Extra-spacious restaurant patios hold a lot of appeal when dining out during the coronavirus pandemic.
Their enclosed nature means there aren’t random groups of people — potentially unmasked — walking by, which diners might encounter on a sidewalk or parklet-like setup. Huge patios often mean more space to distance tables beyond the required 6 feet. And if the restaurant doesn’t take reservations, then a bigger outdoor space means diners are less likely to have to wait for a table, which also means less crowding in general.
These 10 restaurants — including some in San Francisco, the East Bay, the North Bay and on the Peninsula — each seat more than 75 people with social-distancing measures in place.
Note: Just because restaurants are open for outdoor dining doesn’t mean they’re 100% safe, though public health officials agree eating outside is significantly safer than doing so inside. To maximize the safety of your party and restaurant staff, wear your mask anytime you’re not eating or drinking; in some counties, the law requires it.
Like a lot of Bay Area businesses, Curio, the restaurant inside Mission District live-music venue the Chapel, shut down at the start of the pandemic. When it reopened, it debuted 3,000 square feet of outdoor dining space, taking over a back parking lot in addition to using its existing patio and adding some sidewalk seating. Altogether, it’s enough space to seat more than 100 people, often with more than 6 feet between tables, and it offers additional safety measures like QR code menus. The full-service restaurant brought on a new chef, Jason Rafin, formerly of Comstock Saloon, as well as a new menu and brunch service. The restaurant’s steampunky aesthetic brings some playfulness to the food, such as the musical note-shape pasta in the truffled mac and cheese. On many evenings there’s live music, so it gets popular. Check the events calendar online and plan to arrive early on those nights or be prepared to wait.
5-11 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. 775 Valencia St., San Francisco. 415-551-7306 or curiobarsf.com
The Oakland outpost of San Leandro brewery Drake’s Dealership has long enjoyed a spacious courtyard setting, but the restaurant’s footprint grew during the pandemic by taking over a parking lot. Now, Drake’s can seat 222 people across 10,000 square feet, with 6 feet of space or tall dividers between tables. Diners can reserve tables, and although the restaurant provides full service, diners can also order and pay from their cell phones to reduce contact with staff. While most restaurants are capping reserved tables at 90 minutes, Drake’s Dealership allows groups to linger for three hours — enough time to sample multiple IPAs, sour beers and massive wood-fired pizzas.
4-9 p.m. Tuesday, noon-9 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday, noon-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday, noon-9 p.m. Sunday. 2325 Broadway, Oakland. 510-568-2739, ext. 40 or drinkdrakes.com/places/dealership
Fieldwork Brewing Co.
Berkeley’s Fieldwork Brewing Co. is one of the most popular breweries in the Bay Area, drawing long lines for special beer releases before and during the pandemic. So the brewery instituted a lot of rules at all its Bay Area locations, spacing outdoor tables 6 feet apart or more, strongly encouraging reservations, using QR code menus and providing full table service so there’s no crowding near the bar. If spaciousness matters most to you, though, go to the all-outdoor San Mateo location, which boasts 150 seats across 10,000 square feet. In addition to pouring creamy hazies and fruity sours from a constantly changing tap list, the San Mateo spot serves sandwiches stuffed with beer-braised chicken, marinated tofu and more.
Noon-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, noon-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday. 3030 South Delaware St., San Mateo. 650-242-1280 or fieldworkbrewing.com/san-mateo
Local burger chain Gott’s Roadside was already set up for outdoor dining even before the pandemic. Its six locations in the Bay Area were already huge, mostly outdoor spaces that employed a speedy counter-service model. So, take your pick: The Ferry Building outpost is the smallest with 84 seats — there are tall partitions between picnic tables — although the food hall also has a large shared patio along the waterfront; the Oxbow Public Market location in Napa and the Palo Alto restaurant both seat more than 100, with the latter expanding into the parking lot; Greenbrae and Walnut Creek restaurants each seat more than 120; and the original location in Saint Helena remains the largest with 312 seats. Regardless of location, the menu stars creative burgers made with Niman Ranch beef — or Impossible Burger for vegans — as well as bountiful salads and organic milkshakes.
Hours vary by location. gotts.com
With views of the Ferry Building and the Bay Bridge, Harborview has one of the most scenic patios along the Embarcadero — and the upscale Cantonese restaurant can seat 100 people outside across 4,000 square feet. The full-service restaurant built tall barriers to place between tables, encourages reservations, checks diners’ temperatures before entry and provides disposable masks to anyone who might arrive without one. Owner Kinson Wong is also the founder of popular Chinatown restaurant R&G Lounge, which means the salt-and-pepper Dungeness crab is widely considered a must-order. Dim sum service features all the classics alongside some more creative renditions, such as the baked lava buns with a crunchy, sugary crust and oozing coffee-flavored filling.
