The San Francisco Restaurant Dress Code Isn’t Dead … Yet
By Daisy Barringer
Long before the athleisure trend and California-casual lifestyle permanently put San Francisco on worst-dressed lists, the city was home to restaurants where people were required to suit up if they wanted to dine out. Today, most eateries eschew a dress code. But back then, you were sent on your way if you showed up underdressed—Barbra Streisand included.
It’s true. The multi-hyphenate Hollywood icon and her then-boyfriend, Ryan O’Neal, were once denied entry to 1970s hotspot Blue Fox because O’Neal wasn’t wearing a tie. As the story goes, Babs even pulled a “Do you know who I am?”—yet the sheer force of her star wattage wasn’t enough to break the strict rules installed by owners Mario Mondin and Piero Fassio.
Flash-forward to 2017: Upscale SF restaurants—like Sons & Daughters (no code), RN74 (“We prefer that you don’t wear flip-flops”), Jardinière (“We like it if people look smart, but we don’t really have one”), Kokkari (“We tend to say business casual, but whatever you’re comfortable in”), and Alexander’s Steakhouse (“Casual is fine”)—don’t enforce any kind of dress code despite being some of the most expensive places to eat in town.
Don’t want to celebrate your anniversary seated next to guys in T-shirts or girls in yoga pants? Only like to dine out if you can wear shorts and sandals? Here’s everything to know about nine of the city’s best restaurants and their style standards—or lack thereof.
Gary Danko’s receptionist describes the dress code as “elegant attire” or “business casual.” She adds, “While not all male guests wear a jacket and tie, it is highly encouraged. For women, we suggest a skirt, dress, or dress pants and blouse. We do discourage the wearing of blue jeans, flip-flops, and T-shirts.” Guests who do show up in flip-flops have only themselves to blame if the famous cheese cart “accidentally” rolls over their toes.
The upscale foodie magnet’s concierge says, “We do not have a dress code here at Saison and do welcome our guests to come as they are,” which means there’s a chance you’ll enjoy the $400 tasting menu while surrounded by people dressed for the occasion, but … since this is San Francisco, probably not.
The restaurant’s GM maintains that “business casual or elegant attire” is required. But because millionaire tech bros apparently see no problem with wandering around the office barefoot, Team Mina probably felt the need to emphasize its restriction on flip-flops, baseball caps and shorts.
Harris’—The San Francisco Steakhouse
Polk Gulch/Nob Hill
No need to sport a jacket and tie, but if you want to dine in the main room, you’ll have to leave your “sports casual” duds at home. We have yet to confirm whether those rules also apply to local NFL players. One can hope.
This French cuisine mainstay recommends that you “dress in a suitable manner to fit your memorable dining experience.” That means athletic clothing and shoes, beachwear, flip-flops, slippers, casual shorts and caps aren’t permitted. The best part? That rule also applies to children. As well it should.
the big four
This Scarlet Huntington spot is named after the Big Four railroad tycoons (Leland Stanford, Charles Crocker, Collis Potter Huntington and Mark Hopkins), and you can bet those guys never showed up to dinner in jeans. That said, if you’re wearing denim in a businesslike manner, you’ll gain entrance to the main dining area. Guests wearing Hawaiian shirts and Chubbies on a balmy September day, Weekend at Bernie’s-style, may find themselves seated in the lounge, which is a bit more relaxed.
This high-end, formal Italian restaurant isn’t messing around when it comes to its sartorial rulebook. That means: Jackets for gentlemen and “the equivalent attire for ladies,” the powers-that-be decree. And if that wasn’t loud and clear already, they add: “Please, no T-shirts, shorts, sneakers, athletic wear, or flip-flops.” Respect the code!
The tasting menu at this elegant American kaiseki-style restaurant is $195, but, like Saison, they invite guests “to come as they are,” which often encompasses Lululemon workout garb, Patagonia fleece, hipster backpacks and brightly colored sneakers.
Umberto Gibin, Perbacco’s fashionable owner, says he doesn’t enforce a code “per se,” but discourages the kind of rolled-out-of-bed apparel you might don on a lazy Sunday. However, he adds: “We have a responsibility to all of our guests, dressed up or down, to make them feel welcome. Ultimately, it makes the host’s job more difficult when they have to strategize where to put the guy in a T-shirt and baseball cap so he is not a distraction to the couple celebrating their 20th anniversary or a group having a high-pressure business dinner. At the end of the day, it’s a matter of knowing where you’re going, dressing accordingly, and respecting diners around you.”