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7 hour over-night layover jaunt into the city - crazy?

The situation: I arrive at 11pm and need to be on a plane to Portland at 6 the next morning.

The thought: Head into the city for a cocktail and then maybe to Mission for eats. Or some combo like that.

Crazy talk? Doable? Better options?

I'll be back to SFO a few weeks later, so this isn't a -must- but just that I can't imagine spending 7 hours in San Fran and not trying to eat something!

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  1. I think it is doable, but not a lot of places in SF serve food after 11. In the Mission, only Beretta comes to mind, but I am probably missing a spot or two. Unless you want a burrito?
    My late night choice would be Nopa. I think they serve until 1.

    1 Reply
    1. re: absc

      Locanda, Delfina's fancier restaurant, serves till 1 some nights. It's very close to 16th St BART.

      There's a fair amount of crime in the Mission after midnight, especially snatch and grabs of smartphones, some of them armed. Please don't bring luggage.

      Also if you haven't bought your connection yet, fly Virgin America to Portland so you can take advantage of Terminal 2, including great comfy chairs, yoga room, better food, etc.
      Virgin's also typically cheapest on that route.
      You can get a shuttle for $17 each way. For one person, this is cheaper than renting a car, and 1/3 what a taxi will cost.

    2. That could be a tough schedule. As other posters noted, SF does not have a huge number of late night dining options.

      If your flight is delayed, or if you have to clear customs, your 11pm arrival means you may not be out of the airport until much later.

      BART stops running at midnight, so that means taking a cab into the city and/or back to the airport. Bars close at 2am.

      A lot of the concessions in the airport are closed overnight too. So you should make sure you bring some snacks with you in case you are stuck in the airport overnight.


      Scanning through this list, the only thing open overnight is Subway.

      Sorry, I am sure your next SF trip will be better.

      1. i would eat first. in addition to beretta, flour +water is also open until 12 on thurs/fri/sat, and trick dog is open until 2 for food. or if you just want "mission eats", taqueria cancun is open until 1:45 sun-thurs and 2:45 fri-sat. (farolito is open an hour later every night, but i don't like it as much). and of course bacon wrapped hot dog carts on most blocks of mission street, and the pupusa cart at 16th/guerrero on weekends.

        1. what day/night will this be, actually? that will help a lot with planning this...

          1 Reply
          1. re: vulber

            Yeah, the very-late-night options vary a lot from day to day.

          2. I think the logistics would far outweigh any enjoyment. Get into the city, if you're on time, about midnight. Then be back at the airport at 5. Once everything shuts down in the city, you still have a couple of hours to kill and I don't know where you'd do that. I'd get as inexpensive a room as possible near SFO get some sleep. Especially since you'll be back soon. Just my two cents.

            1. In your situation I would probably take the BART to the Mission, get a burrito at El Farolito, drink until 2am, then cab it back to SFO. It's logistically a bit of a pain (and the cab isn't cheap to SFO), but seven hours is a long time to be sitting around a closed airport.

              1 Reply
              1. re: dunstable

                Bob had an experience a few years ago when he overnighted at Heathrow. Starbucks closed but their big comfy chairs remained available so he could snooze there. Or pay the fee, if need be, and get access to one of the airlines 'clubs.'

              2. If you're going to do this, you might as well plan on hanging out at "The End-up" from 2am to 3:30am or whenever you need to leave.

                I'd say this is worth doing if you're just getting off a plane from asia or something and you'll be jet-lagged or well-rested from sleeping on the plane -- it is at least better than more time in an airport.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Dustin_E

                  That's a pretty good idea, actually, if you don't mind clubs. It's been years since I've been there, but I had some great times there back in the day. Dunno where you'd stow your carryons and such, though.

                  1. re: dunstable

                    i'd have to disagree - i love the endup, but cover is $20 after 11 on saturdays, and after 12 on fridays. makes more sense to go to a club that closes at 4am, as they typically don't charge cover past 2.

                    again though, it depends what night.

