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SF: Great Restaurants With Bar Dining?

I'm an East Coast hound headed to San Francisco for business next week, and I'll have a chance to eat alone one night. Can anybody recommend a great restaurant there with good dining at the bar (or other good accomodations for eating alone)? I'll be staying near Union Square, but I'd be delighted to go anywhere in town. Thanks!

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  1. Perbacco, a great new Italian restaurant, has dining at the bar.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Laura2

      Right next door to Perbacco (on the 200 block of California Street) is Tadich Grill, a classic old-school SF seafood restaurant. Dining at the long bar there is encouraged & recommended.

      1. re: DavidT

        I will second this suggestion, with the addition that the long bar at Tadich is for eating, not drinking. And the eating is very good--try the petrale or the sand dabs.

        1. re: Michael Rodriguez

          And I will "third" the recommendation.

          I have been eating at Tadich Grill for the past 55 years and it is not only a San Francisco landmark, but it is one of the best restaurants with bar dining anywhere in the City. If you would like to partake of some San Francisco prepared seafood, Tadich Grill is a good choice. They are respected among locals of long-standing for their Dungeness crab, sanddabs, crab, prawn or shrimp salads, cioppino and poached salmon.

          Tadich Grill is a family business which has been in continuous operation since 1849, during the California Gold Rush days. If you have only one night out on the town, and want to dine at a classic 19th century bar, Tadich Grill is ... hands down ... your best choice.

          Good luck and Welcome to San Francisco!

    2. Cortez is a few blocks from Union Square on Geary.
      Small plates...nice bar menu...great Bar. Unique new drinks
      from fresh ingredients, as well as the return of some old classics
      like the Negroni. We had a great experience there over New Years weekend.


      1 Reply
      1. re: bbirch

        Cortez is currently closed for some plumbing repairs

      2. A few suggestions:
        2 (located at 22 Hawthorne Lane, near the corner of Howard and New Montgomery); small plates and a good bar. Sometimes has a grumpy bar tender though.

        Spoon - on Polk Street in Russian Hill. Great food; they might have a beer/wine only license though.

        Lulu, Zuppa and Coco 500 all come to mind (all are South of Market, near 4th and Bryant/Brannan).

        You really shouldn't have any trouble finding something good.

        1 Reply
        1. re: embarcadero1

          Spoon has been Tablespoon for at least 2 years, and has had a full bar license for about 6 months. Boulevard is a great choice if you like to eat at the pass, not bar.

        2. I enjoy eating at the counters over looking the cooking line at Boulevard and at Lark Creek Steak, both fairly close to Union Square. Of the two, Boulevard has better food, and is more expensive.

          1. Perbacco's bar is often pretty mobbed on weeknights. Nice bar for solo dining when it's quiet.


            1. The bar at Jardiniere.

              1. Another thought. In North Beach, try Rose Pistola.
                Last time we ate there was in the bar, full menu if I remember. But the food is the reason to go. This is some excellent dining.

                  1. Definitely Canteen!!!! Ideal for bar eating!
                    Bar Crudo would also be fun!
                    And Ame!
                    And Nopa!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: mrsricho

                      Canteen's great, but I wouldn't bank on nabbing a counter seat for dinner without a reservation.

                    2. Here is a list of places where there is either a bar or counter at which eating is the norm:

                      Pesce - excellent Venetian chichetteria. Small seafood plates, great bar, good prices
                      Range - 1-star Michelin, California take on a French Bistro. Very good food, reasonable pricing.
                      Tadich Grill - SF atmosphere and seafood
                      A16 - Southern italian pizza place in the Marina (pizza bar)
                      bacar - 100 wines by the glass and flights along with solid food
                      Fringale - Basque/French, high quality, reasonable prices
                      Piperade - more great Basque/French, a few seats at the bar and very popular
                      Gary Danko - one of the best in the city (very expensive)
                      Boulevard - great food and great atmosphere for solo dining (counter overlooking kitchen) expensive

                      12 Replies
                      1. re: Paul H

                        During dinner hours A16's bar area is jam-packed with people waiting for tables, eating there doesn't look very pleasant to me.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          A16's chef's counter is one of the best places to eat as a single person. The OP mentioned that he was looking for good places to eat as a single diner not necessarily a bar. The wait for the chef's counter on average during a weekday between 6 and 7 pm is 10-20 minutes. It is by far the best place to sit at A16 specailly if you get one of the new seats by the non-pizza wood oven which are a bit roomier and out of the traffic way. I eat alone often and A16's chef counter is like being at a sushi in that you can interact with the cooks, it is entertaining, and you do not feel alone.

