SFGuide

The Best SF Restaurants For A Birthday Dinner

19 places to ring in another trip around the sun.

The Best SF Restaurants For A Birthday Dinner guide image

photo credit: Erin Ng

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 19 great places for a birthday dinner in San Francisco.

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Erin Ng

San Ho Won review image
9.0

San Ho Won

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. But once you get past all that, the unmarked Korean restaurant in the Mission will make you feel special, like you’ve made it into a secret club. More specifically, one serving sizzling tteokbokki, roasted-to-order cornish hens, and galbi so gorgeous you’ll never look at beef the same way again. Slide into a booth with friends and share everything while you toast to another year with roasted barley tea and soju.

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 are dressed in tropical shirts. 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 are a trio of perfection, the panang neua short ribs fall off the bone, and the papaya salad has a spicy kick. This Mission spot is fantastic, so coming here if you want to have a great time is always a good idea.

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 outdoor-only 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.

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 orange wine from a list that’s scrawled on chalkboards, and talking to your date at the charming wooden 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.

photo credit: Susie Lacocque

Red Window review image
8.2

Red Window

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Red Window is a Spanish restaurant in North Beach that we're always excited to come back to, thanks to fantastic tapas and low-proof cocktails, spritzes, and sangrias. So celebrate turning [REDACTED] by ordering as many golden-brown croquetas, mushroom skewers, jamón Ibérico, and crispy patatas bravas as will fit on your table. The two colorful parklets, lively music playing in the background, and laid-back energy will make you want to celebrate awhile.

The Chinese American restaurant in Chinatown has a gorgeous dining room with golden chandeliers and floor-to-ceiling windows, and it’s exactly where we want to be when we’re being showered with compliments by our closest friends. The menu has smaller dim sum-style dishes, as well as bigger entrées—and you should order a bit of everything and enjoy it all with their incredible cocktails. We like the sea urchin cheong fun, beet-chard-pork potstickers, and whole roasted duck with peanut butter hoisin.

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 pineapple and pea leaf chow fun 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. There’s refreshing crying tiger shrimp, short ribs with a chili-misoyaki marinade, and adobo-glazed chicken wings stuffed with garlic rice. 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.

Loló imageoverride image
8.1

Loló

$$$$415-643-5656
Hours:FRI
11:30AM-4:30PM5:30PM-1AM

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.

This Lower Haight omakase spot from a Kusakabe alum only has six seats, so a meal at the sushi counter ($175 per person) is definitely something to reserve for an intimate birthday dinner. Throughout the experience, Chef Ken will hand you perfect otoro nigiri over the bar while describing exactly where it came from, place a peeled, quartered tomato in dashi broth with care, and present a bowl of soy-cured ikura in ume, sugar, and water to you like it’s a gift you didn’t know you needed. 

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 maybe some 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 crushed peas and doused in an 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.

It’s hard to replicate an experience that brings as much thrill and wonder as a surprise birthday party (if you’re into that), but dinner at Rich Table might come pretty damn close. The Hayes Valley spot is a rare place that manages to surprise us every time we visit thanks to creative dishes, like sardine potato chips with a whole sardine slotted through the middle, porcini doughnuts, bread infused with actual Douglas fir, and aged duck confit with fattoush and sumac.

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.

We love heading to this Korean restaurant in the Inner Sunset and enjoying barbecue and carafes of soju or beer towers on their heated backyard patio while the smell of barbecued meat wafts through the air. Standout dishes at Um.ma include the juicy, tender gochujang-glazed pork belly barbecue, the crispy seafood pancake, and chicken wings well-coated in sticky sauces and spices.

If your idea of the perfect birthday involves a spread of shareable small plates, make a reservation at this Fillmore spot—right now. Done? Now get excited about a meal that’s a thrill from start to finish—from the smoked trout dip to the pork belly salad to the titular state bird atop jammy onions. Capping it all off with a glass of “World Peace” peanut milk, a.k.a. Reese’s Pieces in liquid form, is non-negotiable. 

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