                    1. re: vulber

                      do you know what clubs are open until 4? i thought they all closed at 2?

                      1. re: Dustin_E

                        you just have to stop serving alcohol at 2 (and therefore, it really only makes sense for clubs rather than bars to stay open past 2, as they can charge a cover to make up for staying open an extra 2 hours with no revenue from alcohol; most people won't pay a cover for a bar). mighty, DNA lounge (until 3), the grand (until 2:30), cat club (until 3), f8/icon (until 3), public works, ruby skye, 1015, temple, and monarch are all usually open until 4 on fridays and saturdays (and sometimes thursdays). depending on the event, most will usually let you in for free or minimal cover if you arrive past 2. boom boom room also has an afterhours license if you want live music past 2.

                2. Well, when this kind of layover happens to me, I take a cab over to Artichoke Joe's and play poker all night. They also have food--not fine dining at all, but I have had worse in a cardroom!

                  It is not worth trying to get in and out of the city within that timeframe.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: lakemerritter

                    Artichoke Joe's! Now there's a name out of my past. My very distant past. Not a bad idea either.

                    1. re: c oliver

                      I've done it maybe once or twice a year for the last 6 years. It really is about the best option and I have tried a lot of itineraries (including SamTrans to 24th/Mission) for that long night, but at Artichoke Joe's I always have a really good time and sometimes even come out of there with a few extra bucks, or food and drink paid for! Plus, they do have a fireplace...comfy. Ah, here:

                      "Have your food served while playing in the casino, or relax beside our dining room's rustic fireplace. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner 24 hours daily, our kitchen NEVER closes!

                      Full Bar
                      Our full-service bar offers martinis, margaritas, fine liquors, and beers from around the world. Our rustic bar sports widescreen TVs, comfy atmosphere and friendly staff."

                      I'll take that over sleeping in the airport any day!

                      1. re: lakemerritter

                        I was last there in the mid70s!!!!!!

                      2. re: c oliver

                        Coming back to this thread to link an appropriate article that ran in the SF Chron today:


                        1. re: lakemerritter

                          All I remember is too much tequila! So glad I don't HAVE to do that anymore :) Thanks for sharing.

                    2. Personally I'd skip trying to get to SF and back. I'd eat/drink at SFO (lots of decent if not spectacular options) and find one of those lounges where you can pay to take a nap.

                      I know, not very glam but if anyone is honest, SF pretty much shuts down at 11 p.m. minus a few places and bars close at 2 a.m. That leaves basically two hours to eat and drink and the options are very limited.

                      Also while I eat at places like El Faralito or Cancun at 2 a.m., I wouldn't make a trip from SFO and pay a cab to do so. You're talking $40 bucks one way for a burrito. $80 +tip RT if the place isn't near BART.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: ML8000

                        if you're cheap like me and don't mind taking a little longer (and are comfortable with walking down safe, but sketchy/isolated streets late at night to get there), you can take the samtrans bus for $2 from 24th and potrero to the airport, runs 24 hours.

                        as others have mentioned, NOPA is an excellent late-night destination, kitchen open until 1, bar until 2. ditto beretta, though food/cocktails not quite as good. trick dog too, with excellent bar food and some of the best cocktails anywhere in SF right now.

                        besides taquerias (not to be taken for granted; if you enjoy that style of burrito, the mission district is the best place in the country for that), the only place worth eating after 2am that's above standard late-night offerings in most cities would be yuet lee (good, not great cantonese seafood) or cocobang (good, not great korean bar food). also, 15 romolo, which is owned by the same people as trick dog, has similar excellent food/cocktail offerings and is near yuet lee. if you're near cocobang, there's of course bourbon and branch and tradition for cocktails.

                        also, bacon-wrapped hotdogs every block of mission street between 19th and 24th until about 3am, as well as excellent tacos at vallarta (16th/mission, 24th/treat).

