Maybe you’ve already had a stranger deliver Beretta three times this week. Maybe you need to sit in silence and not talk about chatbots and the future of VR for at least an hour. Maybe you’re just really hungry and would rather catch up on your Twitter feed than speak to another human. Whatever the reason, there comes a time for dining solo in every person’s life - and we think those times can actually be pretty great.
There are a few criteria that make restaurants ideal for dining solo, and the places on this list satisfy all of them. One, they must have bar (or communal) seating. Two, they must be places where you’ll feel totally comfortable by yourself - that usually means a casual, friendly environment. Finally, they must serve food suitable for one person. Burgers, ramen, tacos, maybe even a big salad? Yes. A bunch of small plates? Not so much.
The bar at Comstock is a nearly perfect place for solo dining, especially if you’re in the mood for a cocktail, too. There’s often a jazz band playing, giving the old-fashioned space a lively feel. Most mains, like the burger and the cacio e pepe, are well suited for one person, and sitting at the bar alone also gives you the opportunity to eavesdrop and learn more about which drink to order next (that gin Martinez sounds good).
If you work in the FiDi or SoMa but live somewhere else, and you either have time to kill or are too hungry to wait and have dinner when you get home, a bowl of ramen at one of Ippudo’s communal tables is a great option. There’s typically a wait, but it’ll be shorter for one, and service is quick, so you can be in and out without too much hassle. If you’re starving, add a small plate like the chicken buns.
This new Italian spot is excellent, and that’s not exactly a secret, so it can be hard to get in. But the bar, window seats, and communal table are reserved for walk-ins, and if you show up around 5:15pm (it opens at 5:30), you should be seated quickly. It’s not mentioned on the menu, but you can order any of the pastas in half portions, so take this opportunity to try more than one. Pair your pastas with as many rice balls as you want to order and a glass of wine, and you’ll be set for the night.
Sometimes dinner alone is an excuse to get a little bit fancy and still keep the price under control. Other times, you just want to eat some comfort food. Cocotte, a tiny spot in Russian Hill, checks both of those boxes. Grab a seat at the bar and enjoy French classics like coq au vin while you listen to the restaurant’s soundtrack of Sam Cooke and The Crystals. You’ll sit there and wonder why you don’t do this more often.
Wander deep into the Mission to find where all the Munis are stored, and you’ll stumble upon The Morris. This modern American spot has the feel of a laidback neighborhood place, but is really more of a destination restaurant in disguise. It has a bunch of bar seats in the back, so grab one of those and settle down with some smaller plates or a full entree. You can order the foie gras dumplings individually, so see if you have the self-control to stop at one.
You’re wandering the barren wasteland of Union Square and its surrounding environs and suddenly you see a shining oasis. Sure, it’s attached to a hotel, but there’s a bar and there’s focaccia and pasta, too. This is Tratto, and it’s ideal for grabbing a quick dinner at the bar. The pappardelle is our go-to, but almost everything here is perfectly acceptable, especially for Union Square. Save room for the donuts.
While the Marina location is made for people-watching, the downtown Delarosa is perfect for eating excellent pasta and panini by yourself. You shouldn’t have a problem getting a spot at the bar, which is important because the cocktails are fantastic and you’re going to want at least one. The burrata bruschetta is one of our favorite things to eat, and coming here alone just means you won’t have to share it.
When was the last time someone asked, “Can I have a bite of your taco?” The answer is probably never, partly because of structural integrity issues, but also because of social norms. Therefore, tacos are the perfect meal for humans dining solo, and Garaje in SoMa has pretty great ones.
If black and white classic movies are more your style (mostly due to the presence of Cary Grant), then Finn Town is your move. The bar seats at this Castro spot involve a front row seat to the TV playing old-school films, and the whole place has an enjoyably low-key atmosphere. The burger is fantastic.
Watching sports alone can be a drag. You have no one to high-five when your team scores or to back you up if you start to fight a Yankees fan and they turn out to be rolling deep. If you’re alone and want to watch some sports on TV but also need to not be at home, Marengo on Union is the best place to do it. The menu is heavy on bar food, but the salads are better than you’d think. The chili is also very good, if you’re looking to get wild.
Pretty much all the seating at 4505 is communal, given that it mostly consists of large outdoor picnic tables. Grab some brisket or their “best damn grass fed cheeseburger” and revel in the fact that you don’t have to share the bark on your brisket with anyone else.
