San Francisco

The Best San Francisco Restaurants Open on Christmas Day

Courtesy of The Big 4 Restaurant at Huntington Hotel
Courtesy of The Big 4 Restaurant at Huntington Hotel
Courtesy of The Big 4 Restaurant at Huntington Hotel

Nothing puts a damper on a festive mood like toiling away in the kitchen all day on Christmas while your unwrapped presents all sit there begging to be played with, only to have to go back in there after you finish eating to clean it all up. Forego all of the stress that comes with grocery shopping, prepping, cooking, and washing dishes, and instead, make a reservation at one of these San Francisco restaurants that are open on Christmas Day. 

Whether you want Jewish comfort food, dim sum, Dungeness crab, a decadent buffet, or an indulgent prix fixe dinner, there’s something for everyone here. Because unlike Santa, we don’t discriminate.

Courtesy of Balboa Cafe
Courtesy of Balboa Cafe
Courtesy of Balboa Cafe

Balboa Cafe

Cow Hollow
Balboa’s been a San Francisco staple since it opened as a butcher shop and grill in 1913, and over a hundred years later, it’s the gift that keeps on giving (especially because it stays open on major holidays). Christmas falls on a Wednesday this year, but Balboa won’t be serving its famous midweek chicken paillard special. What it will be serving is a special à la carte menu with options that include a winter vegetable soup, crab cakes, herb roasted prime rib with whipped potatoes, roasted chicken breast with butternut squash puree, and an eggnog tres leches. Balboa also has an excellent wine list, which you should definitely partake in, especially if Santa or one of his helpers is picking up the bill.
Cost: The prime rib is $39; reserve by calling 415-921-3944

Courtesy of The Big 4 Restaurant at Huntington Hotel
Courtesy of The Big 4 Restaurant at Huntington Hotel
Courtesy of The Big 4 Restaurant at Huntington Hotel

The Big 4 Restaurant

Nob Hill
The Big 4 Restaurant inside of the Huntington Hotel serves up classic SF vibes with elegant grandeur and a nod to the city’s past (it was named after the Big Four railroad tycoons who played a vital role in San Francisco’s early development and there are artifacts and photographs to that effect around the restaurant). Arrive early to enjoy an expertly-crafted cocktail made by one of the longtime bartenders while listening to live piano in the bar before moving to the dining room where you’ll enjoy an indulgent prix fixe dinner. There are four options for starters and entrees, including a lobster bisque, black truffle risotto, Colorado lamb chop, and filet mignon, and three options for dessert, including a warm medjool date cake and a bread pudding with two sauces.
Cost: $140; reserve by calling 415-771-1140

Bistro Boudin

Fisherman’s Wharf
If Santa Claus were a San Franciscan, he’d probably ask you to leave him a bowl of clam chowder in a bread bowl in lieu of cookies on Christmas Eve. Don’t ask us how that would technically work with temperature and sogginess because we don’t understand how Santa’s magic works — just THAT it works. Anyway, all of this is to say you should treat yourself to that classic SF dish at Bistro Boudin on Christmas Day. It’s also really not Christmas in SF unless there’s crab, which is why it’s perfect that the restaurant is serving its entire menu, so you can get Dungeness crab cocktail, a fresh roasted Dungeness whole crab, and a seafood cioppino with Dungeness crab, shrimp, calamari, mussels, and fish.
Cost: Boudin sourdough bread bowl with clam chowder is $16.96; reserve online

The Bistro Restaurant at the Cliff House

Ocean Beach
If you’re looking for a more casual Christmas Day meal, The Bistro at the Cliff House is a good option because you still get to enjoy the views of its fancier counterpoint (Sutro’s — see below), but without the pressure of the white tablecloths. To be clear, you’re still going to need to change out of your Santa footie pajamas if you want to enjoy the à la carte menu that includes dishes like Dungeness crab cakes, French onion soup, braised lamb shank, and New York steak with garlic prawns, but not into anything fancy. Jeans will absolutely suffice at this spot. Pro tip: Take a casual walk along the Lands End trail before your meal to work up your appetite.
Cost: NY Steak and garlic prawns are $45; walk-ins only

Courtesy of Cafe de la Presse
Courtesy of Cafe de la Presse
Courtesy of Cafe de la Presse

