San Francisco might have more dogs than human residents under 18, but that doesn’t mean it’s always a dog-friendly place. We’re lucky enough to live adjacent to a national park of our own, Golden Gate NRA – OK, technically it’s a national recreation area – which has had a long-simmering dispute over whether or not canine companions should be allowed to scamper freely on Crissy Field and elsewhere. (GGNRA is unique among the 401 National Park Service properties in that it allows off-leash dogs anywhere, and the Crissy Field Dog Group wants to keep it that way.) There are also tricky places such as Glen Canyon, a remote gorge where dogs aren’t permitted off-leash, as there is a substantial coyote population. Because that rule is universally flouted, people might not know that it exists, or why, until CHOMP.
On top of all that, there is a labyrinthine bar-and-restaurant culture into which – it must be emphasized – it’s rude and entitled to presume you may simply bring a dog without checking ahead of time. Navigating this maze is tricky, so I’ve sourced some of the better places to bring your pups, where you won’t get stink eye, you won’t be yelled at, and you won’t wind up with a frayed end of a leash where Mr. Woofers used to be.
GGNRA and Crissy Field
Right now in the San Francisco segment of the park, dogs can frolic off-leash and with abandon only in limited spots: Baker Beach north of Lobos Creek, Fort Miley, Lands End, Fort Funston (except where the trail is closed due to erosion), and Ocean Beach (except the Piping Plover Protection Area north of Sloat Boulevard). Similarly, dogs are permitted off-leash at Crissy Field, except in the Wildlife Protection Area at the west end.
To make things even more complicated, but pleasantly so, both the Ocean Beach and Crissy Field restrictions are relaxed annually from May 15 to July 1.
Other Dog Parks of Note
Officially, San Francisco has 28 off-leash parks, but often you have to go there first to sniff them out. Some have grass, while others have ground-up gravel. Some, like Collingwood – a.k.a. the Eureka Valley Recreation Center – are fully fenced in; others, like Alamo Square, are not. Bernal Hill is spectacular, but the topography lacks much in the way of an even surface for romping. McLaren Park’s two dog runs are nicely secluded but are possibly better for dog walkers or the odd weekend visit, as the location is probably a bit far for most people to make it a daily routine. You can still squeeze in some exercise at Dolores Park in spite of its being halved for reconstruction, but the park at 26th and Douglass Streets has been closed for months to repair the drainage, with no end in sight.
Bars That Allow Dogs
Holy Water (Bernal Heights)
It used to be a place called Stray Bar, which should tell you something, yet Holy Water’s revamp into a slightly upscale cocktail lab held on to its previous incarnation’s best asset: a welcoming vibe for pups, up to and including Great Danes. It’s easiest to make new friends by rubbing bellies at the 11th Hour, Holy Water’s late-night happy-hour redo.
The Homestead (the Mission)
If you were to play a word-association game with the Homestead, you’d get two responses: “peanuts” and “dogs.” The classy, slightly British Mission dive has been around since before the 1906 quake and has that always-fun-but-never-crazy atmosphere that’s pitch-perfect for canine patrons. And one time, I swear I saw a Frenchie in there that was reading a book.
More Dog-Friendly Bars!
Amnesia (Mission), The Ave (Ingleside), Benders (Mission), The Broken Record (Crocker-Amazon), Casanova Lounge (Mission), Doc’s Clock (Mission), Elixir (Mission), El Rio (Mission), 500 Club (Mission), Etcetera Wine Bar (Mission), Hemlock Tavern (Tenderloin), Iron & Gold (Bernal Heights), The Lucky Horseshoe (Bernal Heights), Lucky 13 (Castro), The Pour House (Nob Hill), Public House (South Beach/SOMA), Thee Parkside (Potrero Hill), The Riptide (Outer Sunset), Toronado (Lower Haight), Vinyl Coffee & Wine Bar (Lower Haight), Virgil’s Sea Room (Bernal Heights)
Restaurants and Cafes with Dog-Friendly Outdoor Seating
Mission Rock Resort (Mission Bay)
If you thought Hog & Rocks was the only place with dollar oysters, you were wrong. Mission Rock Resort has them every day at happy hour, and you can bring your quadruped besties on the patio overlooking the bay. This massive duplex gastropub is great for Giants fans and fans of Giant Schnauzers alike, but watch out for any mermaid cocktail waitresses that might surface to pet them.
