The world is reopening, people are getting vaccinated, and we sense a tinge of optimism in the air - or maybe that’s the pollen. Anyway, it’s all very exciting, but maybe you’re someone who wants to take things slow. After all, you just spent a year in relative solitude, and the idea of hanging out on a packed parklet and chatting with people you haven’t seen since 2019 is borderline social whiplash. Not to worry. Just head to one of these 16 San Francisco patios that offer quiet, comfortable settings where you can eat and drink outside. In peace.
Thorough Bread and Pastry
Next time you’re in the mood for breakfast but would rather enter a staring contest with a snake than brave the bottomless brunch crowds, Thorough Bread and Pastry in the Castro is here for you. We like stopping by for an almond croissant or an epi and jam, along with a cup of tea, and sitting down on their back patio, which is nicely spaced out and filled with plants and flowers.
There’s no shortage of Italian-Californian spots in San Francisco, but one we love, especially if we’re in a laid-back, effortless kind of mood, is Piccino. The restaurant housed in a yellow Victorian cottage does well-executed Italian dishes and thin-crust pizzas served in a comfortable, airy dining room, and a large patio around the corner. But the best part is you won’t have to raise your voice to have a conversation here. And, getting a reservation is always easy.
If digging into a face-sized, egg yolk-filled raviolo on a candlelit parklet is your ideal way to spend a night in Post-Lockdown Times, book a table at Cotogna. The Italian restaurant is located on a quiet corner in the Financial District, and the parklet - complete with hardwood floors, a roof, and lots of olive trees - is so nicely designed that you might think you’re in a chic furniture design store, or, better yet, a cottage balcony in the Italian countryside. Get the prosciutto with gnocco fritto, the agnolotti del plin, and a glass of wine, and call it a night.
Stepping into Rintaro always feels like we’ve left the city completely. The tiled, string light-filled courtyard is surrounded by plants and gives off a serene, tranquil energy that somehow lowers our heart rates every time we walk in. But it’s not just the space that keeps us coming back - the food is also incredible. The Mission izakaya is currently offering a $50 seasonal set menu, which includes a sashimi plate, hand-rolled udon, charcoal-grilled chicken meatballs, and optional yakitori add-ons, all of which you’ll end up daydreaming about for weeks after.
It’s a pretty known fact that the small Italian restaurant in Noe Valley does excellent seafood-focused Sardinian dishes like baby octopus stew and spaghetti with spicy oil and cured fish roe. But one thing you’ve probably overlooked is their patio. The string light-lit space is hidden in the back of the restaurant, completely secluded from the rush of traffic or honking cars - and they also have ample heaters to keep you warm while you eat.
When it comes to great, low-key Noe Valley drinking spots, all roads lead to Valley Tavern. Aside from having a huge beer selection and really friendly service, this bar is also outfitted with a beautiful garden patio out back that’s miraculously never really overcrowded. It’s split between multiple levels, each with its own picnic table, and feels like the world’s most chill backyard - if that backyard also came with plenty of heat lamps and TVs to watch a game on.
Stop by this wine bar in Hayes Valley if you want to catch up with someone over a glass of wine and snack-y plates without having to shout. They have a parklet on the sidewalk, but you should ask for a table on their extremely cute back patio, which is tucked away behind the bar and filled with all sorts of trees and leafy plants. If you go on Sunday, they’ll also have food by the fantastic Isaan Thai pop-up, Intu-On.
If you want to dine in one of the best and most romantic patios in the city, head to Fable. The casual Castro restaurant for pork chops, burgers, and wine (and a great pork cheek, kale, and apple salad appetizer) reminds us of a secret Mediterranean garden. Potted plants, palms, and birds of paradise are everywhere, and tea lights and string lighting give this place a warm, cozy feel that’s perfectly suited for date night or a catch up with friends.
The back patio at Zazie in Cole Valley has always been one of our favorite spots to chill with some friends and a plate of absurdly good french toast. And if you’re looking for a nice patio that won’t send you into sensory overload, this place fits the bill. They also allow dogs on their patio on Monday nights (and $10 off a bottle of wine if you bring yours).
Foreign Cinema is a San Francisco gem - and their back patio is a big reason for that. It’s got high white walls, twinkly string lights, and movies projected on the walls at night. And once you sit down, you’ll want to cancel your plans for the rest of the day and stay forever. The Mission spot does a fantastic brunch, or you can head over for dinner and kick back with oysters and a glass of wine.
Prubechu is one of the livelier spots on this list - but even with music playing and a bustling energy, we’d still recommend it if you’re starting to get back into dining out, but want to take things slow. Their patio is in a parking lot, although it doesn’t seem like it - there are picnic tables that have ample space between them, colorful, floral tablecloths, and friendly service. And of course, there’s the incredible food, with standout dishes like their tender ko’ko’ wings and Chamorro BBQ plates that you’ll want to order again before you’ve even finished.
One of the quieter back patio situations around can be found at Ragazza - they have a beautiful backyard garden with lots of plants and trees. Throw in really good small plates like burrata or meatballs, thin-crust pizzas, and all the wine, and you have yourself a night. If you want an even more intimate dining experience, reserve one of their private gazebos.
This casual Bernal Heights restaurant is a neighborhood staple, thanks in no small part to the charming garden with ivy walls and lots of plants. Soak in the backyard patio while you eat comfort food like fried chicken, smoked trout deviled eggs, black truffle risotto, or meatloaf.
The back garden at Del Popolo in Lower Nob Hill used to be for private events only in pre-COVID times, but they recently opened it to the public for outdoor dining. Which is great news, because it means you can now enjoy their excellent wood-fired pizzas, Italian small plates, and a glass of wine out on the cozy, plant-filled wooden deck.
The patio at this Lower Nob Hill cocktail bar has a lot going for it - it’s massive, there are plenty of plants, and it feels more like a relaxed garden than one of those loud, over-hyped rooftop spots blasting Black Eyed Peas remixes. The only thing missing here is the view (the patio is surrounded by buildings on three sides). While you’re hanging out, you can also order everything from pizza and smoked-seared salmon to small plates like buffalo wings and crispy-fried adobo pork ribs.