Let’s get this out of the way: Every San Franciscan knows the best place to drink outside is Dolores Park. But if you’re looking to upgrade from a cooler and a lawn chair, this city has a slew of sunny patios, scenic roof decks and lively beer gardens to belly up to. Here are San Francisco’s best outdoor bars to celebrate at when Karl takes the rare day off.
S.F.’s top outdoor bars
This beloved dive welcomes a colorful cross-section of the city: gay and straight, young and old. The dog-friendly patio is huge and inviting, featuring a lemon tree overhead, ample tables and plenty of heaters for chilly days. In warmer months, you’ll find live bands out back—from salsa to bluegrass—sparking all-hours dance parties. Go on the weekend for the potent bloody Marys or throw back a bucket of $1 Tecates. Happy hour runs until 8pm on weekdays, when well drinks and draft beers are just $4 a pop.
The staff is surly, the metal is blasting and the skunky scent of weed wafts through the air. Still, this is one of the best day-drinking patios in the city, in spite of—or maybe because of—its lack of frills. Bikers and hipsters mingle at the banquet-style picnic tables, surrounded by wacky murals. The bloody Marys are legendary, poured at any time of day, and the extensive beer list favors local breweries like Lost Coast, Anchor Steam, Bear Republic and Russian River Brewing Company.
Situated on a rather dodgy stretch of the Tenderloin, this sprawling bar and restaurant may not look like much from the street. Enter through the pair of blue gates and head upstairs to find a palm-dotted, light-strung terrace with views stretching downtown to the Transamerica Pyramid. The ample seating, festive vibe, and strong drinks make it a go-to spot for the after-5 set. House cocktails incorporate inventive ingredients like cola reduction and house-made jalapeno syrup. Try the eye-opening Aztec Gold, which mixes tequila, ancho chili-spiked cold-brew coffee, lavender-infused milk, and a dash of mole spices.
This Mexican eatery boasts one of the most toast-worthy views in the city. The open-air rooftop bar is bordered by glass walls, which protects you from breezes, but allows the sun. (Big umbrellas are unfurled midday to block the glare.) Opt for summery concoctions like the Hummingbird, made with pisco acholado, ginger, chamomile, lime, yellow chartreuse and a dash of bitters, or the beachy Belafonte, which blends aged rum, lime, pineapple, banana, cacao and ginger. String lights and heat lamps flicker on at dusk, casting a moody, cozy glow.
Brass Tacks owners Anthony Healy-London, Josh McAdam, and Matt Conway opened their second bar in spring 2016—the polar opposite of their first. Where Brass Tacks is dark, loud and moody, Anina is bright, airy and summery. A warm-weather vibe carries throughout the space, from the Moroccan tiles and palm-frond mural to the sunny, eight-table patio. Even the drinks have a tropical feel, like the Lucila: mezcal, lime, pineapple and pamplemousse rose. Spritzes and aperitivos are designed for pre-dinner sipping, while $46 large format punch bowls are meant to be shared (rather sloppily, by the end). On a hot day, opt for the Southern Hospitality, a refreshing, bourbon-spiked punch of black tea, peach, lemon juice and soda.
Almanac’s taproom and beer garden is small but inviting, bordered by succulents and lit by string lights. The mushroom heaters get cranked up on chilly nights, but you can also warm up with a game of bags. (That’s cornhole, to you transplants.) Sample a wide selection of fresh and barrel-aged beers, including 15 Almanac brews on tap. Sour beer lovers are their element: the sour blonde ales are flavored with blueberry, blackberry, citrus, raspberry, fig and more. (Ask about the taproom only releases.) The food menu is specifically designed to pair with beer, including sandwiches, burgers and shareable plates like house-made charcuterie. Beers are available in 2-ounce pours, so you can sample liberally.
When you tire of the rowdy crowds swarming Hayes Valley bars, Arlequin’s pretty, back patio is a welcome oasis. Grab a bottle of beer in the cafe or a bottle of wine at the wine shop next door. The dog-friendly backyard, landscaped with flowers and sun-shading trees, makes a quiet, relaxing place to sip and read or catch up with a friend. The cafe menu—which includes salads, sandwiches, pizzas and more—can be enjoyed out back, as well.
This parking lot beer garden is a 20-something pick-up hub in the center of Hayes Valley. What it lacks in ambiance, it makes up for in hefty steins of beer, available by the half- or full-liter. You’ll find seven rotating German and Austrian styles on tap, including Stiegel Pils, Franziskaner, HofBräu Oktoberfest and Weihenstephaner lager. The brews are best paired with traditional fare like bratwurst or pretzel knot sandwiches. (On Wednesday nights only, the cooks sling half-pound burgers topped with house-made pimento cheese and bacon.) The long wooden tables fill up fast on sunny days, but the crowds tend to thin out around dusk. Grab one of the complementary wool blankets, take another slug of beer, and get cozy.
A former machine shop-turned-brewery, this indoor-outdoor bar covers 10,000 square feet. The comparably intimate patio out front, lined with umbrella-topped communal tables and dotted with heat lamps, is an ideal spot for nursing beers friends. The vibe is low-key and casual, with ‘90s hits on the soundtrack, dogs milling about and gussied-up comfort food on the menu. (Don’t miss the sage fries.) Cocktails are available—try the house michelada, which Southern Pacific calls Balloon Juice—but the real draw is the in-house beer for $3 to $5 a pint. The rotating selection spans pale ales and kolsches to porters and IPAs.
This hidden rooftop bar is one of the best-kept secrets around, accessible only with a distillery tasting or a private event. Weave past stacks of grains and gleaming copper stills, climb a winding set of stairs, and you’ll be deposited onto Almanac’s intimate, light-strung roof deck, where you’ll find seating and an edible garden planted with fragrant herbs, fruit trees and botanicals like rose geranium, strawberry eversweet, wormwood, finger limes, licorice root, blackberry and lemon. The 360-degree views are impressive with or without a tumbler of Old Potrero.