Hip Must-Stop Sips: Garden Court at Palace Hotel, San Francisco

BreakingModern — In San Francisco and looking for a happening spot to toast the holidays (or any other day)? The Garden Court at the historic Palace Hotel has become San Francisco’s latest hot spot to imbibe and nosh after five o’clock.

Famed for its stained-glass dome and Austrian crystal chandeliers, the restaurant where Woodrow Wilson courted congressional support for the Treaty of Versailles to end World War I is now open at night for small bites, cocktails and live music. For a short take on its history, see below.

Cocktails, Savory and Sweet Bites

The Garden Court at Night runs from 5-10 p.m. every evening, offering guests a mellow spot to relax on a sofa or at a table to enjoy a glass of wine, appetizers and signature cocktails that tip their hat to the hotel’s history.

Seasonal cocktails currently being shaken and stirred:

  • The 1909, which blends bourbon, lemon, home-made ginger syrup and Lagavulin to celebrate the hotel’s fiery past and the re-opening in 1909.
  • Landmark 18, which mixes Spirit Works sloe gin, Bummer & Lazarus gin, fresh orange juice and roasted almond bitters made in-house. The awe-inspiring Garden Court became San Francisco’s historic landmark #18 in 1969.
  • American Bartender, which is made with Emperor Norton Absinthe, Small Hand Foods Orgeat and house-made bitters. It was inspired by San Francisco’s and the hotel’s first barman,William “Cocktail” Boothby.

Cocktails cost $14, which seemed reasonably priced given the premium alcohol and house-made ingredients.

There are also beer and wine options. The impressive wine list includes wines from California, Europe and Australia along with unexpected unique options from Slovenia and Sardegna.

Palace Court


The Court’s appetizers are created from fresh, local ingredients and are designed as one or two bite dishes. When I was a guest of the Palace on Nov. 9, my favorite savory bites included:

  • The Watermelon and Feta dish made with Greek yogurt (for one).
  • Shrimp “Ravioli” with shrimp, wild mushroom and saffron aioli (for one).
  • Gougéres, which were small balls of smoked Gouda and Gruyére, Warm Olives and Warm California Walnuts.

All three were great for sharing. I couldn’t resist some sweet bites too. My favorite were the Salted Soft Caramel and the American Chocolate Sphere. Dishes are priced between $3-$6.

Garden Court


Live musical entertainment adds to the Garden Court’s relaxing nightly vibe. The artists currently performing are singer/guitarist Torin Martinez and pianist Sofia Nedic.

A Brief History of the Palace

The iconic Palace Hotel first opened in 1875. Prior to being destroyed in the fire of 1906, Oscar Wilde and presidents Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, Teddy Roosevelt and Ulysses S. Grant had slept there. Actress Sarah Bernhardt famously even checked in with her baby tiger once. (Note: dogs are welcome today, but tigers must be left at home.)

It took three years to rebuild the Palace, and when it reopened in 1909 the spectacular Garden Court was unveiled as a first floor lounge. It was crafted as an evening cocktail spot that guests would enjoy before heading out to dinner. It later became the hotel’s main dining room. After decades of not being an evening lounge, the Garden Court now beckons the hip, cocktail style once again.

For BMod, I’m Terry Gardner.

All Image Credits: Terry Gardner

Disclosure: The Palace Hotel hosted me on November 9 when I sampled the Garden Court at Night cocktails and appetizers.

Terry Gardner

Author: Terry Gardner

Based in Santa Monica, CA, Terry Gardner is a freelance journalist whose passion for travel, scuba diving and the environment led to a career as a travel journalist. She blogs for various websites, including the Los Angeles Times Travel & Deal blog and Huffington Post. Terry's website is www.terrytravels.com. Her Twitter and Facebook handles are terrytravels1.

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