Food & Drink

The 15 Most Picturesque Places to Drink in SF

Published On 04/21/2015 Published On 04/21/2015
Grant Marek/Thrillist

It’s a fact: the only thing better than a good drink is a good drink with a freaking amazing view. Fortunately, San Francisco is a city lousy with both, from beer flights and striking ocean panoramas, to strong-ass martinis and ridiculous, top-of-the-hill city vistas. Here are our 15 favorite spots, plus the must-order drink at each. (PS: every single one of these doubles a good date idea. You're welcome.)

Flickr/Jenn L

The Cliff House

Outer Richmond
The Drink: Gin Fizz
The View: Ocean Beach + the craggy coast hugging Land’s End + the wild, blue Pacific
The Cliff House, in addition to being classy as all hell, is perched on a seriously badass location on the edge of a cliff on the lip of the Pacific Ocean/the end of the world. But seriously, the views from this spot are momentous, and include a wide swath of Ocean Beach on one side, and the surly ocean, crashing into sculptural, jagged rocks on the other. Because it’s been around for all kinds of decades (like, 10), and has an old-school feel to it, we like to drink a classic Gin Fizz here, which is basically a milkshake that has a lot of gin in it. Get popovers too, because they’re delicious.

Eric Wolfinger

El Techo de Lolinda

The Mission
The Drink: El Joven Picante
The View: The Upper Mission stretching into the Downtown skyline
San Francisco collectively bemoaned its lack of rooftop bars forliterallyever, then along came El Techo in 2013 -- one of the best rooftop bars in the whole wide world. In addition to stupid-good South American-cum-Mexican street food (and brunch!), they’ve got the requisite wind and cold-proofing materials, allowing us to enjoy this stunning, North-facing view of our fair city all year round (IN YOUR FACE, NEW YORK). All of the drinks here are tops, but we’re obsessed with El Joven Picante, a smoky-spicy-sweet blend of mezcal, honey, lime, and chipotle bitters. Enough that we'll be getting a pitcher(s) of it.

Courtesy of The View Lounge

The View

SOMA
The Drink: The Moscone Mule
The View: South Beach + SOMA + the East Bay
The View is one of those blink-and-you’ll-miss it city secrets that we’re delighted to have discovered. There, right in the middle of startup-shopping mall-convention center-land, way at the top of a hotel you’d never go to, is this bar with a ridiculously rad view and booze for you to drink! The cocktails ain’t cheap, but we’ve enjoyed taking in the stunning scenery over a Moscone Mule. It has a funny (punny!) name, and frankly, it’s hard to mess up the time-honored blend of vodka, ginger beer, and lime. They’ve got a special 25 year anniversary cocktail featuring San Francisco’s own Distillery No. 209 gin, too, if you’re feeling splurgy.

Flickr/Terrell Woods

Waterbar

Embarcadero
The Drink: A glass of Chablis or Sancerre
The View: The Bay Bridge + Treasure Island + the Bay (duh)
You come to Waterbar for two reasons -- to 1) eat oysters, 2) do so with the above view. Okay, okay -- the locally sourced, super-seasonal, seafood-centric food menu is delicious, too. But we’re all about the oysters (specifically during the daily $1 oyster happy hour!), particularly when we’ve snagged (snugged?) a seat outside and the sun is out. The cocktails are tasty, but we tend to go for a glass of something cold and white (go with whatever Chablis or Sancerre they have available by the glass) that'll pair just right with our dozens of raw, briny bivalves. Yeah, we think it’s super Hemingway of us, too.

Flickr/Thom Watson

Beach Chalet

Outer Sunset
The Drink: Beach Chalet House Brews Sampler Set
The View: Ocean Beach
Down the coast from the Cliff House, the Beach Chalet has a more laid-back vibe, and a panoramic view of Ocean Beach to match. In addition to three (!) daily happy hours, the Beach Chalet contains a microbrewery, with a selection of eight fresh-brewed beers. Unless we’re craving something specific, we tend to match our beer choice to the weather -- say, the Fleishhacker Stout for those occasional foggy days (ha, right) -- but there's a sampler set on offer should you want to try all of the offerings before committing (Editor's Note: try all the offerings before committing anyway).

