Food & Drink

San Francisco's 18 Best Date Spots

Published On 01/28/2015 Published On 01/28/2015
Chambers Eat + Drink

Chambers Eat + Drink

Tenderloin
Everything about this Andy Warhol-inspired Tenderloin oasis oozes sexy sex, from the suggestive art and bookshelves stuffed with vintage records, to the light fixture above the bar commanding you to “Be Amazing,” to the heated swimming pool in the back courtyard. This is the place to take your long-term significant other if you want to pretend you’re strangers... and rock stars. Don’t be surprised if, after dinner, she wants to get a room. And how convenient, since it's located in The Phoenix Hotel (where the Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Killers, and Pearl Jam have all been known to crash).

Starbelly

Starbelly

Castro
Starbelly is home to the Holy Date Trinity: outdoor seating (Father), flattering lighting (Son), and not being cold (Holy Ghost), a trio that isn't easy to find in the Land of Perpetually Needing a Jacket and Scarf. Bonus: the pizza is awesome, too, and (DOUBLE BONUS!!!) the whole menu is meant for sharing.

Grant Marek/Thrillist

Devil's Acre

North Beach
Easier to get into than Bourbon & Branch, not quite as crowded with suits as Local Edition or Rickhouse, and owned by the same dudes behind all three of those (!), this place is where it’s at for super-original cocktails and classics so old they seem original. The massive almanac menu also provides interesting tidbits on San Francisco's history, which makes for great icebreakers. Make a reservation for one of the tiny cabaret tables that overlook Columbus. And definitely visit the separate, hidden bar in the basement if you want to get extra cozy. Which, you do.
 

Ryoko's Restaurant & Bar

Lower Nob Hill
For a super-fun sushi date that won’t break the bank, head to this lively basement spot on the border of Nob Hill and Tenderloin. Not only do the sake and Sapporo flow like water, but weekend nights feature a live DJ that turns up the party factor considerably. There’re plenty of private corners and intimate seating, though, so your conversation won’t suffer. As a bonus, last call for both food and drink isn’t until 1:30am, making it an awesome spot to hit up after a show or if your drinks date unexpectedly turns into dinner.

Elephant Sushi

Russian Hill
Where as Ryoko's is more of a party scene, this Russian Hill sushi spot feels much more sophisticated, and romantic, and equipped with $2 sake bombs. Don’t know which inventive roll to get? Read the rave reviews and recommendations customers write on slips of paper that line the windows. (Filling out your own would also be a sweet way to commemorate the night, kind of the low-commitment version of carving your initials into a tree).

Foreign Cinema

Foreign Cinema

The Mission
The classic dinner-and-a-movie date gets the elegant treatment at this Mission standby. The menu changes daily and the foreign/indie movies projected in the outdoor courtyard provide built-in conversation topics/Mystery Science Theater commentary opportunities, depending on the date.
 

Amante/Chubby Noodle

North Beach
Amante/Chubby Noodle’s super-casual setup makes it the perfect place to bring your super-casual gray-area date -- you can replace existential dating questions, like "what are we?" with questions like "is this a bar? Or a restaurant? What is this place?" It’s both. Relax over stiff drinks and if it’s going well you can graduate to the awesome, well-priced Asian-fusion. Oh, and definitely get the Korean pork tacos.

Pro tip: there’s a booth to the right of the door (partially concealed by velvet curtains) that’s especially cozy and private -- perfect for those awkward relationship talks/make-out sessions that come after awkward relationship talks.

Gracias Madre

Gracias Madre

The Mission
If you’re dating someone with restrictive eating habits, or you’re not sure what combination of vegan, gluten-free, or paleo diets they subscribe to, good luck with that. Also, Gracias Madre is a delicious, safe bet. Serving innovative, sustainable, vegan Mexican fare that's just as delicious to carnivores, GM will help you avoid that awkward moment when your date can’t eat anything on the menu.
 

The Cliff House

Outer Richmond
While the food is decent, you’re really coming to this classic San Francisco institution for the awe-inspiring view (and the $5 Irish coffees). Whether you choose to dine in the casual bistro restaurant on the main level or the fine-dining restaurant upstairs, all you need is a window to experience the dizzying, romantic effects of feeling on the edge of a continent. This is the ultimate place to start a Sunday day date with a mimosa brunch or take in a sunset on a clear/clear-enough evening.

