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February 12, 2015

The Best Places to Dine Solo in San Francisco

This story is brought to you by the great people over at the Bold Italic. The Bold Italic is an online magazine, shop, and events hub in San Francisco. We celebrate the free-wheeling spirit of the city.

Dining alone has its advantages. Solo dining keeps the tab down — no one talks to you into a $7 bottle of mineral water or sharing an appetizer you don’t really want. There is usually less of a wait for parties of one because you can opt to sit at the bar or at that awkward table in the corner. For the solo traveler or the local hitting the city by the themselves, here are great spots in the city to dine alone. You have plenty of options.

Zuni Cafe (1658 Market St.)
Zuni Cafe is a favorite restaurant to many. The tiny tables just inside the door are ideal for single diners. A dish to order would be a bowl of creamy, perfect polenta with mascarpone and parmesan. The sidewalk tables along Market Street are divine on a sunny afternoon, when it’s mandatory that I have a glass of rosé and a Marin Miyagi oysters. Website

Swan Oyster Depot (1517 Polk St.)
There is always a line at Swan Oyster Depot on Polk Street. Be sure to arrive long before they open at 11 a.m. You will still be confronted with groups of twos, threes, and fours. However, going alone early or late in the afternoon when you can fill in a single spot at the bar is the way to go. Website

Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe (566 Columbus Ave.)
Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe is classic North Beach. The antique mirror and wood-paneled bar is the spot for slow meals with a half-carafe of the house red. The focaccia sandwiches are served open-faced with melted cheese from the oven. Italian American classics like eggplant parm are just how you want them to be, old school and gooey. Eavesdropping on neighborhood characters is free of charge.

The Rotunda (150 Stockton St.)
The Rotunda at Neiman Marcus is a great refueling station when you’re in Union Square. Sometimes you should go for their classic chicken salad, but other times a quick martini away from the shopping and construction noise will do. There is a lounge area, but also check out the small tables that ring the restaurant, offering views that somehow make Union Square seem calm. Website

Chez Maman (1453 18th St. and 401 Gough St.)
Chez Maman has a few locations but the one in Potrero Hill is on point. It’s cozy, seating about 12 people at the counter across from the galley kitchen. This is a place where being alone definitely gets you in faster. You'll never feel rushed and enjoy your coffee or book. Website

Kate's Kitchen (471 Haight St.)
A lazy weekday solo brunch is absolutely legit. Like many of San Francisco’s favorite brunch places, Kate’s can have a long wait on the weekends. You'll want to make any excuse to stop in for the restorative powers of cheddar-bacon pancakes and strong coffee. Website

Michael Mina (252 California St.)
Michael Mina on California Street is one of the most elegant spots in town. At dinnertime, the expansive bar area has its own menu. The cocktails are exquisite. This is the place to take yourself on a date in San Francisco. As a bonus you can hop on a cable car out front. Also check out his other restaurant, Bourbon Steak, in the Westin St. FrancisWebsite

My Father's Kitchen (1655 Divisadero St.)
My Father’s Kitchen is a North Vietnamese style restaurant on Divisadero. One benefit to eating pho alone is you can slurp all you want and not be embarrassed. UCSF Mt. Zion is just up the street so it’s an easy stop-over after a doctor’s appointment. Website

Puerto Alegre (546 Valencia St.)
Puerto Alegre on Valencia has a fun bar for a single diner. It’s definitely a place where groups go to celebrate but if you’re in the mood for guac and a margarita, you’re probably not going to mind. The soups are the surprising standout on the menu. If it’s baseball season there is a lively contingent of Giants fan regulars who will likely rope you into their conversations. Website

The Boxing Room (399 Grove St.)
If you get a mean hankering for fried chicken, the Boxing Room in Hayes Valley has the best in town. If you opt for a simple bowl of their gumbo to warm you up, this is also the place to get it. The bar looks into the kitchen, a view you should  appreciate when you’re spacing out enjoying just how fine mashed potatoes and gravy can be too. Website

Photo by Juliana Su / CC BY-ND

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