                          Range's bar is also jammed packed during prime times and the bar seats do not have a back so they are uncomfortable.

                          Delfina has a counter for walkins and they recently (a year or so ago) added high chairs with backs. It is now a good option for lone diners.

                          Tartine is a good place to eat alone as is any sushi bar.

                          1. re: Amy G

                            Ah, I didn't know there were counter seats by the kitchen. That explains what Paul meant by "pizza bar."

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              Given how much you like pizza and Italian food, you must sit there. It is perfect for 1-2 people. You will have a birds eye view into everything they are doing in the kitchen. The cooks are eager to share techniques and recipes so it is a learning experience too. From your posts, I have gleaned that you do not like crowds, try going to A16 Tuesday or Wednesday before 7:30 pm and you will not have a very long wait and if you get there by 6 pm no wait at all.

                              1. re: Amy G

                                The noise in A16's dining room is tolerable. The tables at the front where they seat walk-ins can be too noisy but the food's good enough that I've occasionally put up with it in order to take a visitor there.

                                I usually mention the crowds and noise at A16 because they're relevant to specific requests, such as "not too quiet, not chaos either," or when discussing the differences between A16 and Incanto or Oliveto.

                            2. re: Amy G

                              To be clear, A16 has two types of "bar" seating. I believe Robert's talking about the front bar area, which is cramped and can get pretty hectic some nights. Nevertheless, DH & I had a wonderful dinner there one night when Andrew (the sommelier) was working the bar. We did light bites and he paired some incredible tastes for us. We had originally intended to just split a pizza & have a glass of wine, and it morphed into a 2 hour tasting extravaganza, complete with dessert & cheese course (each course accompanied by an impeccable tasting) It was early on a Sunday evening, though. Depending on which night the OP wishes to go, either seating area will be an adventure.

                              I also have to give a shout out to Incanto's bar. We had the house-cured antipasti platter & dessert there just the other night with wine flights, and if you sit more to the left, you can watch the cold food & desserts go out in a steady stream. The chef & owner are both on-hand most nights to make it a great interactive experience.
                              It may seem like a schlep, but it is a direct muni-ride on the J, or a reasonable cab ride from Union Square.

                              1. re: foodiegrl

                                I love eating at the bar at Incanto. The step for your feet makes it as comfortable as a table, you can chat with the sommelier, and there's a view into the kitchen. We often sit at the bar even if a table's available.

                                1. re: foodiegrl

                                  Good call on Incanto, the daily turnover on the menu, plus great Italian wine list, plus knowledgeable/well trained staff, plus great chef, makes for a great evening.

                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                Haven't had the chance (or the incentive) to give it a try yet.

                                1. re: Paul H

                                  I kind of feel the same way. Given the respect I have for both of the people who left, I'm not sure I want to give the remaining owner my business. Anyone else have more info about what went down?

                                2. re: Melanie Wong

                                  (Cross referencing) Here are some thoughts on the new bacar...


                              2. the bar @ jardiniere...east coast sensibility

                                1. I went to Two last night and although I didn't sit at the bar, the bar looked like a great place to enjoy a meal. The food was pretty great and the wine list was decent.

                                  1. Not to forget that Zuni has "bar seating" - the tables outside, or slightly inside, and I bet you can eat at the actual bar, too. No reservations on those tables....

                                    Someday, in my dotage, I will publish my suscinct rules for life & happiness. "Eat at the bar" will be in the top ten, as is "The only three foreign words a traveler needs is ''yes', 'please', and 'thank you'."

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: bbulkow

                                      Zuni's bar often gets so crowded that eating there would be uncomfortable, if you were lucky enough to get a seat.

                                      Cafe tables are not bar seating.