San Francisco’s Best Kept Secrets: Restaurants Perfect for Exclusive Happy Hours
Big conference venues are great, but sometimes you need a more intimate space to connect with VIPs, speakers, or sponsors. While we love the myriad of “blank slate” venues available around town for big groups, most of them don’t offer the privacy that companies want for an exclusive pre-event reception or post-conference dinner. We’ve curated a list of our favorite restaurants, bars, and event spaces that offer just the right amount of privacy, exclusivity, and character.
We love each of these picks for different reasons, but any one of them would be perfect for hosting a VIP reception, a speaker’s networking meetup, or a happy hour hosted by one of your event sponsors for their best clients or prospects. The City by the Bay is your oyster!
When a Private Restaurant is a Great Idea
These picks are all conveniently located to some of our favorite San Francisco corporate event venues and all are ideal for satellite events, PR gatherings, press briefings, sponsor gatherings, VIP events, a happy hour to say thank you to speakers (especially at events where presenters aren’t compensated). We envision these spaces being used as part of a larger industry-user conference, such as for high-level prospects or existing clients. Having a space like this gives the sales team an opportunity to say “let’s keep talking about this at happy hour.”
Marianne’s: Sexy and Swanky
Would you be interested in hosting your reception in what feels like a speakeasy right out of Old Hollywood? You’ll find it at Marianne’s. This luxe space is in the back of the Cavalier, a restaurant in Hotel Zetta. On top of being decidedly glam, this space is just a stone’s throw from some of our favorite venues, like The Mint, The Four Seasons, Park Central, St Regis, and Yerba Buena. We think it would be an amazing pick for late night cocktails or even a high-touch brunch for VIPs.
Jones: Iconic San Francisco
A restaurant in the middle of the city with rooftop views and an iconic drag queen chef? Does it get any more San Francisco than this? This industrial-chic space can host groups from 15 to 1,500, so they can definitely accommodate your needs. Even though Jones is in the middle of the city, their outdoor space feels secluded thanks to the big gardens. We love the staff at this space; they really get what it takes to plan a large event because of their close relationships with many event venues around the city, which is always a plus for us!
We first learned about this space from a client who booked it as a cost-effective way to do a pre/post event, and we’ve seen over and over again that this space is ideal for a buyout if you have a large enough group. It’s great for after-parties, daytime team-building (in the lovely outdoor space), and especially as an event off-shoot space if you need more room.
Sens San Francisco: Bay Bridge Views
In this fog-filled city, sometimes you just need to indulge in cuisine from sunnier places: enter Sens and their sun-drenched Mediterranean cuisine that has us drooling just from scrolling their Instagram. On top of their delectable cuisine, we love that this restaurant has views of the Bay Bridge lights, making it perfect for an iconic San Francisco evening. This restaurant has great prices and is convenient to many waterfront venues such as Pier 27, Pier 35, Hyatt Embarcadero, Bentley Reserve, and other boutique hotels in the area.
Press Club: Sophisticated & Scalable
If you want to treat your guests to a sophisticated casual vibe and some of California’s best wine selection, this is the place for you. It’s near many venues that we love such as Yerba Buena, Bespoke, CityView, and many mid-market hotels; plus, the layout makes for easy networking with communal tables and open lounge seating. We especially adore this spot for its scalability: you could choose to do a full buyout, reserve a section, or reserve just a few tables. There’s ample hustle and bustle baked into the scene here, so if you’re worried about your first-time event feeling flat, this is a great choice. However, if you’re looking for a cozy, more intimate feel, then we recommend a private room or one of our other options listed here.
This subterranean hideaway is a speakeasy with a vintage newspaper theme. They are famous for their cocktails, and have a list longer than most newspapers today! Part restaurant, part cocktail lounge, part jazz club, this space feels like stepping back in time. It’s located in the Hearst Building, which is very appropriate given their newspaper/media theme.
This space can accommodate groups of up to 250 and with a built-in stage, it’s ideal for programming and music. We recommend this space for media, journalism loving, and culturally minded clients—among which we’re proud to include Bloomberg, NPR, and Pop-Up Magazine. This spot is just so fun, and we’re counting the days until we stop by again for another one of their famous cocktails!
Looking for More?
While we’ve curated this list from our personal favorites, this is a big city and there are plenty more we didn’t mention. If none of these are quite right for you, we recommend checking out the website San Francisco Private Dining Venues to find some of the great small gems in the city. The site is a great resource and we actually use it quite often. An added bonus: you can even send out RFPs directly from the site! Of course, we’re always happy to help you find the perfect spot for your event. Give us a call today and we’ll help you narrow down your search!
What’s Next for You?
Do you have an event coming up? We’d love to hear all about it. Send us a note with some details and we’ll be in touch ASAP. We love planning events that are just as meaningful to your company as they are fun for your guests.
Maggie Kennedy is the co-owner of Kennedy Events; a large-scale event management company based in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York City. Our team creates stress-free conferences and events with a positive impact, which allow our clients to resonate with their audience. Kennedy Events specializes in producing flawless product launches, award ceremonies, fundraisers and multi-day conferences while keeping our eye on retention and engagement goals.