After more than a year of home cooking, takeout eating and outside dining, restaurants are finally opening up in time for summer. Being able to gather indoors again is certainly momentous. What better way to celebrate than to spotlight San Francisco’s most beautiful dining rooms?
Of course, the restaurants on this list are not all conventional beauties — that would be too easy. Most are S.F. originals that reflect the city, its history, the neighborhoods and their residents.
This collection, compiled by The Chronicle’s Food + Wine staff, includes only restaurants open for indoor dining. And it’s by no means a definitive list. We want to hear from you, too. Send your favorites and why to email@example.com.
132 The Embarcadero, San Francisco
Angler is a dream to look out, with all eyes on the massive wood-burning hearth decorated with dangling copper pots and wild floral arrangements. Quirky touches abound, from the throwback-style butter dish to the tanks of live fish behind the bar. Not to mention the life-size bear in the taxidermy-filled “game room,” which strongly recalls the Great Northern Hotel in “Twin Peaks.”
82 14th St., San Francisco
Sylvan Mishima Brackett’s Mission District izakaya was designed by his father, Len Brackett, author of “Building the Japanese House Today.” A Zen student in Kyoto, Japan, the elder Brackett studied temple carpentry. Rintaro’s design is based on the Japanese concept of osamari — in which the structure of the building becomes its decoration. The result is a space where everything fits effortlessly.
1658 Market St., San Francisco
This quirky, flat-iron shape restaurant has embodied the spirit of the city, drawing an eclectic crowd for more than four decades. It was one of the first restaurants to blend industrial and refined elements such as brick walls, exposed metal beams and a copper-topped bar. It was also one of the first to install a wood-fired oven, which continues to turn out the iconic roast chicken for two.
2534 Mission St., San Francisco
This Mission District restaurant rethinks the dinner-and-movie concept, with films screened for diners every evening on the heated patio. The interior features exposed concrete walls, an open kitchen and enormous fireplace. There’s even a private room that doubles as an art gallery. It’s arguably one of the city’s most interesting dining destinations.
369 The Embarcadero, San Francisco
Even owner and designer Paul Kuleto’s interior — which evokes a pump station with pipes and wheels — can’t compete with the breathtaking vista at Epic Steak at Rincon Park. The Bay Bridge looms over everything. Take in the view from one of the tufted booths or from the patio that connects Epic with its sister restaurant, Waterbar.
2100 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco
For nearly 40 years, Harris’ has been the place to go for an old-school steak house experience. It starts with the Old West vibe of the restaurant’s interior: dark, wood-paneled walls, brass chandeliers and white tablecloths. Sink into one of the enormous leather booths and sip on a classic cocktail while you wait for one of the signature entrees, like a beefy 24-ounce porterhouse steak ($74).
974 Valencia St., San Francisco
It’s hard to pull your gaze off the walls long enough to look at the menu at this vibrant Mission District restaurant. Married owners Jorge Martínez and Lorena Zertuche, take inspiration from the rancheras and colorful markets of Mexico. From there, artistic license runs amok with displays of collections — cowboy boots, origami boats, ceramic dogs, car doors, suits. Don’t miss the pendant light made from bicycle handlebars.
25 Lusk St., San Francisco
"Renowned San Francisco architecture and interior firm Cass Calder Smith transformed a former smokehouse and meat processing facility in SoMa into one of the city’s most glamorous restaurants. The interior marries the 1917 building’s brick walls and rough-sawn timber beams with sleek, modern accents. The kitchen, enclosed in clear and black glass, provides the theater with views of cooks at work.
56 Gold St., San Francisco
Bix came into being in the late ’80s, at the height of San Francisco’s see-and-must-be-seen restaurant scene. There were Stars and Postrio, but Bix was — and still is — in a class by itself. It’s like stepping into a 1930s supper club: bartenders in white jackets mix classic drinks and a jazz band plays nightly. Diners can’t help but feel a little Hollywood-style glamour as they ascend the grand staircase to the mezzanine.
28 Waverly Place, San Francisco
Anna Chet Jew-Lee, co-owner of Mister Jiu’s with husband and chef Brandon Jew, modernized the 50-plus-year-old Four Seas restaurant on Grant Avenue while respecting Chinatown’s history. An open kitchen, modern floral arrangements and high ceilings give the dining room a contemporary feel, while restored lotus blossom-shape chandeliers evoke the original restaurant.