Flickr/Travis Wise

Top of the Mark

Nob Hill
The Drink: The Top of the Mark Martini
The View: The city skyline, the Bay, and the Golden Gate Bridge
If you like your stunning view with a side of martini, this is your booze-soaked huckleberry. In addition to having a hella classy mid-Century vibe, Top of the Mark boasts a “100 Martini Menu,” the best of which can be found on page 1. The namesake martini is a straight-up, straightforward blend of Ketel One, vermouth, and two olives -- shaken, not stirred, Mr. Bond. Don’t be afraid to show up in a tux. And, don’t be surprised if you see at least three proposals.

Flickr/sierravalleygirl

The Slanted Door

Embarcadero
The Drink: Ginger Limeade
The View: The Bay Bridge + Treasure Island + ferry boats
You can’t have too many reasons to come to Slanted Door -- the longstanding Ferry Building institution from Charles Phan still puts out some of the very best Vietnamese-inspired fusion on the West Coast. Consistently excellent food aside, the view from Slanted Door’s floor-to-ceiling windows is The Best -- you get an up-close-and-personal view of Treasure Island, the Bay Bridge, and the ferry boats coming and going from the Ferry Building Terminal. Enjoy 'em while sipping on the Ginger Limeade, a refreshing mix of ginger and lime mixed with locally produced Hangar One Kaffir Lime vodka.

Flickr/Paul Sullivan

Forbes Island

Fisherman’s Wharf
The Drink: Dark & Stormy
The View: Pier 39 + Coit Tower + sea lions + Alcatraz + Angel Island + The Golden Gate Bridge + the Bay (under it, too!)
Ahoy, matey, and welcome to Forbes Island, a floating houseboat/restaurant/the best reason to spend any time in Fisherman’s Wharf (other than the secret Tiki bar). Forbes Island is the kind of San Francisco oddity that almost feels too good to be true -- it’s a restaurant on a houseboat with an underwater wine cellar, a Tahiti Lounge for cocktails, and a lighthouse you can ascend, drink in hand, to take in a 360-degree view of San Francisco, the bridge, and the Bay. In true nautical form (you're on a boat, motherfucker!!), go for a rum-filled Dark & Stormy -- they’re nice and strong and will make you feel better about paying $75 for the required prix fixe dinner, aka price of admission.

Flickr/Jocie SF

Greens Restaurant

Fort Mason
The Drink: A bottle of local wine
The View: The Golden Gate Bridge + the Bay + Marin
Greens may have all of the San Francisco checklist things going for it -- it’s locally sourced, seasonal, and vegetarian -- but it’s delicious enough that we’ll quit whining about the lack of steak. And, oh right, it has one of the very best views in San Francisco. Tucked into Fort Mason, Greens’ massive windows look out over the sailboats housed in the Fort Mason Marina, all the way over the Bay to the Golden Gate Bridge. As local deliciousness is the name of the game, go for a bottle of something from just over said bridge -- all of the choices are good, but we’re getting thirsty just thinking about the Sean Thackrey Andromeda Devil’s Gulch Ranch Pinot Noir from West Marin.

Flickr/Marcin Chady

The Ramp

Mission Bay
The Drink: Bloody Mary
The View: The San Francisco Shipyard + the East Bay
Hanging out in a shipyard and drinking sounds like a potentially dangerous combination, but at The Ramp, it’s nothing but a good idea. This no-frills waterfront restaurant is immediately next to the San Francisco shipyard, meaning the views are great (tankers!) and the crowd is better. We come here for brunch on sunny days, sip on the quality Bloody Marys, and dream of a life at sea. Should you stick around long enough (and down enough drinks), there’s usually a band and dancing later in the day. Just don’t try to operate the heavy machinery.

Mission Rock Resort

Mission Rock Resort

Mission Bay
The Drink: Bottomless mimosas
The View: The San Francisco Shipyard + the East Bay
Right down the road from the Ramp, Mission Rock is a slightly more upscale option for shipyard views, with plenty of seating both in and outdoors for those chillier San Francisco days. (You know, in July.) This is also a good brunch move, especially if you're indulging in a few rounds of bottomless mimosas. They’ve got hella oysters, too, so your day is pretty much set at this point.

Flickr/rocor

The Gotham Club

SOMA
The Drink: The #24
The View: The pristine beauty of the Giants playing field at AT&T Park + the Bay
Remember the super-secret, members-only club behind the scoreboard in AT&T Park? Yeah, well, in addition to being awesomely badass and secret, it also features the best view ever of the field and, naturally, our own championship-winning superstars, the San Francisco Giants. Beautiful, right? Toast to their 2015 season with a #24, the Gotham Club’s version of an Old Fashioned, complete with a baseball-shaped ice cube. Oh yeah, you can see the Bay from here, too, but why are you looking at that when there’s a baseball field right in front of you?!

