Food & Drink

The Best San Francisco Restaurants Open on Christmas Day

The Big 4 Restaurant at Huntington Hotel
Courtesy of The Big 4 Restaurant at Huntington Hotel

Nothing puts a damper on a festive mood like toiling away in the kitchen all day on Christmas while your unwrapped presents all sit there begging to be played with, only to have to go back in there after you finish eating to clean it all up. Forego all of the stress that comes with grocery shopping, prepping, cooking, and washing dishes, and instead, make a reservation at one of these San Francisco restaurants that are open on Christmas Day. 

Whether you want Jewish comfort food, dim sum, Dungeness crab, a decadent buffet, or an indulgent prix fixe dinner, there’s something for everyone here. Because unlike Santa, we don’t discriminate.

Balboa Cafe
Courtesy of Balboa Cafe

Balboa Cafe

Cow Hollow
Balboa’s been a San Francisco staple since it opened as a butcher shop and grill in 1913, and over a hundred years later, it’s the gift that keeps on giving (especially because it stays open on major holidays). Christmas falls on a Wednesday this year, but Balboa won’t be serving its famous midweek chicken paillard special. What it will be serving is a special à la carte menu with options that include a winter vegetable soup, crab cakes, herb roasted prime rib with whipped potatoes, roasted chicken breast with butternut squash puree, and an eggnog tres leches. Balboa also has an excellent wine list, which you should definitely partake in, especially if Santa or one of his helpers is picking up the bill.
Cost: The prime rib is $39; reserve by calling 415-921-3944

The Big 4 Restaurant at Huntington Hotel
Courtesy of The Big 4 Restaurant at Huntington Hotel

The Big 4 Restaurant

Nob Hill
The Big 4 Restaurant inside of the Huntington Hotel serves up classic SF vibes with elegant grandeur and a nod to the city’s past (it was named after the Big Four railroad tycoons who played a vital role in San Francisco’s early development and there are artifacts and photographs to that effect around the restaurant). Arrive early to enjoy an expertly-crafted cocktail made by one of the longtime bartenders while listening to live piano in the bar before moving to the dining room where you’ll enjoy an indulgent prix fixe dinner. There are four options for starters and entrees, including a lobster bisque, black truffle risotto, Colorado lamb chop, and filet mignon, and three options for dessert, including a warm medjool date cake and a bread pudding with two sauces.
Cost: $140; reserve by calling 415-771-1140

Bistro Boudin

Fisherman’s Wharf
If Santa Claus were a San Franciscan, he’d probably ask you to leave him a bowl of clam chowder in a bread bowl in lieu of cookies on Christmas Eve. Don’t ask us how that would technically work with temperature and sogginess because we don’t understand how Santa’s magic works -- just THAT it works. Anyway, all of this is to say you should treat yourself to that classic SF dish at Bistro Boudin on Christmas Day. It’s also really not Christmas in SF unless there’s crab, which is why it’s perfect that the restaurant is serving its entire menu, so you can get Dungeness crab cocktail, a fresh roasted Dungeness whole crab, and a seafood cioppino with Dungeness crab, shrimp, calamari, mussels, and fish.
Cost: Boudin sourdough bread bowl with clam chowder is $16.96; reserve online

The Bistro Restaurant at the Cliff House

Ocean Beach
If you’re looking for a more casual Christmas Day meal, The Bistro at the Cliff House is a good option because you still get to enjoy the views of its fancier counterpoint (Sutro’s -- see below), but without the pressure of the white tablecloths. To be clear, you’re still going to need to change out of your Santa footie pajamas if you want to enjoy the à la carte menu that includes dishes like Dungeness crab cakes, French onion soup, braised lamb shank, and New York steak with garlic prawns, but not into anything fancy. Jeans will absolutely suffice at this spot. Pro tip: Take a casual walk along the Lands End trail before your meal to work up your appetite.
Cost: NY Steak and garlic prawns are $45; walk-ins only

Cafe de la Presse
Courtesy of Cafe de la Presse

Café de la Presse

Union Square
Visit the Christmas tree and giant menorah in Union Square before making your way to this 1920s-inspired Parisian brasserie on Christmas Day. The five-course menu starts with a lobster bisque and ends with a traditional chocolate Christmas log and mignardise, but you’ll have a few choices in-between, including a Dungeness crab salad, roasted turkey roulade with black truffle and chestnut stuffing, and beef wellington with creamy spinach. Miam!
Cost: $95; reserve online

Commons Club at Virgin Hotel San Francisco
Courtesy of Commons Club at Virgin Hotel San Francisco

Commons Club at Virgin Hotels San Francisco

SoMa
Up the swank factor this Christmas by dining at the opulent Commons Club on the ground floor of the Virgin Hotels SF. The restaurant is offering a set six-course menu with dishes like a caviar brioche, a pumpkin veloute balsamic, tortelli lobster, dry aged ribeye, and a buche de noel. Vegetarian options are also available.
Cost: $120 per person with an optional $30 wine pairing; reserve online or by calling 415-534-6564

Fang

SoMa
The House of Nanking spinoff will be serving its Cantonese-style cuisine with a twist from 11am to 9:30pm. Sip on signature cocktails while enjoying xiao long bao, pork wontons, and a slew of traditional wok entrees, like the famous Nanking sesame chicken, salt and pepper prawns, and dry braised green beans.
Cost: Wok entrees average about $20; reserve online 

