We’re not completely sure what the difference between dinner with friends who happen to be female and a full-on Girls’ Night Out is, but we suspect it has something to do with the presence of sauvignon blanc and the absence of buffalo wings.
Whether or not this is correct, planning a night out with your girlfriends is now a little bit easier. These places are generally fun, mostly not impossible to get into, and have menus that should keep your whole group happy. How many bottles of wine you order is up to you.
Barvale is one of those magical places where you can order the entire menu and end up spending way less money than you expected. It’s ideal for an end-of-the-month girls’ night when rent is due and you maybe accidentally went a little overboard at the West Coast Craft Fair. Nope, the waiter isn’t doing you a favor as an extremely subtle signal of his attraction to you, the tapas plates (definitely go for the three for $15 deal) are filling and a whole spread of them can easily be dinner. The paella is great too, as are the gin and tonics, which happen to only be $6 during their Happy Hour until 6:30pm.
Let’s hope you have a planner in your group. Che Fico is a very hard reservation to get, and unless you’re into early dinners and have a friend with a very flexible work schedule who can get in line before 6pm, you’ll need a reservation a ways in advance. That’s fine - make it a month out and have something to look forward to. The space itself, on the second floor of a converted auto body shop in Nopa, is stunning and the Italian food, especially the pastas, is worth the wait. Get some supli to start and it’ll all flow from there.
Dinner at Pearl gives you a feel for the bachelorette party in Savannah that you bailed on because it’s basically impossible to get there from SF. The food at this Richmond spot isn’t exactly shrimp and grits (more Mediterranean), but the space has a Southern feel - from the high ceilings and second floor balcony to the wrap-around bar and the friendly staff. Everything is sharable and you might need two orders of the cauliflower with black tahini hummus.
It’s going to be a night. Shots were passed around on the way out the door and now you need to keep things going before anyone feels the need to ‘rest their eyes.’ Farmhouse Kitchen is loud and lively, in the Mission, which is critical for bar proximity, and also serves Thai food that’s way better than you’d expect from a place where large groups of people celebrate birthdays and the servers wear floral shirts. The papaya and rice salads are ideal to start and share, and the menu has everything from an excellent pad Thai to shrimp and short rib curries.
Fiorella is the place for girls’ night when you just need to drink that extra glass/bottle of wine and get into some things. The emotional toll of your younger sister having two kids while you’re still single, or the deep fear lingering in the back of your mind over RBG’s ribs can just call for a good cry, ideally over a lot of carbs supplemented by wine and the incredible octopus with olive pistachio relish. Fiorella is a neighborhood Italian spot where you can really feel at home, and no one will judge your tears or the extra pizza you get to go.
Just on the edge of the Mission, Tawla is centrally located for when you use a decorative conch shell to summon your friends, Anchorman-style. Once you’re there, the menu is meant for sharing and the Mediterranean food is phenomenal. It’s not hard to get a reservation, and the menu covers vegetarians, pescetarians, and carnivores. No matter who you’re trying to accommodate, the cauliflower is necessary.
The Dorian is more of a brunch spot, but at night, especially if you start at Happy Hour (with dollar oysters) and transition into dinner, it’s one of the more exciting places to eat in the Marina. Sure, it’s teeming with dudes who ironically Juul, but that’s either not the worst thing to happen to you this week or something you’re into. Either way, you should be sharing the roast brussels sprouts.
If you’ve never been to WCW+C, the clientele is almost exclusively female at any and all hours of the day. Maybe it’s the Union Street location, maybe it’s the small plate menu, or maybe it’s because we have a good eye for pinot and bruschetta. Whatever the reason, West Coast is a perfect spot for a last-minute girls’ night with a lot of wine, classy snacks, and a damn good grilled cheese.
We love Bar Crudo for girls’ night. It’s easy to get a reservation if you plan a week or so ahead, the seafood is fantastic, and the space is nice without feeling too formal. They have an excellent Happy Hour (which includes dollar oysters and $6 glasses of wine) if you want to do an early meal, and on the regular menu, the uni avocado toast and lobster, beet, and burrata salad are the moves.
Time to relive your semester abroad in Madrid, but this time you have money to spend and don’t have to subsist on cheese and bread and olives from the corner market. Bellota is one of our favorite spots in the city, and the space is ideal for getting a group together for dinner, wine, and discussing the pros and cons of Classpass. Definitely get a paella or two plus a few vegetable sides, and go from there.
There’s a time and a place for Tacolicious, and Loló is the Mexican place to go when it is not that time. And that time isn’t only when you need to go to a place that actually takes reservations. Besides that delightful perk, the food is interesting and the vibe makes you feel like you could be on a beach vacation in a place where there isn’t fog cover 85% of the day. In particular, the fried brussels sprouts are stellar and the tacos are always a good call.
Fantastic cocktails, Italian small plates, and a constantly busy vibe on a prime Mission corner keep Beretta on the list. We would sell at least one-third of a kidney in exchange for a lifetime supply of the burrata with truffle honey alone. It’s another place where you can share everything and even though they don’t take reservations, putting your name in and drinking some Kentucky Mules while you wait isn’t a bad idea.
Cala looks like a Mexico City mansion’s patio and feels a little glamorous without being pretentious. With a seafood-heavy menu that’s interesting without being challenging, this place is one of our favorites for a night of sharing lots of things and drinking many (too many) cocktails. The margaritas are the way to go and the trout tostadas are one of our favorite dishes in the city. Don’t skip the charred sweet potato - turns out it makes a very good taco filler.
Keep Robin in your back pocket for special occasion girls’ nights that you know are coming. Birthdays, last meals in the city, long-anticipated visits of the friend who you can definitely convince to move here from Philadelphia. It’s a super-fun, relatively affordable omakase place that will make you think about subsisting only on sushi from here on out. No food envy since everyone gets the same thing, and a good jumping off point for a night at Hayes Valley bars, or heading over to Divisadero.
For celebrations of all kinds - engagements, Chloe breaking up with her terrible boyfriend, a personal victory over the lady who wouldn’t move her mat at Body Temp, but then turned out to suck at yoga - Leo’s is the move. The space is swanky and cool, without trying too hard to be those things, and the food and cocktails are terrific. It is, however, one of the more expensive spots in Financial District, so be prepared for that. The hamachi crudo is phenomenal, the toasts are all worth your time (especially the shrimp), and the raw bar is top quality too.
Yelling “wine on tap” is the equivalent of shouting “free puppies” in a crowded area. Out The Door has this going for them, as well as a lot of pretty spectacular Vietnamese noodle dishes and stir-fries. The spring rolls and crab noodles are our favorites, and the claypot chicken is also always on our table. When you add in the fact that they take reservations, this is a good spot to hit up in a pinch when all of you need a night away from your significant others and can’t handle another night of Postmating Pacific Catch and watching the Warriors.
The Alembic is a cocktail bar that also happens to serve really good food. There are a bunch of cozy booths, so keep this in mind for girls’ nights when you can only pin four people down because everyone else is in the East Bay visiting their parents, “not drinking on weekdays,” or getting up early for bootcamp. The people you get to come to this dinner are the keepers, and they will be rewarded with delicious bone marrow, a great playlist, and excellent cocktails.