The Casual Date Night Dinner & Drinks GuideThe ultimate guide to dinner and drinks.
The night is going great. You’ve picked an amazing place for dinner, the food is fantastic, the conversation is flowing, and there is so much to talk about (you both consider leisure hiking a sport). You and your date are pretty much soulmates, and you'd like to keep the night going. But then a dark cloud settles over the table—where to go next? Escape this dark cloud. Our dinner-then-drinks guide is your proven road to date night victory, whether it’s a third date or thirtieth. Here are some great San Francisco date night itineraries.
DATE NIGHT 1:
Pearl 6101 is one of those places that gives us our Cheers moment—it makes us feel like we've been a regular here for years. The atmosphere is warm, the servers are friendly, and this spot is always appropriately dim and cozy. Head here for date night and get a few things off their California-inspired Mediterranean menu, like the handkerchief pasta with white bolognese, halibut crudo, or cauliflower with black tahini hummus. The wine list is also reasonably priced and not overwhelmingly long.
A few blocks from Pearl is Violet’s, a restaurant with very good cocktails and a bar that stays open until 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays. And while you may not be here for a full on meal, consider stopping by for dessert, especially for their perfectly sweet and tart key lime pie.
DATE NIGHT 2:
We keep Bar Crudo on rotation because the seafood is delicious, the location is right on Divisadero Street in NoPa, and it's never hard to get a reservation or walk up and find a seat. The intimate raw bar also has a great Happy Hour (Monday-Saturday) with $2 oysters and $7 glasses of wine.
We usually think of Horsefeather as a waiting room for a seat at Nopa, but the bar holds its own. The drinks are great, the space is cool, and if you get hungry after dinner because the oysters from Bar Crudo aren’t holding you over like you thought they would, they have a solid burger.
DATE NIGHT 3:
Unless you are someone who sets a calendar reminder to make reservations 30 days in advance, there will be a wait at Flour + Water. If it’s an early-in-the-game date, go a la carte in case you need to cut and run. If you’re further down the road, the tasting menu shows your date that you can commit to seeing something through (like a multi-course meal).
This nautical-themed spot is just four blocks up from Flour + Water and also doubles as a restaurant with great shareable snacks, like chicken bites, ceviche, and fish and chips. But since you will have probably already consumed your weight in pasta by the time you get here, stick to the cocktails and keep the conversation going in a space that looks like the cabin of a wooden ship.
DATE NIGHT 4:
Sure, this is a dinner and drinks guide, but let this pairing be your “If you care more about the drinks” option. Third Rail is a Dogpatch bar where you can easily drop in for a shot and a beer, or sip on cocktails and get to know your date a bit better. The other draw here is the homemade beef jerky (they also have a vegetarian option), which they serve by the ounce.
Right around the corner is this nautical-themed dive bar in the Dogpatch. Sit at the bar and make good conversation over punny cocktails like Mezcal Aloe Mode. You can also watch sports on one of the TVs or challenge each other to a game of pool in the back. Either way, the drinks will be great, the vibes will be right, and you and your date will leave smooth sailing into another date.
DATE NIGHT 5:
Monsieur Benjamin has fancy French food down to a science and is one of the best places to go in Hayes Valley if you're trying to do date night big. It's a modern take on the French bistro, so expect to eat up all the steak frites, chicken liver terrines, and croquettes as you can in a space that looks like a museum gallery.
After a meal at Monsieur Benjamin, go for more casual at Brass Tacks. This laid-back, no-fuss bar has a bunch of seats in the back so you can sit and keep talking over a few more rounds of drinks. You might even suggest going from here to a place like Smuggler’s Cove if you want to keep the night going even longer.
DATE NIGHT 6:
One reason you’re probably at the Marina bistro: the incredible Americana Burger, which is stacked with double-smash patties, homemade aioli, cheese, onions, and pickles. But another reason to head here is that Causewells is a great date night spot. The ambiance is chill, and there are lots of seating in the dining room or out on the parklet.
Up the street from Causwells is The Tipsy Pig. The gastropub somehow always has a table available on the back patio, and the menu is stocked with a ton of great cocktail, beer, and wine options. Really, there's no going wrong here.
DATE NIGHT 7:
We turn to Cotogna in the Financial District whenever we want to eat excellent pasta, and sit in a dining room that makes us feel warm just by looking at it—it's small, has exposed brick walls, and a large pizza oven overlooking everything. The best seats in the house are at the bar, and you don’t even need a reservation for them. Fill up on agnolotti del plin with sugo arrosto, a singular raviolo with ricotta and egg yolk, and sunchoke-filled tortellini. Important: the wine list is good and not too offensively priced.
This place has been making incredible cocktails since 1998, which is only one reason to plan a date here. The other is that the gastropub situated off a quiet alley in North Beach sets the bar high for all other cocktail spots in the city. It’s dimly lit, has a speakeasy feel, and is pretty minimalist—there are seats at the bar and along the wall and not much else, so you can focus on your date or moving past the small-talk stage.
DATE NIGHT 8:
Excellent wood-fired pies that are perfectly charred are the star at this casual Sunset spot. There are a bunch of different pizzas to choose from, like a simple pepperoni, one topped with five kinds of mushrooms, and bolder options like one with purple potatoes, pesto, and pancetta. Add in some wine and drinks and you have yourself the perfect, low-key date night.
If you want to keep the cocktail thing going, right next door is Sunset Cantina. The Mexican restaurant makes really great drinks and has a welcoming ambiance that always makes us want to stay awhile—hopefully, you and your date will too. Order a margarita and post up at the bar, or grab a seat on the patio out back.