SFGuide

Where To Have A Nice Date Night Without Spending Over $100

Dining out is getting more expensive, but you can still have a romantic date night on a budget.
Where To Have A Nice Date Night Without Spending Over $100 image

photo credit: Melissa Zink

Unless you recently struck gold with Powerball or happen to be in Jeff Bezos’ inner friend circle, you’ve probably noticed things are getting pricey. It seems a little too easy for dinner bills to creep into the $150-$200 range for two. So when you need a restaurant for a nice date without blowing through your annual Clipper card budget in a single night, use this guide. 

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Melissa Zink

Pizza

Mission

$$$$Perfect For:Date NightFirst/Early in the Game DatesCasual Weeknight Dinner
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Angie’s is one of the best date night spots in the city, full stop. But it’s also a great place to hit up when you want to spice up a Friday night by ditching your reliable couch-and-instant-ramen routine in favor of excellent wood-fired pies and ice cream sundaes, all without running up a bill that may give you goosebumps. Sizable pizzas topped with dates and creamy goat cheese or pepperoni and garlic chili honey cost less than $21. There’s a solid wine by the glass selection. And the walk-in only spot in the Mission has an effortlessly charming space that reminds us of a retro basement, with funky geometric tiles, a vinyl collection, and glowy mushroom lamps.

It takes no convincing to get us to Beit Rima. The promise of the mezze sampler and whole fried branzino of our dreams is especially motivating when you consider the fact that you'll eat here and leave without wanting to throw your wallet in a fire. Keep this Arabic comfort food spot in your back pocket for casual dates that feel like you’re eating a home-cooked meal in your date’s living room, complete with floral wallpaper and pop-art prints. Just don’t expect candlelight.

The alternative to a triple-digit bill for a night of plates so tiny your stomach can barely register them? Filling up on ramen at Taishoken in the Mission. This spot is a sleeker alternative to more casual ramen spots across town, with its swanky overhead lights and bottles of sake gleaming on high-up shelves. They specialize in tsukemen, or dipping ramen, with rich broth that clings to the noodles beautifully. The spicy pork miso option with thinner noodles is also worth your attention. If you want to round things out with a drink or two, this spot serves shochu cocktails and plum wine.

At Pearl 6101 in the Richmond, service is friendly, cocktails are sub-$15, and the lighting is perpetually set to a very sexy low. In other words, this is the romantic weeknight rendezvous spot. This place doesn't skimp on the portions. And the food, like the rich white bolognese with handkerchief pasta or the caesar salad loaded with fried prosciutto, is all easy to share and filling enough that you won’t need to swing by McDonald’s after. 

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The sizzling yakitori smell wafting out of Moku Yakitori-Ya will make you ditch any reservation you might already have, walk in, and ask for a table for two. This tiny Richmond izakaya serves chicken thigh, pork belly, and fish cake skewers that are perfectly charred and packed with flavor. But also expect shareable plates, like deep-fried mochi, stir-fried ramen, and sashimi to be the night's other conversation points. Keep the sake coming for you and whoever you’re with, and, if the evening doesn’t work out, “I know where to find the best deep-fried mochi in town” is a fantastic prompt for when you get back on the apps. 

Wood-fired pizza abounds at this Outer Sunset spot. They’re perfectly thin with chewy crusts. Split a classic, like the margherita, or a more creative combination like the purple potato and pesto with crispy pancetta bits scattered on top, and contemplate learning how to surf over wine and spritzes. The pies are pretty big, and hover within $19-$24. So throw in a glass of wine or some ranch on the side for drizzling—you’ll still be in and out for less than $60.

photo credit: Erin Ng

If we had it our way, “dates at Dumpling Home” would be the sixth official love language. Bringing someone to the casual Hayes Valley spot to eat the array of steamed, pan-fried, and boiled dumplings is the equivalent of saying “I love you” for the first time and sharing joint custody over a pug. And yes, the plump xiao long bao and crispy-bottomed shengjianbao are the main attraction, but don’t overlook the sticky dry-fried chicken wings, green beans, and green onion pancakes. 

When you want to get flirty over a few glasses of nero d’avola and fettuccine all’amatriciana, get to Corks. The tiny Richmond wine bar and restaurant has just a few tables, and never gets so loud that you can’t hear your date telling you about their detailed skincare routine. Aside from housemade pasta, they also have snacky plates like prosciutto and burrata and caprese salads. 

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SF Guide

Where To Get Some Pasta & A Glass Of Wine By Yourself

Saru Sushi in Noe Valley is the place to go when you want excellent rolls and nigiri without accidentally maxing out your credit card. The walk-in-only spot in Noe Valley will likely have a wait, but you can always wander the aisles of the nearby Whole Foods or scroll through each other’s Twitter likes in the meantime. Once you’re seated, perfect fatty tuna and yellowtail belly nigiri will land on your table. A ton of rolls are great to share—and under $20—like the sweet potato tempura and the specialty White Out with seared escarole and garlic ponzu.

Nopalito has one of our favorite covered patios in town, for when you want to feel like you’re sort of outside without actually having to face the wind. It’s also a very nice place to come with someone you like, and share hearty Mexican dishes like flavor-packed carnitas, pozole rojo, and a half chicken drenched in mole. Always share the totopos loaded with crema, cotija, onions, and cilantro to start things off. Beer, wine, and a bunch of $13 cocktails are on hand to drink. 

photo credit: Trestle

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Full disclosure: a meal at Trestle will likely come to a tad over $100, after tax, tip, and maybe a glass of wine. But it’s the fanciest place on this guide that’s also a great deal for your wallet. The three-course menu is $42 per person, but service is attentive enough that you won’t feel like you’re fine dining on a discount. This American restaurant in Chinatown is ideal for anniversaries and birthdays where you want to dress up and feel like hot sh*t over seared steak with roasted beets, carrot and ginger soup, and key lime pie. 

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