Greens Restaurant

Greens Restaurant

Fort Mason
Greens is another vegetarian-friendly restaurant that carnivores can appreciate. Unlike many restaurants, where vegetarian options are sort of an after-thought and therefore less inspired, this waterfront restaurant treats veggies as the star of the show. Even if you’re a devoted carnivore, you’ll have newfound appreciation for vegetables after tasting what the chefs can do with greenery. And, I mean, look at that view. HOW BADLY DO YOU WANT TO INSTAGRAM THAT RIGHT NOW???

Central Kitchen

Central Kitchen + Trick Dog

The Mission
Awesome, trendy dinner followed by awesome, trendy drinks without even having to change awesome, trendy warehouses? Win! This is your one-stop shop for an effortless dinner-and-drinks date. You don’t even need to decide among the inventive Northern California menu items -- the kitchen will do that work for you for a mere $70 (not a bad prix fixe for a restaurant of this caliber of awesome).
 

Cocotte

Nob Hill
For an authentic French meal without the typical French meal price tag, this charming rotisserie in Nob Hill totally delivers, right down to the heavily accented and friendly owner who delights in relating the storied history behind his cheese selections. Split the chicken for $30, which comes with amazing dipping sauces, and load up on sides like potato au gratin, Brussels sprouts, and French fries for a meal that’s distinctly French, but not stuffy.

Pro tip: when you make a reservation, ask if you can be seated in the adorable made-for-two table tucked away in an enclave and adorned with velvet curtains. Romantique as hell!

Palmer's Tavern

Palmer's Tavern

Pacific Heights
A reliable first-date spot, this simple, unassuming bar/restaurant is never too crowded, but also never awkwardly quiet. It’s got a friendly neighborhood vibe, cozy red leather booths, and a bit of retro charm that puts everyone at ease. Enjoy classic cocktails and classic comfort food in a space that feels all at once intimate and lively. In other words, it’s the easiest no-stress date.

Ed Anderson

State Bird Provisions

Fillmore
Not only will you look like a boss for scoring one of the most highly coveted tables (there’s a 60-day wait-list for reservations) IN THE UNIVERSE, but a meal here will certainly be one of your most memorable. Small Northern California-inspired plates come around on carts like dim sum and you choose as you go with help from the knowledgeable and friendly staff. This method of ordering makes the evening feel fluid and spontaneous -- like all great dates are.

Pro tips: one-third of the dining room is reserved for walk-ins, so the key to scoring a table without a reservation is knowing when to go. For an early dinner, wait in line at 4:30pm and have your date meet you right at 5:30pm when they open. Alternatively, 9pm generally sees less of a wait as it’s the turnover time between early and late diners.

Alanna Hale

Nopa

Western Addition
The massive wine list and brilliant sommelier (whose recommendations will totally make your meal) take this restaurant into territory generally reserved for the Gary Dankos and Cois of San Francisco. And yet, there’s still a burger on the menu for $14. The place feels like a fine-dining restaurant, too, with soaring ceilings and massive windows. Linger over your wine at the bar or try to snag seats at the chef’s counter where you can see the kitchen working the wood-fire oven.
 

Tommaso's

North Beach
Home to the first wood-fired brick pizza oven on the West Coast, Tommaso's has been stoking love affairs as only charming Italian cafes can for more than 70 years. This isn’t your trendy date spot, but rather a comforting place to split an excellent pizza or Lady-and-the-Tramp your pasta while getting cozy in one of the booths.

The Ice Cream Bar

Ice Cream Bar

Cole Valley
One of our favorite bar/restaurant mash-ups combines a 1930s ice cream parlor (think handmade malts, ice cream, shakes, and upscale diner treats) with craft cocktails and modern flavors, making this the perfect place to woo your chosen one Jimmy Stewart-style. Boozy malts and milkshakes change with the season and they’ve got sexy booze desserts on the menu, like the This Drink Is My Date (w/ Allagash Curieux bourbon-barrel aged ale over butterscotch, milk chocolate, and banana puddin’ ice creams, with caramelized banana, whipped cream, and a cherry), or the Pink Violet, a sweet vanilla and violet-flavored soda that changes color from blue to pink as it’s being made.

Biergarten

Hayes Valley
For a fun, casual day date head to Biergarten, where the communal seating, massive boots of beer, shareable blankets for when it's cold, and excellent people watching could give anyone something to talk about. Plus, did we mention the massive boots of beer?

Sign up here for our daily San Francisco email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun SF has to offer.

