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The Best Bars For First Dates In SF

PHOTO: Krescent Cassaro

You swiped right with a heavy, heavy hand this weekend and have multiple dates lined up. But you can’t take them all to Lion’s Pub. Things could get weird real quick. There are a lot of bars you might go to all the time, but that doesn’t mean those are appropriate for a first date (although Final Final does have it’s time and place). Maybe you want a wine bar, maybe you want the option to eat, maybe you want to take a romantic walk through the TL.

So rather than getting knowing looks from Todd the bartender at your local spot, check out our list of bars for a first date. Or second or third.

The Spots


From the hard-to-find alley location in Hayes to the interesting California-centric wines and beers to the random bunk bed inside to the excellent cheese plate, we love everything about Fig & Thistle. It’s great for a first date and tends not to get wildly crowded.

Photo: Krescent Cassaro


3174 16th St

We’ll begin with the fact that we love the cheese plate here. It’s fantastic. Besides that delight, the bar is long and fancy and a perfect spot to drink lots of delicious cocktails pre or post dinner in the Mission. The wine and beer list is rather adventurous/strange, so you may end up sticking to cocktails, which is nothing to complain about.

Photo: Remy Galvan-Hale

Reed & Greenough is our go-to spot for drinks not only because we live around the corner, but also because it has strong cocktails and pool and shuffleboard and free bar mix. A very, very winning combination. It’s a bar that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and why not start the game-playing on the first date? And if you like to date on the cheap, the happy hour deal is pretty great too.

Photo: Krescent Cassaro

Harper & Rye

1695 Polk St

Harper & Rye has strong and delicious cocktails that are all under $11, a hip but not overly pretentious interior, and a solid corner spot on Polk. On a busy night, head up to the upper level if you’re interested in actually hearing your date’s voice.

Photo: Peter Prato

Blackbird Bar

2124 Market St

Ignore the fact that Blackbird is on Market Street since it’s in the safe zone and pay attention to the fact that it’s an awesome bar that isn’t totally overplayed. There’s cool art on the walls, friendly bartenders, and a cocktail menu that changes enough to keep things interesting.

Photo: Krescent Cassaro

The Interval

2 Marina Blvd, Fort Mason Building A

The Interval is one of the more unique bars in San Francisco, and the fact that you even know it exists will probably impress your date. Tucked next to Greens in Fort Mason, the bar has an extensive cocktail list and the interior design of an eccentric chemistry professor’s office mashed into a Mission start-up office, and is bartended by perhaps the inventors of the hipster bartender moustache. Good for an early evening cocktail and a walk along the water towards the bridge.

Photo: Krescent Cassaro


1525 Mission St

While Forgery can get packed around happy hour time, it tends to get more laid-back as the night goes on. The small tables by the front are good if you’re looking to make a quick escape and the lounge-y area upstairs is best if you’re feeling the feels and looking to make a night of it.

Photo: Krescent Cassaro


598 Haight St.

All the bar seats. Maven’s composition is 70% bar seats, 15% communal tables, and 15% living wall. It’s gorgeous, the drinks are ridiculously good, and if you feel like sharing some food it’s all awesome as well.


Knowing about a brewing company in SF that isn’t Anchor Steam gets you major points, and Black Sands in the Haight is such a place. The space is sleek and open, and the bar has its own beer plus plenty of others, along with a not-short menu of wine and cocktails. It can get a little hectic, but once you’ve settled in at the bar or one of the little tables the night is yours.


Nectar Wine Lounge

3330 Steiner

Wines for days is the game at Nectar, and with two long bars that run the length of the restaurant, it’s very easy to feel like you might actually spend several days here. No worries, you won’t need to survive on alcohol alone - the burrata and charcuterie hold their own in the food game.

Photo: Krescent Cassaro

Sessions at the Presidio

Marina / Presidio
Building D, Letterman Dr.

If you happen to be dating someone a bit (or a decade) older, Sessions in the Presidio is a very adult spot to grab a drink. Unique beers and wines, a classy set-up right inside the Presidio, and a vibe that might help get you over the mental hurdle of moving to the suburbs. We’re into it.


The Social Study

1795 Geary Blvd

Date night plan: go to a movie at Kabuki and get drinks before or after at Social Study. It’s literally next door, and it’s dim and romantic (provided no one is still posted up on their laptop), with a great wine and beer selection. On weekend nights there’s a DJ upstairs, and they play old movies on the brick walls like an indoor Foreign Cinema. Old books everywhere and high ceilings are the keys to first date success.

Photo: Krescent Cassaro

The Alembic

1725 Haight St

The Alembic’s been doing craft cocktails since before they were cool and they still do a kickass job at it. If you can get bar seats, power to you, and you should spend a long time in them. Besides the cocktails, the food is pretty great as well. No date would be mad about sharing some lentil croquettes aka fancy/better falafels.

Photo: The Alembic/Facebook

The Tradesman

753 Alabama St

Something is up, because no one ever seems to have heard of The Tradesman and it is actually fantastic. The bar is around the corner from Trick Dog and much less of an obvious choice, and also much more manageable to actually get drinks and have a conversation with someone. Wine flights are always a fun adventure, and the small plates are strong to quite strong too.

Photo: Remy Galvan-Hale

Palm House

2032 Union St

One of the best happy hours around (until 630) and a relaxed island vibe that doesn’t seem like you’re trying too hard. We always get the Old Cuban and it is always the sh*t.

Photo: Remy Galvan-Hale

Hopefully your date doesn’t get scared away by strip clubs. Or adjacent side alleys. 15 Romolo is up a tiny street off one of the shadier corners of North Beach, but once inside it feels like you’ve stepped through a time portal into the 1920s. It’s dark and cool and if you’re really into each other it’s conveniently attached to a very small hotel. One catch is that the 25 rooms share a bathroom. Good cocktails and food till 1:30am = date night with legs.

Photo: Balthazar Media
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