Maybe you’re taking the day off because your aunt’s in town and mandates that you serve as her personal tour guide. Maybe it’s a national holiday or you just decided to take full advantage of your unlimited PTO. Maybe you got fired. Whatever the reason, when you have a day off, you need to take full advantage of the situation. Which means having a serious lunch. It’s an ideal way to get to those places you’ve had on your list, while spending less money and actually being able to get a table at a regular time that humans eat.
So next time your lunch hour is more than an hour, here’s where to go.
Yep, there might still be a wait even on your day off, but that’s fine since you’ve got nothing but time today. The line will be mostly tourists so it’s great for eavesdropping and learning about how people from everywhere else feel about how hilly/foggy/expensive SF is. This place opens at 10:30am, but you should show up by 10am if at all possible. The oysters are obviously great, but make sure to add the clam chowder and Sicilian sashimi to your order.
When you have a whole day off, it means you can finally take that Muir Woods day trip that you’ve been talking about for two years. But in your excitement to see trees that are way too big to be trees, you might leave the city without getting something to eat. Even if that’s not the case, you should still stop by Sol Food in Mill Valley because the Puerto Rican food they serve is worth a visit on its own. Grab a few bistec sandwiches to share, load up on limeade, and wonder if this was the real reason you crossed the bridge today instead of going to see a Star Wars filming location.
There usually isn’t a line at Tony’s during the week at lunch, so if you’ve got the day, take advantage of non-peak hours and go get a pizza. If you’re by yourself, the Neapolitan pie is small enough that there won’t be any leftovers. But if your whole team has the day off because a pipe burst in the office, invite everyone, turn it into a pizza party, and order as much as you think you can handle.
Pearl is one of the best places to go for a long lunch and it’s conveniently on the way to Lands End, which is a perfect day off one-two punch. This place has a laid back vibe, a super-friendly staff, and most importantly, awesome food. The smoked salmon bagel is always a good call, as are the toasted farro bowl and banana bread. Maybe you’ll need a nap pre-hike, but luckily the benches at Pearl have cushions ideal for that.
If you never get to see the Mission in the daylight due to Google Bus schedules, exploring it on your day off is a great way to get around weekends jam packed with sports, birthdays, and not having the energy to get out of bed at a reasonable time. Taqueria El Farolito is a good place to start - both because we love their carnitas burritos and it’s about as central in the Mission as you can get. After lunch, choose a direction to start walking, stumble upon some skateboarders, and show them how you used to tear it up before you went all corporate.
Days off are for doing slightly irresponsible things you wouldn’t do in an office setting. That can include sitting out in Dolores Park for several hours with no sunscreen, or (our preference) ordering paella that serves two to four people for yourself. The best place to do so is Bellota, the Spanish spot in the Airbnb building. Their lunch menu is a little smaller than the dinner one, but has all the highlights (including that paella), plus a fantastic lamb burger.
Today is the day to act like a tourist, so there’s no shame in hanging around Fisherman’s Wharf and going to Scoma’s for some crab. This place is located on a houseboat and you’ll need to walk down a back alley to find it, but once you do, grab a few beers at the bar to start. Then move to a table for the main event - the whole roasted dungeness crab that you’re going to eat with juices dripping down your arms.
Taking someone to Zuni for dinner is a big deal, and one of the only things that feels cooler than that is sitting down at Zuni for lunch in the middle of the day. Without question, get the caesar salad - it makes your typical desk lunch look like your niece’s ballet recital performed next to Misty Copeland, but without any of the inherent cuteness. Plus, with the sun still out, you can people watch out the giant glass windows along Market Street that you’d miss at night.
Spruce is legendary, both because eating here makes you feel like you could afford a home (or rental parking space) in Presidio Terrace, and the burger is also perfect. It’s very hard to get into at night, but the fancy American spot does lunch just as well as dinner. The burger is still on the menu, as is a flawless, simple omelet and a duck pasta you should try, since you don’t have to go to work and can eat like an Italian cheese baron for a day.
It’s your day, so wine at lunch doesn’t have to be a sign of a drinking problem. In fact, it should be celebrated. A16, along with having excellent wine, does an awesome lunch with all the pizzas on the menu, plus a scrambled egg prosciutto delight, along with vegetable and cheese-focused starters and some great meatballs. Lunch means you won’t need to linger awkwardly at the bar waiting for a table, and on a sunny day you can grab one of the two sidewalk tables - better for observing the latest in VC vest styles.
Attempting brunch at Outerlands is an exercise in patience, and there are only so many times you can poke around in the overpriced boutique down the street that sells $80 used sweatshirts. Weekday lunch, on the other hand, is easy. They have brunch food available all day, every day - a thing that is both rare and necessary when you’re home “sick” because one beer last night turned into ten. Get the grilled cheese if that’s the case. You don’t have to work, and you’re an adult who is allowed to eat like a third-grader. Take advantage of it.
You have an entire day with no obligations. You could bake cookies, go to Alcatraz, start writing your series of teenage coming of age novels, and/or sign up for and then immediately cancel a hot yoga class. The world is your oyster, so check the weather in Sausalito, and pending sunshine, go immediately to Fish. The line at this mostly outdoor seafood spot right in the marina is ludicrous on the weekend, but on weekdays it’s much less crowded. Get a pitcher of beer and some fish tacos and post up at one of the outdoor tables for a leisurely lunch.
Because you have a day off, you have enough time to sample all the various parts of Tartine Manufactory. And because it’s a workday, you don’t have to line up behind half the population of the Mission to do so. The very pretty space serves excellent lunch food, soft serve ice cream, pastries, and also has a coffee bar for good measure. Start with a sandwich and throw in the little gem salad for some greenery, before grabbing a loaf of bread and some pastries to go. And then consider never going back to work and making this an everyday thing.
There are two Nopalitos, both of which serve lunch, so depending on your location (Nopa or Sunset) keep either in mind for a sit-down meal involving margaritas before 5pm. Besides excellent tortas, carnitas, and fish tacos, the lunch menu has great chilaquiles and a poached eggs dish that’s awesome. Maybe this is actually brunch on your day off, because Bloody Marys are also an option.