Outdoor seating at an S.F. bar is a rare bird, but some of us actually enjoy that heady mix of cool air, cigarette smoke, and condensed fog to go with our cocktails. And shoot, when it's sunny these are the only places to be. Using a "complex" metric taking into account, among other things, ambiance, populist appeal, and proximity to the heart of town, we ranked the eight best patios, benches, and decks where one may freely imbibe.
8. Lucky 13
This Upper Market watering hole includes a nice-sized patio off to the side*, though don't expect too much -- the seating is usually dominated by smokers and its hours are modest out of deference to the neighbors. Consequently, there's hardly ever a crowd. Any given weekday around dusk, you can claim one of these cozy benches for your own. Dogs are welcome!
7. The Ramp
Seems like this Potrero Hill place was engineered to manage hangovers. A plate of eggs Benedict, a bloody Mary, and a massive patio filled with parasol-shaded seats looking out over the bay is a prescription for a successful afternoon. This is an inarguably gorgeous, if slightly out of the way spot to drink outside. It's also basically a restaurant, with a modest booze selection and rather chaste hours. Go here for brunch; go somewhere else for a wild night.
6. Pilsner Inn
Perhaps the most aesthetically beautiful patio on the list, Pilsner Inn's rear garden could pass as a remote annex of the Conservatory of Flowers. Its resolutely unassuming exterior on Church Street at 15th gives absolutely no indication of the lush, roomy hanging gardens in back (which may be bigger than the somewhat tiny bar). With lots of sunlight and a generally unassuming vibe, the Pilsner Inn is the perfect afternoon hideaway for those days when you don't want to be "on."
5. The Mix
Frozen margaritas. Heat lamps. And basically what amounts to perhaps the most happening patio on the list. Essentially Pilsner Inn's rowdier younger bro, this Castro bar lights up when the weather is even remotely pleasant. Weekends, especially, find the place so packed that the quaint, tin-shed-style paneling begins to resemble the walls of a sardine can. Despite the crowd, this is an amazing spot to down Buds, margs, or any other of the terribly strong and delicious drinks The Mix pours for its ferociously loyal clientele, all while kvetching with your besties about how too many straight people go to this bar now. Or too few.