To-do lists abound during the holiday season, especially when it comes to holiday gift shopping and grocery shopping but fret not — this list is all about savoring the special things that only happen during this time of year. From seasonal cocktails and fancy lunches to the best desserts and taking time out to be a tourist in your own town, here are a few of our favorite suggestions for how to best celebrate the season. Right this way.
1. Get a seasonally minded cocktail.
Whether it’s a boozy hot number or simply a celebratory martini, drink specials abound this time of year, and you’d be wise to take advantage.
- Maybeck’s has one of the most picturesque bars in town, and with a new regime in the mix, it’s a great time to revisit the Marina favorite. Bonus: It’s toddy time there.
- On the edge of the Pacific Ocean, Outerlands is back open for dinner service, in addition to its stellar destination brunch service. If they’re serving up any of their spiked ciders or toddy variations for either service, get it. It’s the perfect complement to the thick fog.
- Over on Divis, Horsefeather is turning into Holidays at the Horse for the second year in a row, swapping out their entire cocktail menu for 13 cocktails to celebrate the season. It runs from Dec. 1 until the New Year.
- And of course: There’s still nothing quite like the famous, original Irish Coffee at the Buena Vista. A true San Francisco drink, if ever there was one.
2. Find the most festive holiday vibes.
Some restaurants go all-out when it comes to the theme:
- Spanish gem Red Window is one of the best people-watching spots in North Beach, and now you’ve got extra incentive to go: Throughout December, it’s embracing a holiday theme, and don’t miss the always-expert cocktails.
3. Be a tourist in your own town.
While a dinner out is entertainment in itself, there are lots of festive happenings that pair beautifully with your Resy. Spring for dinner and a holiday show:
- When Dungeness season finally arrives, it feels right to be around the Wharf, whether you’re getting crabs at Alioto Fish Co. or an Irish coffee at the aforementioned Buena Vista. But now there’s another destination spot in the neighborhood: Abacá has established itself as one of the country’s best restaurants with its riveting reinvention of Filipino food. Let’s celebrate Francis Ang’s singular take on his heritage.
- Top of the Mark is a tourist spot, yes, but it feels like old San Francisco, too, especially during this time of year. If you haven’t been in a spell, it’s time to revisit that view for a sunset martini.
4. Have a fancy Friday lunch.
Because one of life’s great luxuries is a special lunch on a wintry Friday. Whether it’s dim sum shared with friends or a classic destination with a long-lost friend, now is the perfect time to plan a long lunch.
- Hilda and Jesse, North Beach’s newly minted inclusion in the Michelin Guide from the duo of Kristina Liedags Compton and Rachel Sillcocks, is a perfect Friday daytime spot. Brunch is on offer, and you can get those pancakes — in addition to a lot of other thrilling takes on traditional brunch fare, from fried duck wings to French toast sticks to rolled Latvian pancakes with truffles (!).
- For more fancy fun, check out Resy’s Splurge Guide to the Bay Area.
5. Take advantage of all those holiday specials.
Whether it’s seasonal menu specials (latkes! tamales! crabs!) or a special holiday pop-up, now is the time to seize the day.
- Pro tip: Ungrafted has some of the best wine-centric classes and events in the city. On Dec. 17, hit up the Dogpatch gem for a Tête de Cuvée Champagne Celebration. Master sommelier (and co-owner) Chris Gaither will choose 10 different Tête de Cuvée Champagnes for you to try (along with him). The event will include a light discussion on the Champagne region and its producers, with bites by chef David Aviles; buy tickets here.
- On Dec. 11, Uma Casa is hosting a Holiday Season Fado Dinner, featuring with homestyle Portuguese dishes and lively Fado music. Tickets here.
- SPQR is now on Resy, and for Christmas Eve, chef Matthew Accarrino and crew are doing the Feast of The Seven Fishes: an eight-course $158 menu featuring seven fish courses plus dessert. Tickets here.
- Another Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve is at the Mission’s Penny Roma, where you can find a family-style menu. More info and tickets here.
6. Slow down.
The holiday season is always a whirlwind. Whether solo or with a loved one, take time to slow down, and have a quiet dinner in a cozy restaurant. Maybe even without cell phones.
- Welcome back, Bar Agricole. The revolutionary bar and restaurant has returned in a new SoMa location — and it’s continuing to push boundaries. The space is an architectural marvel, and a perfect setting to savor some well-crafted food and cocktails, with or without a loved one.
- So you’re downtown, doing some holiday shopping around Union Square? The best thing you can do is pop into Kin Khao, the groundbreaking Thai restaurant that has returned in all its glory — and then some.
7. And whatever you do, don’t skip dessert.
Actually, maybe go out of your way to get some holiday desserts.