The Best Date Night Restaurants In San Francisco guide image


The Best Date Night Restaurants In San Francisco

Going on a first or 100th date? You need this guide.

Dating isn’t easy. First dates might have you heading out armed with an exit strategy and a list of 37 potential conversation starters. And by the time you get to the umpteenth one, you’re just trying to “keep this thing alive” and avoid spending the evening on the couch watching re-runs of another Bravo reality series. Like we said, dating is tough. Let us help. Here are 16 spots in the city that will guarantee dating success. 


The Anchovy Bar

The Anchovy Bar is the third spot from the State Bird Provisions and The Progress people, and it’s the most romantic in the family. Dark tile accents, floral arrangements, and the glow of overhead orb lights sets the stage for flirty knee brushes under the table. Come here with someone you share toothpaste with, and debate future pet names over tender anchovies in spicy hot oil, halibut crudo with seasonal fruit, and broiled oysters soaking in sambal butter. 

Mijoté feels like you’re at a dinner party at a friend’s house. Every dish on the four-course menu at this French restaurant in the Mission is stunning, and if you sit at the bar (the best seats in the house) you’ll get to watch staff finish up scallop appetizers, cut big hunks of sourdough (to sop up all the rich sauces), and pour elderberry jus or harissa butter onto your entrée from across the counter. Sip on a glass of natural wine in the cozy space and plan on making a standing monthly date a routine here—no two meals are ever the same.

This spot is a sleeker alternative to the many casual ramen places across town—and a better date night than sitting on opposite ends of the couch, scrolling through Twitter. Couples and small groups of soup-loving friends flock to the Mission restaurant for the tsukemen with rich broth, the spicy pork miso ramen with perfectly cooked chashu, and garlicky miso cucumbers—and you and your date should, too. Round the meal out with shochu cocktails or plum wine.

This Richmond spot looks like an Airbnb in the Hamptons crossed with an HGTV-staged apartment, complete with lots of natural light and cozy booths. It’s also a date night restaurant that’s not too stressful to get a table at, plus they have great cocktails and small plates built for sharing. Definitely get the halibut crudo with passion fruit vinaigrette and salsa macha, or roasted cauliflower with black tahini hummus, and a couple of bigger dishes like the handkerchief pasta with rich white bolognese.

At this Northern Vietnamese spot in the Tenderloin, you're treated to an impressive lineup of family-style dishes, cocktails infused with pandan and Vietnamese coffee, and an easygoing energy that’ll make you want to stay until the kitchen closes. Settle into a cushioned booth with your date and go in on bánh khọt topped with caviar, bun cha in fragrant broth, and bò tái chanh, a chilled beef dish with tender filet mignon, onion, and citrus-y nuoc cham. Split the sweet mochi pandan cake for dessert. 

Wood-fired pizzas with perfectly thin, chewy crusts abound at this Outer Sunset spot—it's the main reason tables are filled with everyone from couples on a first date to friends catching up on a random Tuesday. Split a classic margherita, or the more creative purple potato and pesto with crispy pancetta bits scattered on top. Damnfine also has a full bar, lots of wine, and the air of a laidback neighborhood spot well-suited for long hangs and discussions about all the new hobbies you're both dying to take up.

Every dish that lands on your table at Routier feels like a gift. The silky-smooth chicken liver mousse tastes as luxurious as it looks, and the caramelized croissant topped with poached fruit and vanilla cream arrives on mismatched floral plates. But excellent food isn’t the only reason to come to this French spot in Lower Pacific Heights. A long marble bar, wraparound windows, and blue velour banquettes make Routier exactly the spot we head to for standing Friday night dates.

Angie’s turns up the heat for date night, and that’s not just because their wood-fired ovens are cranking out some of the finest pizza in town. The Mission spot draws you in with its vinyl collection and hanging globe lights. It’s the ideal setting to test out the waters with someone you met on an app (and, if you’re lucky, exchange pet name ideas) over excellent goat cheese and date pies and ice cream sundaes topped with poached apple and pecan streusel. 

Bar Crudo pulls double duty as both a great place to get seafood and a bar ideal for casual dates of all kinds. We usually come here for the oysters and marinated mussels, as well as their incredible smokey seafood chowder that’s full of shrimp, squid, different types of fish, mussels, and bacon. Bar Crudo’s phenomenal seafood Happy Hour (5-6:30pm) also never fails to draw us in with $2 oysters, $5 beers, and $8 wine when we’re not trying to blow out our bank account. 

On date nights when you forgot to make a reservation, the solution is usually Saru Sushi. The walk-in-only spot in Noe Valley has perpetual lines, but when you finally sit and the friendly staff starts bringing perfect fatty tuna and yellowtail belly nigiri to the table, you’ll know the wait was worth it. We love everything here, from the basic sushi rolls like sweet potato tempura, to specialty ones like the White Out with seared escarole and garlic ponzu. 

Cozying up with someone we like in the snug dining room at La Ciccia in Noe Valley is one of our favorite ways to spend a night. The place is usually filled with couples or small groups digging into Sardinian seafood dishes, which are hits across the board. Throw a dart at the menu and you'd end up with something fantastic, but never leave without ordering the spicy baby octopus stew and the spaghetti with olive oil, garlic, and cured fish roe.

Besharam in the Dogpatch has an entirely-vegetarian menu packed with incredible dishes that are meant to be shared, from the blue cheese-stuffed paratha and fiery charred eggplant stew to the drunken pani puri. The subtle combinations of sweet, sour, and spicy flavors in each dish are cause for even more celebration. Make sure your date meal is accompanied by one of their house-made chutneys and pickles.

The garden patio at this American spot in the Castro feels more like a greenhouse in the Mediterranean than a restaurant, which is why it’s the best garden patio in the city. It’s especially romantic at night when the servers put candles on the tables for extra mood lighting. Enjoy it while surrounded by palms and birds of paradise, and get into some pork chops, burgers, and wine. 

A date night at Rich Table can be as lowkey or fancy as you want it to be. There’s a bar where you can walk up and share small snacks like Douglas fir levain or porcini donuts with some wine. Or for special anniversaries or birthday date nights, go all out with the $129 chef’s tasting menu—it’s a great way to sample the majority of what Rich Table has to offer in one go, and a thrilling ride from start to finish. From pork schnitzel loaded with silky mapo tofu to dan dan bucatini with figs, the Hayes Valley spot excites us every time we come back.

The covered courtyard at Penny Roma is as close as you can get to the Italian countryside without actually flying there. There are hanging lights, a trickling fountain, and plants everywhere. And while you forget that you’re in the Mission, your focus will be on beautifully-executed Italian dishes, like the tagliatelle bolognese or agnolotti dal plin swimming in fragrant sugo d’arrosto. Split a bottle of natural wine with your date and you’ll be all set. 

Go to Cotogna on a weekday, and the Italian spot will be full of people finding refuge from the Financial District over great pastas and small plates. But at night, the wood-fired oven, friendly staff, and exposed brick wall make this Italian spot that's perfect for dates. Make sure the giant raviolo filled with ricotta and perfectly-runny egg yolk are on your table, along with a board of prosciutto and gnocco fritto.

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photo credit: Melissa Zink

The Best Date Night Restaurants In San Francisco guide image