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Feb 6, 2009 08:53 AM

Eating at the bar at upscale places; SF, Wine Country

How difficult is it to walk in around 6 pm [midweek] and get a seat at the bar and order food from Bar Menu?

I have noticed that a number of places show Bar Menus online. I wondered can you really walk in and get 2 seats within a reasonable amount of time??

I am especially thinking about Yountville, Hearaldsburg i.e. Brix, Cyrus come to mind first, but what about any other of the favorite picks on here?

What about in upscale places in San Francisco proper - are there Bar Menus offered?


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  1. At 6pm midweek, no problem unless there is a happy hour going. When I was at Brix, all the seats were taken but they found an extra chair and brought it to the bar. In warmer weather I think the patio tables are available.

    Orson in SF has a good bar menu and easy seating. I really can't think of a place anywhere in the Bay Area that would be difficult.

    4 Replies
    1. re: rworange

      Just thought about this....would there be problem with my 17 year daughtetr eating at the bar ( obviously she wouldn't be drinking....)

      1. re: pgj98m3

        There are also tables in the bar area and I believe on a warm day the patio tables are part of the bar area. As long as someone is drinking not a problem and there are a number of interesting non alcoholic drinks with house-infused stuff ... I can't remember off-hand and they don't list cocktails or beverages on the menu.

        The only thing is try to get there when it opens at four as this seems very popular. that other option is doing a late Sunday brunch and hanging out to talk to the chefs during the bring your own wine time.

        1. re: pgj98m3

          I don't understand how the law works, but most restaurants in bars here seem to allow minors to sit at the bar. I have been in one or two that didn't allow seating right at the bar.

          I'd agree that most places are easy during midweek, but I don't agree on the recommendation for Orson. Too little for too much money, and not as good as it should be. The drinks used to be really good, but the original bar manager is gone and things haven't tasted as good since...

          1. re: realspear

            I'm pretty sure that any establishment that serves (cooked) food has to allow patrons of all ages.

      2. My favorite places to eat at the bar in SF are Incanto and NOPA. Incanto's closed Tuesday, but usually at 6 p.m. it's not a problem. It's a bar set-up, but not really a bar (no mixed drinks, only wine) with some tables off to the side but not in the more formal dining room, so I don't think a 17-year-old would be a problem.

        NOPA has a bar bites menu, but only before dinner service starts (at 6, I think?). It's a real bar, with fantastic cocktails, so I'm not sure if an underaged person would be welcome. However, they have a "chef's table" in the back that does not take reservations, and it's really a bit of bar not directly in front of the bar. If you get there right at 6 or before, you should probably be able to snag chef's table seats.

        1. all of the Yountville sites have great bars and it is were i (and most Locals)usually go - Jeanty (yes they are still great ) Redd - Bouchon - Napa Valley Grill - Rutherford Grill - mustards - brix (the new chef rocks)

          1. Are you looking specifically for a cheaper "Bar Menu", or are you happy ordering off the regular menu at the bar?

            Most places have full menu at the bar - hey, it's a seat, and they're happy selling you a $75 dinner, and they're happy you're not taking up a table. Zuni's a favorite (they have small bar tables in a strange glassed-in corner area), Boulevard has both "bar seating" in the restaurant area, and "bistro tables" in front of the bar, and then the actual bar. I'm struggling to think of an upscale place that has a bar, and refuses to serve food at it. I'm sure someone will think of several.

            In SF, in the current climate, midweek, 6p, willing to eat at the bar, I'd be shocked if you had to wait, anywhere. Or for a table, for that matter.

            3 Replies
            1. re: bbulkow

              While I would prefer a smaller, slightly less expensive menu than the regular menu, just being able to walk in and sit down and order is okay too. While I would normally reserve and plan most of the meals in advance, with the upcoming weather this week [in SF] I prefer to be a bit more spur of the moment.

              Thanks all!


              1. re: DebitNM

                I was just visiting SF this last weekend. My girlfriend and I went to NOPA at the recommendation of a foodie cab driver. When we arrived to eat at NOPA (at around 8:30 on Friday), we were told the wait would be 90 minutes to two hours. We went to the bar for drinks and ended up eating there.

                While I was a little annoyed because it seemed like the dining room had open tables every time I looked, the experience at the bar was wonderful. We had four appetizers and four drinks. Highlights were sardines and chick peas with brocolli and spinach potato soup with crispy bacon. Both these dishes were stellar.

                I also really liked the service at the bar. The bartenders were obviously talented at mixing drinks, but they also knew the food menu quite well. We traded off between different bartenders for different orders, but never felt forgetten or neglected.

                The price was also right. For the four drinks, four appetizers, and a shared dessert (upside down cake with vanilla ice cream and blood orange marmalade--quite nice), we paid $90.

                If a cab driver named Brian is part of this community, let me thank him again as we have in text messages to him about his recommendations for the weekend. He really was a great guide.

                1. re: CCCB


                  560 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117