2021: Al Fresco Dining at Its Finest

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Amidst a time of continued uncertainty and ever-changing rules, one thing remains constant: our love and need for delicious food! Enter al fresco dining. Outdoor dining in the Bay Area has never enjoyed more popularity than in the past year with restaurants pivoting to parklets and other outdoor seating arrangements. Find some of our favorites below and support our local businesses with a lunch or dinner out!

Scoma's

Boasting 55 years of “pier to table” seafood in which local fishermen bring their catch directly to the Scoma pier, Scoma’s has some of the freshest seafood in town. Go for the crab legs and cioppino and stay for the tiramisu. Beer-battered fish and chips are a kid fave and the outdoor dockside tables can’t be beat!

Pier 47
San Francisco, CA
Online: scomas.com

Fiorella

With a third Sunset District location coming soon, this neighborhood Italian restaurant is best known for its wood-fired pizzas—favorites include the mushroom and salsiccia pies and they also boast extensive vegetarian options. Fiorella is currently accepting reservations for up to six guests.

2238 Polk St
San Francisco, CA

2339 Clement St.
San Francisco, CA
Online: Fiorella-sf.com

Surisan

With an expansive patio right next to Fisherman’s Wharf, Surisan offers a unique twist on brunch with several Korean-influenced dishes including jook (rice porridge), kimchi fried rice and bulgogi alongside omelets, burgers and stellar French toast. Don’t miss the famous millionaire’s bacon, which is basically bacon dialed up to 11. 

505 Beach St.
San Francisco, CA
Online: surisansf.com

photo: Ghirardelli

Ghirardelli Square

It’s essential to mention Ghirardelli Square and al fresco dining in San Francisco in one sentence and here’s why: whether you are in the mood for burgers, dumplings or ice cream, al fresco dining at Ghirardelli Square has got you covered! 

Ghirardelli Marketplace & Ghirardelli On-the-Go Shop

Visit Ghirardelli Marketplace to pick up items to fulfill at home baking needs including: chocolate squares, bars, baking mixes and chocolate chips. Ghirardelli’s On-the-Go Beach Street location has sundaes, ice cream, milkshakes and more. The  abundant outdoor dining areas of Ghirardelli Square are perfect to enjoy these treats and satisfy every last sweet tooth in your family. 

Palette Tea House

Palette Tea House’s outdoor patio serves up dim sum and proudly combines globally sourced ingredients with local produce. Their signature Black Swan Taro Puff and popular dumplings are crowd pleasers-order them as soon as you sit at the table and thank us later. For reservations, click here.

San Francisco Brewing Co.

Families can enjoy classic pub favorites with a modern twist including pizzas, sandwiches and baked pretzels. Beer snobs will love the great selection of seasonal batches and signature brews while the kids slurp down fabulous root beer floats-mustache guaranteed. View their menus and more here.

Barrio

Barrio serves up craft beverages along with delicious Mexican food on a large and festive patio overlooking Aquatic park. Life doesn't get any better with a margarita in one hand with pozoles and street quesadillas in front of you! 

Zazie

This classic SF brunch spot is a classic for good reason: the food is always out of this world, the atmosphere is warm and cozy and service is great. French toast, pancakes, eggs and sandwich options galore mean everyone will find something to like. They do not take reservations but you can put your name on the list and receive notification when a table opens up.

941 Cole St.
San Francisco, CA 
Online: zaziesf.com

MerSea

With its Treasure Island location, MerSea wins for both unbeatable views of SF and for being super kid-friendly. The expansive patio complete with bocce ball and putt putt will keep the minis busy. Don’t miss the P3 Sandwich (Philly-style shaved pork shoulder, pepperoni and provolone) or the out-of-this-world brioche French toast. 

699 Avenue of the Palms
Treasure Island, San Francisco, CA
Online: mersea.restaurant

Reverie

The spacious and secluded garden patio of this Cole Valley gem has a little stream that is safe for kids to play around while you brunch away. As if that’s not enough, they are also famous for their huevos rancheros and eggs benedict. Happy kids and full bellies? Done. Cash only.

