The Best SF Restaurants For A Birthday Dinner17 places to ring in another trip around the sun.
So you have a birthday coming up. And theoretically, celebrating said birthday should be fun and easy. But figuring out where to go—while coordinating the schedules of people from approximately seven different friend groups—can get a little stressful. That’s where we come in.
While we can’t really help with the scheduling, we can provide some options for your celebratory dinner. These are places with enough space to accommodate a group, enough ambiance to feel like a party, and enough drinks to make you forget about the inexorable march of time. It sounds like a simple formula, but trust us, it’s not always easy to crack. So rifle through your closet, grab your b-day crown, and pat yourself on the back for being great. Here are 17 great places for a birthday dinner in San Francisco.
Getting a table at San Ho Won requires month-out planning—or waiting an hour in line before they open for one of the few walk-up spots. Once inside the unmarked Korean restaurant in the Mission, you'll feel like you’ve landed in a secret club. More specifically, one serving sizzling tteokbokki, fluffy egg soufflé, and galbi that's so gorgeous you’ll never look at beef the same way again. Slide into a booth with friends and share everything while you toast with roasted barley tea and soju to another year.
This Vietnamese institution in the Sunset is packed nightly with groups of friends and families in plastic bibs raising a toast with lychee martinis and waving around crab leg crackers like sparklers. Safe to say, Thanh Long is a seafood party. Pepper-coated whole roasted crabs are the centerpiece on every table, as are bowls of buttery garlic noodles that we would gladly accept in place of presents any day. Spending an evening at this spot with butter-covered fingers is a rite of passage for anyone in the city, and one you should absolutely experience for your special day.
Farmhouse Thai is a celebration restaurant in every sense of the word. There are colorful streamers and floral motifs everywhere. Music videos play on TV screens, and servers dressed in tropical shirts clang cymbals and sing happy birthday to someone approximately every seven minutes. But none of that takes away from the food, which is something to raise a glass to in itself. The hat yai fried chicken with roti, yellow curry, and blue rice is a trio of perfection, the panang neua short ribs fall off the bone, and the papaya salad has a spicy kick.
Our love for Bodega SF runs deep—the fancy Northern Vietnamese dishes are phenomenal, and there are endless ways to celebrate in this funky, stylish space. Assuming your birthday entourage is willing to throw down in your honor, go in on the $88 tasting menu. It showcases Bodega’s heavy hitters, like the raw filet mignon soaking in fish sauce and lime juice, and rice rolls stuffed with mushrooms and ground pork. Just make sure a refreshing yuzu or calamansi cocktail is on the table. The after party is downstairs at The Felix, their speakeasy-inspired bar with DJs, sexy red lights, and Asian-influenced drinks.
We keep some restaurants in our back pocket because they’re perfect for every scenario, from dates to big group dinners to whenever we're dining with people in town for the first time. Prubechu is one of them. The Guamanian spot in the Mission has a huge patio that feels like a chill backyard with floral tablecloths and a great playlist. Come here and share the creamy tinaktak with handmade egg noodles and coconut beef, tender wings, Chamorro BBQ, and fluffy banana donuts.
Planning an all-out birthday bash and looking for a spot that's as colorful as confetti-filled balloons? Funky Elephant in the Mission the answer. This Thai gem is a flavor-packed party on a plate. Start with the aptly named party wings, tossed with spicy housemade chili jam, and sit back and celebrate in the best way possible: with pink lights and a disco ball, actually spicy food, and more than a few glasses of natural wine to make you forget you’re another year older. The mains, like the shrimp-packed pad thai and the red motherland curry full of rock cod, are a celebration in themselves—full of acid, spice, and everything nice. Wearing your best dinner disco clothes is optional—lagging on getting here is not.
So your birthday came around and no one actually remembered to make a reservation. Don’t panic. Just head to Dumpling Home and add your name to the list. The walk-in-only spot in Hayes Valley has plenty of tables on their parklet and inside. While there might be a wait, it’ll be worth it once you sit down to crispy shengjianbao, flaky green onion pancakes, and as many steamers of xiao long bao as will fit on your table.
