Revered as the birthplace of San Francisco and the guardian of the Golden Gate for more than two centuries, The Presidio, built by Spanish colonists in 1776, celebrates 20 years as a National Park in October – and what a difference two decades makes. The 1,500 leafy acres have transformed from fatigued army base to a favored destination of hikers, bikers and lollygaggers who come to take in some of the best views in The City, as well as a neighborhood where nearly 3,000 residents happily call The Presidio home.
But it's also quickly becoming a solid dining destination. So much so that acclaimed local chef Traci Des Jardins (of Jardinière and Mijita) officially opens the doors to her second Presidio restaurant, Arguello, on Oct. 8 in the newly restored Officers' Club, celebrating its opening weekend Saturday and Oct. 5.
Arguello’s menu features modern Mexican cuisine and a bar with handcrafted cocktails. Des Jardins’ first Presidio restaurant, The Commissary, a casual Spanish-inspired bistro housed in the former barracks building, opened in May.
“We want the restaurants to be accessible to everyone and we aim to please sophisticated local diners as well as those coming from around the world,” says Des Jardins. “The Presidio is the next great dining frontier in San Francisco.”
Thanks to Des Jardins' impressive culinary pedigree, these restaurants have been highly anticipated, but several others around The Presidio grounds hiding out for years are worth discovering anew.
Presidio Social Club
Erected in 1903 as military barracks, the restaurant is now an easy lunch and dinner stop for contemporary twists on comfort-food classics, such as mac and cheese and meatloaf, served with a heaping side of San Francisco nostalgia. The back patio is popular for weekend brunch, with a menu including cocktail specials and challah French toast with pecan butter and maple syrup. [563 Ruger St., S.F., (415) 885-1888, www.presidiosocialclub.com]
Yes, it's a bowling alley and, sure, the food is simple bar grub – burgers, spicy chicken wings, sandwiches, fries – but there's also a bar that serves 56 types of beer, many of them local craft brews, and a gargantuan breakfast offered from 9 to 11 a.m. of three eggs with choice of four strips of bacon or four sausage patties; toast, hash browns or two pancakes, plus coffee, for just $8.75. Strike! [93 Moraga St., S.F., (415) 561-2695, www.presidiobowl.com]
The Presidio Café
Despite what you might think, the Presidio Golf Course is not a private course (public play began in 1995), and the café located inside the clubhouse is open for golfers and non, serving breakfast and lunch of San Francisco favorites such as clam chowder and Dungeness crab and avocado salad next to one of the most beautiful golf courses in the state. [300 Finley Road, S.F., (415) 561-4600, www.presidiocafe.com]
The Disney Family Museum Café
The ultra casual café, operated by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck and opened in 2009, is open to both visitors and the public during museum hours (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.). The menu is limited but fresh, and includes salads, sandwiches, pastries, coffee and macaroons – but the real star of the show is the outside seating on the covered porch overlooking the historic Presidio parade grounds. [104 Montgomery St., S.F., (415) 345-6800, www.waltdisney.org]
Locally sourced organic food and sustainably grown ingredients work their magic in this restaurant inside the Thoreau Center. Open for breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday, Café RX has a menu that changes often. Fresh salads with free range chicken, homemade soup, veggie burgers and tangy quesadillas have been popular favorites at this Presidio secret that opened in 2013. [1013 Torney Ave., S.F., (415) 561-2273, www.caferx.net]
With organic coffee drinks served all day, from 7 a.m., and fresh, grab-and-go meals that make it easy to picnic in the park, the Transit Café is a convenient stop before, during or after an outing. The brick pizza oven pumps out from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and there's free WiFi. The café is closed on weekends. [215 Lincoln Blvd., S.F., (415) 561-4435, www.presidio.gov/visit]