San Francisco’s Most Romantic Restaurants
So you’re finally, shamelessly, in love. Here’s where to eat.
Are you celebrating a relationship that’s now outlasted your refrigerator? Or maybe you’re just trying to get flirty with someone you met on an app? Looks like you need a restaurant that embraces romance in all its sappy glory. That’s where this guide comes in. These 10 sexy little SF spots could easily be the backdrops for a Hallmark movie meet-cute.
photo credit: Virginia Mae Rollison
Foreign Cinema’s back patio in the Mission is quintessential romance. So don’t be surprised if you see a flock of doves fluttering above, dropping roses onto every table and crooning John Legend love ballads. The space is drenched in a warm glow from twinkle lights that make the industrial-style patio look more like a fairytale. And you can cuddle up to a date as you half-watch old films like The Goonies and Gypsy that are projected onto the wall. Raising a glass of something sparkly in the company of oysters, seasonal pastas, and fried chicken is the perfect way to cap an evening of devotion.
photo credit: Carly Hackbarth
There’s no better way to profess undying love than by going halvsies on the best plate of duck in town. Not only is The Progress home to an iconic bird—and a fantastic caviar potato cloud and anchovy-sambal clams—it’s got a gorgeous dining room, too. With plants and light wood everywhere, a high ceiling, and ocean teal tiles on the walls, the Fillmore spot feels like a breezy honeymoon destination—or the closest you’ll get to a beachside getaway without leaving the city.
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photo credit: Sarah Felker
Empress By Boon
Your special someone deserves a special view (and not just the stark gray wall visible from your friend’s rooftop). Book a table at Empress by Boon, a Cantonese restaurant on the sixth floor of a Chinatown building overlooking Coit Tower. Intricate carved wooden panels, a tea lounge underneath a towering wood pergola, and a bright marble bar add to the already impressive feel of this place. When you finally sit down next to a massive window, the $98 prix fixe dinner full of luxurious scallop and caviar rolls and uni fried rice will make you feel like the most important person in the room.
photo credit: Erin Ng
Penny Roma has romance written all over it. So if the flower arrangements that look pulled from a wedding Pinterest board, dangly (and dim) overhead lights, lush plants, and a seemingly endless flow of wine don’t get your date to finally DTR, things probably aren’t looking good. The Italian restaurant in the Mission is all about traditional pasta dishes that’ll make you want to have a sickeningly cheesy Lady and the Tramp moment, like rich tagliatelle bolognese, agnolotti dal plin with fragrant sugo d’arrosto, and creamy cacio e pepe.
photo credit: Carly Hackbarth
This Financial District restaurant drips with old-school charm. Everyone is drinking martinis. There’s live jazz every night. And buttoned up waitstaff will drop off bread rolls with a flourish, and sneak you extra orders of succotash on the house. Sure, the food, which covers hearty American classics like pork chops and open-faced burgers, is all totally fine—but you and your date are here to soak in the 1930s supper club vibes and get serenaded by a tie-wearing cellist.
photo credit: Eric Wolfinger
When you cut into the face-sized raviolo at Cotogna, a bright orange egg yolk oozes out in a way that’s borderline seductive. Other dishes that make this Italian restaurant in Jackson Square a prime candidate for date night—the gnocco fritto with tissue-thin prosciutto, and buttery toast with tomatoes spilling over. Fantastic food aside, Cotogna’s lighting is always a romantic dim, wood crackles in the oven behind the bar, and the parklet comes equipped with blankets—you know, for maximum canoodling with your person under a heat lamp.
photo credit: Sarah Felker
If you’re going full-on extravagant for date night, the answer is Californios. The all-black dining room feels like a Broadway theater, where 16 courses of phenomenal Mexican dishes are presented to you with style. Things like chicharrones topped with shaved truffle, tlacoyos stuffed with cranberry beans and queso, and an entire course of extremely fancy tacos will blow you away. Even better is that parties of two are usually seated on the same side of the table—great news for hand-on-thigh couples.
photo credit: Trestle
Trestle is the best value tasting menu in town, and a great option for a night of romance that won’t result in you or your date shedding tears over a $500 bill. The $39 prix fixe menu includes three courses of super seasonal, frequently changing American dishes like butternut squash soup and cider-brined pork loin, plus an optional $12 pasta add-on worth splitting between two. The cozy wood-filled space is the ideal spot to be showered with compliments by someone you really like.
photo credit: Brazen Head
Brazen Head is a Cow Hollow hub for romance. And yes, the fact that it looks like a pub from the 19th century with well-worn velvet curtains, paintings of bearded men, and soft red lighting has everything to do with it. You’ll want to stay until closing (they’re one of the best late-night spots in town) and share perfectly charred NY pepper steak and cheesy french onion soup, while drinking one of their extra dry martinis.
photo credit: Waterbar
Waterbar’s dramatic location on the Embarcadero sets the mood for the night. There are beautiful views of the Bay Bridge, and several floor-to-ceiling aquarium pillars filled with real live fish. Contemplate the circle of life while throwing back oysters along with something from the 30-page wine list. And if you want to really dazzle whomever you’re with, go for the $175 “indulgence platter” featuring crab, tiger prawns, clams, and tuna tartare on a big pile of ice.