San Francisco restaurants are beginning the slow process of reopening, starting with outdoor, socially distanced dining for eateries with patios and permits for sidewalk seating as of June 12th. But the long slog of shelter in place has left many local restaurants reeling, and several have already closed permanently around the Bay Area.
Businesses in the Castro are also feeling the burn, especially as Pride Month—typically a festive season that draws crowds of locals and out-of-towners alike—is canceled IRL (though you'll find ample ways to virtually celebrate).
"We're doing OK, but just like for everyone else, the days wax and wane between good and great, and maddening and sad," says Chris Hastings, owner of the popular Castro bar Lookout and co-owner/operator of Casements and WesBurger 'N' More in the Mission.
"The length of sheltering in place is starting to weigh on all of us, but as more people are coming back to work, we're seeing [our businesses] get busier. And people really appreciate some levity these days," he adds, nodding to Lookout's sassy delivery system for margaritas via bucket dropped down from their second-story space. The move is indicative of what's working for businesses during the coronavirus pandemic: Creativity and comfort fare that's easily delivered wins the day—Wesburger, which already did 25 percent of its sales through takeout before the virus struck, is expanding its menu to have better options for "digestible comfort."
Juanita More!, the local drag icon and a serial philanthropist in the queer community—is rolling up her sleeves to bring a little taste of comfort to her people, serving Friday night MoreFood dinners for takeout from the Lookout.
"Everyone is hustling to figure out where their place is right now in the industry," she says. "I've always considered the art of cooking my first gift in life. So, feeding people is in my blood. And, when it's in your blood, you figure out how to make it work."
Both she and Hastings believe this time, especially during Pride Month, offers an opportunity to reflect and remember to be grateful for how far the LGBTQ community has come.
While you ponder this idea, chew on morsels as well as sip-able delights from some of our favorite queer-owned restaurants in the Bay Area.
As Beyoncé said during her Class of 2020 commencement speech, "your queerness is beautiful."
San Francisco's Queer-Owned Restaurants
Brenda's Meat & Three
Our beloved Brenda's French Soul Food is temporarily closed, but upscale, homey sister resto Brenda's Meat & Three is still offering its Southern comfort staples—think high-brow chicken and waffles and proper Louisiana-style cooked collard greens—for pickup and delivery, only. // 919 Divisadero St. (NoPa), brendasmeatandthree.com
Canela Bistro & Wine Bar
Operated by gay chef/owner Mat Schuster, Canela is both a high-brow deli—which now also doubles as a grocer and pantry—and tapas touchstone along Market Street. Summer is the perfect time to take advantage of their "build-your-own picnic baskets. // 2272 Market St. (The Castro), canelasf.square.site
For over 40 years, this mainstay Castro denizen has drawn the late-night crowd for large plates of sobering Americana fare—stacked burgers, thick malts, and more. As of press time, the restaurant is open for takeout. // 3991 17th St. (Castro), facebook.com
Starbelly's patio is open for dining in as of June 15th; you can also still order takeout and delivery of its California-fusion menu staples—bacon pizza, fried chicken po'boys, bibb lettuce wedge salads—as well as take-home meal kits, cocktails, and wine. // 3583 16th St. (Castro), starbellysf.com
While you can't crowd in to watch the game, this sporty Castro outfit is still serving its full menu—think mountains of nachos, freshly cut fries, Moscow mules, and margaritas—via UberEats, Caviar, and Chownow. // 2247 Market St. (Castro), hitopsbar.com
Loved for its suggestive baked goods, Hot Cookies is open for curbside pickup of sweets and merch. // 407 Castro St #2019 (Castro), hotcookie.com
Moderately priced burgers, brunch, and "apocalyptic nachos" are ready for delivery. // 500 Castro St. (Castro), harveyssf.com
Margaritas, Stoli cocktails, and bar food are on offer from the Lookout, which is also teaming with Juanita More! to serve to serve Friday night dinners called MoreFood. Order online via Tock. // 3600 16th St. (Castro), lookoutsf.com
WesBurger 'N' More
This affordable patty emporium remains steadfast to its mantra: because burgers are fun. The Hot Wes is a spicy take on the classic food, onion rings and pickled jalapeños included. // 2240 Mission St. (Mission), wesburgernmore.com
Family-operated Kitchen Story is a brunch and dinner touchstone in The Castro, meshing Thai ingredients and flavors with tried-and-true staples. Order the Dancing Queen—grilled American wagyu flank steak from Morgan Ranch, spicy garlic Thai long bean, roasted rice tamarind sauce, ginger rice, and topped with 151 rum. // 3499 16th St. (Castro), kitchenstorysf.com
East Bay's Queer-Owned Restaurants
Out-and-proud owners and Top Chef alums Jen Biesty and manager Tim Nugent helm this lauded Oakland spot for Med-inspired tapas and paellas as well as a legendary happy hour. Order for pickup and delivery via Caviar, and don't forget the bottled negronis and old fashioneds sealed with festive rainbow heart stickers. // 3407 Lakeshore Ave. (Oakland), shakewelloakland.com
Gay4U Vegan Eats
Trans POC always eat free at Gay4U Vegan Eats, where the owner (yep, a trans POC) slings some mean biscuits and gravy sans animal products. // 1327 Peralta St. (Oakland), Instagram; call 510-994-9444 in advance to place your order.
This tried-and-true, counter-serve Oakland cafe is known for its breakfast fare, po' boys, and viscous milkshakes. And, yes, the hot spot is owned and operated by Brenda Buenviaje of SF's eateries of the same name. // 4045 Broadway #101 (Oakland), brendasoakland.com
Nick's Pizza in North Oakland is a trans-owned eatery helmed by Nick Yapor-Cox. The neighborhood favorite is loved for its "Oakland-style pizza" featuring a thin sourdough crust; they serve just seven offerings a day in order to "focus on quality over quantity." // 6211 Shattuck Ave. (Oakland), oaklandstylepizza.com
Queer-Owed Restaurants in Marin and Wine Country
Equality Vines is still selling its wines, including Rosé the Riveter and Love Wins sparkling wine, via their online shop for curbside pick up and delivery; a portion of the sales from each purchased vino goes toward supporting organizations dedicated to fighting for equal rights. // 16215 Main St. (Guerneville), equalityvines.com
Boon Eat + Drink
Lesbian entrepreneur Crista Luedtke is beloved for her Guerneville hotel, Boon, and its sister gastronomic hub, Boon Eat+Drink. The restaurant is open for takeout and delivery, as well as garden dining. Ask which microbrew would pair best with your meal. // 16248 Main St. (Guerneville), eatatboon.com
Brew Coffee and Beer HouseYou can't go wrong with the $6 avocado toasts and vanilla cake donuts from queer-owned Brew Coffee and Beer House, which is also offering pantry/grocery service. // 555 Healdsburg Ave. (Santa Rosa), brewcoffeeandbeer.revelup.com
Equator Coffees' Bay Area-wide stomping grounds are the brainchild of partners Helen Russell and Brooke McDonnell, who cofounded the company in a Marin County garage over 25 years ago. Online coffee orders can be both placed and picked up in Marin, San Francisco, and Oakland cafes; peruse their online store to see what single-roast coffees currently being brewed at their locations. // Multiple locations, equatorcoffees.com