middle of the Mission, and serves rooftop cocktails and Latin street food-style snacks.