Interested in San Francisco?
We'll send you updates with the latest deals, reviews and articles for San Francisco each week.
Topics include Transportation, United States: For Foreign Visitors & more!
There are views aplenty in San Francisco, some more well-known than others. Views and great food don't always go together, however, and in a "foodie" city you might find locals eschewing the great view because the food can't match the stunning sights. If the food is not the top priority, but a memorable, show-stopper of a view is, then go ahead, have a meal there. If food is more important, then go to most stunning view restaurants over a cocktail at sunset, or a blow-out Sunday brunch. And, fortunately, there are some pretty places by the water that serve wonderful food. They may not be 40 or 50 stories up, nor have those panoramic views, but they are usually right by the water and that makes for a very nice view.
With those things in mind, the following is a list of view restaurants, listed by type of view and food.
The Show-Stoppers: (This is a foodie-free zone. If drop-dead views are what you're after, remember the food is not the focus.)
The Top of the Mark - (Nob Hill) One Nob Hill, or 999 California Street, 19th floor - Since 1939, the most stylish old-San Francisco venue for gorgeous views, dining, dancing and Sunday Brunch at the top of the Mark Hopkins Hotel. It's an Intercontinental, but like the Palace Hotel, the Fairmont and St. Francis, the Mark Hopkins is old San Francisco, where hotel chain affiliation may come and go, but the original names remain unalterably linked to the building itself. It may only be on the 19th floor, but from atop Nob Hill it has a great vantage point, unlike most of the others listed here, which start on flat land.
Henry Denton's Starlight Room - (really Union Square) Sir Francis Drake Hotel, 450 Powell Street at Sutter Street; Retro elegance here. It's really on Union Square, as Harry likes to say "Where the Cable Cars Meet the Stars." Nightly dancing. Enjoy a drink, watch out for the band. Yes, there is dancing nightly. Check the website for ever-changing themes for some of his Sunday brunches ("Sunday's a Drag Brunch," in July, for example)
Water and Bridges (and the food's good, too!):
Greens - (Marina) , Building A, Fort Mason Center, 415-771-6222; The sun glances off the bay, the fog sits distant, just outside the Golden Gate, and you're having a fabulous meal right on the water. Life is good. This Northern California thing is amazing, you think. After 27 years, Greens still offers some of the best food with a view bar, none. By the way, it's vegetarian -- one of the country's premier vegetarian restaurants, and one of the pioneering fine-dining vegetarian restaurants. Only the most red-meat-loving carnivore would notice. Chef Annie Sommerville gets much of its produce from Green Gulch Farms, a project of the Zen Center (which also opened Greens). For those tourists headed to the Stinson Beach after touring Muir Woods, you'll go right past Green Gulch.
Slanted Door - (Embarcadero) - 1 Ferry Building, #3, (415) 861-8032; Vietnamese food with a twist. Chef Charles Phan was a San Francisco busboy, a janitor, a UC-Berkeley architecture student who often cooked for his working parents and the rest of his family as he grew up. But when he decided to chuck the architecture and follow his passion, the Slanted Door was the result. President Clinton dined at the small, popular restaurant in its original Mission District locale when visiting Chelsea at nearby Stanford University. Reservations became hard to get. The Ferry Building location, which opened in 2004, boasts a great location, gorgeous view of the bay and the Bay Bridge, and truly interesting, great food. It can get loud in here, so this is not the restaurant for an intimate, dinner. Can't get a reservation, try walking in at about 4:45 p.m. and asking to be put on the walk-in list when the seating starts at 5:30 p.m. Then stroll around the Ferry Building and have a look around while you wait.
Butterfly - (Embarcadero/Fisherman's Wharf) - Pier 33 at Bay Street, (415) 864-8999; Pan-Asian food. Chef Robert Lam, like Charles Pham, started out with a restaurant in the Mission District. The Pier 33 locale boasts water views and is directly in the path of tourists making the Pier 39-Ferry Building walk. But it's also close enough to the Financial District for the locals to make their way here. Pegged in 2003 as one of the rising young chefs of San Francisco by local food critic Michael Bauer, Lam draws on his family's Vietnamese restaurant experience in Southern California, and his New York CIA training.
Ozumo - (Embarcadero) - Harbor Court Hotel, 165 Steuart Street, (415) 882-1300; Sushi with a view. Big with the Financial District crowd, the sushi is good and priced to match. If you're still watching the lights come on on the Bay Bridge, you've been drinking too much chilled sake.
Outside San Francisco (show stoppers with excellent food)
Hong Kong East Ocean. (Great view of SF and bridges from across the Bay at sea level) Seafood and Dimsum. $$ 3199 Powell St, Emeryville, CA. (510) 655-3388. This is Cantonese seafood galore in the East Bay, on a marina in the north shadows of the SF Bay Bridge next to Berkeley and Oakland. It is an excellent facility with Hong Kong level glitz that is madly packed with patrons all the time. It is very popular among the East Asian community from throughout the SF Bay Area for important dining occasions. It is very popular for dimsum brunches, Cantonese-specialized dinners and massive fancy wedding banquets. The dimsum is relatively pricy, but is excellent for quality and creativity. The restaurant's large expanse of Bay facing windows provide some of the best views, day or night, of the Bay waters, the bridges and San Francisco. Michelin level cuisine.