Café de la Presse

Union Square
Visit the Christmas tree and giant menorah in Union Square before making your way to this 1920s-inspired Parisian brasserie on Christmas Day. The five-course menu starts with a lobster bisque and ends with a traditional chocolate Christmas log and mignardise, but you’ll have a few choices in-between, including a Dungeness crab salad, roasted turkey roulade with black truffle and chestnut stuffing, and beef wellington with creamy spinach. Miam!
Cost: $95; reserve online

Courtesy of Commons Club at Virgin Hotel San Francisco
Courtesy of Commons Club at Virgin Hotel San Francisco
Courtesy of Commons Club at Virgin Hotel San Francisco

Commons Club at Virgin Hotels San Francisco

SoMa
Up the swank factor this Christmas by dining at the opulent Commons Club on the ground floor of the Virgin Hotels SF. The restaurant is offering a set six-course menu with dishes like a caviar brioche, a pumpkin veloute balsamic, tortelli lobster, dry aged ribeye, and a buche de noel. Vegetarian options are also available.
Cost: $120 per person with an optional $30 wine pairing; reserve online or by calling 415-534-6564

Fang

SoMa
The House of Nanking spinoff will be serving its Cantonese-style cuisine with a twist from 11am to 9:30pm. Sip on signature cocktails while enjoying xiao long bao, pork wontons, and a slew of traditional wok entrees, like the famous Nanking sesame chicken, salt and pepper prawns, and dry braised green beans.
Cost: Wok entrees average about $20; reserve online 

Fior d’Italia

North Beach
Buon Natale to all of the people out there who would rather eat Italian food on Christmas Day than roast beef and figgy pudding. This charming North Beach spot will be serving its entire menu including nine freshly-made pastas, risotto, as well as beef, veal, lamb, chicken, and fish dishes.
Cost: Pasta dishes are $17; reserve online

Courtesy of Luce at the InterContinental San Francisco
Courtesy of Luce at the InterContinental San Francisco
Courtesy of Luce at the InterContinental San Francisco

Luce at the InterContinental San Francisco

SoMa
Everyone celebrates Christmas differently. Some people like to do a big brunch, others prefer a substantial dinner. Whichever you prefer, this Michelin-starred restaurant has you covered. The Christmas Day brunch buffet goes from 11am to 2:30pm and includes all of the expected breakfast offerings, like eggs, pancakes, and waffles, as well as a filet of beef, dim sum station, selection of desserts, and bottomless bubbles. The Christmas Day dinner is a prix fixe menu with several options, like seared scallops or tartare, wagyu beef, a New York strip, and a cocoa honey cake with chestnut ice cream.
Cost: The buffet is $95 per adult and $47 for kids; the dinner is $115 per adult and $57 for kids; reservations can be made online or by calling 415-616-6566

MKT Restaurant and Bar

SoMa
This stylish restaurant inside at the Four Seasons Hotel is serving a three-course prix-fixe menu on Christmas Day. Choices include Ora King salmon three ways, a roasted rack of venison, miso glazed black cod, and vegan wellington. For dessert, there’s an over-the-top buffet with pumpkin pie tarts, brittles and barks, sticky toffee pudding, strawberry shortcake, Christmas cookies galore, and lots more.
Cost: $115 for adults and $58 for children; reserve by calling 415-633-3838 

Courtesy of Landry's
Courtesy of Landry’s
Courtesy of Landry’s

Morton’s The Steakhouse

Union Square
A lot of San Franciscans tend to overlook Morton’s simply because it’s a chain restaurant, but there’s a reason this classic steakhouse is still around, and it’s not just because of tourists. See for yourself on Christmas when you can experience the entire menu of prime steaks, chops, and seafood appetizers, in addition to two special dishes: Côte de boeuf and filet & lobster Oscar. 
Cost: Côte de boeuf is $135 and filet & lobster Oscar is $59; reserve online or by calling 415-986-5830 

Courtesy of Cesar Rubio for The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco
Courtesy of Cesar Rubio for The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco
Courtesy of Cesar Rubio for The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco

Parallel 37 at the Ritz-Carlton San Francisco

Nob Hill
Enjoy a four-course dinner of traditional holiday favorites while listening to live music and taking in the festive decorations at this farm-to-table restaurant with an exceptional wine list on the lobby floor of the Ritz-Carlton. Seatings are between 11am and 8:30pm.
Cost: $160 per adult and $34 per child; reserve online

