The Infatuation is built on the idea of “Perfect For” categories, catering to assorted restaurant needs. Dinner With The Parents? Date Night? Impressing Out Of Towners? We got it.
But occasionally, we field requests that don’t quite fit into any of The Infatuation’s pre-determined categories. And there is one such genre of restaurant that comes up over and over again - at parties, at shuttle bus stops, in cardio barre classes we don’t actually attend. It’s what we’ve come to call the “Super Cute Reasonably Priced Restaurant To Catch Up With A Few Friends” (SCRPRTCUWFF).
In general, SCRPRTCUWFFs are:
- Somewhat quiet.
- But not boring.
- Relatively small.
- With plates mostly under $20. (Drink as much Sauvignon Blanc as you want, though.)
You have our list - now go ahead and plan that Tuesday night dinner.
Souvla - especially the Nopa location, with its big back patio - makes you feel like you’re on vacation in the Greek islands. Order at the counter, get some wine while you’re at it, and then sit back and wait for your delicious salad (get the lamb) or gyro. Very cute, very affordable, very delicious.
Sometimes you want to catch up with friends, but not get stuck there for too long. When that’s the situation, Bonita is a good bet. This little spot in the Marina is great for a quick dinner, especially on a nice night when you can sit on the alleyway patio. They have margaritas and beers and excellent salads and tacos - the carne asada and carnitas are the way to go.
You might think of Horsefeather as a place to get drinks while you wait for a table at Nopa. But for a weeknight catch-up dinner with friends, this place is easy and less packed than its neighbor. The food is also very good, with a short menu ranging from fried chicken (great) to kale salad (pretty great) to a poke bowl (the most great). While you’re at it, definitely get involved with the cocktails. The California Cooler - with gin, thyme, and Sauvignon Blanc syrup - is a particularly good choice.
Unless you live in Mission Bay or Dogpatch, this place likely isn’t in your regular rotation. Your loss. And your friend-hang-out loss. Glena’s is a laidback, order-at-the-counter taco spot that’s perfect for discussing everyone’s life updates over great chips, guacamole, and tacos. Or a salad. The menu has good vegetarian and pescatarian options, and even a pina colada if it’s just been that kind of day.
This Hayes wine bar is on a side street, and its signage is basically non-existent. Great for us, because it means you can usually pop in and grab a table for a casual dinner. Why is it good for catching up with friends? Well, wine. But it’s also unlike many wine bars in that its dinner menu, supplemented with new things from guest chefs, is a step above the regular cheese plate/charcuterie selection you might expect (but if you want cheese and bread, that’s an option, too).
Easy to get a reservation and easy to hear each other talk. Big selling points when you’re planning a catch-up dinner, and in addition to checking these boxes, Troya also has Mediterranean food that’s authentic, simple, and delicious. Unclear why it’s so easy to get in, but we aren’t complaining. It’s generally appropriately busy with people who care more about the food than documenting their every move on social media, and it’s an enjoyable place to spend some time. While you’re here, the things you should be eating include, but aren’t limited to: fried brussels sprouts, lamb hummus, and chicken kebabs.
There are very few places that are popular enough to open two locations essentially next door to each other. Yet Blue Barn in the Marina manages to run dual operations (one mostly sit-down, one mostly to-go) that do business all day, every day. The people want their $20 salads and they want them now. The Steiner location is the larger one, and the spacious, airy back room is ideal for a low-key friend dinner when you all agree that you are showing up in gym clothes or without washing your hair, but you still need a glass of wine and something delicious to eat.
Caveat: The Snug is a place for a catching-up-with-a-few-friends dinner on weeknights. This Pac Heights bar-restaurant is a rare new addition to Fillmore Street, and clearly it was needed, as evidenced by the people flocking to it like it’s doling out free Outsidelands tickets. The cocktails are high-quality and the ambience is cool, but most of all, the back second floor of The Snug is a very good place to eat some food and catch up with friends. They don’t take reservations, which means you can plan a last-minute meal and share poke, hummus, and salads that are very good, and not just “good for a bar.”
Flour + Water-level pasta without Flour + Water-level prices or waits. Any questions besides how soon you can get there? Didn’t think so. This Mission spot has a menu of incredible pastas and meats and a few vegetables, with everything under $20. Add in an affordable wine list (all bottles are $40) and the soft-serve gelato you can grab on your way out, and this is heaven in a restaurant.
On weeknights, this Castro spot can be a little more chill than other places in the neighborhood, and the Mediterranean menu is perfect for sharing a lot of things with a small group. We like the appetizers and small plates more than the entrees, so stock up on those for the table and call it a night.
Sparrow hits the super-cute requirements hard. Wooden tables and great light outdoors, block prints and fresh flowers inside - this place is great and never too busy. Brunch is the main draw (especially if you like French toast and/or huevos rancheros), and a good bet for a low-key friend meal, but dinner is also pretty damn good and very affordable, with a solid mix of healthy and non-healthy things to keep your whole group happy.
Sharing a pizza or two or three is one of our favorite ways to do a dinner with friends. You have no food envy because everyone is eating the same thing, no one is being the annoying person getting a salad when you’re all there to eat carbs, and it lends itself well to getting your team’s take on whether you should really quit your job to start the cake-decorating company you always dreamed of. Il Casaro is also the rare spot in North Beach that isn’t slammed with tourists and does excellent Italian without being cheesy. Well, the mozzarella is excellent - but that’s our kind of cheesy. We’ll show ourselves out.
Time for all the cocktails. Maven is a good go-to in the Haight when you want to grab drinks and dinner without a long wait or reservations. The upstairs area is a good place to hang out, and the space never gets too loud. The burger is good, the mussels are good, and the corpse reviver cocktail is especially good.
Walking into Piccino basically feels like walking into a Scandinavian design store. Beautiful wood, sleek, minimalist chairs, and white walls keep the space simple. This is nice because you can focus on talking to your friends and hearing the latest on Robin’s ridiculous roommate who keeps using her Clarisonic and then lying about it. Order a pizza and a few salads and get to it.
Gamine is one of our favorite spots for a low-key dinner that’s not absurdly expensive. The mussels, escargot, and petit filet are really good, and the friendly waiters don’t hold back on the bread basket refills. Our kind of place.
B Star Bar is a good choice when you want some Burmese food but would rather not deal with the wait at Burma Superstar down the block. The back area is airy and cool, and it’s a great spot to share some spicy things over a real conversation. You can hear each other talk, which means you can all agree that the tea leaf salad is fantastic.
Healthy dinners don’t have to mean sh*tty salads or Lean Cuisines. Little Gem glams up healthy food in a beautiful space in Hayes Valley, and is ideal for a relaxed, order-at-the-counter weeknight dinner. Be warned, though - the salads are small and the plates are pricey, so stick with the rice bowls and share a salad.
While people might think of Ragazza as a pizza spot, we’d disagree. The best things here are the small plates (and roasted chicken), all of which are good to share. The back garden is fantastic, and they have heaters, so it’s an option pretty much all the time.
There are plenty of pretentious wine bars out there, but 20 Spot isn’t one of them. With a great atmosphere and even greater music, this Mission spot is one of the more fun places to catch up with friends - just make sure those friends like cheese.
Fiorella has quickly become one of our favorite Richmond spots, and is possibly the platonic ideal of a SCRPRTCWFF. It feels ultra-neighborhoody, it has great service, and you should be able to get a reservation on a weekday. The pasta is awesome (especially the cacio e pepe), and the pizza and appetizers are good as well. Good luck trying to get a good picture of the famous-San-Franciscan-themed wallpaper, though - the lights are pretty dim.