Get Out and Enjoy Eating Outside: The Best Places to Dine Al Fresco in the Bay Area

Marin restaurants boast some of the best patios and decks in the Bay Area, outdoor spaces beloved for their view, great lighting or unique charm. Check out a few of our favorites here.

Marin

Range Cafe at Peacock Gap Golf Club

San Rafael

range cafe tacos

Chef Stephen Simmons, who served 15 years as food-service director at Skywalker Ranch, has reworked the menu to feature classics like a club sandwich and Chinese chicken salad with updated options including chico tacos with handmade tortillas and Cal ahi poke with sea salt wontons. Most visitors come for the view from every seat, which extends over the manicured driving range to China Camp State Park and San Pablo Bay.

Rustic Bakery

Larkspur

rustic bakery larkspur
Photo courtesy of Matt Albiani

Admit it: You’ve ordered the Asian chicken salad at one of Marin’s homegrown Rustic Bakery locations more than once. Or their Marin melt, a grilled cheese sandwich that nods to the region’s history as a milk shed. But the patio at Larkspur’s Marin Country Mart, with its many shaded picnic tables, deserves its own award for keeping locals in socially distanced touch with one another during our pandemic year.

Sam’s Anchor Cafe

Tiburon

Sams Anchor Cafe
Photography by Albert Law

After an extensive remodel in 2019 reimagining everything from the bar to the umbrellas that shade the expansive patio, Tiburon’s popular bayfront spot still reigns as Marin’s best patio. You still cannot make a reservation, and the line can snake down Main Street, but the uncertainty is worth the wait for the panoramic Angel Island-to-city views, tower of fresh fish and seafood, and drink bowls. There’s even a hamburger and Champagne special.

Tam Commons

San Rafael

Tam commons

With no outdoor space available when Covid hit, the Commons crew got to work, building a sweet streetside patio with the same comfortable, traditional pub-like feel as the interior. Known for their 34 beer taps, a new cocktail menu includes a classic mai tai and craftier takes like the Japanese oak, with whiskey and tamarind. Get your bacon fix with the chef’s cobb salad or the mission dog — it’s wrapped in a porcine blanket.

Valenti & Co

San Anselmo

Valenti Courtyard

The back patio, shaded by Japanese maples and bright red umbrellas during the day, feels downright Mediterranean at night when strings of Edison bulbs bathe the space in a warm glow. Best of all, the entire menu, especially the free-range veal with gremolata and risotto with housemade sausage, tastes even better in Marin’s fresh air.

San Francisco

Boudin Bakery

Boudin

Crunchy sourdough crust from a turn in the wood-fired oven is just one of the Summer Grill & Crab Fest menu items to be found at the original Boudin on Fisherman’s Wharf. A slab of ribs and coleslaw or crab in every form (cakes, cocktail, roasted, whole) are just a few of the items to enjoy in the covered patio or on the “deck.” Wherever you sit, views of the San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge are on the menu.

Cassava

Cassava

A SoCal vibe permeates the new parklet from Outer Richmond’s Cassava. Is it the white-washed wood with directional slats to ward off the breeze? Could it be the spiky palms and agaves planted alongside or the tropical colored murals? A menu of Baja kanpachi, slow-braised beef ribs and Dungeness crab mac n cheese is designed to suit the space.

EPIC Steak

Tables napped in white linen are a sign that things are different at this patio. If you are lucky enough to snag a seat on EPIC’s covered outdoor porch after the sun goes down, you can marvel at the Bay Bridge, a-glitter with the LED Bay Lights. A glass of Champagne and a dozen oysters to celebrate? Sure! We are also partial to the steak frites and the cheeseburger with special sauce.

Foreign Cinema

No patio story can be complete without a nod to San Francsico’s modernist patio in the heart of The Mission District. Recently expanded to form an “L” shape, the patio is sheltered from gusts on all sides by high concrete walls, on one of which a film is projected. Stop in at brunch for a truffled, French-rolled omlette or a croque madam — it boasts an egg crown.

Hotel Via

Hotel Via

The Rooftop is the place to be for couches perfect for canoodling (just pull the drapes) or just to get cozy. Views over Oracle Park are epic or catch a game ana bottomless mimosa as part of their Sunday Ticket program. Though the bar has remained open, food service is set to resume soon and reservations are required for all.

