Celebrate Pride at these three neighborhood gems in SF’s Castro

Photo credit: Brianna Danner.

Pride is back with colorful sparkle in San Francisco, lighting up the Pink Triangle on Twin Peaks and parading up Market Street on Sunday, June 25. Whether you’re attending the Dyke March or simply hanging out in the Castro, it’s an especially fun time of year to book a big table for family and friends. This trio of neighborhood gems are must-visits for colorful cocktails, blistered pizzas, drag dinners, and garden brunches. Read on for 3 restaurants to celebrate Pride in SF.

Colorful cocktails in the Canela Parklet

Co-owners of San Francisco restaurant Canela Paco Cifuentes and Mat Schuster sitting next to each other on a couch with their dog in between them.

Canela chef Mat Schuster has owned the restaurant alongside his partner Paco Cifuentes (left) since 2011. Photo credit: Canela

Any occasion calls for a reservation at tapas favorite Canela Bistro & Wine Bar on Market Street. Pop-and-pop owners Mat Schuster and Paco Cifuentes opened the Spanish restaurant in 2011, inspired by Cifuentes’ native Madrid. 

The couple has been together for 18 years (12 as co-owners of the restaurant) and still live around the corner. “As a gay couple, you certainly feel comfortable in the Castro,” Schuster says. “Also it’s a really great part of the city.” They’re excited about a strong comeback this Pride. “Especially as we see LGBTQ+ rights being restricted in many places right now, I think it’s more important than ever to make it a point to celebrate,” he says. “Because we have the right to celebrate.”  

Canela is running special drinks and dishes, including a cocktail called the Transcendent Pride that sparkles with gin, ginger beer, and lime. A final pour of butterfly pea flower syrup at the table transforms the drink from blue to pink and purple, a tribute to the colors of the trans flag. “It’s fun on festive days,” says Schuster, referring to the energy of Castro Street, a couple of blocks away. “You can sit out in the parklet, have our happy hour specials, and watch the revelry and action in the street.”

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Neapolitan pizza with a drag show at Vico Cavone

Several drag queens standing side by side at San Francisco restaurant Vico Cavone.

Drag dinners are a highlight at Castro restaurant Vico Cavone. Photo credit: Alessandro Raimondo.

Vico Cavone is the heart of the party. The new restaurant opened in December 2021, spinning Neapolitan-style pies from the woodfired oven and tossing fresh pastas. It’s also become a go-to destination for drag dinners and open mic nights that are just as at home at Vico Cavone as church and school groups.

“People are very happy that there’s a spot, that when they enter, they feel free,” says owner Alessandro Raimondo, who identifies as gay, is a registered minister with the city, and has officiated two weddings at the restaurant. “Doesn’t matter their race, color, age, sexual orientation, and everything else. Everybody can come.”

Raimondo grew up in Naples, Italy, and has been obsessed with the Castro since he was a teenager when his high school English teacher screened the movie Milk (about SF gay rights activist and politician Harvey Milk). He moved to the Bay Area ten years ago and only worked in the Castro before opening his restaurant.

For Vico Cavone’s second Pride, they’ve racked up a full weekend: A Friday night fashion show with models walking the 3,600-square-foot space, a Saturday night DJ spinning after dinner, and Sunday brunch hosted by RuPaul’s Drag Race Queen Detox featuring a prix-fixe menu of pizza, pasta, and wine pairings.

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Brunch with a floral backdrop in the Fable garden patio

The plant-filled backyard of the San Francisco restaurant Fable

Fable’s verdant backyard has long been a draw for the local community. Photo credit: Fable

This local favorite for al fresco brunch has grown into a front parklet and gorgeous garden patio. They’ve earned a reputation for raising the bar for food in the neighborhood and offering much more than bottomless mimosas.  

Though it isn’t LGBTQ-owned, it’s long been a favorite for the local LGBTQ community. Ramsey Garcia opened the spot in 2013 and was joined by his best friend Jon Vargas, who became a co-owner in 2020. “In all our years of experience in the restaurant industry in San Francisco, we’ve worked in many different districts,” Vargas says. “But it feels like family here in Castro. It’s been so warm and welcoming…these are the best regulars we’ve ever had.”  

Vargas had a brother who was part of the LGBTQ community and lived in the neighborhood for many years. “I always think about him and try to keep his traditions alive,” says Vargas. He estimates that 75% of their diners come from in or around the Castro. 

Pride marks the busiest summer months for Fable, when everyone craves chocolate chip banana bread and crab cake Benedict. After a particularly wet winter, the garden should be bumping and there’s a wall of colorful sequins or flowers to snap a photo with friends. “I love the Castro,” Vargas says. “It still feels like San Francisco, even when other neighborhoods change.” 

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Becky Duffett is a food writer living and eating in San Francisco. Follow her on Instagram at @beckyduffett.