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Take it Outside: Where to Drink Outdoors This Fall 

Tuesday, Sep 16 2014

Who doesn't enjoy a nice drink outdoors? With Indian summer showing signs of life in the Bay Area, and Mission Dolores Park out of commission for the big renovation, it may seem like there's nowhere to go.

But San Francisco has its share of decks, patios, and backyards. There are always the popular spots like Pier 23, Americano, Zeitgeist, Mission Rock Resort, The Ramp, and the Hi-Dive (especially during Giants home games). While you'll find us there sometimes mingling with the crowd, we like places that can be a little more intimate. Or have good food. Or are simply as interesting and weird as we are.

The Bernal/Mission area has an embarrassment of outdoor riches. The Royal Cuckoo (3202 Mission, 550-8667, with its vinyl collection rules the roost, and you can get fresh air (and free barbecue on Sundays) in the backyard area. Nearby El Rio (3158 Mission, 282-3325, hosts lively entertainment with everything from burlesque shows to outdoor cinema nights. Cheap drinks, free oyster night, and barbecues on the huge patio make this a hit. A little calmer is next-door Virgil's Sea Room (3152 Mission, 829-2233, where you can pick up a couple of pitchers of margaritas or mojitos and while the afternoon or evening away.

Benders (806 S Van Ness, 824-1800, may not have a big patio, but the bar does host barbecues, with free burgers on Sundays during the day. Not too far away is another spot with meat and a patio: Sycamore (2140 Mission, 252-7704, Get your lunch on here for one of the bar's daily specials that include a PBR. Not too far away as the Mission meets the Castro is the Pilsner Inn (225 Church, 621-7058,, which gets a crowd from the hungry patrons waiting for a table at Chow. Grab a drink and head to the back where you can forget all about the 30 people ahead of you on the list.

But sometimes you really want to eat and drink, which is when you should go check out Trou Normand (140 New Montgomery, 975-0876, Its glass-covered outdoor space sports its own bar, which is important when the drinks are this good. Bonus points for the truly spectacular charcuterie and food. Sister restaurant Bar Agricole (355 11th St., 355-9400, also has a nice enclosed front dining area for higher-end eats outdoors and the same great caliber of cocktails. While the space fills up quick on nice days, the patio at the new Dirty Habit (12 Fourth St., 348-1555, near Union Square is chic and elegant, worthy of a date. For a more informal but just as entertaining setting, head to Sheba Piano Lounge (1419 Fillmore, 440-7414, in the Fillmore, where you can get drinks, live music, and Ethiopian food all at once.

More casual and great for large groups (or those traveling with kids, and/or dogs) are the two events that Off the Grid hosts in the Presidio. Sunday is the daytime Picnic at the Presidio (Presidio Main Post Lawn, which also boasts music along with the food trucks and a bar selling cocktails, wine, beer, and mimosas. Thursday evening features the smaller, but equally fun Twilight at the Presidio ( Watch the sun set as the live band plays, then huddle around one of the fire pits when it gets cold. There are fewer food vendors than the Sunday event, but the all-important bar is there, mixing up stiff and delicious drinks.

Sometimes all you want is just a glass of wine in the sunshine, which is precisely the time you should check out Arlequin (384 Hayes, 626-1211, in Hayes Valley. Here you can pick up a glass or two at the café or a whole bottle to enjoy in the garden (with a corkage fee to cover glassware). Closer to the Financial District, Hidden Vine (408 Merchant, 674-3567, offers a bocce court in a sliver of an outdoor space. Bonus: There's wait service if your game is on a hot streak.

If beer is more your thing, then swing by Hayes Valley's Biergarten (424 Octavia, 252-9289, for a big liter stein and excellent snacks. It may be more fun during the day, but nighttime is doable — just grab a blanket from the neatly folded pile. Or if you want to earn your beer with a steep walk up the hill, invite your sherpa and head up Cortland to Wild Side West (424 Cortland, 647-3099, This lesbian-owned bar has been here since 1976 as an informal LGBT community space, but welcomes everyone who is thirsty.



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