New Belgium Brewing

Just across the Third Street Bridge in Mission Bay, the latest restaurant from the Colorado brewing company arrived earlier this year. Inside, signature red bicycles hang from the ceiling. Outside, the patio sparkles with light reflected from Mission Creek Channel. Try the brewed in San Francisco Italian pils; pair it with one of the many “refreshed pub fare” dishes from Laura and Sayat Ozyilmaz. We couldn’t get enough of the schnitzel strips. Just sayin’.

Original Joe’s

Original Joe's

Washington Square is no longer the only place to sit outside in North Beach. Original Joe’s reimagined its space, building a parklet and a covered patio in classic Joe’s style. The go-to order is an espresso martini and Joe’s chicken parmigiana but newer menu items such as summer vegetable risotto with seared day boat scallops are so very summer in the city.

Le Colonial

There is a whiff of throwback elegance about the slim portico that leads to the front door of Vietnamese-French Le Colonial. Sunny yellow-clothed tables and comfortable wicker chairs are shaded by palms. With an air of tropical fantasy, it is an escape from Union Square’s bustle and a moment’s respite to savor the diverse flavors that arise when Asia meets Europe.

Park Chalet

Adjacent to Beach Chalet sits a sister property designed with groups and antsy kids in mind. Wide tables on an expansive lawn, many shielded from the sun by Kermit the Frog-colored umbrellas, are perfect for a family reunion or when friends are passing through town with an RV (yes, they can park here). A tall-windowed atrium offers an escape from the Pacific’s stiff breezes. They are known for their Bloody Mary and bucket of chicken.

Peninsula

The Barn, Half Moon Bay

Beloved by locals who sing high praises for the burgers and hot dogs, the chicken sandwich gets its share of attention. A double dip of buttermilk –first in the lemon oregano marinade, then served with buttermilk dressing–makes this Cluck a barnyard delight. The cute patio is garlanded with Edison bulbs and well-spaced picnic table shielded a bit from the ocean’s many breezes.

Johnston’s Saltbox, San Carlos

An outdoor patio shielded by tall hedges got an expansion last year, meaning more space to enjoy the Ketofornia steak or halibut un-bellini-able from the chef-proprietor with a sense of humor, Jennifer McAteer Johnston. The rooftop garden provides many of the veggies and herbs, making your grain bowl with hippie glitter as local as it gets.

East Bay

Anaviv’s Table, Richmond

A wide patio behind Anaviv’s Table hosts their outdoor outpost, Open Market. Originally a response to Covid, the served outside menu has evolved to include wood oven pizzas and rice bowls that are popular with cyclists and other adventurers who chill for a while under the broad canopy. Seasonal plates that rotate every week, as do the wood oven pizzas. Thai iced tea is a hearty thirst quencher and the gluten-free signature crispy chicken is a must for first timers.

Riggers’ Loft, Richmond

A winery and cidery by day, this spot on the waterfront morphs into a winery with a restaurant at night. An expansive list of house wine and cider can be paired with familiar fare like a Mediterranean plate or cilantro-lime shrimp. “Hidden” on Point Potrero in Richmond, Rigger’s views are expansive, from Brooks Island to Tiburon and San Francisco, best enjoyed outside while perched near a wine barrel table, sipping bubbly.


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Christina Mueller

Christina Mueller is a long-time Bay Area food writer. She hails from the East Coast and has spent way too much time in South America and Europe. She discovered her talent as a wordsmith in college and her love of all things epicurean in grad school. She has written for Condé Nast Contract PublishingSunset, and the Marin Independent Journal, among others. She volunteers with California State Parks and at her child’s school, and supports the Marin Audubon SocietyPEN America, and Planned Parenthood. When she is not drinking wine by a fire, she is known to spend time with her extended family.s the Assistant Editor at Marin Magazine and a graduate of Elon University where she studied Professional Writing and Fine Art. Born and raised in San Francisco/Marin, she loves traveling just as much as coming home to the Bay Area. She has curated a sophisticated palate for food, travel and culture and uses her travels as an outlet to develop her photography portfolio and hone her writing craft.