The Round House Cafe closed due to the pandemic, and is slated to reopen as a (round) Equator Coffee Shop in 2022.
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Golden Gate Bridge Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94129 (See Map Below)
Neighborhood: Golden Gate Bridge. . Limited metered parking nearby at the Strauss Plaza, Visitor Center and South Viewing Area parking lot.
Insiders Tip: About 50 feet down the steps from the Round House Cafe is the Golden Gate Bridge Cafe, a vending area and snack shop. Travel sites and even government websites often confuse them due to their similar locations and names, but they are very different experiences.
Insiders Tip: Don’t miss the off-ramp! The Round House Cafe is part of the Strauss Plaza and Visitor Center complex at the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge. If you’re traveling north from San Francisco, be sure to take the last exit on the right before the Bridge toll plaza, or you’ll have to pay a toll to come back or walk across the Bridge after you reach the Vista Point parking lot at the north end of the span.
If you’re coming south on the Golden Gate Bridge from Sausalito and Marin County, take the first right turn after passing through the Toll Plaza, then immediately take another right to go down the ramp that leads to a tunnel under the Bridge. On the far end of the tunnel is the Strauss Plaza Visitor Center parking lot.
Round House Cafe at the Golden Gate Bridge
The Round House Cafe is an Art Deco treasure, built as part of the original Golden Gate Bridge project in a round shape next to the toll plaza. It opened on May 27, 1938, one year after the Bridge was completed and opened for use. Although the video above is narrated in Portuguese, it gives some great views of the restaurant and the Golden Gate Bridge.
In the 1938 vision for the Bridge it was intended as a cafe where travelers on “a long drive north” could stop before leaving San Francisco, since the Presidio area near the Bridge was a military base at the time and there were no other places to eat nearby.
The Round House Cafe at age 78 is a cross between an organic cafe and a fast-food counter, with shiny stainless steel high chairs and a counter along the wall of glass that offers such great views. The photo above is not a wall decoration, it’s the real view out the windows of the cafe, with the seats and counter in the foreground. I took the photo in the late afternoon, which created interesting colors and shadows.
They serve several kinds of tasty and large hot dogs, different soups and chili’s, as well as coffee, espresso and hot chocolate.
A lot of people come through here each day, so sometimes there will be a line, and the most popular items like the sourdough-bowl clam chowder usually sell out early. If you come by here late in the afternoon your choices will probably be limited.
These conditions are significantly worse during the high-volume travel months of summer, weekends and Holidays, and better in the November-March non-holiday weekends. But when I recently grabbed a late lunch here on a late autumn weekday they had still sold out of all their soups and chili’s before I arrived, and were down to two varieties of (tasty) hot dogs. Miraculously, they still had a piece of their “it really is home made and locally baked” apple pie!
Note: the vending and snack area just down the stairs from the Round House Cafe in Strauss Plaza is called The Golden Gate Bridge Cafe.
When I was a kid we would drive by here and I would say to my dad, “It would be really fun to eat there!” But by the time you drive by the Round House Cafe going northbound you have reached the point of no return on the Golden Gate Bridge and it’s too late to turn at the last off-ramp before the Bridge, and we never went. By the time I was a teenager and got my license the cafe had been closed, and served for many years as office space, as an unsightly boarded up storage area for the Bridge District and as a gift shop.
Thankfully, as of 2015 the Cafe has now re-opened and in addition to food and beverages it offers a break from the sometimes-relentless wind and a great place to take photos of the Bridge.