Maybe you’ve already had a stranger deliver Beretta three times this week. Maybe you just need to sit in silence and not talk about chatbots and the future of VR. Maybe you’re just really hungry and would rather catch up on your Twitter feed than talk to another human. Whatever the reason, there comes a time for dining solo in every person’s life - and we think those times can actually be pretty great.
There are a few criteria that make a restaurant ideal for dining solo, and the restaurants on this list satisfy all of them. One, they must have bar seating. Two, they must be places where you’ll feel totally comfortable by yourself - that usually means a casual, friendly environment. Finally, they must serve food suitable for one person. Burgers, ramen, tacos, maybe even a big salad? Yes. Tapas? Hard pass.
Wander deep into the Mission to find where all the Munis are stored and you’ll stumble upon The Morris. This modern American place has a bunch of bar seats in the back that you can walk in and grab before settling down with a couple smaller plates or a full entree. The burrata and the shrimp toast are both excellent, and you can order the foie gras dumplings one at time - if you have the self-control to stop at just one. This is one of our new favorite spots in the neighborhood.
You’re wandering the barren wasteland of Union Square and its surrounding environs and suddenly you see a shining oasis. Sure, it’s attached to a hotel, but there’s a bar and there’s focaccia and pasta too. This safe space is Tratto, and it’s ideal for grabbing a quick dinner at the bar. The pappardelle is our go-to, but almost everything here is perfectly acceptable, especially for Union Square. Save room for the donuts.
While the Marina location is made for people watching and girls night, the downtown Delarosa is perfect for eating excellent pasta and paninis by yourself. You shouldn’t have a problem getting a spot at the bar, which is important because the cocktails are gold. The burrata bruschetta is one of our favorite things to eat, and coming here alone just means you won’t have to share it.
When was the last time someone asked, “Can I have a bite of your taco?” The answer is probably never, partly because of structural integrity issues but also, social norms. Therefore, tacos are the perfect meal for humans dining solo and Garaje in SOMA has pretty great ones. If you’re not feeling tacos, the quesadillas are also worthwhile.
If black and white classic movies are more your style (mostly due to the presence of Cary Grant), then Finn Town is your move. The bar seats at this Castro spot involve a front row seat to the TV playing old-school films, and the whole place has a pretty laid-back vibe. The burger is fantastic, as is the lamb meatloaf.
Watching sports alone can be a drag. You have no one to high-five when your team scores or to back you up if you start to fight a Yankees fan and they turn out to be rolling deep. If you’re alone and want to watch some sports on TV but also need to not be at home, Marengo on Union is the best place to do it. The menu is heavy on bar food, but the salads are better than you’d think. The chili is also very good if you’re looking to get wild.
One of our favorite spots in the city, Cotogna is ideal for treating yourself and only yourself. There are a solid number of bar seats at the back that are usually snag-able. Get a bowl of pasta or an entree and some of the house focaccia and you’re good to go.
Hit up Iza, order an obscure Japanese beer, and slurp your ramen unabashedly. You’re not there to impress anyone. There can be a wait for bigger groups, but if you’re on your own it’s easy to get a seat and to receive your noodles at lightning speed.
What isn’t Souvla perfect for? Bar seats line an entire edge of the restaurant, so order at the counter, and hang out back there. It’s impossible to order incorrectly at any of the locations of this Greek mini-empire, except if you skip the frozen yogurt for dessert. The menu is small - there are salads or sandwiches with a choice of protein and excellent fries you should definitely consider. Maybe put the fries in the salad. You’re on your own and it’s time to live on the edge.
Barzotto is a classy pasta spot with an order-at-the-front, post-up-in-the-back setup (so no awkward “it’s just me” interactions with waitstaff), and the food is exceptional. We love the little gem salad and the spaghetti and meatballs, which comes with the longest noodles we’ve ever eaten. Wines by the glass are well-priced and the gelato soft serve is ideal for your walk home.
Hit up this carnivore temple near AT&T Park for one of the more decadent burgers in the city and great, meat-heavy pastas. This one isn’t for the health-conscious, but you’re alone with no one else to judge that you just ordered the burger and a pasta.