Sutro’s at the Cliff House

Ocean Beach
Assuming the weather cooperates, there are no bad views in this casual-elegant restaurant inside of the Cliff House with two-story windows that frame Seal Rock, Sutro Baths, and the ocean. The à la carte Christmas Day menu has something that will please every person in your group, including Dungeness crab cakes, house-smoked Scottish salmon, truffled ricotta ravioli, and a roasted pork chop. 
Cost: The pork chop is $42; reservations can be made online or by calling 415-386-3330

Courtesy of InterContinental Mark Hopkins
Courtesy of InterContinental Mark Hopkins
Courtesy of InterContinental Mark Hopkins

Top of the Mark

Nob Hill
Take in stunning 360-degree views of the city from this iconic restaurant on the top of the Mark Hopkins Hotel known for its robust buffet that is even better on Christmas when the team really pulls out all the stops, including a live pianist and unlimited bubbly. Buffet stations include prime rib, roasted goose, crab bisque, a seafood station with caviar, cheese and charcuterie, a selection of salads, short ribs, lobster macaroni and cheese, dim sum, and bananas foster. If you’re going during brunch hours, there will also be breakfast items like an omelette and waffle station, and if you’re going for dinner, you’ll find a risotto station. See the full menu here. If you’re looking for something equally as delicious, but with less options and less walking around, the Nob Hill Club inside of the hotel is serving a three-course dinner featuring seared salmon with saffron fennel cream and grilled asparagus tips, rosemary lamb loin, and a Christmas figgy pudding with eggnog crème anglaise for dessert.
Cost: Top of the Mark buffet: $150 per adult and $65 per child; Nob Hill Club: $79 per adult ($109 with wine pairing) and $49 per child; call the holiday desk at 415-616-6941 for reservations

Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen

Mission
Hanukkah and Christmas overlap this year, and Wise Sons’ flagship deli on 24th Street and its cafe inside of the Contemporary Jewish Museum are making it easy to celebrate both since they will be serving Jewish comfort food until 2pm and 3:30pm, respectively, on Christmas Day. At the 24th Street location, choose from breakfast dishes like corned beef hash and challah French toast, sandwiches galore, including classic pastrami or corned beef sliced hot and served on a housemade double-baked rye, potato latkes, pastrami cheese fries, and a black and white cookie for dessert. The cafe has a more limited menu, but you can still get your fix of sandwiches, bagels, and babkas.
Cost: A pastrami sandwich is $14.50; walk-ins only

Yank Sing

Financial District
For many people, it’s not Christmas if there isn’t Chinese food involved. Get your dim sum fix at both Yank Sing locations (Rincon and Stevenson) from 10am to 4pm where you can order as many dumplings, pork buns, and peking duck as your heart desires.
Cost: An order of dumplings averages around $7; reserve onlineSign up here for our daily San Francisco email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun SF has to offer.

Daisy Barringer is an SF-based writer who prefers to spend Christmas either snowboarding in Tahoe or bowling and eating nachos (please don’t stop to think about how gross that combination is). Follow her on Instagram @daisysf to see how she spends the holiday this year.

San Francisco

How to Celebrate Black History Month in San Francisco

Support and celebrate SF's Black community.

Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade

Though it’s something we need to be doing every day of every month of every year, Black History Month encourages us to pay tribute to the struggles and oppression generations of Black Americans have faced, as well as their often-neglected triumphs and achievements that have helped shape this county and make it better. It’s a time to reflect on how we can do better to confront racism and oppression, which this year’s theme, “Black Resistance,” echoes. This is especially important in a town like San Francisco, where the Fillmore District was known as “the Harlem of the West” before the city displaced a vast portion of the neighbourhood’s Black community in the ’60s and ’70s. This displacement continues today, as the Black population is the only racial group that has declined in every census since 1970.

