8 Places With Good Wine & Moody Lighting guide image

photo credit: Erin Ng

SFGuide

8 Places With Good Wine & Moody Lighting

Where to go when you just want to sit in a dimly lit room and keep the pinot noir flowing.

Sometimes, you just want to turn the lights all the way down, drink a glass of pinot noir, or four, and feel sophisticated. The lack of fluorescent overhead lights is very important for times like these, and whenever you feel like crying into a plate of bolognese after a breakup, going on a date, or sitting at a bar alone and overanalyzing every single decision you made today. Romantic, vibey, sexy, whatever you want to call it—you’ll know what constitutes a “moody, dimly lit spot” when you see it. Here are eight of those places. 

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Emma Shelper

Pearl 6101 review image
7.9

Pearl 6101

$$$$

6101 California St, San Francisco
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Pearl 6101 has mastered the art of the dimly lit, sexy little date night. Whether you’re sitting at the bar or snuggled up in cushy leather booths, the warm overhead globe lights will set the mood for whatever flirty one-liners you plan on debuting. Service is friendly and quick, and if things are moving along well, there are plenty of local and Italian wines and cocktails to keep the night going. The rich, not-too-heavy white bolognese should definitely be on your table, as should whatever seasonal crudo is on the menu—sometimes you’ll see halibut with strawberries and nuoc cham vinaigrette, and other nights it’s ahi tuna with calabrian chili aioli and pistachios. 

A meal at Pizzetta 211 feels like a candlelit dinner party thrown by a friend who collects matches and old wine bottles. The tiny Richmond spot only has a few tables inside and out on the sidewalk, so spend the wait trying to take long-exposure phone photos of the roving restaurant dog. When you do get seated and flawless thin-crust pizzas start landing on the table, you’ll want to kick off your shoes and stay until you start to nod off in a corner. The pies get topped with frequently changing things like fried eggs and bacon or spicy coppa with olives and red onions—but know that whatever seasonal pie is on deck will be excellent. 

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Horsefeather in NoPa has become so synonymous with casual dates in SF that a night here is a cycle of overheard phrases like “My favorite TV show is probably The Office,” or “Did I leave my Patagonia sweater at your place last week?” This spot draws in pairs for good reason—nothing says romance like making prolonged eye contact under low lighting and glowing hanging lamps. Look around and try to guess how many people here met on an app while drinking excellent wine, cocktails, and beer, and sharing better-than-average bar food like pork katsu sandwiches and poké bowls. 

The ambiance in the wood-filled dining room at this French tasting menu spot in the Mission will inspire you to glob up your face with a charcoal mask and light a bergamot candle. Mijote’s four-course menu of hyper-seasonal dishes, like scallop towers with nectarine and cucumber, and maitake mushroom drenched in rich harissa butter, are exactly what we’d want to eat while soaking in a bubble bath. Natural wine by-the-glass options are scrawled on chalkboards around the room, and the intimate bar is a great setting for anniversary dinners and date night discussions about future dog names or what to buy your in-laws for the holidays.

For some reason, slurping up french onion soup in a room so dimly lit you can barely see the door just makes sense. And you can easily do that at this walk-in-only French restaurant in Hayes Valley. Find a seat at the bar and order a steaming pot of mussels and fries, or tuck yourself into a corner table by the windows with a spread of mashed potatoes, roast chicken, and savory crepes. One thing you can count on here is that the hearty, non-pretentious dishes are what you’ll want to spoon into your mouth on nights when you need to cry a bit without anyone seeing. 

Squeezing in at the bar at Nopa—and getting super deep with the bartender over some chardonnay and an iconic wood-fired burger—is practically a rite of passage in this city. This place feels like a chic mountain lodge where you could easily have a meet-cute with an enigmatic hottie next to a roaring fireplace. There's no fireplace at this NoPa spot, but there are excellent dishes like meaty bolognese, baked butter beans topped with crispy bread crumbs, and perfectly fried chicken dripping with chili honey. It shouldn’t take much convincing to get here, especially on nights when you want to keep your phone’s brightness on the lowest setting and simply soak in the warm glow.

photo credit: Virginia Mae Rollison

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8.6

Foreign Cinema

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At night, the patio at Foreign Cinema in the Mission transforms into a magical setting straight out of When Harry Met Sally. Seated under the orange-y glow of twinkle lights, you’ll forget you’re in SF entirely. Additionally, movies projected on the high white walls will make you want to get cozy under a blanket and play footsie with someone you like. Oysters and sparkling wine should be a staple on your table. And the seasonal dishes, like curry fried chicken and calamari with mole rojo, rotate out often enough to stay enchanting whether it’s your first or fifth time here. 

The Italian restaurant in the Mission has a covered patio with dangly and dim overhead lights, rustic flower arrangements, and lush plants that will make you want to text your landlord, break your lease, and move in. Or, at the very least, keep this place in mind for nights when you want to hold hands with someone across the table and eat a lot of carbs. The menu of mostly traditional Italian pasta dishes is packed with hits, like the rich tagliatelle bolognese and ultra-creamy cacio e pepe. Get the agnolotti dal plin with fragrant and rich sugo d’arrosto if it’s on the menu, and chase it with something from their list of natural and classic wines. 

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