Best Al Fresco Drinking Options

By Matthew Stafford

The only thing more wonderful than a sunny day in San Francisco is a sunny day in San Francisco with a drink in your hand, and for a town as chronically windswept and foggy as this one, there are an awful lot of patio-, garden-, and sundeck-equipped saloons to choose from. Over the past few years we've trumpeted the breezy, boozy pleasures of Pier 23, Enrico's, the Bambuddha Lounge, the Bocce Café, Zeitgeist, and the Rosewood; here are a few more sun-drenched options.

Presidio Social Club
Building 563 (Ruger and Lombard) in the Presidio (just inside the Lombard Gate), 885-1888
Sitting and sipping on the back deck of this converted 1903 army barracks surrounded by meadows and forests and country roads is like a day in the country, even if Lyon and Lombard streets are only half a block away. The planked wood flooring and Cape Cod deckchairs add to the whole bucolic atmosphere. If the heat lamps don't adequately forestall the creeping Pacific fog, you can always head inside and enjoy a Pisco Tropical at the classy, officer's-clubby marble-topped bar.

Savoy Tivoli
1434 Grant (at Union), 362-7023
The several dozen sidewalk cafes that help give our city its Mediterranean bohemian vibe are also peerless places to check out the native citizenry, and none is more absolutely San Francisco than Savoy Tivoli. Since 1907, its front patio has been a terrific spot to sip a Negroni, chat up the locals, and contemplate upper Grant Street's always colorful passing parade. The exposed brick, abstract art, stained glass, and Sunday afternoon jazz concerts add to the enveloping North Beach ambience.

2522 Mission (at 21st St.), 550-9055
Medjool restaurant's Sky Terrace floats four stories above the bustling Mission, offering tipplers 360-degree inner-city vistas and a distinctly urban rooftop-block-party ambience. Order a Cuba Libre from the pocket-sized bar; feast on schwarma, dolmas, and skewered shrimp hot from the open grill; settle yourself in a comfy chaise longue; and let the potted palms, drifting music, and (often balmy) climate work their magic.

El Rio
3158 Mission (at Precita), 282-3325
El Rio's large, luxuriant back garden combines the pleasures of a suburban yard with the Mission's all-inclusive metropolitan brio. Arbors, palm trees, and picnic tables invite sun-dappled repose accented with free Friday night oyster feeds, Sunday afternoon salsa dancing, a wide variety of live music, and occasional outbursts of standup comedy, bop prosody, free barbecue, and who knows what-all. Terrific neighborhood vibe.

The Ramp
855 Terry Francois (at Mariposa), 621-2378
The city has a surprising dearth of bayside quaffing possibilities, but out on the Ramp's big outdoor patio, you can satisfy that booze-and-brine urge with aquatic panoramas, a fortifying bloody Mary, and live music to complement the lap of the waves and the screech of the seagull. Crab Louis, clam chowder, and fish and chips are available for snacking, and the hustle-bustle of the adjacent shipyard creates a marvelous old-S.F. ambience.

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