Amy Copperman is a writer in San Francisco. She loves outdoor seating, flattering lighting, and not being cold. Follow her on Twitter @acoppergirl.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
1. Chambers 601 Eddy St, San Francisco, CA 94109 (The Tenderloin)

Chambers, inside the Tenderloin's Phoenix Hotel, has two sides: the interior, evocative of a contemporary speakeasy with dark-wood walls and shelves of records, and the exterior, which features a poolside patio (and a roll-down enclosure) so you can enjoy your drinks in the sunshine, no matter how windy it is. The menu features next-level bar bites like roasted beets with burrata, creamy polenta, and pork belly with tomato kimchee, as well as a hearty burger with shiitake relish, manchego cheese, and kewpie mayo.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
2. Starbelly 3583 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94114 (The Castro)

The undisputed cocktail masters behind Beretta also coined Starbelly, a 100-seat California comfort foodery, and this time have chosen to complement the grub with a crazy grip of beer n' wine cocktails shored up with a brewlist that's off the charts.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
3. The Devil's Acre 256 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133 (North Beach)

This North Beach spot is serving up apothecary-themed cocktails in an expansive space with a hidden basement bar. The Devil’s Acre pays tribute to the Barbary Coast with period-specific cocktails that are billed as “remedies.” And the theme doesn’t just stop at the cocktails -- the bar staff wears leather smocks, there’s an 1890's cocktail shaker, the menu’s designed to resemble a classic almanac, and you’ll find apothecary bottles dotting the bar, which is ideal since a drink from the Future Bars gang is a prescription we'll take any day.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
4. Ryoko's Japanese Restaurant & Bar 619 Taylor St, San Francisco, CA 94102

Ryoko's, on the border of Nob Hill and Tenderloin, is a lively basement sushi spot helmed by high-skilled Japanese chefs. The sake and Sapporo flow like water, and on weekend nights, a live DJ turns up the party factor considerably. Last call for food and drink isn't until 1:30am, making it an awesome spot to hit when you're out late with a group of friends, or if your drinks date unexpectedly turns into dinner.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
5. Elephant Sushi 1916 Hyde St, San Francisco, CA 94109 (Russian Hill)

This 39-seat Russian Hill spot is a comfortable family operation with the mom doing prep in the back, one of the chefs' wives acting as server, and carpenter work and the beautiful Edison chandeliers created by a chef. Both sophisticated and romantic, it's an ideal date spot, and the $2 sake bombs will help ease things up if the evening starts awkwardly. Don’t know which inventive roll to get? Read the rave reviews and recommendations customers write on slips of paper that line the windows.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
6. Foreign Cinema 2534 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110 (The Mission)

The Mission's Foreign Cinema projects movies every night and serves a Californian menu with an oyster selection for the books. Where else can you find date-worthy dinner, one of the best brunches in the city (hello, house-made pop tarts), patio seating, and screenings of classic movies all under one roof? Trust us: this James Beard-nominated restaurant is one of the most important places you need to eat at in your lifetime.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
7. Amante/Chubby Noodle 570 Green St , San Francisco, CA 94133 (North Beach)

Asian-fusion Chubby Noodles caters to a variety of palates and occasions, depending on the location. The Marina location has a larger menu -- which includes bottomless brunch, lunch and dinner – while the North Beach counterpart is smaller in scope and venue size. There’s usually a bit of a wait for your food, but people go wild for the Korean pork tacos, tuna poke and fried chicken.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
8. Gracias Madre 2211 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110 (The Mission)

To satisfy your Mexi-cravings, head to this Mission spot for vegan takes on tacos, enchiladas, tamales, and even ceviche. Gracias Madre is committed to health and sustainability, all without sacrificing flavor, so it's no wonder vegans and carnivores alike line up out the door to chow-down on guilt-free eats that come from the team behind Cafe Gratitude.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
9. Cliff House 1090 Point Lobos Ave, San Francisco, CA 94121

With jaw-dropping views of Ocean Beach, the craggy coast-hugging Land’s End, and the wild, blue Pacific, Cliff House is a classy brunch or dinner spot perched on aon the edge of a cliff on the lip of the Pacific Ocean. Sit by a window to experience the dizzying, romantic effects of feeling on the edge of the world and don’t forget to order a $5 Irish coffee. This is the ultimate place to start a Sunday day date with a mimosa brunch or take in a sunset on a clear/clear-enough evening.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
10. Greens Restaurant 2 Marina Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94123

