Date night. Maybe it’s been a long time coming, the dishwasher is broken, and you figure it’s time to be romantic. Maybe you need a new place that isn’t within a six block radius of your apartment. Maybe it’s your anniversary.
Whatever the occasion, date night should be special, but should also be somewhere that is fun and probably at least a little bit romantic. Dates are no fun when the food is stupidly expensive or the waiters sneer at your pronunciation of Beaujolais. We pronounce it “That one” - points finger at wine list. So here are our tried and tested spots for dating success.
Minimal lighting and top-notch Mediterranean food are always welcome for any romantic evening. Throw in a lot of wine and good service and we are sold. Terzo is consistently underrated and hence consistently easy to get into. Keep it in the rotation for spontaneous date night. Also, get the hummus.
It’s a bar, yes, but The Alembic serves some incredible food as well. The cocktails are strong and delicious, and the menu is way better than your average wings and sliders. The vibe is fun and the people who work there actually seem to enjoy it. Bonus points for being a place that shows you know your way around the city.
Frances is great. We know this, you probably know this, and so does everyone else. So when you have a date coming up in three weeks and have the time to strategize, Frances is where it’s at. It’s the spot for when you want to feel like a grown-up, and also eat some great food. The steak, duck, and chickpea fries are the move.
It’s most likely a haul from where you live, but that just makes the night even more of a special occasion. While Outerlands is on people’s brunch radar, it is a stealth move at night - it’s much less crowded, and the food is just as good. Don't go in thinking you'll be avoiding carbs - the bread is unreal.
Fiorella brings a fresh look (aka not designed in the 1970s) and very good Italian food to the Richmond. If you live in the area, it’s one of the best places to hit for date night. Whether it’s an early-in-the-game situation or a mandated bi-weekly date to escape your children, Fiorella’s got you. Don’t miss the cacio e pepe.
Special occasion date nights require a little bit of planning. Like, making a reservation planning. Mister Jiu’s is absolutely worth a little preparation and then some. The space is gorgeous, and the modern Chinese food is exceptional. Sparkly views out over the Financial District don’t hurt either.
Lots of bar seats and lots of seafood is what you’re signing up for at Bar Crudo. Oysters, crudos, some stellar uni toast should all be on your table. It’s dim and cool and always a good time. It’s a good first or fiftieth date night spot.
On a night when you’re looking for a relaxed vibe with excellent food and maybe some fresh air, Foreign Cinema’s got you. It’s classic, it’s beautiful, and it’s in the heart of the Mission in case you want to continue the night with more cocktails after dinner.
Early in the game dates should be easy to exit or easy to extend. Alta is perfectly located for a quick drink after work that can turn into a full dinner. Or a dinner date that can turn into cocktails and dessert after dinner. Or a just-one-drink-get-me-out-of-here-immediately-please night. You have the power to make Alta what you need it to be. Also in your power: the ability to order the burger, the roast chicken, and some fancy soft serve for dessert.
This is an ace up your sleeve when it comes to date night. Not on a lot of people’s radars, in a kind of off-the-beaten-path section of the Mission, and serving some gorgeous and very, very good food. You’ll look like you’re in the know, and that never hurts. Definitely keep in your rotation for nights when you’re looking to impress or really have something to celebrate.
When your heart says tasting menu at Flour & Water but your wallet says $5 foot long, Trestle is there for you as a healthy compromise. The tasting menu is affordable but still classy, and it’s a great spot to go with a date you want to spend a good chunk of time with.
Waterfront restaurants that aren’t serving plastic-wrapped, e.coli-bathed crab rolls are few and far between. Coqueta is on the completely opposite end of the spectrum, serving some of the best tapas in the city in a swanky space. It can definitely be a bit touristy, but it’s still a fun spot to hit and something that’s probably not in your usual rotation. On a nice night the outdoor area is the best place to be while you wait for a your table to open up.
Looking for a night of wood-fired oven flames of love and stellar Italian food in a lowly lit room? Look no further than Cotogna. The crowd is a bit older, but that keeps the noise levels down, and the pizzas and pastas are fantastic. We generally try and sit at the back bar and watch the kitchen.
Akiko's Restaurant431 Bush St.
Akiko’s Restaurant (not to be confused with dumpy Akiko’s Sushi around the corner) is one of the best sushi spots in town, but more under the radar than the other high-end places. The fish is phenomenal and the small, sleek space is dim and sexy. If you want to impress someone without looking like a d-bag who just wants to flash their Amex Black, Akiko’s should be on your radar.
Cala takes Mexican food to a new level, with lots of seafood, small plates, and vegetables that generally kick ass. The cocktails are also great and the interior looks like a Mexico City garden. Hit it.
If you love saving the environment as much as you love your boyfriend, we have some incredible news for you. You can go on a date, eat bomb food, drink delectable cocktails, and also fight the good fight against global warming. The Perennial is all about sustainability, and we support that. They are less into sustaining your bank account, so be warned. Great spot to hit last minute, without a res, for a drink or two that can turn into dinner or apps.
A16 is neighborhood joint that everyone wishes was in their neighborhood, because it happens to be one of the best pizza and Italian places in the city. If you’re OCD, make a reservation 30 days in advance. If you’re not, roll up to the bar, grab a glass of wine and wait for some seats to open up. The seats in the back looking over the kitchen are our favorites. Party of two, a bottle of wine, and a pizza to share is a superb way to spend a night.
The restaurant takeover of Lower Nob Hill is going strong, and Del Popolo is leading the charge. We love this space, with the bar looking over the huge oven, and we love the pizza even more. It’s a great spot for a date when you want to get dinner and hang but aren’t trying to pull out all the stops. If your date doesn’t like pizza, this is a great weeding out the weak strategy.
Keep Bar Agricole in your back pocket for the spontaneous date. Ran into someone on the street and fell head over heels? Drag them to Bar Agricole. Need to spice up your life and not order Caviar the fifth time this week? Pop into Bar Agricole. The space is sleek and cool and has an awesome outdoor area, and the food is well-executed every time.
Noe Valley isn’t exactly a wealth of romantic spots. More a wealth of screaming three-year-olds and tech buses. But there is one spot that we hit for date night frequently, and that spot is Contigo. Strong tapas game, stronger wine list, and a cool space that’s energetic without being too loud.
Bellota is bringing swanky, sexy vibes and intensely good tapas and paella to SOMA. It's in a bit of a strange spot (also known as the AirBnB office building), but it's absolutely worth the trip. All the Spanish small plates are amazing, especially the vegetable ones, and there is a lot of good wine to be had as well. Take your time on the ordering, post up in a corner table or at the bar - date night success.
Drinking in a basement. Nope, you’re not back in high school. You’re in the basement of one of our favorite spots in the city, Liholiho Yacht Club, serving great cocktails and an interesting menu that includes several savory waffles topped with things like bone marrow or avocado. Louie's is a bit easier to get into that Liholiho, but you will still need a reservation. But if you can maintain a functioning relationship, you can most likely also use the internet to secure one.
Go big or go home. Lazy Bear requires a LOT of planning, but once you have it set, it’s a date night that will go down in the books. It’s a many, many course menu, at a communal table in a super-cool space. Yes, it will set you back some dollars, but it will also be one of the more fun dinners you’ll have. If you want to get super intimate and not socialize with the others, try to get seats at the end of the table.
Ignore the fact that the rest of the restaurant will almost certainly be groups of girls drinking too much wine. This place is great anyway, and it’s a good place to go on a date. Especially if you and your significant other have an open relationship with cheese. The burrata and prosciutto are both spectacular.
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