As much as you love your coworkers, there’s just something deeply unsatisfying about Zoom Happy Hours. Maybe it’s because you still have other windows running in the background full of unfinished projects and deadline reminders. Or maybe, just maybe - after a year of ceaseless meetings, family events, and celebrations on the almighty video calling app, you’re just exhausted from all the time spent on Zoom. We know we are.
We’ve gathered these San Francisco restaurants and bars that will make meeting up with coworkers easy. You’ll want someplace where it’s reasonably easy to get a table (or at least possible), and a space that’s unstuffy and not too romantic. That includes a cozy sandwich spot in the Sunset and a casual brewery with a massive patio where you can let all of your 9-5 worries fade faster than your memories of that viral lawyer cat video.
The time has finally come to reveal your true self (pour one out for all those quirky Zoom backgrounds) and meet your coworkers in real life - and for some of you... for the first time since the pandemic. One great option for consistently reliable food, quick and easy service, and tons of indoor and outdoor seating (you can easily drop in without a reservation) is Burma Love. The Burmese restaurant in SoMa’s Mint Plaza hails from the Burma Superstar family, so you already know you need to order the tea leaf salad, platha with yellow curry sauce, and ohn no khao swe.
Next time you’d rather get a root canal than schedule another Zoom lunch with a coworker, gently suggest that you meet up at Palm City instead. The sandwich and wine shop in the Outer Sunset recently started offering dine-in, so now you can sit inside their bright space and enjoy massive hoagies stuffed with mortadella or garlic roasted pork. They also have canned beer and a pretty impressive wine list.
We head to this Italian restaurant for a variety of occasions - most often date night or a first stop for food and drinks before bar hopping in the Mission. But also, hangout sessions with coworkers who also happen to have a ton of energy - this spot gets louder than a BTS concert, and is, for lack of a better phrase, a scene (great small plates and cocktails will do that to a place). But we don’t mind. Chill at the bar or find a table out on the sidewalk patio. We tend to skip the pizzas (they’re solid but not great-great) and instead opt to share the salads, burrata with walnut bread, and any of the excellent pastas.
A massive space in Mission Bay with tons of seating and standing room? Check. Plenty of beers on tap, including several that are actually brewed in-house? Yup. A menu by two former Noosh chefs, like tacos on paratha bread, Mission-style hot dogs, and fries with a creamy umami dipping sauce? Well, you already know the answer. If you’ve learned anything from reading this, it’s that New Belgium Brewery absolutely fits the bill if you’re looking to organize a casual, beer-centric catchup with coworkers. And if the night happens to coincide with a Giants game, even better - they show sports on the big TV screens, and it’s right across the street from Oracle Park.
If you’re looking for the perfect dinner spot that has great food and 2000s-block-party energy (yes, you will probably hear a long-forgotten Avril Lavigne or Ryan Cabrera song playing in the background), book a backyard picnic table at um.ma for an after work hang. The Korean restaurant in the Inner Sunset has tabletop grills where you can cook kalbi or bulgogi by the pound, bubbly soondubu, and an incredible seafood pancake with crab, scallop, and shrimp. Pair it all with an ice-cold beer tower and you’re set.
You have plenty of options for meet-up spots if you’re in the Financial District, but one we particularly like is Wayfare Tavern. This upscale spot looks like a public house from the 1900s with brick walls, framed still life paintings, floral runners, and mounted deer heads. It’s a stately backdrop that’s ultimately one well-suited for weekday power lunches or intimate meals involving buttermilk-brined fried chicken, deviled eggs, juicy burgers, and, maybe, some pent-up office gossip.
Palette Tea House is an ideal place for groups, with its sprawling patio, easily shareable dim sum, and fantastic Cantonese dishes. So if you’re in charge of picking a spot for your first team dinner in a year and a half, the Ghirardelli Square restaurant is a great bet. Come here and share a bunch of dishes, but don’t skip their colorful xiao long bao sampler, har gow, and black swan taro puffs.
Instead of going to a spot where you’ll have to strain to hear your coworker recount months of work-related drama, go someplace quiet, like the back patio at Del Popolo in Nob Hill. The backyard garden at this pizza spot has a few small tables on a cozy wooden deck, and picnic tables if you come with a bigger group. Split a few of their excellent wood-fired pizzas with chewy, bubbly crusts, and small plates like cider-braised bacon or crispy shishito peppers.
One of the newer places we’ve been heading to quite frequently over the last few months is Lost Resort. Consider this Mission bar a cool, laid-back, works-for-anything spot (including a coworker meetup). They have tons of sidewalk seating and a separate patio covered by a huge sail. The cocktails are excellent and the food options are incredible, like the savory mochiko chicken bites, the lightly-battered fish and chips, and a rich, thick mac and cheese with corn fundido. In other words, you can’t go wrong here.
Kona's Street Market
Kona’s Street Market is a new-ish SoMa bar from the people behind Pacific Cocktail Haven, and is an excellent option if you want to discuss things like “do you think we’ll ever go back into the office?” in a casual environment with lots of drinks on hand. Their cocktail menu is split into different global regions, highlighting ingredients and spirits from each one. We’re partial to the Hard To Say Dubai (made with bourbon, apple brandy, amaro, prickly pear, absinthe, bitters, and citrus), but chances are high that everyone will end up with something they like. They have a couple of food items available, like hand pies or hummus, but don’t come expecting to eat a full meal.
La Mar is one of the pricier spots on this list - so if you’re going out with, say, your boss (and more importantly, their corporate card), convince them to book a table here. The Peruvian seafood restaurant on the Embarcadero is located right on the water, so you get really nice bay views that go well with fantastic, super-fresh cebiches and nigiris. You can order a la carte, or opt for the $72 per person tasting menu, which comes with four courses, including cebiche, the grilled catch of the day, and dessert.
This Arabic comfort food spot in the Castro was practically built for the art of the IRL Coworker Hang. It’s got family-style plates big enough to share between a few people, and plenty of vegetarian options. But the best part of all: Beit Rima serves phenomenal, flavorful food you’ll be Slacking about for days to come. Everything on the menu is worth your time, but the mezze platter, hand-kneaded, za’atar-dusted bread, and whole fried branzino should definitely be on the table.
Mezcalito in Russian Hill is the kind of spot to catch up with friends, mourn a break up, or blow off steam after a long, taxing week. And let’s make one thing clear - you’re coming to this bar with your coworkers-in-crime more for the strong cocktails and Happy Hour deals than you are for a full sit-down meal. And if you must, you’ve got good options: the tacos and tostadas are solid, and the burger is very good. In a pinch, this place will get the job done.
*NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Open to legal residents of the 50 US/DC, 18+ who are authorized representatives of an eligible business. Ends at 11:59:00 pm ET on 9/29/21. Prize: $2,000 gift card awarded to the winning business to bond with your team over a delicious meal at an Infatuation-approved restaurant. SUBJECT TO RULES. See rules for business eligibility and odds. Void where prohibited. Sponsor: The Infatuation Inc., 424 Broadway, 5th Fl, New York, NY 10013.