Best Waterfront Dining in San Francisco

A Sparkling View: Best Restaurants on the Waterfront in San Francisco

What does it mean to say a city is world-class?

It usually means that the city has something that no other city can offer. In the case of San Francisco, her mild climate and unbeatable water views make the City by the Bay one of the choicest pieces of geography of any city in the world. Very few cities have such a slim line between the natural world and a vibrant, urban life, and the most memorable dining experiences in San Francisco offer you a front row seat for such a fascinating meeting.

Our list offers restaurants that take care of the details, ply you with wonderful dishes, and send you on your way with an experience you won't soon forget. For a hint of local quality, consider Waterbar, which epitomizes great waterfront dining in San Francisco.

Don't let your San Francisco vacation slip away without a meal next to the Pacific or the Bay. Either one is a signature San Francisco moment worth savoring for the rest of your life.


Epic Steak
Photo courtesy of Epic Steak

With so many water viewing restaurant options in the Bay, placing anywhere in the top ten makes you special - and Epic Steak is certainly that. The menu is reflected in its name - this is the place on the water for the best meat in town. From The Best Damn Filet to the Steakhouse Cheeseburger, Epic definitely earns its name - this is the restaurant for those meat-eaters out there who take their meat seriously. And the spectacular view is definitely a nice side order.

Recommended for Waterfront Dining because: Epic Steak has a gorgeous view of not just San Francisco Bay but the Bay Bridge spanning over it.

Tom's expert tip: Leave room for the decadent Double Decker Chocolate Cake with bittersweet buttercream and ganache.

Read more about Epic Steak →

Waterfront Restaurant
Photo courtesy of Tom Molanphy

An unbeatable view and delicious food have made Waterfront Restaurant a hit. The open-air patio is especially popular during warmer months, but whether seated inside or out, you'll enjoy a breathtaking Bayscape complete with a stunning view of the Bay Bridge. Delectable dishes like Dungeness crab cakes, wood oven roasted petrale sole and lobster risotto populate the menu, and you can top off your meal with classic creme brulee or sticky toffee pudding. And if you're not in the mood for a full meal, swing by and catch their Happy Hour. It's a great way to start off a San Francisco night.

Recommended for Waterfront Dining because: Waterfront's success is about as simple as its name. A great choice for romantics, too.

Tom's expert tip: Enjoy a $5 beer during their Happy Hour from 3-6, M-F, with that unbeatable view of the Bay Bridge.

Read more about Waterfront Restaurant →

Red's Java House
Photo courtesy of Red's Java House

Who says you have to pay an arm and a leg for a fantastic view of San Francisco Bay? Red's Java House has been serving up a stunning view of the Bay - as well as comfort food like burgers and hot dogs - since it sold breakfast specials of cheeseburgers and beers to longshoremen in the 1930's. If you need fancy, don't head to Red's. But if you want good service and a filling meal with the exact same view as the more expensive restaurants lined up on the Embarcadero, head to Red's today. The patio is usually full on sunny days - and especially if the Giants are playing!

Recommended for Waterfront Dining because: Red's is a great option for Giants fans on their way to or from games who want a nice view with their reasonably priced meal.

Tom's expert tip: Try their breakfast specials like the Two Egg Breakfast Plate for only $10.51.

Read more about Red's Java House →

Marina District
Greens Restaurant
Photo courtesy of used in book.

Head to San Francisco's gorgeous waterfront and check out Greens Restaurant's creative vegetarian menu and spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Chef Annie Somerville creates a daily menu with organic, fresh ingredients from primarily two local sources: Zen Center's Green Gulch Farm and Bolinas' Star Route Farms. Dishes run the gamut from spicy red curry to broccoli pizza and spinach linguine. Whatever you choose, rest assured its made from the freshest organic ingredients around. The wine list features delightful reds and whites produced using sustainable vineyard practices. If you like your waterfront dining with a side of healthy, natural and local produce, then Greens is the spot for you.

Recommended for Waterfront Dining because: Greens has enjoyed one the premier waterfront dining spots in the city for years.

Tom's expert tip: Greens serves only vegetarian dishes, so they've gotten quite creative, with offerings like Asparagus Pizza and Meyer Lemon Fettucine.

Read more about Greens Restaurant →

Fog Harbor Fish House
Photo courtesy of Tom Molanphy

If you only have time for one seafood restaurant in San Francisco, and you really want a taste of old school San Francisco-style cuisine on Pier 39, try Fog Harbor Fish House. Created by the same family that developed the family-friendly playland of Pier 39, Fog Harbor might be old school, but they were also the first restaurant on Pier 39 to offer sustainable seafood. Featuring complimentary sourdough bread baked on site every hour, you can even catch a glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge from their expansive view. Great for family and large groups, especially after a day of exploring Pier 39.

Recommended for Waterfront Dining because: Fog Harbor Fish House has been on Pier 39 for generations and offers an expansive view of San Francisco Bay.

Tom's expert tip: Don't pass up their award-winning clam chowder, a big bowl of yum that will warm the bones against any San Francisco fog!

