The Most Jaw-Dropping Rooftop Bars in San Francisco

Take in the views.

It consistently bums us out that San Francisco isn’t more of a rooftop bar town, but we also get it. It doesn’t make a ton of sense to open a bar on a roof in a city known for its relentless fog and bone-chilling wind. Still, there are times when the sun is shining, and nary a marine layer is in sight, and on those three days each year, nothing feels more necessary than literally leveling up your drinking game via cocktails on a roof. On those days, we suggest all of these rooftop spots, which are also the only rooftop spots that currently exist in all of SF’s seven square miles. What to do when you crave a rooftop beverage on the other 362 days of the year? You can still chill with a drink at all of these bars. You just might be doing so literally unless you wear a warm jacket and/or find a spot by a heat lamp (which most of the places listed have in abundance).

El Techo

Mission

This rooftop bar is one of the most popular in SF for a few reasons. First, it’s in the Mission (atop sister restaurant Lolinda), which means that there’s often sunshine even when half of the city is awash in fog. Second, there are some pretty expansive city views, meaning you can bask in the aforementioned sunshine while pointing and laughing at all of the neighborhoods soaked in by that aforementioned fog. Third, there are really delicious cocktails (a bunch of which come by the pitcher) and Latin American street food that’s perfect for sharing, making it ideal for groups of friends (or dates, for that matter). Fourth, there’s weekend brunch and a weekday happy hour from 4 pm to 6 pm. And last but definitely not least, El Techo's rooftop has windscreens, heat lamps, and a retractable roof that comes out when necessary, so the rooftop is open rain or shine. 
How to enjoy: Pre-pandemic, El Techo only accepted reservations for brunch, but it’s pivoted and now allows them for all meals (for now). You can make reservations on Yelp. If you don’t have a reservation (or the policy changes), you can use the Yelp app to check wait times and add your name to the list.

Jones

Lower Nob Hill

620 Jones is home to SF’s biggest rooftop bar and lounge, which means there’s a better chance you and your group will be able to snag a table. Just keep in mind that even though the outdoor area is technically on a rooftop, it’s more of a (beautifully landscaped) patio one story above street level in a pretty dense part of town, so you’re not getting incredible city views. Or really any views at all. Still: a heated rooftop bar! In a town where there are only a few! In the days of yore, Jones was a hot spot for people looking to grab a drink after a long day at the office, but we’re not too bummed that it’s gone by the wayside since SF’s after-work drink scene has never been that sweet. Even though most everyone works from home now, Jones still has a good happy hour from 4 pm to 6 pm on weekdays. There’s also a popular weekend brunch with pitchers of mimosas and a breakfast martini, which is a real choice, but one we enjoy making. (Haven’t been to Jones in a while? You’ll be happy to hear the cash-only policy is no longer.)
How to enjoy: Jones used to only take reservations for large parties, but you can currently make them on the website for small groups as well. Making plans the day of? Call 415-845-2257.

Dirty Habit
Photo courtesy of Dirty Habit

To find this hidden oasis, you’ll need to walk into Hotel Zelos and take the elevator to the fifth floor. There, you’ll walk through the dark and dramatic inside dining area to the fully-heated patio, where you will choose between a table (best for a complete meal) or a cozy couch in the lounge area (ideal for drinks and snacks). Like some other rooftop spots on this list, Dirty Habit is technically on a roof but is surrounded by taller buildings, so it’s not about the views but rather about being outside beneath the (hopefully) blue sky enjoying the fresh air. The cocktail list is a mix of exotic and classic drinks with a couple of boilermaker options for when that seems like a good idea, which, lately, is often. The food menu is predominately “snackable” dishes to share, like oysters, thick-cut fries, and caviar, but there are also heartier dishes if you’re looking for a full meal. Whichever way you go, just don’t skip the chicken wings. Trust us.

Available for Reservations

If you prefer your rooftop bar to be in a Russian bathhouse, then that is very specific, but you’re also in luck. Archimedes Banya is SF’s only authentic Russian bathhouse, where you wander (with clothing or without) among pools, the cold plunge, and saunas to steam and sweat before heading off to the full-service spa where you can get scrubbed and massaged. But this isn’t about spa treatments; it’s about places you can drink on roofs, which is totally something you can also do here. This place has an outdoor rooftop lounge called Zteamer’s with views of SF, the Bay Bridge, and Mount Diablo, lots of sunshine (because: Bayview), wine, beer, and a food menu with caviar, perogies, and borsch. We should probably note that you’ll need to wear a robe at the cafe, but you can pretty much let it all hang out everywhere else if you want.
How to enjoy: The full price of admission is required to get in ($47 to $75 depending on how long you want to stay), so it’s probably not worth it unless you’re taking advantage of all of the services. The online booking system isn’t up and running, so try calling 415-206-9000 to book your reservation.

Charmaine's

Mid-Market

The only thing that feels truly “San Francisco” about Charmaine’s is the stunning city views. And we say that in a good way. Because though we love our local drinking scene, it’s hard to find a bar that’s unapologetically decadent, stylish, and sexy. And Charmaine’s, which is perched 120 feet in the sky atop The Proper Hotel, is all of that. The quirky and colorful interior bar is absolutely charming, but the Euro-meets-LA outdoor lounge with a wraparound terrace is why you’re there. The comfortable seating and copious amounts of fire pits create a “settle in and stay for a while,” vibe which is easy to do once you start sipping the tasty cocktails from the guys behind Bon Vivants and Trick Dog. Just beware: Charmaine’s is a hotel bar, and with a hotel bar comes hotel bar prices. Luckily, the sticker shock is worth it.

Available for Delivery/Takeout
Available for Reservations

El Techo is usually everyone’s go-to rooftop bar, but this under-the-radar spot with sunshine and frozen drinks should not be neglected. Rooftop 25 at 25 Lusk sits 50 feet above street level and is casual and spacious with communal tables, glass windscreens, as well as heaters and strings of lights for when the sun drops below the horizon (it’s in SoMa, so there’s genuinely a very good chance the sun will make an appearance during the day). Show up hungry because, while the drinks are excellent and also very drinkable (you’ve been warned), the food, most of which comes out of the woodfired oven, is top-notch. Spicy passion fruit margarita, frozen pineapple-coconut daiquiri, deviled eggs topped with caviar, and Neapolitan-style pizza to share? Sounds like the perfect afternoon or evening to us.

Available for Reservations
Daisy Barringer is an SF-based freelance writer who is taking advantage of these strange times by exploring San Francisco on foot. Follow her on Instagram @daisysf to see where she goes next. 
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