Karl the Fog may limit San Francisco’s beautiful rooftop views but there are still some fantastic venues all over the city. Here’s our guide to the best restaurants and bars in San Francisco with rooftop and top-level lounges, amazing views, food, and an excellent atmosphere.
The View Lounge can be accessed on the 39th floor of the San Francisco Marriott Marquis and features breathtaking views through a floor-to-ceiling arched window. The lounge seating is first come first serve, so those who arrive early can sit right by the window at one of the many tables or booths. The View also serves small plates, signature cocktails, and California wines at a beautiful half-circle bar.
Jones may not be what you expect when you think of a rooftop bar, but it is one of San Francisco’s best. Although the bar is located in the Tenderloin district and nestled between apartment buildings, Jones’s rooftop terrace still feels spacious and inviting. A long ramp from the entrance leads customers straight to the outdoor area, where they can move indoors to either of the two bar spaces. Drinks at the bar are hand-crafted with care, and customers can enjoy them on one of the many picnic tables or planter boxes outside. Because San Francisco is often cold, heaters are provided outside, and there are awnings for the rain.
Marengo On Union is a traditional American eatery offering salads and sandwiches. Its glass roof is retractable, transforming the restaurant into an open patio space. Along with the 21 sliders available on the menu, the restaurant is also known for its selection of over 60 bottles of wine (of which 20 can be purchased by the glass) and over 100 whiskeys. Marengo On Union uses local, organic ingredients when possible but also uses items from Texas for southern flavor.
In SOMA, the restaurant and bar Dirty Habit sits on the fifth floor of San Francisco’s Hotel Zelos. The restaurant serves new American cuisine, while the bar offers tasty, seasonal cocktails in vintage glasses and more than 300 rare varieties of brown spirits from different parts of the world. Although there are seats indoors, the outside patio feels cozy and spacious with heated lamps and a fire pit to keep customers warm.
Bar, Cocktail Bar, Hotel Restaurant, American, $$$
Located at the highest part of the hotel InterContinental Mark Hopkins, the Top of the Mark is a cocktail bar with incredible views of San Francisco. In 1939, the hotel owner, George D. Smith, converted the 11-room penthouse on the 19th floor into a glass-to-glass cocktail lounge. The bar is also a new American restaurant, but whether customers go for drinks or for tapas, the best part of the Top of the Mark is the 360° view of the Financial District, the Bay Bridge, Chinatown, North Beach, and the Golden Gate Bridge. Also, on some nights, live music can be heard during dinner.
El Techo is the rooftop bar located directly about the Argentinean steakhouse Lolinda. Serving delicious grilled meats and small plates in the Mission, the restaurant is 8,000 square feet. El Techo offers both new and classic takes on cocktails, which customers can enjoy with 360° views of the surrounding area. There are umbrellas and heated lamps to protect customers from San Francisco’s weather, and the kitchen is open till 1am on weekends, serving Latin American street food. By reservation only, El Techo is also open on Saturdays and Sundays for brunch out on the beautiful patio, which in bad weather can be covered with a retractable overhang.
On top of the Sir Francis Drake hotel is The Starlight Room. Offering 360° city views, the vintage lounge has old decor with red velvet curtains and booths with tall backings. The nightclub has a strict dress code and provides nightly entertainment with live music and drag performances on Sundays for brunch. Customers can dance to the music or enjoy a delicious beverage such as wine, champagne, or specialty cocktails.
The modern B Restaurant & Bar is located above the Moscone Center, with excellent views of Yerba Buena Gardens, St. Patrick’s Church, the plaza outside the Contemporary Jewish Museum, and the downtown skyline. The restaurant serves new American cuisine and one dollar oysters in the afternoons from Tuesday through Friday, along with cocktail pitchers. The bar also has seasonal cocktails with local ingredients, raw beer, and wine from California.
Bluestem Brasserie has floor-to-ceiling windows with a second floor patio space overlooking Market Street, which makes it excellent for car and people watching. Bluestem Brasserie has the cuisine and beverage list of an upscale restaurant with a more relaxing ambiance. Heated lamps are provided on the rooftop, and the wine list has 12 wines on tap, many local, that can be purchased by the glass, half-liter, or liter.
The California Academy of Sciences is open on Thursday evenings for drinks, live music, and dancing. Nightlife at the museum includes aquariums, various exhibits, and the building’s green roof, which covers 87% of the roof with seven grassy hills. Although there’s no actual bar on the rooftop terrace, customers are allowed to take their drinks up to the top of the building, where they can enjoy the view of Golden Gate Park with the de Young Museum across the way, the wildlife surrounding the building, and the fresh San Francisco breeze as they watch the sunset and begin to stargaze.