Read more about Fog Harbor Fish House →

Pier 23 Cafe
Photo courtesy of Pier 23

A lot of waterfront restaurants are formal affairs, but not Pier 23. If you want the view of the water without all the fuss, head to Pier 23. Although the atmosphere is casual, the approach to food is not - try their steamed mussels and clams, some of the best in the city. Pier 23 is not far from Fisherman's Wharf, so you'll definitely find more than a few tourists here. But it's also very popular with locals, especially for live music, so it's an intriguing mix of those in the know and those who want to be in the know.

Recommended for Waterfront Dining because: Pier 23 offers fantastic views of the bay while being just off from all the hustle and bustle of Fisherman's Wharf.

Tom's expert tip: Less formal and great live music on most nights, an eclectic schedule featuring everything from jazz to reggae to funk.

Read more about Pier 23 Cafe →

Photo courtesy of used in book.

It's not hard to see why Scoma's is a classic San Francisco favorite. Located on Fisherman's Wharf, the family-run eatery boasts broad windows with sweeping views of the wharf and the bay. The extensive menu tempts with fresh, sustainable seafood, all served in generous portions. Patron favorites include the clam chowder, Dungeness crab cakes and hearty cioppino alla pescatore. Be sure to save room for house-made desserts like tiramisu and apple crisp. For those who would like a trip across the Golden Gate Bridge - arguably the best view of everything the Bay has to offer - there's a Scoma's in Sausalito, too.

Recommended for Waterfront Dining because: Scoma's is full of not just delicious food but an experienced and trained staff with great tips for tourists.

Tom's expert tip: For a true taste of San Francisco, order the dish that was invented in San Francisco: Cioppino, a delightful seafood stew of Crab, Prawns, Sea Scallops, Clams, Mussels, Fresh Fish, Calamari served in "Mama" Scoma's Rich Tomato Broth.

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Hog Island Oyster Co.
Photo courtesy of Ed Anderson

Sometimes, the simplest things in life are best, a premise wholeheartedly embraced by the people who run this fantastic oyster bar. In fact, they raise the oysters about an hour north of the city, and their sweet, succulent mollusks are some of the area's best. Indulge in a selection at an outdoor table, and couple awesome Bay views with a dozen Hog Island Sweetwaters or Kumamotos. Add in a glass of wine, some sake or a cold beer, and there's nothing better! Clams, clam chowder, oyster stew and salads can be had as well. If you're still hungry after you're oysters, all of the Ferry Building Marketplace is there for your tastebuds to explore.

Recommended for Waterfront Dining because: Grabbing a few oysters at Hog Island Oyster in the Ferry Building is just one of the many mouth-watering stops in that beautiful market.

Tom's expert tip: If you really love this place and want to go to the source, make time to visit the Hog Oyster Island Oyster Farm in nearby and beautiful Tomales Bay.

Read more about Hog Island Oyster Co. →

Photo courtesy of Waterbar

Waterbar knows it's a beautiful restaurant in a beautiful city - and makes the most of it. Designer Pat Kuleto spared no expense to ensure diners will walk away with a complete ocean experience, including floor to ceiling aquariums full of Pacific Marine life. Some of what's swimming in the tanks might look tasty, too - including the calamari, "dip net" caught in nearby San Pedro, and the long tank full of Dungeness crab, when in season. For those who want to have one, big, special meal in San Francisco to really remember, be lavish and spend a long evening by the water at this sumptuous restaurant. With this food and these views, it's a decision that's very hard to regret.

Recommended for Waterfront Dining because: Waterbar is one of the pricier restaurants with a view in the city, a great choice for that special night out.

Tom's expert tip: Waterbar is deservedly proud of its extensive wine, beer and cocktail list, a 35 page .pdf that serious patrons can peruse before their reservation.

Read more about Waterbar →

La Mar Cebicheria Peruana
Photo courtesy of La Mar Cebicheria Peruana

Many of the waterfront restaurants offer California-centric menus - which is no slight against them. But if you'd like a more exotic take on your fresh fish, head to La Mar Cebicheria Peruana. Chef Victoriano Lopez was born and raised in the Ancash region of Peru, and his delectable dishes reveal a deep and abiding love of Peruvian cuisine. From the signature Peruvian cocktail of the Pisco to all kinds of cebiche, diners can travel to Peru while overlooking the San Francisco Bay. Just a ten-minute leisurely stroll from the Ferry Building, La Mar is within a convenient distance from most public transportation.

Recommended for Waterfront Dining because: La Mar is perched on the Embarcadero right over the Bay with a view that's hard to beat.

Tom's expert tip: Try their signature Cebiche Clásico with California halibut in a classic leche de tigre with red onion, habanero, Peruvian corn, and yam.

Read more about La Mar Cebicheria Peruana →


Meet Tom Molanphy

The only thing that Tom Molanphy loves more than the food, art, music, and culture of San Francisco is sharing it with others. San Francisco never gets old for Tom.

Tom has lived in the San...  More About Tom