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 CamelBaks!). 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 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. Here are some of our favorite SF date night itineraries.
the one-two punches
Any place that wraps mochi in cured meats is a place we want to go on a date. It’s weird enough to be a topic of conversation and delicious enough to want to feed to your date by hand as you stare lovingly into each other’s eyes. Ok, probably not, but you can try. This Mission Italian place puts out fantastic food in a sleek, slightly sci-fi space that we are very into.
Continuing on, head down the street to Wildhawk for a Breakfast Negroni that involves Cocoa Puffs because all rules are off tonight. The dark bar is perfect and there’s a long, long cocktail list that will make anyone happy.
ABV is a place to continue your date night of good choices. A few blocks away from Locanda, this is one of our favorite bars in the Mission for drinks when you actually want to talk to the person you’re with, and not have to spend half the night in a defensive crouch to protect your spot by the bar. Wine and beer on tap, plus excellent cocktails, in a space that you want to spend the whole night in are a good way to keep the date going.
Pearl is a strong contender for our favorite spot in the Richmond these days. The Mediterranean-American menu is good for sharing and the wine list is reasonably priced and not overwhelmingly long. This corner spot has high ceilings and a warm, friendly vibe that makes you feel like it’s been your local go-to for years, and is appropriately dim and cozy for date night.
A few blocks away from Pearl is Violet’s, a place with very good cocktails and a late-night Happy Hour (weeknights from 10pm, weekends from 11pm) with a beer and cocktail special that will keep the night going. If it goes well enough and one of you lives in the neighborhood, you can roll back to Pearl in the morning for an 8am weekday bagel pre-work. And thus, the one-two-three punch was born.
Bar Crudo is consistently overlooked as a date spot. We keep it in the rotation because the seafood is fresh and delicious, the location is good, and it’s not too hard to get a reservation. It’s one of the older places in Nopa at this point and still hasn’t lost its stride. Neither has the burrata beet salad.
A lot of people’s introduction to Horsefeather is using it as a Nopa waiting room, but it holds its own and then some. The drinks here 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 great burger.
Unless you are someone who sets a calendar reminder to make reservations 30 days in advance, there will be a wait at 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 going to Flour + Water. The place is generally crowded and that’s because the cocktails are truly excellent and it’s a classic. If you can get bar seats for easier bartender access, your night is made.
Monsieur Benjamin has fancy French food down to a science and is one of the best places you can go in Hayes Valley for a big date. Plus, the big corner space in Hayes has floor-to-ceiling windows giving it a nice 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 proper French meal is the only way to go.
We strongly condone splitting some pasta with another person at A16 whenever possible. If you can get the bar seats overlooking the kitchen in 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 without ever leaving the table.
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 an incredibly strong Greyhound. If you run out of conversation topics, challenge your date to shuffleboard and see how they handle losing.
Time to go big. Akiko’s is a classy-without-being-pretentious spot near Union Square that has some of the best sushi in the city and an omakase option that’s absolutely worth it. It’s pretty romantic, with dim lighting and dark wood - we think it’s one of the better date spots around.
If you’re still up for drinks post-omakase, stop into Pacific Cocktail Haven. Aside from the fact that the drinks have absurd names like Swizzle My Nizzle, they actually taste pretty great. Also if the bar is packed, sitting in the back room almost feels like a high school hang out, if you could hang out in bars in high school.
You can’t go to Liholiho Yacht Club and not have a blast. The first things to celebrate are that you were 1) able to get a reservation and 2) you didn’t totally forget about it. In other words, this is not somewhere to bring a first date or probably even a fifth. Liholiho is where you come with someone you really know, so instead of asking awkward questions about numbers of siblings and favorite Ben and Jerry’s flavors, you can focus on the Hawaiian food in front of you. We like the fried oysters and the beef ribs, and the rest of the menu.
Due to its somewhat random location, Rye isn’t a bar we go to super 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 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.
Comstock is our go-to for classic cocktails. It’s not just the drinks that are a throwback at this place, when you’re sitting here it feels like you jumped back in time - from the old bar to the live jazz musicians who play from the rafters. We like the gin Martinez, but if you can’t land on a drink to order from the menu, the bartender will help find the perfect drink to make you.
Even when the weather outside sucks, if you find yourself sitting on the back patio of Foreign Cinema, things will start looking up. This place is good for pretty much any situation and everything from their selection of oysters to the fried chicken that you need to order is great. While you eat, they project classic movies on the wall that you can watch if you can’t think of anything to talk about.
Nothing keeps the night going like tequila, and Mosto is a good place to get your fix. They make great mezcal cocktails that are very nice to look at and even better to drink.
Cala is where we go when we want to feel like we’re on some kind of super ideal dream vacation - the space has high ceilings, whitewashed walls, and a big tree inside the dining room. The food is also amazing, from the sopes to the tostadas, and you’ll be more than covered while you drink a few margaritas under the twinkling lights.
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.
This is not a casual date. Sons & Daughters has a $145-per-person tasting menu, but if this person is worth it (or is close enough to justify the cost), go for it. They use odd ingredients like local seaweed, onion ash, and hay in their food, and part of the fun of eating here is guessing how each will be presented. Each dish you’re served is better than the last and it won’t leave you scratching your head. Plus, because it’s a tasting menu, your date can’t get away with stealing off your plate since they already have the same thing.
Now that you’ve spent a lot of money in a relatively swanky 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 meal.