The change between winter and summer in San Francisco isn’t as drastic as it is in the midwest or when they replaced Aunt Viv on The Fresh Prince that one time, but it does get sunnier and warmer once June comes around. Sort of. We’ll always carry sweaters around just in case it suddenly gets cold out, and since that happens more than we’d like, we made this guide. It has all the best places to forget that you really need long sleeves to get by. All of them are indoors, but are big and open, glassed in, or are built to feel like they’re actually outside even though they’re not. It might not be the same as sitting on a beach, but it’s better than your teeth chattering on a rooftop somewhere.
You woke up on a Saturday with the same amount of energy that usually comes after three cups of coffee, and somehow your friends actually responded to your eloquent, “breakfast?” text. Unfortunately, it’s not quite warm enough to go sit outside, but rather than give up, head to The Mill instead. Aside from having great toasts that you couldn’t recreate at home even if you stole a magic toaster, this place is big and open. When you’re here it feels like a morning where you could end up going on that hike you always say you will, even if everything outside the window says the opposite.
The dining room at Pearl feels like some sort of beachside Savannah mansion got dropped into the middle of the Richmond. Combined with the fact that this all-day spot serves great food, it’s a near-perfect place to wait out the weather you were hoping would follow your boss on their vacation. If you’re here in the morning, their bagels and the eggs in purgatory are the things to get. And if it’s later in the day, go for the wood oven-baked ricotta.
It’s a great day out on Fort Mason: it’s bright, someone brought one of those weird inflatable couches you can sit on, and no one has been hit in the face with a spikeball yet. Then the sun goes down a bit, and you feel like you might as well be trapped on the top of Mount Everest. If you and your friends want to keep things going, head to Radhaus. It’s inside a gigantic old machine shop that’s painted white, and that - combined with its incredible view of the bay - makes it almost feel like you’re still outside. Except now you can order large Belgian beers and pretzels, which was never an option sitting on that inflatable sofa.
Having trees inside definitely makes being at Southern Pacific feel like you’re sort of outside. It also helps that this place is huge and always packed with enough people hanging out in groups to make you think it might be a public park. But because it’s not, they can actually serve alcohol here, and all of the beers they make are good and pretty cheap. Order some brussels sprouts when you get hungry and you won’t need to brave the “cold” weather outside for a long, long time.
It’s usually wise to plan ahead when your family is coming to town, but the one thing you can’t plan for in SF is the weather. If you want to take them to a nice lunch one day, and would rather avoid a patio situation going wrong, book a table at Zuni Cafe. Aside from being one of our favorite restaurants in the city, it’s great to come here when the weather might not be so great because the restaurant is surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows. Just about everything on the menu here could be considered a “classic,” but don’t skip the Caesar salad or roast chicken.
The entire inside of Noosh is whitewashed to the point that it feels like Tom Sawyer tricked the painters here a little too well, and it does a good job of making you think that the weather right now is actually hospitable. Enjoy the illusion while you eat a bunch of Mediterranean small plates like muhammara and baba ganoush, along with a few cocktails and wine. Sometimes the line to get a table spills outside, but waiting on the sidewalk will really only remind you of why you wanted to be in a bright place like this in the first place.
If you’re in the Mission and trying to escape the weather like Dennis Quaid in The Day After Tomorrow, tell your friends to head to Standard Deviant Brewing. It’s like a smaller version of Southern Pacific, and even though there are no big windows here that make it feel like you’re outside, there are picnic tables and a bunch of board games to distract you from the unfortunately cold weather. The beer helps too, and all of theirs are great.
Palm House is a tropical-themed spot on Union Street, so even if there’s a random downpour, you can make it into a lets-hide-from-the-rain party. Come here for a few slushie cocktails and sit on the patio that’s guarded against the elements when it needs to be. You can eat here, and the brunch options like the smashed avocado are solid, but you’re coming to Palm House to drink and feel like you could be potentially hopping on a yacht afterward.
You’ve got clients in town during the summer, and you don’t want to risk them freezing to death by booking dinner outdoors when the weather might flip to grocery-store-fish-counter temperatures. That’s when you book a table at La Mar. They have great ceviche and it’s right on the water, so you get great views of the bay. If you’re inside instead of on the heated patio, there are high ceilings, so you kind of feel like you’re still outside, but without any wind.
The dining room at Cala feels so much like an outdoor garden party that you really wouldn’t feel that much more outside even if you were filming a reality show with Bear Grylls off the coast of Madagascar. The converted warehouse has bright white walls, high ceilings with skylights, lots of plants, and the same starlight lamps that have been in your Restoration Hardware shopping cart for two years. The Mexican food here is some of the best in the city, so while you’re thinking back and forth about how you should definitely own more linen shirts, make sure to order the empanadas and the sweet potato tacos.
Even if no one wants to actually be outside, you can at least trick yourself into thinking you are by going to Tonga Room. This old-school tiki bar has grass huts and an old wooden ship deck inside, and hurricane weather that surrounds the indoor lagoon with their floating band. If that’s not enough, downing a few of their strong tiki drinks will make everything a little more believable than before. It’s in the Fairmont Hotel, and gets a lot of tourist foot traffic, but so would any island you’re dreaming about going to anyway.
When it’s only light sweater weather season here, also known as late June, and you don’t mind a gust of wind every now and then, head to Flores in Cow Hollow for mezcal drinks and a few small plates. If the weather is anything above nuclear winter, they open the big front windows that overlook Union Street and flip on the heaters, so you can sit in comfort as you name every dog that passes by.
The patio at Nopalito is covered, so even on a day with conditions only fit for some Benjamin Franklin-style weather experiments, you can sit here and eat without noticing that it’s kind of grim outside, especially after you order a few margaritas. Come here with a few friends and get some carnitas, and if you’re in more of a cold weather mood, the pozole or the caldo tlalpeño con pollo are both rich and will warm you up faster than the heaters under the patio.
On a nice day, you can find us hanging out on the lawn at Park Chalet, drinking a few beers, and walking around the edge of Golden Gate Park. On a not-as-nice day, we’ll still be at Park Chalet, only now we’ll be sitting on the glassed-in patio. The beer is just as good inside, and even if you can’t comfortably walk around in the grass, looking at it still beats the view of the street from our apartments.
Yank Sing is one of our favorite places for dim sum in the whole city, and since it’s surrounded by tall buildings, the weather on their patio is pretty much the same all the time - so even if you made a reservation for lunch and are worried that it’s a little bit cold, you’ll still be fine. It’s a little fancy, but if you have a few people, splitting pork buns, soup dumplings, and a Peking duck is still affordable. And if you’re actually chilly on the patio, just ask for more hot tea and get a few more buns.