At Mijoté, you’ll forget you’re at a restaurant and feel more like you’re at an impromptu dinner party at a friend’s house, especially when the four courses of French dishes arrive like gorgeous little gifts. You’ll see everything from scallops stacked with nectarine slices and edible flowers to roasted chicken drenched in elderberry jus on the daily-changing menu. They’re what you want to eat while sipping on some wine from a list that’s scrawled on chalkboards, and talking to your date at the charming bar about the highs and lows of the last 12 months. No two meals at this Mission spot are ever the same, which is another reason to consider this spot for all future birthdays.
You want a birthday destination that’s casual, not boring, and fun without being, like, too fun (last year’s humiliating karaoke video receipts never die). Shabu Club it is. The Japanese shabu spot in the Richmond is great for groups, and all-you-can-eat pork, lamb, and beef is the best gift you can give yourself. Pack in around a vat of bubbling spicy miso soup, show off your meat-twirling skills—and save room for the free red bean or matcha ice cream they pass out at the end of dinner. Oh, and, you get one free AYCE dinner if you come with more than six people on your birthday.
Every dish at this upscale Vietnamese restaurant in the Richmond feels special, from the intricate presentation to the complexities of the sweet and savory flavors. The edible flower-topped shaking beef salad comes with a poached egg, and the whole-fried red snapper arrives resting on stir-fried pineapple rice cakes and house-made kimchi. Prepare to order everything on the menu, so come here with your birthday crew and try as many things as possible.
The bright space at Liholiho Yacht Club’s sister restaurant in the Mission feels like a celebration—you’ll hear glasses clinking across the room, and everyone just generally seems to be in a great mood. Thank the excellent dishes on the menu, which have a range of Asian influences and change often. Expect things like refreshing crying tiger shrimp, short ribs with a chili-misoyaki marinade, and chicken wings stuffed with chicken egg rolls. It's all fantastic, and you should definitely enjoy everything on their colorful rooftop patio.
Pearl 6101 in the Richmond feels like a cozy neighborhood bar crossed with the plant and light-filled apartment we wish we had. This place always makes us feel at home whenever we settle in for the night with some cocktails and a bunch of small plates for everyone to share—like the halibut crudo with strawberry and nuoc cham, roasted cauliflower with black tahini hummus, and the must-order handkerchief pasta with white bolognese.
Having a fun night at Loló is like trying to spot a Goldendoodle at one of the city's many dog parks: guaranteed. A buzzy atmosphere and excellent cocktails are givens, and sharing panko-crusted shrimp tacos on jicama tortillas or puffy empanadas with your favorite people is always a solid choice. And, if your birthday happens to fall on a Monday when many of our favorite restaurants in town are closed, Loló is open, and here for you.
A trip to the Arab spot in the Castro for your birthday is one of the best presents you could give to yourself. Digging into the whole-fried branzino topped with a refreshing mint and onion salad releases incalculable levels of serotonin to our brains, and we always leave wanting to eat their excellent mezze platter with hummus, lebna, muhammara, and baba ghanouj every day for the rest of our lives. Go all in on a big spread, and don’t forget the puffy, za’atar and sumac-covered bread, and garlicky chicken shish tawook.
Whether you’re doing a birthday dinner with just a few people or gathering a big group with everyone from your childhood best friend to your coworker, Foreign Cinema is always a great bet. To get there, walk down the red carpet and emerge into a beautiful courtyard with twinkling string lights and a movie playing in the background. Then, kick back on the relaxed patio with wine, oysters, and something else from their frequently rotating menu, like beef carpaccio, smoked salmon, or ceviche.
Besharam in Dogpatch has an entirely-vegetarian menu packed with incredible dishes that are meant to be shared, from the blue cheese-stuffed paratha and fiery charred eggplant stew to the drunken pani puri (semolina puffs filled with herby lemon-tamarind-mint-and gin water). The subtle combinations of sweet, sour, and spicy flavors in each dish are cause for even more celebration. Make sure your birthday meal is accompanied by one of their house-made chutneys and pickles.
A meal at House of Prime Rib is controlled chaos—and that’s what makes dinner at this meat-centric place so fun. Servers push around giant carts full of prime rib and prepare salads tableside. Your waiter will plop massive spoonfuls of bacon bits and sour cream onto your baked potato at lightning speed, and constantly make sure your martini glass is full. Add giant bottles of wine and an old-school vibe, and you have a stimulating, borderline ridiculous experience you need to have for a birthday dinner at least once.