The night is going great. You’ve picked an amazing place for dinner, the food is fantastic, the conversation is flowing, and you have so much in common (you both like hiking! and Patagonia fleeces!). You're practically soulmates, and you both want to keep the night going. YES.
But then a dark cloud settles over your table, and you realize you have no idea where the f*ck to take this person next. You were so caught up in picking out a dinner place you didn’t even think about where to carry on the night with drinks afterwards.
Escape this dark cloud. The one-two punch, dinner-then-drinks date is your proven road to date night victory, whether it’s your third date or thirtieth. And we’ve plotted all the best ones out for you. We can’t promise these plans will convince someone to go home with you, but we can promise they’ll be a rock solid foundation on which to seal the deal.
the one-two punches
Unless you are someone who sets a calendar reminder to make reservations 30 days in advance, there will be a wait for Flour + Water. This is totally fine, because one of the best bars in the city is right across the street. 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 that you can commit to seeing something through (like a six-course meal).
This is really a one-two-three punch because you can, and should, get drinks at Trick Dog before and after. The place is generally crowded and that’s because the cocktails are truly excellent and the place is a classic. If you can get bar seats for easier bartender access, your night is made.
French food isn't all just shoving your face with baguettes and croissants and cheese. Although that’s usually how we interpret it. In any case, Monsieur Benjamin has fancy French food down. The bone marrow, pate, and duck confit are all stellar and if you want to go full French the frog legs are tasty too. The big corner space in Hayes has floor to ceiling windows giving it a sparkly feel that says “Where are we going after?”
The answer to that question is Fig & Thistle, a very hidden and highly underrated bar. The staff is extremely low-key so no need to worry about them interrupting your proposal and/or detailed debate on the pros and cons of moving in together. It’s wine and beer only, so if you’re looking for cocktails go elsewhere. But we'd argue that a glass of wine after a French dinner is a better choice than a gin and tonic.
We strongly condone going full Lady & the Tramp and splitting some pasta with your date at A16. If you can get the bar seats overlooking the kitchen at the back, extra points. The wine list is excellent and the Italian menu is one of our favorites in the city. You get scissors to cut your pizza, so you can also assess your date’s craftiness.
Just around the corner is Reed & Greenough, a local bar with excellent drinks and live bees on the roof that they harvest honey from because this is San Francisco. The Bee’s Knees drink is delicious, and they make a mean and incredibly strong Greyhound. Sometimes there’s a piano player and sometimes there are people in their mid-40s getting weird, so it can become a fun people watching/bonding experience. If that isn’t enough to amuse you, you can always challenge your date to shuffleboard and see how they handle losing.
Rich Table is possibly the best neighborhood restaurant in the city. It’s cozy but also just the right amount of fancy for a nice date night. It works for both early-in-the-game dates or anniversary dinners, and the porcini doughnuts are good enough to salvage a night that’s starting to go off the rails. Whether you go a la carte or for a tasting menu, save room for dessert.
Time to channel your inner Jack Dawson and ask your date a serious question: “Do you trust me?” Convince your date to venture out onto Market Street. Alta is only a few blocks away and is far more secure than a Titanic lifeboat. The place has awesome cocktails and is also pretty laid-back, which is handy later in the night when you actually want to hear each other speak.
Time to go big. Akiko’s is a classy-without-being-pretentious spot near Union Square that has some of the best fish in the city and an omakase that’s absolutely worth it. You can share the experience of eating baby barracuda together and feeling no regrets about it. Akiko’s is also pretty romantic, with dim lighting and dark wood - we think it’s one of the better date spots around.
Omakase can take a long time, but that’s no reason to cut the night short after that. Pacific Cocktail Haven is a few blocks away, with tasty tropical-tinged drinks served in cool glasses. It will be too dark to Instagram them, but it’s better to hide your social media habits until you’re comfortable enough to turn your significant other into your personal lighting assistant.
Our favorite restaurant in the city, Liholiho is a spot to bring the most special of dates. You can share all the plates, and bond by getting over your fears of beef tongue via the incredible beef tongue buns at Liholiho. Or you could just talk about your feelings.
Due to its somewhat random location, Rye isn’t a bar we hit up that often - but whenever we’re there we’re happy we stopped in. Just around the corner from Liholiho, Rye has tasty cocktails and a good beer list, making it a very enjoyable spot to continue the evening. It’s never too slammed, so you can carry on a conversation at appropriate volume levels and/or commandeer a quiet corner of the bar if that’s what the night calls for.
Cotogna is a great date spot. It’s perfect for first dates or fifteenth dates (but who’s counting, right?) or five-year anniversaries. The best seats in the house are at the back bar overlooking the kitchen, and you don’t even need a reservation for them. Important: the wine list is good and not too offensively priced. It’s very thoughtful of Cotogna to help you save some money for drinks afterwards.
One of the classic bars of San Francisco, Comstock is an excellent place to continue your evening of love and/or desperation companionship. Some nights they have live jazz, and nothing says “I’m classy as f*ck” like pretending to appreciate jazz. Just ask Ryan Gosling. The cocktails are all quite good and if you want to roll the dice the bartender will whip you up something custom. See where the night takes you.
There are few places as romantic in San Francisco than the outdoor patio of Foreign Cinema on a nice night. Even on a sh*tty night, it can still be ok if you scoot your chair close enough to a heater. The Mediterranean-Californian food is awesome, and we have yet to be disappointed by a meal there. It’s a very safe bet for any date that likes food, so if the night goes poorly that’s really on you.
Nothing keeps the night going like tequila. You may take your pants off or attempt to adopt a street pigeon but you’ll have a hell of a time while you’re at it. Mosto is a bar with mezcal cocktails that are very nice to look at and even better to drink.
Cala feels like a vacation: high ceilings, twinkly lights, plus a tree inside the restaurant. Drink a few margaritas, share some sopes and ceviche and you’re basically already booking a trip to Sayulita.
While you’re on the tropical vacation train, it’s probably a good idea to drink some rum. Smuggler’s Cove is a good spot for a date who doesn’t take themselves too seriously. If they look down on Smuggler’s and your suggestion to go there, time to pull the ripcord.
Sons & Daughters isn’t the hottest spot, perhaps due to its proximity to the Tenderloin, and that is a pity. It’s fine dining that is actually fun and not at all pretentious, which is perfect for date night. It will be expensive (tasting menus tend to be) but for a special occasion, it's absolutely worth it.
Now that you’ve spent a lot of money in a relatively swank place eating truffle-infused caviar smoke, it’s time for a little dose of reality: the basement of a hotel. But not just any basement - one with a pool, live music, and tiki drinks. The magical paradise that is the Tonga Room after two Mai Tais is just the spot to carry on the night after a relatively serious food endeavor.