Café Flore (Castro)
Granted, it’s hardly haute cuisine, but Café Flore is an indispensible part of the neighborhood and stays open some 19 hours a day – important given the likelihood that you’ll find your dog to be an eating companion at breakfast rather than dinner, anyway. Personally, I would totally lie under the table and do whatever I had to if you fed me a bit of your Crab Cake Benedict.
More Dog-Friendly Cafes and Restaurants!
Absinthe (Hayes Valley), Atlas Cafe (Mission), La Boulange de Cole Valley (Cole Valley), Boulevard (Financial District), The Brixton (Marina), Castagna (Marina), Dolores Park Cafe (Mission), Duboce Park Cafe (Duboce Triangle), Farley’s (Potrero Hill), Firehouse Pizzeria (Outer Richmond), Fork Cafe (Castro), Gott’s Roadside (Embarcadero), Hayes & Kebab (Hayes Valley), Hops & Hominy (Union Square), Java Beach Cafe (Outer Sunset), Mélange Market (Mission), Mojo Bicycle Cafe (Western Addition), Nopalito (Western Addition and Inner Sunset), Palomino (SOMA), Park Chow (Inner Sunset), Philz Coffee (multiple locations), Pizzeria Delfina (Mission), Presidio Social Club (Presidio), SliderBar (Castro), Stable Cafe (Mission), Super Duper (Castro, Downtown), Tartine (Mission), The Sycamore (Mission), Tacolicious (Mission, North Beach and the Marina), Universal Cafe (Mission), Zazie (Cole Valley), Zuni (Mid-Market)
Hotels That Accept Dogs
Hotel Adagio (Tenderloin)
Some hotels claim to be “pet friendly,” but what they really mean is “No, we won’t kick you out.” The Hotel Adagio on Post Street goes further, with pet-specific floors, treats, and food and water bowls, plus guidance for guests on which parks and pet stores are closest. (A $55 surcharge covers up to two pets.)
Inn at the Presidio (Presidio)
The Presidio has a bowling alley, so why wouldn’t it also have a pet-friendly B&B? Dog-loving aficionados of well-proportioned military architecture and deep eucalyptus groves have to stay somewhere. For an extra $40, guests at the Inn at the Presidio, a refurbished, 22-room soldiers’ quarters, can yelp along with the foghorn’s mournful howl without causing a stir – and of course, you’re right by Crissy Field.
More Dog-Friendly Hotels!
Argonaut Hotel (Fisherman’s Wharf), Best Western Plus Tuscan Inn (Fisherman’s Wharf), Clift Hotel (Tenderloin), The Fairmont (Nob Hill), Grand Hyatt (Union Square), Harbor Court Hotel (Financial District), Holiday Inn (Nob Hill and SOMA), Hotel Kabuki (Japantown), Hotel Monaco (Union Square), Hotel Palomar (Downtown), Mandarin Oriental (Financial District), JW Marriott (515 Mason St., Union Square), Prescott Hotel (Union Square), Sir Francis Drake (Union Square), Hotel Triton (Union Square), W San Francisco Hotel (SOMA)
Businesses That Are Dog Friendly Even Though You Might Not Know It
Mr. S Leather (SOMA)
The unbeatable selection of dog masks, pit-bull harnesses, and puppy tails at Mr. S Leather are meant for human canines, but the store itself just so happens to be very dog friendly – and that’s more than you can say for most of this treeless stretch of SOMA. The employees will ask you to check your bag, but they’ll offer your pup a treat as you’re handing it over.
fit BERNAL fit (Bernal Heights) and fit GLEN fit (Glen Park)
Talk about killing two birds with one stone, or two dogs on one leash, or whatever. Neighborhood gyms that also offer dog fitness, fit BERNAL fit and fit GLEN fit direct humans to the elliptical and furry friends to a supervised play area. It keeps them healthy and redirects nervous energy away from gnawing on chair legs. Even PETA approves – and there’s a lot that PETA doesn’t like.
More Dog-Friendly Businesses!
1AM Gallery (SOMA), Alley Cat Books (Mission), Casa Bonampak (Mission), Handsome Oxford (Tenderloin), Heartfelt (Bernal Heights), Huckleberry Bicycles (SOMA), The Red Chair Salon (Marina), Rooky Ricardo’s Records (Lower Haight), Room & Board (SOMA), Sports Basement (Mission), Stuff (Mission), Sui Generis (Castro), Timbuk2 (Hayes Valley), Treasure Island Wines (Treasure Island)
There are more dog-friendly places in San Francisco that we didn’t include in this list. Add your suggestions in the comments. ARF!