Here are some places in the city with patios but no sunset view. At most of these, the food is not the main attraction:
On Belden - Plouf, Cafe Bastille, Cafe Claude
Zeitgeist - Mission
Foreign Cinema - Mission
Park Chalet - Outer Sunset
Savor - NV
Cafe Flore - Castro/Market
Home - Castro/Market
Blue Plate - Outer Mission
Pier 24 - Embarcadero
Fritz - HV
Flipper's - HV
Zazie - CV
... and many more with sidewalk seating.
Around the same area you can get a good patio and breakfast at Alice's Restaurant. Kind of a fun place to check out if you get there early. Its more about the place and space than the food, but if you like a greasy-spoon diner breakfast it's alright. And if you ride a motorcycle it's a very popular ride to get there.
I had a very pleasat dinner in the "backyard" at Blue Plate in the Lower [sic] Mission.
No views really, but you can pretend you are in Europe or something. And the
food is better than a lot of other places mentioned, IMHO (although dessert is weak).
I think The Ramp is interesting, but overpriced. Only been there for overpriced
brunch ... food was competent, but we werent looking for anything really complicated ...
something like OJ + omlette with meat/cheese/veg etc.
East Bay locations are great for sunset views:
Quinn's Lighthouse...pretty decent bar and grill food. off the Embarcadero..fits quirky. You can sit on the upstairs roof and pitch peanut shells on the floor.
Skates on the Berkeley Marina. food is also decent, full bar. Not too quirky though.
Paragon Bar in the Clairmont Hotel again not too quirky, but casual.
I like the Ramp as mentioned.
The Mountain Inn on Mt. Tam is sort of cool. It faces East though.
The Tourist Club also on Mt. Tam faces west. So its good for sunsets. Its a great place for a book and wasting away an afternoon drinking decent beers on tap. No food other than bagged snacks if I recall right. Its about a 1/3 mile walk down which means a steep climb back. It reminds you of being in the the Alps...sort of because of all the Norwegian Pine.
Fish- in Sausalito- fresh seafood, not everything is great but if you order right very clean and fresh. I like the dock style picnic tables reminds me of southern Calif.
Poggio- also in Sausalito, outside seating and view
Guaymas- in Tiburon- great patio with nice view. the food is not the best but it's not bad and the atmosphere makes up for it all.
Buckeye Roadhouse- Mill Valley
Sushi Ran Sausalito
This is tough, there are quit a few places with outside tables but I am not a fan of sitting smack down with traffic and so close to pedestrians, like all those tables lined up on Columbus in North Beach.. Maybe ok on a weekday. Pizza Delfina maybe, just too close to the street ok for lunch.
Universal Cafe- love the food, there are a few tables outside, this is borderline uncomfortable during the day, depends on what time of day because of the sun at night lovely.
Chez Papa- now this works because the seating is on the corner not on the busier side, never that much traffic up on 18th street. I hope they don't close this location when they open the new one down at the new Mint Street project.
Pres a Vi- they have one of the best outdoor seating area IMO, I have only ordered from their bar bites menu, just don’t feel the need to eat dinner there and their wine flights are excellent. Great seating, heaters, nice park like view and parking.
Foreign Cinema- protected courtyard with a movie to boot
Le Charm- nice courtyard seating
Pescheria- good seafood with back patio
Absinthe- can work for me if not too busy, nice place to sit outside with a glass of wines and fries
Cafe Gratitude- on 9th Ave, back patio
Town Hall- after work side patio can be very nice.
Julius Castle- Has an amazing patio/view- I have not been there in such a long time, maybe with the recent changes it might be fun to try.
Now if A16 gets the old 42 degree space, in dog patch Esprit Park (a rumor) wow!!
re: Lori SF
If you drive up 3rd, you'll discover there's an empty lot and construction site where 42 degrees was. The A16 restaurant would be in a building that doesn't exist yet.
Bar Bambino has a patio with heater lamps. However we were there on a windy night, and one of the walls was swaying menacingly.
Tal Y Tara tea room (and polo shoppe) has a lovely garden.
re: Lori SF
The Ramp is definitely casual and quirky, faces the East Bay so no sunset views at all.
Along these same lines is Sam's Anchor Cafe (not the same Sam's mentioned above) in Tiburon. They have a huge patio on the harbor. Wonderful views of the bay and SF. It's a casual burgers & beer type of place, food is good for what it is. www.samscafe.com
It's not a great restaurant by any means (spotty service & what I feel is a very limited menu for an "Eastern" seafood restaurant), but it's pretty hard to beat a sunset from the beach -- try the patio at Sam's Chowder House, just south of Princeton Harbor in Half Moon Bay.
Sam's is under new management (since 2004) and is vastly improved, in fact it is quite good. The chef from Cetrella is now consulting for them. Although, in HMB you're never gauranteed a sunset because of the fog.
Probably the only places in SF to see a sunset over the water from a restaurant are the Cliff House and the Beach Chalet. Great views, suspect food.
Another option is to put together a picnic at one of the amazing markets, like the Ferry Building, and find a cozy spot along the water to settle in for the sunset.
Well ... I guess that's why they call it a forum.
Sam's opened in October of 2006, i.e it has not been in existence since 2004. It took over the location from, and I could be wrong here, an awful Hawaiin BBQ place. From what I understand, Sam's was always owned by the Cetrella owners, but recently co-owner Paul Shenkman, sold his share of Cetrella to his partner to concentrate on Sam's. I know Sam's has gotten mixed reviews, but my experiences there have been uniformly mediocre, especially on the service side. And ... no clams in an "East Coast seafood restaurant"?. Doesn't work for me ... yeah, I know they say they are "coming soon". Still ... a very nice patio, some people really like this place, and I don't believe there are alot of oceanfront restaurants in the general area.