If you’re looking for ways to celebrate Black History Month, there are lots to do. Whether you want to educate yourself by attending films, performances, or conversations, share the joy at a parade or dance party, or do a little bit of it all at a drag show, here are just a few ways you can get involved and have a lot of fun while doing so:

Visit San Francisco Public Library branches for workshops, films, performances, and more

February (and throughout the year)
Library branches and online
SFPL’s “More Than a Month” celebration focuses on the theme of resistance this year. Family-friendly and adult events include film screenings, musical performances, book clubs, workshops, and more.
Cost: Free

Museum of African Diaspora
Museum of African Diaspora
Museum of African Diaspora

See art, poetry, films, talks, and more at MoAD

February (and throughout the year)
SoMa
Right now, at the Museum of African Diaspora, you can see the first and only West Coast exhibition of “The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion,” which highlights the work of 15 contemporary fashion designers “whose images present radically new perspectives on the medium of photography and art, race and beauty, and gender and power.” The museum, which has a robust year-round program and event calendar, has a slew of events to attend, including youth poetry readings, film screenings, open mic nights, book clubs, artist talks, and more.
Cost: Event prices vary; GA to visit the museum is $12 but free every second Saturday of the month

Check out films, art, reading, talks, and more at BAMPFA

February (and throughout the year)
Berkeley
There is always something interesting to discover at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA). During Black History Month, you can see films by Pratibha Parmar, “Felwine Sarr: Music, Freedom, Africa,” a conversation through music with the Senegalese writer, scholar, composer, musician, and more.
Cost: Varies

Old Skool Cafe
Old Skool Cafe
Old Skool Cafe

Enjoy menu specials honoring Black community members at Old Skool Cafe

February (and throughout the year)
Bayview
For Black History Month, Old Skool Cafe is adding the favourite meals of notable Black community members to the menu each weekend. The nonprofit, youth-run supper club helps at-risk, formerly incarcerated, and foster care youth ages 16-22 gain the skills and experience they need to succeed in various front and back-of-house restaurant roles. Bayview hero/community advocate Mrs. Dorris Vincent is first up, followed by Judge Trina Thompson, Delroy Lindo, and Mayor London Breed.

Yerba Buena Gardens
Yerba Buena Gardens
Yerba Buena Gardens

Walk beneath the Marting Luther King, Jr. Memorial waterfall

February (and ongoing)
Yerba Buena Gardens
Did you know that Yerba Buena Gardens is home to the country’s second-largest memorial to Dr. King? Visit the sculptural waterfall featuring glass panels inscribed with his inspiring words at 750 Howard Street.
Cost: Free

Attend the Commonwealth’s “Dreaming Forward: A Celebration of Black Joy, Power, and Excellence” conference

Thursday, February 9
Embarcadero
On behalf of Dr. Sheryl Evans Davis and the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, the Commonwealth Club is hosting its second annual Dream Keeper Initiative, a day-long conference/celebration/call-to-action featuring special guests, including April Ryan of TheGrio and CNN.
Cost: Free

Courtesy of Oakland First Fridays
Courtesy of Oakland First Fridays
Courtesy of Oakland First Fridays

Celebrate Black Love at Oakland First Fridays

Friday, February 10
Telegraph Avenue from West Grand to 27th Street
Telegraph Avenue transforms into a dining, shopping, and art-appreciating party on Friday, February 10, from 5 pm to 9 pm. There will be food, artist, and retail vendors and a host of Black artists, authors, and entertainment. Please note: This event was rescheduled from February 3 because of potential rain.
Cost: Free

Have a ball at an all-Black drag show at Oasis

Friday, February 10
SoMa
“Reparations with Latrice Royale” is an all-Black drag show hosted by Latrice Royale, the beloved Drag Race star who also happens to be celebrating her birthday.
Cost: $15 to $60

Dance all night and shop all day at the Afro Soca Love carnival and marketplace

Friday, February 10 ‚Äď Saturday, February 11
341 13th Street, Oakland
Afro Soca Love creates experiences that act as a “gateway to building bonds and strengthen relationships-between communities, individuals, and Africa and its diaspora.” See for yourself at the all-ages marketplace (Saturday), where you’ll find food and drink, fashion, beauty and wellness, home decor, and more. But before the shopping comes the dancing at the 21+ Friday Night Carnival, a culturally immersive music experience with music from all over the world.
Cost: The marketplace is free; tickets to the Friday Night Carnival start at $20

See a live performance of “Words That Made the Difference: Brown vs. the Board of Education”

Saturday, February 11
Unity Palo Alto
See a live theatrical performance based on the true events that occurred in the fight to end school segregation. The script draws from trial transcripts of the five cases brought together in front of the Supreme Court and Chief Justice Earl Warren’s memoirs, and the play is set in the courtrooms where it all happened. There will be a Q&A with the playwright before the performance and the cast afterward.
Cost: Free

