Dining out is usually a communal experience, but why wait for a date or group outing to try out some of San Francisco’s many great restaurants?
Whether you’re tired of trying to coordinate with your friends or prefer to fly solo, here are 10 excellent Bay Area restaurants where you can take yourself out.
📍 2359 Chestnut St.
You could say that dining at L’mida alone is like taking a mini solo trip to Morocco. The beautifully appointed restaurant—with blushing pink and mosaic walls, intricately patterned rugs and Moroccan food with a California twist—feels like an escape to the northwestern African nation. Even the bathrooms feel like oases, enclosed with ornately carved wooden doors, shimmering with aqua tiles and wafting with the sweet and aromatic scents of gin and cypress candles.
Reservations for the restaurant are recommended, but if you find yourself stopping in without one, the wine bar at the front of house is an inviting spot to slide up to. At the white-marbled countertop with elegant leather high-top bar stools, you can sip on vino from far-flung wine regions in Hungary and Georgia or nosh on signature Moroccan fare—such as maakouda (or Moroccan potato pancakes); a flaky phyllo dough bastilla (or meat pie) stuffed with savory duck and sweet Turkish apricots; or flavorful spice-driven tagines. The restaurant is on the pricier side, but it’s less than a trip for one to Morocco. Save on your travel budget and splurge here instead.
📍 838 Grant Ave.
Snagging a table at Chef Ho Chee Boon’s elegant and palatial Cantonese restaurant, Empress by Boon, can be difficult. But there’s a secret to dining like royalty without a reservation or forking over $150 for a martini—make a beeline for the bar.
The countertop not only boasts 180-degree views of Downtown, Telegraph Hill and golden sunsets of the bay, but also offers a special à la carte menu that’s more casual than the restaurant’s standard prix fixe fare but still quite elegant. Feel like a noble nibbling on a crispy quail with chili, garlic and 20-year aged huadiao wine ($24), Iberico pork xiao long bao ($21) or red snapper with Malaysian assam ($28).
Also, you can take a page from Miley Cyrus and buy yourself flowers—or rather flowery cocktails. Toast yourself with seasonal handcrafted cocktails such as the Twelve Roses—made with jasmine rice-infused vodka, Suntory Roku gin, Combier Rose liqueur, Lillet Rosé—and orange bitters or the Look at the Flowers with Botanist Gin, Calvados, Crème de Violette, eucalyptus and lime.
📍 560 Divisadero St.
From first dates to 30th anniversaries, Nopa is a San Francisco staple that excellently serves a number of different dining functions with its rotating menu of fresh farm-to-table cuisine. But even if you don’t have a special occasion to celebrate, Nopa is still a superb spot for a solo date to treat yourself.
You can choose to slide up to the 16-seat bar, which is first-come, first-served, or get your name on the waitlist for the restaurant’s 14-seat communal table, where seats open up as diners come and go. Like the menu, which changes daily based on the season and availability of ingredients, who arrives at the table that night will be a surprise.
For solo dining, Holly Rhodes, the restaurant’s resident “chief miscellaneous officer,” recommends recurring regulars on the menu, such as Nopa’s signature burger made with freshly ground beef and baked brioche on the daily or the Moroccan fried spiced chicken. The dish has four crispy pieces that you can easily split between dinner that night and lunch the next day, said Rhodes. Or, if you’re looking to continue mixing things up, order two or three small plates for variety. Both the bar and the communal table serve Nopa’s full menu with full service and access to Nopa’s full bar, so even if dining alone, you won’t feel any FOMO.
📍 1870 Fillmore St.
Sometimes, a solo dining session also requires a soundtrack, and this wine bar offers just that. Dedicated to the late English soul singer Amy Winehouse, Vic’s Winehouse on Fillmore Street is a classy and cozy neighborhood spot with a living-room feel—it's bedecked with memorabilia honoring the sensational songstress—and offers an array of vino by the glass or bottle, yummy empanadas and an eclectic rotation of live music on the regular. Stake a spot at the bar and make conversation with the bartender for an evening or listen in on a set of jazz, reggae or soul. Vic’s proprietor Victoria Wasserman regularly pays homage to Winehouse with her tribute band, so keep an eye out on the schedule.