                        you can also take your chances with some speakeasies, though people go there so they can continue to drink past 2am, not for good cocktails. and as others mentioned, there is the club scene.

                        admittedly, this is all coming from a night owl who tries to squeeze as much as possible into a day/night as he can.

                        1. re: ML8000

                          MO8000, unfortunately, most the restaurants and even the bars at SFO close up 10:00 p.m. so unless the OP travels to the city, he is stuck at the airport without even the option of food or drink.

                        2. Grubstake serves food until closing (4 a.m.). Classic old diner, with Portuguese specialties.

                          Most airline clubs are not open overnight (which defeats the purpose, IMHO).

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                            Re airline clubs, I didn't know that and agree it seems counterintuitive.

                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                              The lounge hours are weird. I guess the hotel industry didn't like it or it's too costly to run. I heard SFO was suppose to put sleeping "pods" in but it never happened.

                              I did find this: http://www.sleepinginairports.net/usa...

                              There's more sites that give you very specific info on where to snooze.

                              1. re: ML8000

                                What a great reference piece! Saved. Heading to Europe twice in the next year so this will come in handy. Thanks.

                                1. re: ML8000

                                  That site reminded me: BART is not the only public transit option from the airport. SamTrans runs a local (292) and an express (KX). The KX is cheaper and just as fast, especially during non-rush hour periods. Plus, it stops at all the terminals, so you if you're not flying out of the international terminal you don't have to mess with the SkyTrain.

                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                    The KX stops running too early and starts running too late to work for jlunar's schedule.

                              2. I think it sounds like fun, especially if your bag is checked thru to Portland and your plane arrives in SF on time. But a lot depends on your age, $, and your idea of fun. I'd prefer an hour or 2 of adventure to sitting in the airport.

                                1. Is your stomach large, are you more intent on eating than drinking, and are you okay pulling an all-nighter? If yes to all these questions, and on a Friday night. My suggestion is the following:

                                  11:15 rent a car. You're on a tight schedule, cabs aren't cheap, and sometimes tough to find. Stash luggage in car.
                                  12 PM : arrive at Nopa, have one drink and some food
                                  1-1:30 : go dancing at a club for an hour
                                  2:45 : pickup a called-in takeout pupusa at La Santaneca in La Lengua (3781 Mission St). Have your single pupusa. Or if, you're single, take out someone you pickup at the club and skip the pupusa.
                                  3:00 : Grab a burrito at El Farolito. Eat a few bites, give the rest away or save for plane ride.
                                  3:30 : Find a Walgreens and grab some Tums
                                  3:35 : Drive to Embarcadero to catch Bay Lights or drive to Twin Peaks if it's a clear night
                                  4:30 : arrive at airport

                                  Grubstake is the best place that's open till 4am. I'd stick to it for the regular diner food--- the Portuguese items are great for locals, but you'll get better stuff in your native Toronto.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: hyperbowler

                                    The guy likes his cocktails so I think renting a car should be out. He can take BART into the city and cab it from there. A cab back to the airport at 5 am should take, at most, 30 minutes. Also, it's very tough to find parking.

                                    Isn't Zuni open til midnight Fri/Sat?

                                    1. re: walker

                                      Absinthe has a decent bar menu (steak, fresh fish, oysters, etc.) and is open late. Hell of a good wine list if that's your idea of fun (and it is mine!). Serves until 2:00 a.m as I recall. Usually my first meal when I hit town after a late flight.



                                  2. I think you gotta do it. And, welcome, old timer - I see your first CH post is 2006 (although you seemed to become regular in 2009).

                                    Unless you're hard up for cash, don't bother with this public transit or rental car nonsense, and if you are hard up, take the bus. You'll waste a precious hour each way on a trip that's 20 mins by taxi. If you do take the bus, you'll have to pick places around 24th, and you should probably grab a nacho suiza at El Faralito and take it over to The Attic where you can get a frosty adult beverage.