11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5-8:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5-8:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. 4 Embarcadero Center, San Francisco. 415-399-1200 or harborviewsf.com
Nido’s Backyard opened last year as a bigger all-outdoor sister to Oakland favorite Nido, with a focus on mezcal and family-style Mexican eats. With social-distancing measures in place and the removal of a kids’ play area, the restaurant now seats 160 people across 10,000 square feet. All tables are at least 7 feet apart, and customers can order and pay for their meals on their phones if they want to reduce contact with staff at the otherwise full-service restaurant. Located near the Jack London Square waterfront, it’s a sunny, laid-back place to share an enormous platter of carnitas, ribs, chicharron, pickled vegetables, salsa verde, rice, beans and freshly made tortillas.
11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Sunday. 104 Oak St., Oakland. 510-500-9757 or backyardoakland.com
Despite opening in the middle of the pandemic, Oakland’s Pomella quickly grew a following thanks to its light Israeli eats and the strong reputation of chef-owner Mica Talmor, who previously operated a similar restaurant called Ba-Bite. At Pomella, the hummus is creamy, the falafel is stuffed with cheese and the service is minimal: Line up to order — or preorder online — and then wait for your food, packaged up for takeout regardless of whether you’re staying to eat. Then, find a table on either Pomella’s ground-floor patio or the spacious second-story patio shared with neighboring restaurant Doña. Together, the patios can seat 80 people. On busy days, the ground-floor patio can draw a crowd waiting for their takeout. Instead, walk upstairs, where there’s ample space between tables and a greater sense of privacy. Either way, don’t miss Talmor’s seasonal, never-too-sweet desserts.
11 a.m.-8 p.m. daily. 3770 Piedmont Ave., Unit B, Oakland. 510-250-9215 or pomellaoakland.com
Casual mini chain Pacific Catch, which was born in San Francisco 17 years ago with a focus on sustainable seafood, recently unveiled what might be the biggest parklet-like structure in the city. The 1,500-square-foot outdoor dining room can fit 80 diners on the restaurant’s Inner Sunset parking lot, with semi-private booths divided by plexiglass and surrounded by bamboo walls, leafy palms and string lights to create a tropical experience. It’s a fitting environment to order from the restaurant’s new island-theme menu, which features tiki cocktails and pupu platters brimming with crispy coconut shrimp, ahi poke and Korean ribs. And, unlike some elevated outdoor dining structures, it also meets requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
11 a.m.- 8 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday-Saturday. 1200 Ninth Ave., San Francisco. 415-504-6905 or pacificcatch.com
Chef Anthony Salguero created a destination-worthy Salvadoran pop-up last year with Popoca, where crispy-soft pupusas feature fresh masa, and even the seemingly simple side of black beans carries smoke from the wood-fired grill. But the location — a beer garden that’s part of the Oakland vintage car dealership Classic Cars West — is also a draw, especially during the pandemic. The 80-seat patio is roomy, casual and funky, with a colorful mural, succulents galore and tables often spaced more than 6 feet apart. Customers walk through the car dealership to access Popoca and leave through the beer garden — this one-way traffic setup was created to reduce people crossing paths with each other. Otherwise, service is at the counter, which also helps keep contact with staff to a minimum.
5:30-9 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday. 411 26th St., Oakland. 510-457-1724 or popocaoakland.com
The Vault Garden
Financial District power-lunch spot the Vault made a splash when it opened a patio for outdoor dining during the pandemic. The effort was so enormous that the Vault actually billed it as an entirely new restaurant: The Vault Garden. Unlike most restaurants with enclosed patios, the Vault Garden doesn’t require diners to step indoors at all — well, unless they need to use a restroom — with the host stand, bar and 100 seats all outside. The tables are well over 6 feet apart and flanked by heaters and greenery for a sophisticated garden party vibe. Thoughtful touches abound at the full-service restaurant, such as QR code menus for touchless ordering and single-use blankets for chilly nights. The food comes from chef Robin Song, who serves up simple American fare like fried chicken sandwiches and dry-aged steak as well as some fun Asian-inflected dishes like baked clams with umami-packed XO sauce.
4-9 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday, noon-10:30 p.m. Thursday-Friday, 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday. 555 California St., San Francisco. 415-508-4675 or thevault555.com