Water, Water, Everywhere: 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 for any city in the world to land on. Very few cities have such a slim line between the natural world and vibrant, urban life, and the most memorable dining experiences in San Francisco offer you a front row seat for such a fascinating meeting.

When you're looking for ambiance as much as food, satisfying restaurants can be hard to come by. Fortunately, San Francisco delivers in spades. The city promises a superb selection of restaurants to sate your desire for Waterfront Dining.

These places take care of the details, making you feel welcomed, plying you with wonderful dishes, and sending you on your way with an experience you won't soon forget. For a hint of local quality, consider Slanted Door, which, along with Waterfront Restaurant, 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 Roasthouse

With so many water viewing restaurant options in the Bay, placing anywhere in the top ten makes you special - and Epic is certainly that. And if you happen to have someone in your group who wants to look at the water but not eat from it, Epic is proud of its meat and poultry selections, including their Roasted Pork Rack Chop and their Organic chicken with fava beans and crispy mushrooms. Epic definitely earns its name - this is the restaurant for those meat-eaters out there who take their meat seriously. The beautiful view is definitely a nice side order, however.

Waterbar knows its 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. 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.

Le Garage
Photo courtesy of Tom Molanphy

Waterfront dining opportunities are many in the Bay Area, but Le Garage's stunning French cuisine and unique wharf-side location make it a certain standout. This bistro-style establishment serves authentic favorites with a fresh, modern twist, including dishes like croque madame and quiche Lorraine. Diners particularly enjoy the Kobe beef burger and house-cut fries served with grilled red onion aioli. Desserts like creme brulee and tarte tatin offer the perfect finishing touch to a meal. What separates Le Garage from several other waterfront-viewing restaurants is that the food is truly fantastic. In fact, you might spend so much time staring at your yummy plate you'll forget the view altogether.

Pier 23 Cafe

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.

Hog Island Oyster Co.

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.

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.

Slanted Door
Photo courtesy of Charles Haynes

Situated along the San Francisco waterfront, Slanted Door is always packed with posh patrons looking to enjoy beautiful bay views and modern Vietnamese cuisine. Local ingredients add a twist to Vietnamese street food, creating distinctive dishes like grass-fed estancia shaking beef and a chicken clay pot with caramel sauce, chilies and fresh ginger. Other favorites include the daikon rice cakes and crispy imperial rolls. Compliment your meal with the perfect wine pairing or creative cocktail. If you need a stroll after your meal, you've got the entire Embarcadero laid out before you, not to mention the romantic Bay Bridge Lights twinkling so close you'd think you could touch them.

Waterfront Restaurant

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.

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.

Sutro's at the Cliff House

If you're looking for an ocean rather than a bay view, Sutro's at the Cliff House is your spot. After fires and earthquakes destroyed the previous Cliff houses, this newly restored and beautifully modern space offers dramatic views of the Pacific Ocean almost everywhere you turn. The menu is a bit pricey - the view if definitely calculated into those prices - and it's not the most daring or innovative menu around but, when the Pacific Ocean is practically lapping at the feet of customers, the food can be an afterthought. And if you need a walk after a full meal, scenic Land's End just steps away.


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