San Francisco's Best Outdoor Bars

Dennis Yang
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For many outdoor enthusiasts (including yours truly), the best part about a few hours on the trail, bike, or water is the adult beverages that come afterward. Bonus points if those beverages are served on a killer patio or outdoor space—what better way to continue enjoying the epic views and vistas that the Bay Area has to offer? With that, here are five great outdoor spots to toast your outdoor adventures, in San Francisco and beyond.

1. Zeitgest, San Francisco

Don't worry, it's not just the beers - there really are pink elephants on the wall at Zeitgeist.
Don't worry, it's not just the beers - there really are pink elephants on the wall at Zeitgeist. Brad Coy/Flickr

You might have to put up with cigarette smoke and obnoxious hipsters, but a visit to this perennial favorite beer garden on a seedy-ish corner of the Mission is well worth the annoyances. Complete with its iconic trippy pink elephant graffiti, Zeitgest is an establishment in SF known for its 40-plus beers on tap, picnic tables full of tatted-up bike messengers, techies, and everyone in between, and Bloody Marys with garnish so serious it should count as a full serving of vegetables. The place can get crowded on weekends, but that’s half the fun—and nobody will care that you’re still sweaty.

2. The Ramp, Mission Bay

A blue-collar crowd, cold beer, and great views are all on tap at The Ramp.
A blue-collar crowd, cold beer, and great views are all on tap at The Ramp. Greenbelt Alliance/Flickr

For a post-paddle watering hole, there’s no spot more apropos than The Ramp , a charming, rough-around-the-edges bar/restaurant in Mission Bay, which—as its name conveys so well—is perched almost on top of a boat ramp next to the waterfront. Food is basic bar fare, from chips and salsa to burgers, but serves just fine for ravenous appetites. And you’re coming for the view and the vibe anyway, with boats cruising by and friendly, unpretentious regulars—no Marina snobbery here. On Sundays, if you’re not too wiped out from your ride or run, the scene gets pretty lively with salsa dancing.

3. Sam’s Anchor Café, Tiburon

It doesn't get any better than a sunny Saturday at Sam's.
It doesn't get any better than a sunny Saturday at Sam's. May Wong/Flickr

You’ll have to battle for tables with the sailboat set, ferry-goers, and BMW-driving Marin types, but on a sunny day in the City by the Bay, there’s no better patio to kick back with a post-run or ride pint (or three) than Sam’s Anchor Café , a prime waterfront spot that has been around since the 1920s. The views of Angel Island, Alcatraz, and the San Francisco skyline are stunning, and the seafood is standout—especially the cioppino, which is hearty enough for two. No judgments here if you opt to ferry back to the city instead of hopping back on the saddle. (And yes, we're aware it's not in San Francisco, but it's an institution worthy of an exception).

4. El Rio, Mission

El Rio is an oasis of awesome on the edge of the Mission.
El Rio is an oasis of awesome on the edge of the Mission. Jason TK TK TK

Thanks to its airy patio and unpretentious crowd, this down-home spot on the edge of the Mission near Bernal Heights feels more like a cool house party. Which is why El Rio is a great option to post up for the afternoon following a not-too-brutal morning outing. Saturdays usually involve the popular, gender-bending Hard French shindigs, with a DJ and the stiff drinks the place is known for, but Sundays are a bit mellower, with a Bloody Mary bar and salsa. Your dog is welcome, too, provided he behaves—and no bad attitudes for patrons, either, as the website warns: “We have a bad bad temper for jerks so if you are one, don’t come.”

5. Red’s Java House, Embarcadero

Epic views of the Bay Bridge at Red's Java House.
Epic views of the Bay Bridge at Red's Java House. Victor Solanoy/Flickr

A couple of years ago, Anthony Bourdain featured this awesome little joint on his show "No Reservations." Was it because of its location on a pier at the docks of the Embarcadero? Or because of the can't-go-wrong burgers, constantly flowing taps, or spectacular views of the bay and Bay Bridge? Who knows—probably all of the above. But thankfully, whatever fame came from the show hasn’t affected Red's Java House , which carries on with its blue-collar vibe, no-frills food, and all-around good time. And forget the Java in its name: It's all about the beer here. Join the groups of paddlers, bikers, and tourists on the patio, where it’s all too easy to while away the afternoon over a pitcher or five.

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