You lost track of time, are very bad at planning, or couldn’t decide whether or not to spend Valentine’s Day with the situationship you’re three dates in with. Whatever the reason, the 14th is pretty much here, and you don’t have a dinner reservation. On top of that, V-Day 2022 falls on a Monday, when a lot of great restaurants are closed. Don’t panic. These 10 spots take walk-ins, and serve food and drinks excellent enough that your date will probably forgive you for (almost) dropping the ball.
Barzotto is a small Italian restaurant and wine bar in the Mission. They’re also home to one of our favorite spaghetti and meatballs. The flawlessly executed bowl of house-made pasta is always perfectly cooked, and comes with ample amounts of parmesan. Walk up and grab a table at this low-key spot, and before you know it, you’ll be sipping on glasses of house wine and living out a romantic Lady and the Tramp fantasy. Save room for the fluffy tiramisu.
We’ll take any excuse to eat at Dumpling Home, including completely forgetting about Valentine’s Day until we receive a text involving the phrases "can't wait" and "to see what you have planned." The Chinese restaurant in Hayes Valley doesn’t take reservations anyway—so just show up, put your name on the list, and inhale the smell of fresh xiao long bao and dry-fried chicken wings while you wait. Another dish to get on the table is the juicy shengjianbao, which may or may not projectile spray soup onto your date's lap when you bite into one.
Mandalay’s bright yellow walls, umbrellas hanging from the ceiling, and fantastic Burmese food always put us in a good mood. Everything, from the coconut chicken noodle soup to the sweet-and-salty mango chicken, is also great for sharing. Add $9 glasses of house wine to the equation and you can’t really go wrong at this Richmond spot.
The Cole Valley spot for Arabic comfort food serves the same whole-fried branzino, chicken shish tawook, and last meal-worthy mezze platters as the original Castro location. Plus, they’re open Mondays. Settle into the homey space, and show your date that you really love them by letting them have the last bit of za’atar-covered hand-kneaded bread.
If you want to get cozy at the bar with your Valentine, head to Che Fico Alimentari in NoPa. The sister restaurant of Che Fico serves equally fantastic pastas and other Italian dishes, but in a more casual setting. We love walking up for some wine, slightly spicy rigatoni amatriciana, and pizzas topped with everything from broccoli rabe to pineapple and Calabrian chilis.
Hog Island Oyster Bar
Nothing says “I definitely put a lot of thought and preparation into this romantic night” like a waterfront meal at sunset. Hog Island Oyster Co. at the Ferry Building can make that happen for you. Sit down on their patio and soak it all in with oysters on the half shell, bowls of steaming hot clam chowder, and really good shrimp po’boys. They also have a lengthy list of wine, cocktails, and beer.
Look around the dining room at Elephant Sushi and you’ll notice that practically every single table is a two-top. Translation: this Russian Hill spot is perfect for dates and Valentine’s Day. And since they don’t take reservations, you’ll have just as much of a chance of landing a seat as all the other pairs of bad planners. Get a few rolls to share, plus the salmon sashimi that's served on a hunk of Himalayan salt.
Chez Maman West
Coming to Chez Maman in Hayes Valley is all about getting cozy and finding loads of comfort in the form of steaming pots of mussels, mashed potatoes and roast chicken, and french onion soup. The walk-up only spot is always bustling with families, couples, and solo diners at the bar, and once you’re settled in, stay a while.
photo credit: Melissa Zink
House of Tadu Ethiopian Kitchen
You picked a reasonable bedtime over a 10:15pm reservation at a hot new spot. We respect that. So just walk up and grab a table at House of Tadu Ethiopian Kitchen. The casual Ethiopian restaurant in Mission Bay is where to find family-style spreads of kitfo, chicken tibs, and misir wot, and everything is so good you’ll probably end up ordering a second round before evening finishing the first. Share it all with your date and get in bed by 8pm.
This Parkside spot is always a go-to for xiao long bao, siu mai stuffed with pork and shrimp, and pan-fried pork buns wrapped in thick, chewy dough. It’s a great option for a last-minute date, and better than panic-ordering a pizza from Domino’s and trying to express-ship rose petals to your house.