📍 1965 Al Scoma Way
The classic San Francisco Italian seafood restaurant on Fisherman’s Wharf is a popular destination for visitors to the city and locals alike, but don’t let its location in the heart of tourist-land scare you off.
The white-tableclothed “pier-to-plate” restaurant, tucked at the end of an alleyway on the wharf and floating on a little pier, has a gorgeous mid-century-style bar that nods to the spot’s 1965 founding year and will make you feel like you’re dining in an episode of Mad Men—with the added bonus of being on the waterfront. Slurp on the restaurant’s famed “Lazy Man’s” Cioppino or sip on a classic Manhattan.
Who needs a dining companion when you can have beautiful views of the bay all to yourself?
📍 2765 Hyde St.
Claiming to be the bar that first brought Irish coffee stateside, the Buena Vista Cafe is another San Francisco staple that’s excellent for solo dining—and not just for tourists. While the spot is known for serving thousands of Irish coffees at any one time and can get busy during the heights of vacation season and the weekends, on weekday evenings, it’s a quiet spot for locals to stop in for a bite or take out an Irish coffee to-go.
But we recommend lingering. The friendly bartenders—some have been with the restaurant for decades—will regale you with the history of the restaurant and its signature cocktail if you ask.
📍 3991 17th St.
Orphan may be in the name, but you’ll never feel alone at Orphan Andy’s. The two-level, retro-style diner is open 24 hours a day—a rarity in sleepy San Francisco. That means that even if you’re dining alone, you’re never truly alone—the rhythms of the city will keep you company. Diners stumble in at all hours, making for excellent people-watching no matter when you dine.
📍 1917 Bridgeway, Sausalito
Boasting “Sausalito’s best breakfast,” Fred’s is a classic eat-by-yourself place with a counter that probably hasn’t changed much since the spot’s founding in 1966. It also offers communal tables where you can meet new people over bacon, eggs and lemon ricotta pancakes. You can’t go wrong with almost anything on the menu, but the Millionaire’s Bacon—a thick and spicy slice of applewood smoked bacon baked for four hours with brown sugar, cayenne pepper, black pepper and chili flakes—is certainly worth a try.
📍 6311 College Ave., Oakland
Yelpers love Southie, a small but popular restaurant in Oakland’s Rockridge neighborhood serving up gulf shrimp rolls that nod to the South and chorizo and black bean soup that nod to the Southwest.
“There are some places that you try that you may love, but for whatever reason, you may not make it back there anytime soon. Hell, you may not EVER make it back. That’s just how life goes. BUT ... Southie isn't one of those places for me,” writes one diehard fan of the restaurant on Yelp. “It’s intimate, it’s chill, it’s everything that a local restaurant should be. And I love it. I love Southie to death.”
“Having recently dined at Southie, I can confidently say that it is a hidden gem that deserves every bit of praise,” writes another.
From these reviews, the local love is palpable. Friendly staff, good bar seating and high-tops make it an excellent spot for solo diners. Other honorable Oakland mentions for solo dining include its upscale sister restaurant a few doors down called Wood Tavern, American restaurant Almond and Oak, Latin American tapas bar Bar Cesar and Italian restaurant Donato and Co.
📍 800 Bancroft Way, Berkeley
This beloved Berkeley pickle production facility and retail shop hosts a $25 three-course Japanese-style meal on the weekends, which will walk you through the finer points of fermentation. The experience is perfect for solo diners, as you’ll be occupied with learning about your meal rather than making conversation with a companion.
As you eat your way through the three-course dining experience—which begins with a bowl of Japanese dashi, then proceeds to a rice bowl filled with pickled eats and finishes with a “sweet bite” for dessert—that changes weekly, the pickle shop’s workers guide you through how each ingredient is made—using sometimes as many as 13 components! The eating tour takes about an hour, and solo diners are often seated at the intimate bar, where co-owner Kevin Farley makes the bowls.
“It has more of a feel of a chef’s table,” he said.
Reservations are recommended during the busy lunch window between noon and 2 p.m., but walk-ins are welcome.
Lydia You contributed to this story.
Christina Campodonico can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org