Flickr/MomentsforZen

The Starlight Room

Union Square
The Drink: Tipsy Rabbit
The View: Union Square from above + Downtown + Nob Hill
The intoxicating mix of Top 40 dance music, cougars, and strong, strong drinks is hard to resist (okay, sort of hard) -- then, throw in a stunning view of Union Square and its surroundings. Because there are drag show Sundays (!), you should be going for the hard stuff, and how -- you’ll be amazed how easily you’ll throw back the Tipsy Rabbit, a heady mix of tequila, grapefruit juice, Aperol, and Prosecco.

Flickr/is a belle

Dolores Park

The Mission
The Drink: Tall boy in a brown paper bag
The View: The hilly skyline of Downtown to Nob Hill
The never-ending construction in Dolores Park has been kind of a huge bummer, except for the fact that it’s forced us to drag our lazy asses to greener pastures -- specifically, the massive hill on the South side of the park. In addition to allowing us the same pleasures of the more easily accessible Dolores Park flats (hey, cold beer cold water guy!), this spot has one hell of a view of Downtown -- all the better with a cold one comfortably wrapped in a paper bag. We don’t care if its Tecate or PBR, but if it’s anything fancier, you should probably be at the Marina Green.

Flickr/Ranchita Vida

The Ferry

The Bay
The Drink: Bottle of Lagunitas beer
The View: The whole gorgeous San Francisco skyline + the Golden Gate Bridge + the Bay Bridge + every island ever + Marin + really, just, everything
Like views? Got a Clipper card? Then meet your new favorite drinking destination: the Ferry. That’s right, those Ferry boats going between Marin, the East Bay, and San Francisco have unbeatable views, and have beer for sale on board. “But wait,” you’re thinking. “That’s way expensive, and those boats are filled with tourists!” Aha, young grasshopper, here’s where you’re only half wrong. That trusty Clipper card of yours ensures that your fare is about half as expensive as those unsuspecting tourists (these boats are for commuting too, after all). They’ve got bottles of Lagunitas for sale, so grab a couple, score a seat outside, and take your own little booze cruise of the Bay. You do have to get off when you reach the other side, which is why you got an extra beer to drink while you wait in line for the ferry ride back home.

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Lauren Sloss is a San Francisco-based writer who's found that drinking with good views renders tomorrow's hangover obsolete. Call her out on this blatant falsehood @laurensloss.

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1. Cliff House 1090 Point Lobos Ave, San Francisco, CA 94121

With jaw-dropping views of Ocean Beach, the craggy coast-hugging Land’s End, and the wild, blue Pacific, Cliff House is a classy brunch or dinner spot perched on aon the edge of a cliff on the lip of the Pacific Ocean. Sit by a window to experience the dizzying, romantic effects of feeling on the edge of the world and don’t forget to order a $5 Irish coffee. This is the ultimate place to start a Sunday day date with a mimosa brunch or take in a sunset on a clear/clear-enough evening.

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2. El Techo de Lolinda 2518 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110 (The Mission)

El Techo, the more casual version of the downstairs Argentinean steakhouse Lolinda, serves Latin American street food and pitchers of margaritas. You’re gonna want to get the chicharrones de carne, which come in half pound, one pound, or one and a half pound orders (in other words, you'll need to come with friends). These aren’t your basic sidewalk cracklin's -- these are massive fried chunks of roasted pork shoulder that you’ll devour with housemade tortillas, lime, salsa, and escabeche meant to be enjoyed alongside one of the best rooftop views San Francisco has to offer.

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3. The View 780 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94103 (Downtown)

The View Lounge offers (of course) stunning views of the city, delicious cocktails, tasty shared and small plates, plus a TON of space to spread out and enjoy yourself until last call -- which you're probably going to want to do every time.

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4. Waterbar 399 Embarcadero, San Francisco, 94105 (Embarcadero)

Waterbar is a two-story restaurant on the Embarcadero with mind-numbing views of the Bay Bridge and Treasure Island. You come here for two reasons: to take in the aforementioned views and to eat oysters. The seafood-centric menu features all of that seasonal, locally sourced good stuff, but the best thing about Waterbar is the daily $1 oyster happy hour and chilled glasses of white wine.