848 Cole St.
San Francisco, CA
Online: reveriesf.com

Hog Island Oyster Co.

Calling all seafood lovers! This is the place for you. The outdoor patio has an amazing view of the Bay Bridge and the kids will love watching the ferries chug in and out of the harbor. Hog Island has their own oyster farm in Marin and their oyster sampler is to die for but they also have kid-friendly items and options for non-seafood eaters as well.

1 Ferry Bldg.
Shop 11
San Francisco, CA
Online: hogislandoysters.com

 

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Mission Rock Resort

This scenic Mission Bay restaurant has one of the best views in town-your littles will feel like they are dining on a boat! Happy hour Mon.-Fri. from 3pm-7pm means tons of time to slide in $1 oysters among other things. Hey, happy mom and dad means happy everyone.  Reservations are recommended or you can grab counter service on the first floor.

817 Terry Francois Blvd.
San Francisco, CA
Online: missionrockresort.com

East Bay

Westbrae Biergarten

Just one glance around this place will make it pretty obvious why it’s so kid friendly—there’s a massive sandbox! The all-outdoor Biergarten is a welcomed addition to the neighborhood. Grown ups can enjoy one of about a dozen local beers on tap, while the kids can explore the sandbox, a water fountain, or the Astroturf “lawn” area. And if that’s not enough to keep them busy, the BART whizzes by every couple of minutes, ensuring train lovers won't mind staying until you finish your pint (or two).

1280 Gilman St.
Berkeley, CA
Online: westbraebiergarten.com

Plank

With a bocce ball court, bowling lanes, arcade and small climbing structure, this waterfront outdoor dining spot is perfect for families looking for a good time. Throw in 48 beers on tap and an expansive food menu offering plenty of kid-friendly options and you’ve really got the complete package! 

98 Broadway
Oakland, CA
Online: plankoakland.com

Lost & Found

This downtown Oakland oasis beer garden has ping-pong and corn hole set up in the spacious back patio which offers a variety of seating options. The laid-back atmosphere will make the whole family feel right at home as you play/nosh - make sure to try the garlic fries and sliders! Note: minors are allowed on the premises until 8pm so make it an early dinner or lunch. 

2040 Telegraph Ave.
Oakland, CA
Online: lostandfound510.com

The Dead Fish

Kids will be delighted by the restaurant’s name so be sure to have them ask about how a wise-cracking Italian grandmother inspired the name. The peculiar names continue on the menu with Recently Demised Fish of The Day (surf) and Other Dead Things (turf) which locals rave about despite their unconventional names.  Don't miss out on Nonna’s World Famous Killer crab, along with equally killer views of the Napa River and Carquinez Bridge that the outdoor patio dining offers. 

20050 San Pablo Ave., Crockett
Online:  https://thedeadfish.com.

South Bay/Peninsula 

photo: Christine Lai

Pacific Catch

With options for palm tree and umbrella covered tables, outdoor patio or open air indoor seating, Pacific Catch’s Cupertino location has the al fresco dining game going strong. Through October, their Endless Summer menu features unique takes on crowd favorites such as jicama wrapped ceviche tacos and the rainbow sushi bowl complete with crab salad. Large portions (even for the kids meals) and thirst quenching drinks like Shark’s Tooth means everyone is happy- add in a mission to bring thoughtfully sourced and sustainable seafood from wave to table means everyone can feel good, too! 

19399 Stevens Creek Blvd., Cupertino
Other locations in Campbell, Corte Madera, Dublin, Mountain View, Palo Alto, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Francisco and Walnut Creek 

Online: https://pacificcatch.com/

Campo Di Bocce

Campo di Bocce captures la dolce vita of Italy in a classic Italian restaurant setting complete with covered bocce courts. It’s a great option for a meal out with the kids: enjoy some playing time with the littles, then sit down to pasta and pizza. The staff will give you a quick lesson on how to play but most kids pick up the basics very quickly.