The mussels, the burger, the cocktails, the living wall - there are many things to like about Maven. Add in the fact that the restaurant has two floors of bar seating and it’s pretty much a dining solo mecca.
Creative food, the ability to usually find a single bar seat, and an excellent cocktail list keep Alta near the top of our dining solo list. The space feels nice without being too formal, and it’s always busy without being packed. The falafel and bialys are great and you should attempt to save room for a soft-serve sundae for dessert.
Order at the counter, grab a seat looking out over the street, and pat yourself on the back for eating a meal free of any refined sugars, gluten, trans fats, or really anything wellness bloggers are scared of. The short rib tacos are fantastic, and we’re also big fans of the bibimbap and roast chicken. We keep Little Gem in our lunch rotation as well.
Breakfast, lunch, or dinner, Arlequin is pretty much the perfect casual spot to eat alone. There are bar seats that look out on Hayes Street and a big back patio where it’s totally normal to hang with a book or computer while housing a lamb burger. It’s also attached to a wine shop. Just saying.
Hog Island is a sanctuary in the madness of the Ferry Building. The view is spectacular, and the food matches the looks. You’re here to eat seafood, so get to it - chowder, oysters, and mussels are all ideal for one human, and the versions at Hog Island are close to perfect. You might be here a while.
If you find yourself wandering in the Tenderloin and looking for sustenance, pop into Huxley for seasonal American food. The menu is small but mighty, and it’s worth a visit for the burger alone. Sadly they got rid of the avocado toast in a spasm of insanity, but we’ll forgive them because we like the rest of the food enough to get past that. It’s a very low-key spot that’s easy to miss if you aren’t looking for it (or even if you are), which keeps it from getting too busy.
Marlowe is known for its burger, and yes, the burger is good. But so are all the entrees. Definitely don’t skip the brussels sprout chips, either. The deep SOMA location is easy to miss, but well-situated for a quick meal near Caltrain or AT&T Park.
Getting a table at Nopalito is usually a bit of an ordeal, but slipping into the bar seats that look over the open kitchen is usually not. The carnitas are awesome and the spicy chickpeas to snack on are also a delight. The place is pretty casual (it basically shares an entrance with a grocery store) and is also one of our go-tos for weekend lunch.
In North Beach and need a solo meal that won’t end with you getting poked by the selfie stick of the tourist couple sitting next to you? Get yourself to Park Tavern and set up at the bar. The menu is fancy-ish American food, from stellar deviled eggs you can order one by one to an excellent pork chop and beef tartare. If you’re a vegetarian, this is not your jam.
This little sushi bar in Hayes is small enough to feel cozy, but big enough for you to position yourself in a corner to get deeply involved with some rolls. Domo is a relaxed, neighborhood spot that you can hit up whether you’re in gym clothes or work clothes and feel perfectly at ease. It’s well-priced, and pretty damn good. The Saba Hit or Wiki Wiki rolls are always in our order.
This is a Financial District power move. The crowd is definitely older and more business-like, but the fried chicken and burger are excellent, so you will not care if you get some side-eye for wearing denim. If you really want to test the limits on your corporate card policy (and your body), they have a short-rib-stuffed filet mignon.
Grilled cheese is a perfectly respectable thing to eat for dinner as an adult. Or lunch. Union Larder makes theirs in a grown-up size, and also does the wine bar thing in Russian Hill without being snobby about it. And if you don’t feel like returning to your childhood, the menu also has salads, charcuterie plates, and a few other solid sandwiches.
We like Fat Angel for a quick meal at the bar with the best thing on the menu: the kale salad. It has bacon and cheese and almonds and is generally a thing of beauty. Add roast chicken and you have yourself a great dinner. Bar seats, good wine, and beer abound.
Causwells is all about the burger. And for good reason - it’s fantastic. There are a bunch of bar seats inside, or on a nice day grabbing an outdoor table and watching the humans and animals of Chestnut Street stroll by is more than enough to entertain yourself.