Where To Eat Alone In SF
Eating alone? Here are the best places in SF to do it.
There are two types of people in this world: those who like to eat alone, and those who don’t know what they’re missing. Dining out by yourself is, simply put, the best. You can order whatever you want, fill out the crossword in peace, or spend the entire meal staring into space and feeling existential. So next time you’re looking for a great place to dine solo, use this guide—it has spots with everything from spaghetti and meatballs to iconic burgers and hand rolls.
photo credit: Melissa Zink
Omakase spots are ideal for dining alone. You just sit at the bar and receive fantastic seafood over the counter. Which is why you should head to Handroll Project, an omakase-style spot in the Mission specializing in flawless temaki. There are just 14 seats (all at the bar), and you’ll be in and out in under 45 minutes—an ideal amount of time to sit with your thoughts, ponder whether or not you were a dog or cat person in a past life, and eat hand rolls generously filled with miso aioli-coated scallops, spicy tuna and crispy shallots, and ikura with shaved monkfish liver pâté showered on top.
photo credit: Julia Chen
There’s no better place to listen to your favorite true crime podcast and/or dissect the highs and lows of your week than while waiting in the line at Mensho. The Tenderloin ramen spot always has a wait, since their chicken-based broth and perfectly chewy noodles are legendary. Once you’re finally in, a bowl of creamy tori paitan ramen with melty chashu or spicy lamb will land in front of you faster than you can say “creamy tori paitan ramen.” They run a very efficient operation here, so you’ll be in and out pretty quickly.
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Looking for a martini-drenched meal in a place that looks like it’s been around since the Gold Rush? All signs point to Tadich. This place in FiDi isn’t just the oldest continuously running restaurant in San Francisco, it’s the oldest restaurant in California—and the long, wooden bar and art deco interior certainly reflect that. But the ambiance of this old-school spot is what makes it easy to surround yourself with some crab cakes or oysters Rockefeller, and small talk about the unseasonably warm weather at the bar with one of the servers in white coats.
photo credit: La Mar
La Mar is big, loud, lively, and has multiple dining areas—all things that will work in your favor if you’re looking to dine under the radar. This upscale-ish Peruvian restaurant on Embarcadero has two bars, a cavernous, sun-lit main dining room, and a patio overlooking some boats. You’ll be able to blend in wherever you end up sitting, because it’ll likely be packed with groups and couples having a fun time and attentive servers zipping around the rooms. What all this means for you is you can enjoy pisco sours, juicy lomo saltado, crispy empanadas, and pork shanks slow cooked in ají panca in peace.
photo credit: Carly Hackbarth
It’s always easy to snag a table at this Nepali small plates spot in Lower Nob Hill, which is a major plus when planning a solo meal. Another is getting a steaming plate of their juicy pork momos all to yourself. You should also hone in on the zingy chatpate, a street food dish full of texture from the instant noodles and puffed rice. The multi-level dining room works for settling into a corner with a book and end-of-week oyster and soju cocktail Happy Hour.
photo credit: Susie Lacocque
Quick service, large crowds, and dumplings that arrive at the table fast make many of the city’s best dim sum spots perfect for eating alone. One spot we especially love is Dumpling Kitchen in the Sunset. This casual place is small, with just several large round tables in the middle of the dining room and spots along the periphery ideal for couples and solo diners. There will be a wait, but parties of two or less are usually seated quickly. When it’s your turn to order, get the siu mai overflowing with pork and shrimp, the meaty xiao long bao, and crispy bottomed pan-fried pork buns.
photo credit: Stephanie Court
Besharam is in the Dogpatch, an inherently chill neighborhood where dining out never feels like being sucked into a loud scene-scene. One spot that falls into this “inherently chill and incredible” category—and is also one of the city’s best restaurants—is Besharam. The Indian restaurant does amazing things with heat and flavors, like fire-charred eggplant, spicy house-made chutneys and pickles, and creamy coconut stews. They also have a spacious bar, a really cool, colorful mural to admire, and an open kitchen where you can watch all the action.
Cinderella Bakery & Café
Come to Cinderella Bakery & Café midday to shake up your leftovers for lunch routine, or escape your roommate who always wants to go halfsies on a Sweetgreen delivery order. This Russian spot in the Richmond has ample seating out on their parklet, plus a few sidewalk tables that are perfect for getting into bowls of plump pelmeni, piroshki, and fantastic honey layer cake slices. If there’s a lunch line (there will likely be a lunch line), it moves fast and the food comes out quick—just walk up to the counter to order.
photo credit: Sarah Felker
After chaotic mornings when you have non-stop calls and the dog next door won’t stop barking, the best way to reset is a quiet moment alone at this Japanese cafe in SoMa. The space itself is pretty simple: there are seats at the bar, a few tables by the big windows, and lots of plants hanging. They’re all great spots to escape and hang out with one of the city’s best chicken katsu sandwiches with perfectly squishy milk bread. Cafe Okawari also makes fantastic Japanese curry, and serves beer and sake.
If you come to this Japanese restaurant in the Inner Sunset with a group during the lunch or dinner rush, there’s always a wait. But if you come solo, you’ll most likely get ushered straight to a seat at the long sushi counter and get to order quick. Stick to any of the special rolls—like the aioli and maui onion-topped Behind The Green Door—and pay extra attention to the specials on the board, like half-shell oysters. This place gets loud and crowded (the bar seating is slightly less chaotic), and feels a bit fancy thanks to a sleek wooden ceiling, but that’s why we love it.
photo credit: Erin Ng
If you want to romanticize your life in one of the prettiest dining rooms in SF, head to this upscale Vietnamese restaurant in the Richmond. A deep red banquette wraps around one side of the dining room, and there are intricate wood carvings on the ceiling and a mural of an ancient Chinese scroll on the wall. Get there to dig into bun cha or a whole fried fish over kimchi and saucy pineapple chow fun and fantasize about abandoning all your responsibilities to WWOOF. You should also complete the meal with a Vietnamese coffee topped with salted duck egg foam, even if finishing the whole thing alone means you’ll be wide awake until 3am.
photo credit: Emma Shepler
It’s been a long day of deciphering whether your coworkers were being passive-aggressive to you on Slack or if that’s just how they type. Sounds like you’re in the market for pasta, wine, and serious alone time. Pearl 6101 in the Richmond (and their bar) is here for you. Bar seats are reserved for walk-ins, so you can just drop in, get cozy over a plate of handkerchief pasta with white bolognese, and eavesdrop on first dates from your perch.
photo credit: Sarah Felker
Chez Maman West
This French bistro in Hayes Valley serves the hearty, butter-heavy comfort food you want when your social battery gets depleted after a week of going into the office. Soothe yourself with still-steaming mussels, and french onion soup loaded with what could be half a wheel of gruyere. Another perk of coming alone is that you won’t have to wait for a table—the always-packed restaurant has a bar that usually has seats available.
photo credit: Sarah Felker
At this casual Vietnamese spot, no one will bother you when you get cozy at a corner table with a massive bowl of phở. They have a steady takeout operation going on here, meaning there are usually plenty of tables available and no lines—so get to this SoMa spot to chill in peace. You're also here for their beef and chicken-based broths, which are always perfectly spiced and light. They're just what you want to have in front of you when you want to finally start the book that’s been sitting on your desk for months.