175 E. Vineyard Ave.
Livermore, CA
925-249-9800

565 University Ave.
Los Gatos, CA
408-395-7650

Online: campodibocce.com

Cafe Riace

A taste of the ambiance of Sicily is the goal here at Cafe Riace and we’d say they succeeded! A gorgeous outdoor courtyard with fountain offers classic Italian dining from tutto mare to carreteria to lasagna. Save room for the tiramisu and namesake cheesecake!

200 Sheridan Ave # 102, Palo Alto
Online: https://cafferiace.com/home/

Mendocino Farms

This LA-based deli (and more!) is all the rage since it opened up its first location in Campbell and second in San Jose. The kids' menu is pretty standard, but the PB&J will probably be the best version of this sandwich you’ll ever have. Both the Campbell and Santana Row locations have outdoor dining available. With the goal of building a place that the community can gather around, Mendocino Farms just might hit the spot. Read more here

The Pruneyard
1875 S. Bascom Ave.
Campbell, CA

Santana Row
3090 Olsen Dr., Suite 150
San Jose, CA

Other locations in SF, Palo Alto, San Mateo and San Ramon

Onlinemendocinofarms.com

 

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Half Moon Bay Brewing Company

Grab yourself a beer flight while the kids watch the seagulls soar at this Half Moon Bay establishment right on the water. Sit outside on the patio where you can count the sailboats docked across the street. Their kids' menu has tons of options including wild salmon and grilled prawns for the more adventurous little eaters. Don't forget to grab a growler of your favorite pint to go!

390 Capistrano Rd.
Half Moon Bay, CA
Onlinehmbbrewingco.com

Marin

The Junction

People used to fly through Tam Junction in Mill Valley on the way home or to Stinson but now with a number of new eateries, this thoroughfare is a destination for families. With a gigantic beer garden and pizzeria serving up fresh pies, beer and kombucha on tap, The Junction is the newest hot spot for locals. A sweet pirate ship play structure at the back of the beer garden will entertain the kids for at least one-and-a-half pints—you're on your own for that last pint. 

226 Shoreline Highway
Mill Valley, CA
Online: thejunc.com/

Amy's Drive Thru

With a mostly organic menu that includes their signature Organic Veggie Burgers, organic fries, organic shakes and organic smoothies (we suggest the green smoothie—our toddler is officially obsessed), we give this fast food joint two thumbs up. Their menu is very kid-friendly and with an actual drive thru option, you can be in and out! 

5839 Paradise Drive
Corte Madera, CA

Online: amysdrivethru.com

 

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Pond Farm Brewing Co.

This space is bright, airy and light and includes a back patio with a rotating selection of food trucks most evenings (they also allow in outside food). What you'll really love is the dedicated kids play area, which features a play kitchen, tons of toys and kid-sized furniture. It's definitely a welcoming spot to kick back with a beer and enjoy time together as a family without worrying about your kids making too much noise or being too active

1848 4th Street
San Rafael, CA
Online: pondfarmbrewing.com

Fish Hook Co.

Also in Tam Junction in Mill Valley is beloved Fish Hook Co. who brought their fresh, thoughtfully-sourced seafood fare from the Outer Sunset where their original outpost still stands to Southern Marin. This beer garden is super inviting to families and pre-COVID, kids often outnumbered adults with wooden toys lay scattered on the stage and lawn area. A variety of local beers are on tap, along with delicious agua frescas and fave menu items include fish tacos, burritos, avocado tacos, salads and fish ‘n chips. The fun doesn't end—after eating, stroll over to Proof Lab to shop their goods or pick up a coffee to-go at Equator.

254 Shoreline Highway
Mill Valley, CA
Online: hookfishco.com/#web-menu

Le Garage 

What do you get when you mix an old converted garage with French fare? Industrial chic!  Overlooking Schoonmaker Point marina with gorgeous waterfront views, the waiters play the part in mechanic garb that will charm your kids. The french toast and croque madame are fan favorites for brunch while the duck confit is popular for lunch and dinner. 

85 Liberty Ship Way #109, Sausalito

Online: http://www.legaragesausalito.com

—Christine Lai, Anita Chu & Kate Loweth

featured photo: iStock

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