Courtesy of San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company
Courtesy of San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company
Courtesy of San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company

Go to the I, Too, Sing America album release party

Saturday, February 11
Mission
Head to the Brava Theater Center to celebrate the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company’s album release of the music created for I, Too, Sing America, a soulful and uplifting performance that moved audiences when it debuted last year. The night includes an album-listening and sing-along party, DJs, dancing, an open bar, and more.
Cost: $40

Go on the Black Liberation Walking Tour of West Oakland

Saturday, February 18
West Oakland
Take a walk with David Peters, founder of the West Oakland Cultural Action Network, and Gene Anderson, the author of Legendary Locals of Oakland, to learn about resident voices and document sites of cultural and historical significance in the neighbourhood. Peters is a local native, and Anderson is an Oakland historian whose family has historical roots in West Oakland.
Cost: $50 ($30 for West Oakland residents)

See a screening of The Black Kung Fu Experience followed by in-person demonstrations

Sunday, February 19
Great Star Theater, Chinatown
The Chinese Historical Society of America is celebrating Black History Month and social unity with a screening of this film about how a group of African American pioneers became respected in a subculture dominated by Chinese and white men. Afterward, there will be demonstrations and talks with Sifu Donald Hamby and Sifu Troy Dunwood, who “will speak about their success as internationally recognized martial arts masters, their Chinese Kung Fu teachers, and what this practice means in relation to diversity, race and inclusion issues.”
Cost: $15

Sip wine made by Black winemakers at a free tasting event at STEM Kitchen + Garden

Thursday, February 23
Dogpatch
STEM Kitchen + Garden is hosting an afternoon wine tasting celebrating Black-owned wineries in its gorgeous indoor/outdoor space, and best of all, and it’s free to the public!
Cost: Free

Bayview Opera House
Bayview Opera House
Bayview Opera House

Attend the San Francisco African American Arts & Cultural District Gala Fundraiser

Saturday, February 25
Bayview Opera House
Enjoy an evening of talent, fashion, and community inspiration at SFAAACD’s 1st Annual Gala Fundraiser. Carla Duke, Television News Director at CBS-KPIX Chanel 5, will host the event, which includes inspiring words from keynote speaker Aniyia Williams, an artist, tech creator, and system-preneur.
Cost: $100

Attend a Black History Month & Chinese New Year Poetry Reading on Angel Island

Saturday, February 25
Angel Island
There is so much history in poetry at the Angel Island Detention Barracks Museum, which makes it a fitting location for poets Chun Yu and Michael Warr. The co-founders of Two Languages/One Community will share their poems and stories in English and Chinese, accompanied by projected images of text and photographs.
Cost: $10 to $21

Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade

Feel the joy at the Black Joy Parade

Sunday, February 26
Downtown Oakland
This parade and festival celebrate the “Black experience past, present, and future.” Be prepared to experience “more Black joy than you ever imagined,” starting with the parade (beginning at 14th and Franklin) at 12:30 pm. The family-friendly festival follows (main entrance is at 19th and Franklin) will include 200-plus Black-owned small businesses selling food, drinks, clothing, art, and more. There will also be two stages with Black performers, including The Black Joy Choir.
Cost: Free

Take a sound bath at Grace Cathedral in honor of Black History Month

Monday, February 27
Nob Hill
Take an immersive sound bath featuring Fractals of Sound, a collective of top Bay Area musicians Egemen Sanli, Phoenix Song, and Sam Jackson, with special guest Destiny Muhammad. Together, they will create a “soundscape deeply rooted in world music,” allowing you to take a meditative journey in one of the most beautiful places in San Francisco.
Cost: $25 to $75

See Tsitsi Dangarembga and Angela Davis at City Arts & Lectures

Tuesday, February 28
Civic Center
Co-presented with MoAd, City Arts & Lectures is hosting novelist Tsitsi Dangarembga and scholar and activist Angela Davis for what’s sure to be a riveting conversation.
Cost: $36

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Daisy Barringer¬†is an SF-based freelance writer who spent many childhood days wandering around the Exploratorium. Follow her on¬†Instagram¬†to see what she’s up to now.

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