An OG on the vegetarian front since 1979, Greens is the real deal: A legit, upscale restaurant in a beautiful space within Fort Mason that basically showed America that you can still eat really, really well without all the meat and cream and all the other things associated with fine dining back during the fall of disco. Though founding chef Deborah Madison has passed the reigns onto Annie Somerville, the food continues to pull in people from all across the world. You’re not to mess around here: get the price fixe, sit back, and be blown away when you realize all the next-level things she can do without the magic of bacon.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
11. Central Kitchen 3000 20th St, San Francisco, CA 94110 (The Mission)

The sister restaurant to Flour + Water, Central Kitchen serves up local and sustainable fare in a communal setting with indoor and outdoor seating. James Beard-nominated executive chef Thomas McNaughton has crafted an earthy, layered menu that include dishes like beef tartare with fermented kohlrabi, smoked curds & berbere spice and hen with poached fig, shaved squash, basil & pistachio. Can't decide what to order? Try the Tasting Menu and you won't have to leave anything off the table.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
12. Trick Dog 3010 20th St, San Francisco, CA 94110 (The Mission)

Brought to you by The Bon Vivants, Trick Dog in The Mission's a marble- and steel-adorned cocktailery serving drinks from a Pantone-inspired menu with names from favorite song titles, along with bar bites like beer nuts, pickles, and cracklins.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
13. Cocotte 1521 Hyde St, San Francisco, CA 94109 (Nob Hill)

For an authentic French meal without the typical French meal price tag, this charming rotisserie in Nob Hill totally delivers, right down to the heavily accented and friendly owner who delights in relating the storied history behind his cheese selections. Split the chicken for $30, which comes with amazing dipping sauces, and load up on sides like potato au gratin, Brussels sprouts, and French fries for a meal that’s distinctly French, but not stuffy.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
14. Palmer's Tavern 2298 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94115 (Pacific Heights)

A reliable first-date spot, this simple, unassuming bar/restaurant is never too crowded, but also never awkwardly quiet. It’s got a friendly neighborhood vibe, cozy red leather booths, and a bit of retro charm that puts everyone at ease. Enjoy classic cocktails and classic comfort food in a space that feels all at once intimate and lively.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
15. State Bird Provisions 1529 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94115 (Fillmore)

State Bird Provisions opened in the Fillmore in 2013, won the James Beard Award for best new restaurant, earned a Michelin star, and has been one of city's hottest spots ever since. After you score a reservation, State Bird will likely be one of your most memorable meals ever thanks to the fact that creative Northern California small plates are served from dim sum carts. The atmosphere is fun, the food is affordable (plates range from $3 to $20), and the dining experience is anything but ordinary.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
16. Nopa 560 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117 (Alamo Square)

Nopa is a San Francisco institution that does everything really, really well. It's the best brunch in Western Addition and one of the best in the whole city. Its burger is perfect with pickled onions and French fries, especially when eaten at the bar. It's a one-stop-shop for a date, a birthday dinner, or dinner with your parents. Plus, the kitchen is open until 1 AM for a full dinner. Yeah, this place wins at everything.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
17. Tommaso's 1042 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA 94133 (North Beach)

Home to the first wood-fired brick pizza oven on the West Coast, Tommaso's is one of the classic Italian restaurants that helped to define North Beach as San Francisco’s Little Italy. This isn’t your trendy date spot, but rather a comforting place to split an excellent pizza or share lasagna while sampling from the mile-long wine list in one of the cozy booths.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
18. The Ice Cream Bar 815 Cole St, San Francisco, CA 94117 (Cole Valley)

This ice cream parlor sports three different bars, black marble tables, and enough Ayn Randian decoration to fit into any level of Bioshock: art-deco tiles, porthole mirrors, glowing blue diamond lights, and presumably soon, terrifyingly dead-eyed children.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
19. Biergarten 424 Octavia St, San Francisco, CA 94102 (Hayes Valley)

With quintessential large mugs, sausages and sauerkraut, long picnic tables in the sun (hopefully), and a rotating selection of impressive German beers, Biergarten everything you want in, well, a beer garden. It’s owned by the masterminds behind Suppenküche, so you know you can bank on them having a way with Teutonic suds and snacks. With no roof, it’s not the ideal spot for a rainy day pint, but you’ll be clamoring for a space come summertime.

Clickbait