Maybe you’re taking the day off because your aunt’s in town and mandates that you serve as her personal tour guide. Maybe it’s a national holiday or you just decided to take full advantage of your unlimited PTO. Maybe you got fired. Whatever the reason, when you have a day off, you need to take full advantage of the situation. Which means having a serious lunch. It’s an ideal way to get to those places you’ve had on your list, while spending less money and actually being able to get a table at a regular time that humans eat.
So next time your lunch hour is more than an hour, here’s where to go.
Days off are for doing slightly irresponsible things you wouldn’t do in an office setting. That can include sitting out in Dolores Park for several hours with no sunscreen, or (our preference) ordering a paella that serves two to four people for yourself. The best place to do so is Bellota, the excellent Spanish restaurant located in the Airbnb building. Their lunch menu is a little smaller than the dinner one, but has all the highlights (including that paella), plus a fantastic lamb burger.
You forgot your in-laws arrive Friday, and have therefore failed to grant their one request: a dinner reservation at Zuni. Salvage your relationship and humor their declaration of themselves as the “foodies” of their friendship group with lunch instead. The chicken is still available, the burger is great, and the light inside is beautiful. We actually like lunch here better than dinner - and they probably will too.
Perhaps you have a deep fear of commitment and a seven-course tasting menu would be six steps too far. But you also want to eat the high-end French-ish food at Petit Crenn. This is where the a la carte lunch comes in and saves the day. You can head into this Hayes spot on a weekday and take your pick of the menu without being told how much and what to eat. Having said that, we’ll tell you that the oysters and tartines (especially the smoked trout) should be on your table, as should the omelet. You might still end up eating seven courses, but at least it was on your own terms.
Spruce is a legendary restaurant, mainly because the burger is perfect and the ambience makes you feel like you’re someone who can afford a home (or rental parking space) in Presidio Terrace. With that in mind, it’s very hard to get into at night, but the fancy American spot does lunch just as well as dinner. Their incredible burger is on the menu, as is a flawless, simple omelet and an avocado toast that involves lobster because f*ck it you’re never going to buy a house anyways.
Depending on where you live, it can be easy to forget that San Francisco is surrounded by water on three sides. Coqueta, a very good tapas place right on the Embarcadero, is a place to view said water and also eat an ungodly amount of cured meats. Don’t skip the octopus, do skip the salmon sandwich unless you find it normal to eat lox on a bagel at a tapas place. And then pretend you’re actually in Spain and go home for a siesta.
It’s your day, so wine at lunch doesn’t have to be a sign of drinking problem. In fact, it will be celebrated. A16, along with having excellent wine, does a $26 three-course lunch-only tasting menu with their stellar meatballs and burrata as options. Sadly, the tasting menu offers no pizza, so if that’s on your wish list you’ll need to go a la carte. Lunch means you won’t need to linger awkwardly at the bar waiting for a table, and on a sunny day you can grab one of the two sidewalk tables - better for observing the latest in VC vest styles sported by the local population.
Attempting brunch at Outerlands is an exercise in patience, and there are only so many times you can poke around in the overpriced boutique down the street that sells $80 used sweatshirts. Weekday lunch, on the other hand, is a breeze. They have brunch foods available all day, every day - a thing that is both rare and necessary when you’re home “sick” because one beer last night turned into ten. Maybe you start with a doughnut and end with a grilled cheese. You don’t have to work, and you’re an adult who is allowed to eat like a third-grader. Take advantage of it.
You have an entire day with no obligations. You could bake cookies, go to Alcatraz, watch 13 Going On 30, and/or sign up for and then immediately cancel a hot yoga class. The world is your oyster, so check the weather in Sausalito, and pending sunshine, drive immediately to Fish. Live on the edge, you could even take the ferry. The line at this mostly outdoor seafood spot right in the marina is ludicrous on the weekend, but on a weekday it’s much less crowded. Get a pitcher of beer and some fish tacos and post up at the outdoor tables for a leisurely lunch.
This North Beach/Fidi Italian place is an institution, mainly because the pastas are great and the small plates and appetizers are best-in-class as well. The light is great during the day, so you can easily document your meal and make everyone jealous that you’re eating carbs and not at work. Life is grand, and you didn’t even need to make a reservation.
Because you have a day off, you have enough time to sample all the various parts of Tartine Manufactory. And because it’s a workday, you don’t have to line up behind half the population of the Mission to do so. The very pretty space serves excellent lunch foods, soft serve ice cream, pastries, and a coffee bar for good measure. Start with a sandwich and throw in the little gem salad in for some greenery, before grabbing a loaf of bread and some pastries to go. And then consider never going back to work and making this an everyday thing.
There are two Nopalitos, both of which serve lunch, so depending on your location (Nopa or Richmond) keep either in mind for a sit-down meal involving margaritas before 5pm. Besides excellent tortas, carnitas, and fish tacos, the lunch menu has great chilaquiles and and a poached eggs dish that’s awesome. Maybe this is actually brunch on your day off, because bloody marys are also an option.