San Francisco isn’t exactly known for its rooftop bar scene, but why nitpick when it comes to something as fun and, frankly, important, as drinking outside while also standing on top of a building? Exactly. So without further ado, here’s a list you should memorize so you have it at the ready. The next time someone’s like, "Hey, it’s so nice out! Let’s go drink on a rooftop," you can be like, "Totally! And I actually know where to go!!" And then they’ll be like, "OMG, you read Thrillist too?" And then you’ll high five and be happy that you have each other. All because of the magic of a rooftop.
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This rooftop bar is probably the most popular one in SF for a few reasons. First, it’s in the Mission (atop sister restaurant Lolinda), which means that the weather is usually pretty good... for SF, anyway. Second, there are those sweet, sweet city views. Third: it pours really delicious cocktails and Latin American street food that’s perfect for sharing, which makes it ideal for groups of friends (or dates, for that matter). Fourth: there’s brunch. And last, but definitely not least, El Techo's rooftop is protected by windscreens and heat lamps when necessary (read: most of the time). Keep in mind, however, that El Techo is a seated situation, which means on most sunny days, there will be a wait... totes worth it, though.
Jones has SF’s biggest rooftop bar and lounge, which means there’s a better chance you and your group will find a place to sit... as long as you get there right when they open up at 5pm. Jones definitely draws more of a "professional" crowd since it’s just a few blocks away from Union Square, but this is still SF, so for every button-down shirt, there’s someone in a T-shirt they got for free, and a hoodie. The cocktail list is pretty extensive, and incorporates both classic and specialty drinks, all of which are $10 and poured pretty strong, but before you offer to buy the round, know that it’s cash only. (Of course.) You’ll want to bring a jacket, because that’s just what we do here, but Jones also has heat lamps for when it gets a little chilly... which means it’s definitely easy to spend the entire night here under the stars/fog.
Walk into the Hotel Zelos and take the elevator to the fifth floor, where you could sit inside or at the bar... or where you could head to the fully heated rooftop patio and grab a seat on one of the low couches by the fire. We don’t want to tell you what to do but... yeah, there's really only one good choice to make here. The cocktails at this swanky spot are definitely "innovative" because that’s the only thing cocktails are allowed to be anymore, but they are legit tasty, even if they do cost $13. Our favorites are actually the cocktails to share, specifically the "Get Me a Juice Box!" which is two cans of Fort Point Westfalia Red Ale, mulled wine, and bar nuts. Get that and the chicken wings, the beef tartare, and the churros, and you’ll be a pretty happy camper.
Yerba Buena Gardens
It seems like people often forget about this adorable little bar and restaurant on the roof above Yerba Buena Gardens, which is a good thing for you when it comes to getting a table outside (which is really the only kind of table you want -- there are fountains out there!). From the beautifully landscaped roof, you can catch views of the Downtown skyline, St. Patrick Church, and Yerba Buena Gardens, The house cocktails are all very thoughtful; on a hot day, we like the Feisty Flirt (orange-flower water, grenadine, aged gin, lemon, mint, prosecco), but if that’s too cute, Raise the Bluff (rye, maraschino, Fernet-Branca, Abbott’s aged bitters) has never steered us wrong. Pitchers of beer are also available, which is a good call when it’s a little more crowded, and pair perfectly with a half-dozen oysters and the chicken wings.
Bluestem’s patio is really only on the second floor... but it’s on a roof and it’s outside, so it counts. The view of the treetops and buildings along Market Street isn't the most gorgeous, but it’s still quite lovely, especially since you’ll be tucking into delicious drinks and food while everyone below you is oblivious to your presence. While Bluestem’s open-air mezzanine is intended for dining, that shouldn’t be an issue -- the menu is full of tasty options, especially if you go during brunch.
This is SF’s only authentic Russian bathhouse, where you wander 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 a rooftop with killer views, lots of sunshine, wine, beer, and, uh... nekkid sunbathing, if that’s your thing. You do have to pay the full price of admission to get in, though.
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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.
Jones is a Nob Hill hot spot where you can sip fresh cocktails on the expansive and impressive heated rooftop -- perfect for a sunny brunch with friends or drinks under the stars. It’s the biggest rooftop bar in the city, meaning there’s plenty of room for you and your crew to gather for some live music, which it offers six nights a week.
Dirty Habit is intimately hidden away on the fifth floor of Union Square's Hotel Palomar. The sultry bar and restaurant features seasonal cocktails (plus all of the classics) and an extensive selection of spirits, especially whiskey. Standout bar bites include house-made bar nuts and finger-licking good chicken wings doused in sweet soy and chili vinaigrette. The back patio has tons of seating, a fountain, and a fire pit. Take our word: this place is cool.
Located atop the Yerba Buena Gardens waterfall, B Restaurant & Bar is a beautiful, well-lit spot for a cocktail or dinner with a panoramic view. B offers $1 oysters during happy hour and also serves certain drinks by the pitcher, making this a great after-work spot for the bustling SoMa crowd. The local ingredient-based menu and raw bar features po-boy sliders, fried mac & cheese with spicy aioli, and edamame falafel.
Downtown's Bluestem Brasserie has a sleek vibe that's reminiscent of LA, which is exactly why it's so unique in the city by the bay. Floor-to-ceiling windows, big leather chairs, private booths, and a second-floor balcony create an upscale, power meal vibe that matches the menu of solid American food. Bluestem has the best brunch in the neighborhood, probably because it serves a special brunch-only burger that's topped with hash browns, breakfast sausage, bacon, house-made American cheese, and a fried egg. Hello, heaven.
Located in Hunter's Point, Archimedes Banya is San Francisco's only authentic Russian bathhouse. The communal banya features pools, a cold plunge, saunas, and a private soaking tub. There's also a full-service spa with massages, scrubs, facials, and more wellness services. Perhaps the best spot at the bathhouse is the rooftop bar with killer views, drinks, and naturally, naked sunbathing. You'll have to pay full admission to the spa to access the roof.