                                    The airport is really, really depressing at that hour. Your other option would be to hit up one of the airport hotels like A Loft. Whether you're coming from NYC (the 7pm gets in around 11pm) or Shanghai matters a bit.

                                    Being that you're from Canada, I think I'd send you to NOPA. It's a good lively place with good cocktails (one stop shop), and very Californian.

                                    However, if Trick Dog is really serving food till 2am, you should go there. It's everything you're really looking for, a cutting edge just opened place that'll seat you only because you flew in late.

                                    An outside thought would be Kronnerburger. They claim midnight or 1am, depending on the day, and they're on everyone's lips as the last word in burgers. Ever.

                                    A more off the wall idea: there are some good chinese places near the airport (millbrea) open till 1am, notably The Kitchen. I hesitate to recommend Chinese to a Canadian.

                                    In terms of other activities, a walk down by the waterfront near the ferry building is recommended. The bridge is lit up with a light installation, and the reflections from it and the oakland docks are very pleasant at any hour. A similar spooky/fun but open-all-night is the Wave Organ, which is best at high tide. The area is a little isolated, which is safe if there's no one there (which is the most likely) but there's also no cops or cars passing, so if something goes wrong you're kind of stuck.

                                    Vulber's list of clubs and times is nearly exhaustive. If you can consider a little bootie shaking, the 4am close times will match just about right with your flight to portland.

                                    There are some real 24 hour diners, like Sparky's, but they're not destination-worthy.

                                    Good luck and please report back.

                                    1. Folks, you guys are awesome. I tried not to thread-sit and there is a lot of great info here.

                                      To clarify some points:
                                      - Arriving on a Thursday at 11p
                                      - Leaving for PDX from T3
                                      - From Toronto, Canada (so I'd pass on Chinese/Cantonese food)
                                      - Unfortunately, I will have my luggage with me (1 backpack, carry-on). I looked into lockers at SFO and that's a no-go.
                                      - I will most certainly bail on getting out of SFO if my flight is delayed any later than midnight.
                                      - I'm not planning to fill all the hours - just a good meal and a drink with ample time to get back to the airport. Mostly because I'll be hauling all my stuff.

                                      I've gone through the thread, and I think my evening will be spent at Trick Dog and then I will go back to SFO. Mostly likely with a pre-booked SuperShuttle ride. I have Artichoke Joe's as my back up if I don't want to go into the city, but still want out.

                                      Will save Nopa and Kronnerburger for August!

                                      Please let me know if anything sounds like it's hitting the stupid button.
                                      Will certainly report back, and thanks again everyone!

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: jlunar

                                        Trick Dog sounds like a good choice since you can get food and drinks in the same place and won't have to schlep your luggage around.

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          At Trick Dog, you might want to just walk up the stairs for a table, as you will have more space for your backpack/carry-on than at the bar.

                                        2. re: jlunar

                                          be prepared for a line at the door at trick dog :(
                                          beretta might be a slightly better option for food/cocktails, although will still be a slight wait

                                          there's also nihon

                                        3. Will include my full run-down of Trick Dog (fun!) later when I do all my SFO reporting, but wanted to say thanks (though it is now, weeks later!) for all your help and recommendations on this one.

                                          I ended up booking a SuperShuttle both ways. The kids there were nice enough to let me loiter upstairs with my knapsack until this Cinderella had to run.

                                          Loved the drinks, sadly missed out on the two items I really wanted: the Scotch egg and the cracklins. No matter, I'll be making a visit in a few weeks to see if I can't rectify that oversight.

                                          Ate the beef "tartare", brawn tacos, the asparagus a la plancha, and two ice creams. I was thankful that the folk next to me were open to me foisting the extra food on 'em.

                                          Had their house aperitif and the Vintage Photo (quite enjoyed).

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: jlunar

                                            Thanks for reporting back! Looking forward to hearing the full report on Trick Dog.