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5. Beach Chalet Brewery & Restaurant 1000 Great Hwy, San Francisco, CA 94121 (Outer Sunset)

You’ll probably want to order the Sample Set (4oz of the eight house made brews for $13) so that you can decide what you want to take home in your growler. If you’re looking to buy a new one, you can get a nice German-style there for $25 (that includes the beer), or bring your own and fill it for $15. Enjoy your beer there because it doesn't get much better than their awesome waterfront view.

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6. Top of the Mark 999 California St, San Francisco, CA 94108 (Nob Hill)

If you like your stunning view with a side of martini, this is your booze-soaked huckleberry. In addition to having a hella classy mid-Century vibe, Top of the Mark boasts a “100 Martini Menu,” the best of which can be found on page one. The namesake martini is a straight-up, straightforward blend of Ketel One, vermouth, and two olives -- shaken, not stirred, Mr. Bond. Don’t be afraid to show up in a tux. And, don’t be surprised if you see at least three proposals.

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7. The Slanted Door 1 Sausalito - San Francisco Ferry Bldg #3, San Francisco, CA 94111 (Embarcadero)

Traditional Vietnamese cuisine infused with Bay Area spirit, The Slanted Door, according to its visionary owner/executive chef Charles Phan, is a restaurant that "refused to cut any corners."Using local, fresh ingredients, patrons experience a variety of meals given a modern, subtle twist.

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8. Forbes Island Pier 39, San Francisco, CA 94133 (Fishermans Wharf)

Forbes Island is the kind of San Francisco oddity that almost feels too good to be true -- it’s a restaurant on a houseboat with an underwater wine cellar, a Tahiti Lounge for cocktails, and a lighthouse you can ascend, drink in hand, to take in a 360-degree view of San Francisco, the bridge, and the Bay. In true nautical form (you're on a boat, motherfucker!!), go for a rum-filled Dark & Stormy -- they’re nice and strong and will make you feel better about paying $75 for the required prix fixe dinner, aka price of admission

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9. Greens Restaurant 2 Marina Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94123

An OG on the vegetarian front since 1979, Greens is the real deal: A legit, upscale restaurant in a beautiful space within Fort Mason that basically showed America that you can still eat really, really well without all the meat and cream and all the other things associated with fine dining back during the fall of disco. Though founding chef Deborah Madison has passed the reigns onto Annie Somerville, the food continues to pull in people from all across the world. You’re not to mess around here: get the price fixe, sit back, and be blown away when you realize all the next-level things she can do without the magic of bacon.

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10. The Ramp 855 Terry Francois St, San Francisco, CA 94158 (Dogpatch)

We love this funky, outdoor spot for its live music, Bloody Marys, and general merriment. But we're even more stoked on it since discovering they also offer a more-than-decent chowder that’s peppery, herby, and filled with big chunks of clams and potatoes.

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11. Mission Rock Resort 817 Terry A Francois Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94158 (Dogpatch)

On those all-too-precious sunny days in SF, there’s nothing more quintessentially summer than finding a patio by the water and savoring cocktails while slurping oysters and enjoying stunning views of the bay. Mission Rock Resort knows this all too well, hence the 99-cent oysters weekdays from 3-7pm, pristinely sourced seafood, and refreshing cocktails like pineapple daiquiris and pisco punch.

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12. The Gotham Club 24 Willie Mays Plz, San Francisco, CA 94107 (Soma)

The Gotham Club is the ultimate secret speakeasy behind the scoreboard of AT&T Park. The upscale space is packed with vintage Giants memorabilia, a bowling lane, billiards, and revamped variations on classic ballpark snacks. Chow down on giant Bavarian pretzels while sipping luxe craft cocktails, and be sure to check out the gorgeous views of the Bay when you're not too busy cheering on the Giants.

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13. The Starlight Room 450 Powell St, San Francisco, CA 94102 (Union Square)

Harry Denton's Starlight Room, located on the 21st floor of Union Square's Sir Francis Drake Hotel, is a totally opulent old-school lounge and nightclub. The interior features red velvet, sparkling chandeliers, mirrored ceilings, and an Art Deco dance floor. Even more intoxicating than the Top 40 tunes are the 360-degree views of the city. Oh, and on Sundays, drag queens perform during the weekly drag brunch.

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