Fior d’Italia

North Beach
Buon Natale to all of the people out there who would rather eat Italian food on Christmas Day than roast beef and figgy pudding. This charming North Beach spot will be serving its entire menu including nine freshly-made pastas, risotto, as well as beef, veal, lamb, chicken, and fish dishes.
Cost: Pasta dishes are $17; reserve online

Luce at the InterContinental San Francisco
Courtesy of Luce at the InterContinental San Francisco

Luce at the InterContinental San Francisco

SoMa
Everyone celebrates Christmas differently. Some people like to do a big brunch, others prefer a substantial dinner. Whichever you prefer, this Michelin-starred restaurant has you covered. The Christmas Day brunch buffet goes from 11am to 2:30pm and includes all of the expected breakfast offerings, like eggs, pancakes, and waffles, as well as a filet of beef, dim sum station, selection of desserts, and bottomless bubbles. The Christmas Day dinner is a prix fixe menu with several options, like seared scallops or tartare, wagyu beef, a New York strip, and a cocoa honey cake with chestnut ice cream.
Cost: The buffet is $95 per adult and $47 for kids; the dinner is $115 per adult and $57 for kids; reservations can be made online or by calling 415-616-6566

MKT Restaurant and Bar

SoMa
This stylish restaurant inside at the Four Seasons Hotel is serving a three-course prix-fixe menu on Christmas Day. Choices include Ora King salmon three ways, a roasted rack of venison, miso glazed black cod, and vegan wellington. For dessert, there’s an over-the-top buffet with pumpkin pie tarts, brittles and barks, sticky toffee pudding, strawberry shortcake, Christmas cookies galore, and lots more.
Cost: $115 for adults and $58 for children; reserve by calling 415-633-3838 

Morton’s The Steakhouse
Morton’s The Steakhouse | Courtesy of Landry's

Morton’s The Steakhouse

Union Square
A lot of San Franciscans tend to overlook Morton’s simply because it’s a chain restaurant, but there’s a reason this classic steakhouse is still around, and it’s not just because of tourists. See for yourself on Christmas when you can experience the entire menu of prime steaks, chops, and seafood appetizers, in addition to two special dishes: Côte de boeuf and filet & lobster Oscar. 
Cost: Côte de boeuf is $135 and filet & lobster Oscar is $59; reserve online or by calling 415-986-5830 

Courtesy of Cesar Rubio for The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco

Parallel 37 at the Ritz-Carlton San Francisco

Nob Hill
Enjoy a four-course dinner of traditional holiday favorites while listening to live music and taking in the festive decorations at this farm-to-table restaurant with an exceptional wine list on the lobby floor of the Ritz-Carlton. Seatings are between 11am and 8:30pm.
Cost: $160 per adult and $34 per child; reserve online

Sutro’s at the Cliff House

Ocean Beach
Assuming the weather cooperates, there are no bad views in this casual-elegant restaurant inside of the Cliff House with two-story windows that frame Seal Rock, Sutro Baths, and the ocean. The à la carte Christmas Day menu has something that will please every person in your group, including Dungeness crab cakes, house-smoked Scottish salmon, truffled ricotta ravioli, and a roasted pork chop. 
Cost: The pork chop is $42; reservations can be made online or by calling 415-386-3330

Top of the Mark
Courtesy of InterContinental Mark Hopkins

Top of the Mark

Nob Hill
Take in stunning 360-degree views of the city from this iconic restaurant on the top of the Mark Hopkins Hotel known for its robust buffet that is even better on Christmas when the team really pulls out all the stops, including a live pianist and unlimited bubbly. Buffet stations include prime rib, roasted goose, crab bisque, a seafood station with caviar, cheese and charcuterie, a selection of salads, short ribs, lobster macaroni and cheese, dim sum, and bananas foster. If you’re going during brunch hours, there will also be breakfast items like an omelette and waffle station, and if you’re going for dinner, you’ll find a risotto station. See the full menu here. If you’re looking for something equally as delicious, but with less options and less walking around, the Nob Hill Club inside of the hotel is serving a three-course dinner featuring seared salmon with saffron fennel cream and grilled asparagus tips, rosemary lamb loin, and a Christmas figgy pudding with eggnog crème anglaise for dessert.
Cost: Top of the Mark buffet: $150 per adult and $65 per child; Nob Hill Club: $79 per adult ($109 with wine pairing) and $49 per child; call the holiday desk at 415-616-6941 for reservations

Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen

Mission
Hanukkah and Christmas overlap this year, and Wise Sons’ flagship deli on 24th Street and its cafe inside of the Contemporary Jewish Museum are making it easy to celebrate both since they will be serving Jewish comfort food until 2pm and 3:30pm, respectively, on Christmas Day. At the 24th Street location, choose from breakfast dishes like corned beef hash and challah French toast, sandwiches galore, including classic pastrami or corned beef sliced hot and served on a housemade double-baked rye, potato latkes, pastrami cheese fries, and a black and white cookie for dessert. The cafe has a more limited menu, but you can still get your fix of sandwiches, bagels, and babkas.
Cost: A pastrami sandwich is $14.50; walk-ins only

Yank Sing

Financial District
For many people, it’s not Christmas if there isn’t Chinese food involved. Get your dim sum fix at both Yank Sing locations (Rincon and Stevenson) from 10am to 4pm where you can order as many dumplings, pork buns, and peking duck as your heart desires.
Cost: An order of dumplings averages around $7; reserve online

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Daisy Barringer is an SF-based writer who prefers to spend Christmas either snowboarding in Tahoe or bowling and eating nachos (please don’t stop to think about how gross that combination is). Follow her on Instagram @daisysf to see how she spends the holiday this year.