The Mission is so densely packed with restaurants and bars that picking one for a date can be more overwhelming than programming an AI from scratch. Lucky for you, we can help.
This guide has places for every scenario, from first dates to laid-back places you should escape for the night when you actually line up a sitter. The two things that link every place on this list are that they’re all perfect for date night, and they’re all in this amazing neighborhood.
The menu at Prairie mashes up Italian preparations with Asian ingredients to make dishes like guanciale-wrapped mochi and XO rubbed short ribs cooked over a wood-burning fire. It’s all delicious, and you won’t find anything like it anywhere else in SF. The space is just as eclectic as the food, with purple-blue walls, artwork that looks straight out of Blade Runner, and a meerkat statue behind the bar. When all of it comes together, it makes Prairie a great place to go when you (somehow) feel bored with everything around you.
If you want to mark a night as special without needing to prepare a speech beforehand, Flour + Water is the place to be. Just getting inside shows you’ve put in a good amount of time and energy, either because you’ve miraculously managed to snag a reservation weeks in advance or because you’re willing to wait outside for a spot to open. And as impressive as your efforts are, they’re nothing compared to the food. Flour + Water makes the best, most creative pastas in the city with unusual combinations like corn, mint, and chocolate, or smoked mushrooms and cheese.
You like each other as much as you like pasta. But you’re also both impatient, and getting a table at Flour + Water isn’t easy. For an easier option, head to Barzotto on Valencia. It’s walk-in only, so you can come whenever you want and eat all the lumache and radiatore you want. Plus, all of the pastas are around $16, and with glasses of wine at $10, you can get in and out without spending too much money.
El Techo is our favorite first date bar in the Mission - especially if you’ve never met in person. The view from this rooftop gives you both something to discuss if you run out of things to talk about and a place to look when you feel like regular eye contact might be turning into awkward staring. You can eat at El Techo, but being up here is mostly about working through a few rounds of margaritas and palomas in the Mission’s somehow always ideal weather, hopefully with someone you like.
There are many different types of couples in this world, like the ones who religiously tune into The Bachelor, and the super-planners who have “Monday Pizza Night” saved on their iPhone calendars in perpetuity. If you’re the second type, check out Flour + Water Pizzeria on Valencia. This place makes some of the best pizza in the city with a crust that’s crisp and chewy and toppings that are really good, from corn to cured meats. There’s a casual atmosphere here, so you won’t feel like it’s a one-on-one helicopter ride date. But if you’re both a pizza couple and a Bachelor one, Flour + Water Pizzeria runs a serious takeout operation, so you can have dinner without missing “the most dramatic episode yet.”
You know your night isn’t only going to involve one stop, but you need a place to start. Head to True Laurel. This nice bar on Alabama St. is small and quiet, so you can get a few good conversations in before heading to more lively spots. The drinks are also creative and delicious, and they’re worth getting a few of while you’re still sober enough to taste good quality cocktails.
One of our favorite daytime dates involves a meet-up at Bi-Rite Creamery. Get all the small talk out of the way while waiting in line, and, after deciding between salted caramel and ricanelas, stroll through Dolores Park to people watch. Establish your scoop sharing dynamic and how you feel about the Truffle Man, then think about if you want to get ice cream with them again, and go from there.
Coming to Tartine Manufactory makes getting casual coffee feel like a full blown date. The space is pretty, with huge windows and an indoor pergola/wine bar - it’s a way better space than other spots filled with laptops. They also have the same incredible baked goods as Tartine Bakery, so you can bond over how good morning buns are instead of just awkwardly sipping hot bean water together.
The main focus at Al’s Place is cooking with ultra-fresh vegetables, but this isn’t a restaurant for strict vegetarians. It’s a place to go when you want to share really great food with someone you really like. The baby lettuces with herbed avocado is one of the best dishes in the city - it just happens to be a salad - and every other thing is perfectly plated and delicious. Dinner here can get pricey (around $150 for two without drinks) so it’s a good spot to save for a special occasion.
Mr. Pollo is an eight-seat restaurant decorated with Giants memorabilia and outsider art, and the two guys who run the place spend the meal joking around and cracking open beers. Coming here feels more like you’re being cooked for by a couple of close friends (who may or may not be in a punk band) than sitting at a four-course prix fixe dinner. In other words, this spot is perfect if you’re tired of the typical candle-lit date night. The menu changes regularly, but it’s always great and your meal will only cost $30 per person - it’s one of the best deals in SF.
On the first date you learned they like their job, hate IPAs, and prefer dogs (thankfully). Now you’re going on a second date and need a spot to really get to know this person - so head to Beehive. The back room feels like a ’60s lounge, and you’ll want to sit on the deep-cushioned benches for hours while you work through the cocktail list and talk over a pot of fondue. By the time you’re done, you’ll know if there’s going to be date number three.
This Middle Eastern spot is the perfect place to go when you’ve gotten used to hanging out with each other, but aren’t “official.” The casual restaurant is counter service so it comes without the seriousness of making reservations, and the food is affordable - no one will have to worry about playing the check game when it’s time to pay. Go for the smashed fava bean ful, the sweet muhammara, and the hand-kneaded bread to go with the dips.
Son’s Addition is basically the restaurant equivalent of the Calm app, and if you need a two-hour escape from your screaming kids and/or Cocker Spaniel, this is where you should make a reservation. The space is bright and open, but it’s never too loud or packed, and the food at this spot on 24th St. is simple and delicious - go for the pork chop or the poached chicken with fermented soybean salsa.