The Coronavirus Dining Chronicles: How the Pandemic Is Changing SF Restaurants

20 photos
March 12: Restaurants remained open, but reservations were unusually easy to get. This table at San Francisco's House of Prime Rib was secured on 10 minutes' notice.
March 12: Business at bars had dropped off sharply. At Zombie Village, a Tenderloin tiki oasis that often requires reservations to secure a booth, the bar was nearly empty by late evening.
March 13: Restaurants were unusually quiet for a Friday night. Here at Absinthe in Hayes Valley, some tables were empty even during peak dinner hours.
March 14: Some restaurants began making the decision to close. Ly's Vietnamese Cuisine left a note to customers to explain they were doing it in the interest of public health.
March 14: At dinnertime on a Saturday night, Marlowe in SOMA had plenty of open tables — even though it had taken on canceled reservations from its sister restaurant, Leo's Oyster Bar, which was closed due to a water leak.
March 14: Local Edition, a cavernous downtown cocktail bar that's often at capacity at 10pm on a Saturday night, was nearly empty. A DJ still played music, and a few people danced.
March 15: Some restaurants that had remained open began reducing their hours. Here at Causwell's in the Marina District, a sign advised customers that service would end at 3 p.m., and the restaurant would not be open for dinner.
March 15: Staff and a few customers at The Final Final Sports Bar watched on live TV as Governor Newsom called for a shutdown of all bars and pubs in the state. The owners said they would comply, and shut their doors at 6 p.m. that day.
March 15: Some restaurants remained open for dinner, despite nearly-empty dining rooms. Delarosa in the Marina District displayed signs at its entrance, informing customers of the safety measures that were in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
March 17: On the first day of the official shutdown, the Richmond District's normally-bustling stretch of Clement Street was deserted. A couple of restaurants remained open for takeout service, but pedestrians and cars were almost nowhere to be found.
March 19: With social distancing measures in place, and the option to dine out all but eliminated, lines at grocery stores stretched down sidewalks and around corners. This Safeway imposed a limit of 50 customers inside at a time.
March 20: With coffee labeled as an essential service, cafe operators struggled to implement social distancing guidelines for long lines of customers. This Starbucks Reserve was among the first Chestnut Street establishments to tape off 6-foot spacing for those waiting in line. The company elected to close many of its stores, including this one, the following day.
March 21: After a few days of experimentation, many restaurants and coffee shops decided the safest option was to keep customers outside. With mild weekend weather, they put tables in their doorways, asking customers who waited in line to keep two sidewalk squares — about six feet of distance — between them.
March 21: Delarosa, which already sold plenty of pizzas to go before the pandemic, pivoted into full takeout mode, serving customers through its open windows. After clarifications from local authorities, this and other restaurants with liquor licenses began offering cocktails to go — offering customers strict guidance about how to consume and transport them in compliance with the law.
March 22: Fearing vandalism and looting, some bars began to board up their windows and front entrances. Some displayed messages of hope. Some, like Reed & Greenough in the Marina District, displayed messages of frustration.
April 11: With no end in sight, many bars and restaurants opened their doors to sell off inventory that was left sitting on their shelves. On Chestnut Street, the Horseshoe Tavern sold full liters of spirits like Jameson whiskey at prices similar to liquor stores.
April 14: As restaurants settled in for the long haul, some began changing their menus to offer family-style meals, either hot or ready-to-cook. Tacolicious advertised rotisserie chicken dinners available between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. — peak takeout hours for San Francisco restaurants during the pandemic.
April 15: Whether through organized channels like Frontline Foods, or through less-formal means, restaurants and bars began offering tokens of their appreciation for nurses, firefighters and other healthcare workers on the front lines of the pandemic.
April 15: As municipalities formalize their public health guidelines surrounding the pandemic, essential businesses — restaurants among them — are being asked to fill out documents detailing how they're protecting their workers and customers. Some, like Saint Frank Coffee in San Francisco's Russian Hill neighborhood, are posting those forms publicly for customers to read.
Contact Us