Springtime sunshine deserves some celebrating—and we’ll toast to that! 13 local spots to raise a glass in the open air.
Long-awaited springtime weather has finally arrived and has us asking ourselves one question: How can we best spend our time outside?
The Peninsula is well-stocked with numerous opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors with an amazing array of hikes, beaches and open space preserves. But if—like us—the first answer that came to your mind wasn’t exercise-related, but more oriented towards a ‘with drink in hand’ sensibility, then we’ve got just the list for you. We’ve mapped out our favorite beer gardens, open-air breweries and outdoor venues that the Peninsula has to offer.
So whether you’re looking for a way to spend a lazy weekend or a place to decompress while it’s still light out, take a look at our favorite locales for imbibing outside.
We’d describe Waterdog Tavern as a modern take on classical, old-school beer gardens. Their outdoor seating area is somehow both sleek AND rustic, plus their menu definitely pays homage to hearty bierhaus eats. They also boast a seemingly endless roster of drink options, meaning that if you’re the type to prefer a well-crafted cocktail to a German-style beer, you’ll have it easy here.
Happy hour goes from 3–6pm Mon-Fri and includes a fantastic lineup of appetizers under $10 ($6 three cheese mac & cheese, $5 Bavarian pretzels and $4 fries) as well as a $2 discount on beers, $5 off beer pitchers and $7 off kegged wines (to be had in the beer garden only… as if that were a deterrent).
Waterdog Tavern // 1015 Alameda de las Pulgas, Belmont; 650.622.4642
Steins Beer Garden & Restaurant in Mountain View has an impressive list of 19 beers that it keeps permanently on tap. The roster is complimented by an additional dozen weekly rotating brews. Steins has also become well known locally for hosting Mountain View’s highly spirited and inevitably boozy Oktoberfest.
Happy hour is Monday through Friday from 3–6pm and means $2 off a whole host of items — starters, beer, wine and cocktails. So grab a booth (or bench or stool) and don’t miss their brunch/lunch/dinner menus (think high-quality German bar food). It’s good at all hours of the day.
Steins Beer Garden & Restaurant // 895 Villa St, Mountain View; 650.963.9568
Ludwig German Table’s San Jose location is well loved: their outdoor set-up is pretty much exactly the image that the words ‘outdoor beer garden’ conjure, complete with a stately beer ‘hall’ flying German flags and ample outdoor seating.
Ludwig’s is set to open up a second location in Mountain View later this spring — they’ll actually be housed in the location that once belonged to the much-beloved BierHaus, which closed in September. That makes for some big shoes to fill, but if anyone can do it, it’s these guys.
For now, stop by their San Jose stomping grounds for drinks, brunch or dinner. Happy hour is Wednesday & Thursday from 3–7 (we recommend checking out the top-notch bar food they serve during this time). Draft beers come in .2, .5, 1 or 2 liter sizes. Sit outside, have a beer (or a liter — or two!) and don’t ignore their dinner menu, either—our pick: the Käsespätzle. Just trust us.
Ludwig’s German Table // 261 N 2nd St, San Jose; 408.771.9871
Their Bay Meadows spot boasts a 10,000-square-foot beer garden that makes for an excellent place to sip on something sudsy in the sun. Visitors can drink in the shade at one of their many outdoor tables or station their beers and get into a lively game of bocce or corn hole. The beer garden is also kid (and dog) friendly, and accompanied by a full-service food menu (if you’re bringing kids, check out the grilled cheeses).
For an updated list of current beers on tap, check the Fieldworks website.
Fieldwork Brewing Company // 3030 S Delaware St, San Mateo; 650.242.1280
Gourmet Haus Staudt Gifts & Café in Redwood City doubles as a beer garden and a gift shop, but don’t let its retail component deter you: this is a great spot to have a drink. Gourmet Haus is another one of the Peninsula’s gems, like a little pocket of a real German bier garden in the Bay Area.
Their menu is impressively authentic, from their appetizers (jumbo pretzels, pickle plates) to wurst plates (we counted at least six different kinds of sausage) to German culinary traditions like Strammer Maxes (basically a buttery open-faced sandwich typically served with ham and a fried egg).
Gourmet Haus Staudt also hosts regular beer tasting events (like this one featuring upcoming Peach Sour Tasting Flight, which goes all day). Their beer list usually consists of 14 American draft beers alongside 11 German draft beers (served in liters). Beer buyer Duncan Cawthorne says that though the lineup of German beers rotates, anything brewed by Weihenstephaner is always popular. Keep an eye out for different tap takeovers held here throughout the spring.
Gourmet Haus Staudt Gifts & Café // 2615 Broadway, Redwood City; 650.364.9232
Moss Beach Distillery isn’t exactly a beer garden, but its outdoor seating, view and menu justify its inclusion on this list all the same. We just can’t ignore that this place has one of the best ocean views on the Peninsula. The distillery boasts Seal Cove Patio, which is situated directly in front of the ocean looking north towards the grandeur of Fitzgerald Marine Reserve (and it’s great for sunsets, too).
Beware: the outdoor patio isn’t full-service seating, but no matter — place your order at the bar and seat yourself. It’s fully equipped for even the cooler end of the summer night spectrum — enjoy fire pits, blankets and even how pet-friendly the place is. Happy hour is 5–7pm Monday through Friday, and with the extra daylight hours this time of year, there’s no excuse not to sit down, order a beer, some bar food (our picks: $2 oysters, $6 buttermilk onion rings, $8 pulled pork nachos…) and enjoy.