Hit up the Lower Haight location of Iza, order an obscure Japanese beer, and spend some quality time with a bowl of ramen. There can be a wait for bigger groups, but if you’re on your own it’s easy to get a seat and to receive your noodles at lightning speed.
One of our favorite spots in the city, Cotogna is ideal for treating yourself and only yourself. There are a solid number of bar seats at the back that are usually snag-able. Get a bowl of pasta or an entree and some of the house focaccia, and you’re good to go.
What isn’t Souvla perfect for? Bar seats line an entire edge of the restaurant, so order at the counter and then hang out back there. It’s impossible to order incorrectly at any of the locations of this Greek mini-empire, except if you skip the frozen yogurt for dessert. The menu is short - there are salads or sandwiches with a choice of protein and excellent fries you should definitely consider. Maybe put the fries in the salad. You’re on your own and it’s time to live on the edge.
Barzotto is a classy pasta spot with an order-at-the-front, post-up-in-the-back setup (so no awkward “it’s just me” interactions with waitstaff), and the food is exceptional. We love the spaghetti and meatballs, which comes with the longest noodles we’ve ever eaten. Wines by the glass are well-priced ($10 per glass), and the gelato soft serve is ideal for your walk home.
Hit up this carnivore temple near AT&T Park for one of the more decadent burgers in the city and great, meat-heavy pastas. This one isn’t for the health-conscious, but you’re alone with no one else to judge that you just ordered the burger and a pasta.
The mussels, the burger, the cocktails, the living wall - there are many things to like about Maven. Add in the fact that the restaurant has two floors of bar seating, and it’s pretty much a dining solo mecca.
Order at the counter, grab a seat looking out over the street, and pat yourself on the back for eating a meal free of any refined sugars, gluten, trans fats, or really anything wellness bloggers are scared of. We’re big fans of the bibimbap and roast chicken. We keep Little Gem in our lunch rotation as well.
Breakfast, lunch, or dinner, Arlequin is pretty much the perfect casual spot to eat alone. There are bar seats that look out on Hayes Street, and there’s a big back patio where it’s totally acceptable to hang with a book or computer while housing a lamb burger. It’s also attached to a wine shop. Just saying.
Hog Island is a sanctuary in the madness of the Ferry Building. The view is spectacular, and the food matches the looks. You’re here to eat seafood, so get to it - chowder, oysters, and mussels are all ideal for one human, and the versions at Hog Island are among the best. You might be here a while.
Marlowe is known for its burger, and yes, the burger is good. But so are all the entrees. Definitely don’t skip the brussels sprout chips, either. The deep SoMa location is easy to miss, but well-situated for a quick meal near Caltrain or AT&T Park.
Getting a table at Nopalito is usually a bit of an ordeal, but slipping into the bar seats that look over the open kitchen is usually not. The carnitas are nothing short of awesome. This place is pretty casual (it basically shares an entrance with a grocery store), and is also one of our go-tos for weekend lunch.
In North Beach and need a solo meal that won’t end with you getting poked by the selfie stick of the tourist couple sitting next to you? Get yourself to Park Tavern and set up at the bar. The menu is fancy-ish American food, from stellar deviled eggs you can order one by one to an excellent pork chop and beef tartare. If you’re a vegetarian, this is probably not your spot.
This little sushi bar in Hayes is small enough to feel cozy, but big enough for you to position yourself in a corner and fill the surrounding area with rolls. Domo is a relaxed, neighborhood spot that you can hit up whether you’re in gym clothes or work clothes and feel perfectly at ease. It’s well-priced, and pretty damn good. The Saba Hit or Wiki Wiki rolls are always in our order.
This is a Financial District power move. The crowd is businesslike, but the fried chicken and burger are excellent, so you will not care if you get some side-eye for wearing denim.
Grilled cheese is a perfectly respectable thing to eat for dinner as an adult. Union Larder makes theirs in a grown-up size, and also does the wine bar thing in Russian Hill without being snobby about it. And if you don’t feel like returning to your childhood, the menu has salads, charcuterie plates, and a few other solid sandwiches, too.
Causwells is all about the burger. And for good reason - it’s fantastic. The ribs are also a good order. There are a bunch of bar seats inside, but on a nice day, grabbing an outdoor table and watching the humans and animals of Chestnut Street stroll by should provide all the entertainment you need.