Take a culinary tour of the Bay Area’s best restaurants that offer food at the bar or counter. Ding into affordable fine dining at not only the Bay’s the best spots, but in the best seats in the house. In fact, dining at the counter is a great way to experience some of the Bay Area’s most exclusive and popular restaurants without breaking the bank.

AQ Restaurant
1085 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94103

Seasonal French cuisine is served up at the South of Market hotspot. The dining counter sits upfront and close with the kitchen, so it’s not only the perfect spot to sit and eat, but a serious spectator sport. Stop by for Sunday Brunch, served from 11-2.

Michael Mina
252 California Street
San Francisco, CA 94104

More InformationMichelin-starred Michael Mina might be one of the chic-est spots in San Francisco, but their bar menu doesn’t break the bank. With most items under $20, you can hop up to the counter and watch as your tuna tartare is prepared before your eyes, described by Liam as, “culinary theater.”

Try the complex ‘seafood stew’ served up in a tomato broth, or Mina’s version of the grilled cheese sandwich. The drink list is as designer as the menu, including a chic section of 0-proof cocktails.

Parallel 37
600 Stockton Street
San Francisco, CA 94108

Bar bites at the Ritz Carlton? “Posh nosh” is what being served up at the brand new Parallel 37, the slick but casual redesign of the famous Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton. For $5-$8 an item, you can dig into pulled pork sliders or crunchy wrapped shrimp. Don’t miss the sophisticated cocktails.
Liam’s Fave: The Barfly cocktail

Photo Credit: parktavernsf.com

Park Tavern
1652 Stockton Street
San Francisco, CA 94133
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One of North Beach’s newest additions, Park Tavern is already a serious San Francisco hotspot. A very popular neighborhood spot for locals, bold names, and even the occasional celebrity, it can be tough to grab a table at Park Tavern. Instead, take a seat at the bar or communal dining table and dig into delicious bar bites offered in three categories: raw, smoked, and fried. One of the most popular Park Tavern menu items are the bacon-topped deviled eggs, so get that order in early.

546 University Avenue
Palo Alto, CA 94301
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Tamarine is a family run spot near the Stanford campus serving up a taste of Thuy’s home country, Viet Nam. This sophisticated restaurant offers their full menu at the bar, where you can sample inventive takes on Vietnamese classics like fish cupcakes and tune tartare.

Dio Deka
210 East Main Street
Los Gatos, CA 95030
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Dio Deka offers fantastic Greek food and a lively bar scene. Combine the two with a seat at the counter and sample the octopus served with house made bacon, or if you’re feeling even more adventurous, dig into the ‘Brocolli Romanesco’, an original dish of broccoli actually packed in salt. Opa!

Hotel Shattuck Plaza
2086 Allstan Way
Berkeley, CA 94704
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Named after the FIVE senses, this sultry spot in the heart of the Hotel Shattuck Plaza offers an exciting bar menu. Classics like juicy sliders, onion strings, and an amazing gouda macaroni and cheese with tomato jam are all served up at the comfy counter. By the looks of it, ‘taste’ and ‘smell’ might be the senses you’ll need most.

2295 Broadway
Oakland, CA 94612
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Upscale Southern favorites are the big hits at Oakland’s Pican. Fried green tomatoes with fresh crab and remoulade, Southern chicken satay, and a clever cocktail menu are all popular at this lively spot. A mix of Southern twists and classic standards, Pican is the perfect spot for a fun dinner at the bar.

Ready for your next culinary adventure? Head over to Eye on the Bay’s Food & Drink section and discover the best of the Bay.