Moss Beach Distillery // 140 Beach Way, Moss Beach; 650.728.5595
Even if we weren’t talking about spots to enjoy the spring weather, the British Banker’s Club in Menlo Park would still be on our radar for its stately outward appearance and extensive brunch menu. BBC also happens to be host to one of the best rooftop bars on the Peninsula — a breed that sometimes gets overlooked with San Francisco so close by. BBC’s rooftop is open year round but definitely peaks seasonally (ahem — like, starting right now, thanks to the onslaught of 70+ degree days). And it’s for those 21 plus (read: the purpose of this place is to have a drink outside).
Beware: if you’re looking to eat BBC’s regular menu fare, the rooftop is not the place to do it. It serves a slightly more limited food selection (our picks: the Banker’s Board: a charcuterie spread with truffle fries) alongside BBC’s regular drink menu. Have a cocktail, a glass of wine or one of the many beers on tap (and yes, in the spirit of beer gardens, there are some German brews to choose from).
British Banker’s Club // 555 Santa Cruz Ave, Menlo Park; 650.382.3191
Esther’s German Bakery is another hidden German gem on the Peninsula. Though they do specialize in German baked goods, server Dea Lipfin says their beer garden is “a huge part” of their business. Esther’s usually keeps four beers on tap and serves other bottled options; pours of the draft beers come in half liters, full liters and boots, or three liters. We’re not saying good weather justifies consuming 100+ ounces of beer… but we’re also not not saying that.
Jokes aside, the range of food, bread, pretzels and pastries this place has to offer alongside its beer menu and outdoor seating makes it a true prize on the Peninsula. Lipfin recommends stopping in Friday or Saturday for Esther’s beer and bratwurst special — $9.95 buys you a plate of bratwurst, sauerkraut and half a liter of beer.
Esther’s German Bakery // 987 N San Antonio Rd, Los Altos; (650) 941–4463
A perennial favorite of both in-the-know locals and day-tripping bikers, Alice’s Restaurant in Woodside is a classic Peninsula destination with a sprawling patio perfect for drinking outdoors among the redwoods.
Their full bar boasts a lengthy list of wines by the glass and California microbrews (including boozy local favorite Full Boar Scotch Ale by Devil’s Canyon), as well as an enticing list of handmade cocktails (including our go-to: the Blackberry Mint Julip).
Their hearty comfort food menu—which showcases organic ingredients and locally sourced produce—is good at all hours of the day, and includes a rotating list of daily happy hour eats (Mon-Fri, 3–7pm) with likes of brisket sliders, wings and nachos.
Alice’s Restaurant // 17288 Skyline Blvd, Woodside; 650.851.0303
LePlonc opened just over a year ago in Mountain View. The wine bar showcases an impressive list of top-notch wines alongside an enticing list of small plate eats, from finger sandwiches to charcuterie plates. While that alone is enough to put Le Plonc on our radar, their outdoor set-up is also eye catching: part of the street-facing wall of the restaurant is made up of glass doors is always propped open in good weather, essentially turning the entire restaurant into a sunny spot to have a drink. Their outdoor seating spills onto the sidewalk, too, so there’s plenty of space.
Their actual happy hour is from 4–6pm Monday through Friday, during which glasses of wine go for $7 and bottles are 10% off. Plus, they’re opening up two sister locations — one in Sunnyvale, and the other in Melbourne, Australia (which unfortunately doesn’t quite count as the Peninsula).
Le Plonc // #1205, 331 Castro St, Mountain View // 650.282.5595
The Park James Hotel’s Oak + Violet opened up in October of last year. The highly-anticipated Menlo Park hotel restaurant’s opening pretty much coincided with the tail end of warm weather on the Peninsula, which means now’s your true chance to break in O + V’s outdoor courtyard seating under the sun instead of heat lamps and blankets. The courtyard is lined with couches, tables and bar stools alike, making it a perfect place for a solo diner craving some sunshine or a big group looking to post up outside.
The drinks: Oak + Violet has an excellently curated cocktail menu to accompany a long list of beer and wine options. We’d pick any of the local microbrews, which come from up and down the Peninsula and all across the Bay. Keep an eye out for the seasonal cocktails, too, which are due for a springtime switch soon.
Oak + Violet // The Park James Hotel, 1400 El Camino Real, Menlo Park // 650.304.3880
Sam’s Chowder House in Half Moon Bay is a well-established Coastside institution with epic ocean views, an excellent seafood menu and an extensive but down-to-Earth drink selection. Collectively it all adds up to some hefty weekend crowds that easily manage to pack out the restaurant’s high-volume seating.
So we suggest avoiding the weekend warrior scene at Sam’s by catching their weekday happy hour instead, which runs from 4–7pm and features half-off well drinks, well cocktails, beers and wines. Tuesdays are a bit of local scene thanks to the $1 oysters at the bar, and Thursdays are pretty lively for Ladies Night, as well.
Sam’s Chowder House // 4210 Cabrillo Hwy, Half Moon Bay; 650.712.0245
Also notable: it’s no secret that we’re fans of Devil’s Canyon Brewing Company, and one of the best things about their brewery is Beer Garden Fridays. These guys basically hold a weekly, more laid back Oktoberfest every Friday beginning at 4pm until 10pm. It’s punctuated by a high-quality roster of craft beer, food trucks and live music; it’s also family friendly (for those under 21 or anyone not in the mood for alcohol, Devil’s Canyon’s hand crafted root beer is an excellent beer alternative). Best of all, the entire event is hosted outside, making it the perfect chance to take advantage of after-work drinks and good weather all in the same go.
Devil’s Canyon Brewing Company // 935 Washington St, San Carlos; 650. 592.2739
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