Whether it’s The Sex or everlasting love or... The Sex, everyone's after something when it comes to dating in SF. And we're after giving you date ideas that'll get you whatever that thing is: here are 30, organized by commitment level.
You don’t really know this person, yet. You don’t even know if you want to know this person, yet. So when it comes to first dates with people you met online, it’s all about preparing for the worst and getting through it with the least amount of effort possible. (Modern dating is so fun, right?!)
Anywhere that is incredibly convenient for you
A bad date is made that much worse if you are too far to run screaming from it. Pick a bar you like enough (but isn’t your favorite) -- and resign yourself to the fact that the bartender will know all your bad ice-breaker questions.
A decent enough bar exactly halfway between you and your date
So your date is a Thrillist reader too… and she’s read this article… and she also wants convenience. Look at you two with things in common! In this instance, you can’t be completely selfish, so pick a bar that’s lively enough that it’s not awkward but quiet enough that you can hear each other, preferably with lots of seating and an extensive enough drink list. Here are a bunch of solid bars that fit the bill in almost every neighborhood: Two Sisters Bar and Books (Hayes Valley), Harper and Rye (Polk), Zeki’s Bar (Nob Hill), Tunnel Top (Union Square), Elixir (Mission), El Rio (Outer Mission), Columbus Cafe (North Beach), Third Rail (Dogpatch), Palmer’s Tavern (Lower Pacific Heights), Yancy’s Saloon (Inner Sunset), Aub Zam Zam (Haight), The Page (Western Addition), Natoma Cabana (FiDi).
Drinks near other things
While proximity to your apartment or office is the most important criterion, you might want to consider proximity to other things on the off chance you actually like this person. (Hey, it worked for your friend’s friend!) Hideout, the hidden back cocktail bar at Dalva, is dark enough to make everyone feel comfortable and is near a ton of restaurants and bars in case you want to graduate to a meal or see what they look like in natural light.
Drinks and games
A little flirtatious competition and you’ll know what to do with your hands. Win! Brewcade offers the arcade of your childhood dreams plus craft beer. Or you could go with any dive bar that has board games. Pro tip/duh tip: don’t pick Monopoly.
Go on “The Coffee Date”
Personally, we think coffee is what you do with someone you’re trying to network with, but it’s also safe and requires very little commitment. If you’re going to go this route, at least pick a spot with some ambience, like the Mission’s Dynamo Donut & Coffee or North Beach’s Réveille Coffee Co. Here’s a list of the best coffee shop in every neighborhood so you can check off both the convenience and ambiance factors.
Stroll through Golden Gate Park
Back before we met people the same way we order takeout, people went on strolls together all the time. And it’s a great way to get to spend time with someone without the pressure of looking them in the eye the whole time. To pull off this vintage date, it’s best to have some idea where you’re going. A nice, scenic, yet flat, walk starts at Conservatory of Flowers and ends at the Roller Skaters (a total ice-breaker) around 6th Ave. Of course, if it’s going well, you could just keep walking into the sunset together -- literally.
It doesn’t really matter what you ask them to do, it’s all just a euphemism for The Sex. And as a result, straight-forwardness is both sexy and avoids confusion.
Meet up wherever you happen to be at 1:15am on Friday or one of these Bad Decision Bars
Pro tip: even if you’re only interested in hanging out after bar-close, send your initial text well before midnight to increase your success rate when you inevitably follow up with “heyyyyyy come 2 meeeee” while in the middle of a sweaty dance circle at Holy Cow.
You’re not Facebook-official or anything, but you’ve graduated from swiping, texting, and trying to care the least to officially/unofficially (who can ever tell?!?) “hanging out.” This casual, gray-area stage is either a nice scenic drive on the way to love or just a really fun time in which you’re the most groomed version of yourself. Either way, these dates will help you to gather intel, navigate ambiguity, and figure out whether you’re compatible -- while seeing the best of the city, too.
Check out a comedy show
A comedy show can reveal a lot of important things in just an hour and a half. Mainly, whether or not they yell out embarrassing/awkward things during the show. (If so, RUN.) Oh, and whether or not you share a sense of humor. But mostly, the heckling thing.
Go to a museum
A museum date is also a good barometer for compatibility because museums, while wonderful, are, um, kind of inherently boring. (The same can be said for long-term relationships.) If you can have an engaging time meandering from art piece to art piece, then your relationship is more likely to withstand meandering from wall sconce to wall sconce at Home Depot in 15 years (according to… the single person writing this and her hopefully sound logic).
Dinner at Ryoko’s and drinks and oysters at Benjamin Cooper
If you’re sick of wondering if your “hangouts” are dates, you could just ask. (BAHAHAHHAA, yeah right.) Or you could let the location speak for you. Start with dinner for two at Sushi Ryoko, a lively subterranean sushi spot with cozy corners and a DJ on the weekends spinning the best of Michael Jackson. Before, after, or while you wait for your table (Sushi Ryoko gets crowded Thursday-Saturday), head around the corner to the super-sexy, semi-hidden Benjamin Cooper to sip extraordinary cocktails at the intimate, built-for-two tables that line the back wall. The only food on the menu is oysters, known aphrodisiacs. Nothing ambiguous about that.
So you’ve been hanging out ever since that night at Holy Cow, and he/she passed your museum test, but now it’s time to utter everyone’s least-favorite question: “So, like, what are we?” Not that twilight, food trucks, and fire pits can exactly make that conversation less scary/annoying/confusing, but it’s certainly easier to talk about things when you’re 1) fully clothed, 2) fully fed, and 3) not in an intimate, everyone-can-hear-us restaurant. Pro tip: reserve a cabana for extra privacy/romance.
A tipsy trip through the tactile dome. Enough said.
Boozy brunch your face off
Daytime hangs are fun -- especially when they involve eggs, getting tipsy, and having sex -- all before 2pm. Plus this date gives you an excuse to check out these sweet new brunch spots.
Hit an oyster happy hour
Cheap and sexy -- exactly how we like our dating! Oh, and what do you know, here’s every $1 oyster spot in the city.
For the new couples who love a challenge, this particular one adds a bit of adventure to what is essentially just going to bars.
You’re in that stage where literally anything and everything is foreplay, so do the rest of us a favor and cook a meal and watch Netflix in the privacy of your love cave… just kidding. If you must take your love out in the open, here’s a bunch of cute shit you can do together.
Hit up movie night in the park
A cozy picnic for two while you watch a vintage movie in one of the Bay’s picturesque parks is romantic-comedy cute, which just so happens to be your real life at this moment.
Go on a hike
People who are in love love hikes. It’s science. Here’re a bunch you two can Instagram together.
Bike the Golden Gate Bridge
When you’re not ordering take out and watching documentaries from bed together, you’re likely seizing Saturday mornings by the balls and being just so active and adorable. Are your quads peddling that bike, or is it the power of your blossoming relationship?
Do tourist things
Unlike the first date, you’re now so into each other that you’re willing to travel all the way to the Sunset, and you’re not even worried about having to wait for brunch because just being with this person fills you up more than Outerland’s phenomenal Dutch pancake ever could. Pro tip: browse the General Store or get Trouble Coffee while you wait for your table.
The only person you should be camping out on the sidewalk with for a dinner that may or may not actually happen is someone you’ve seen naked a bunch. Side note: if you’re officially-officially dating someone who scored an actual reservation here, it’s time to take him/her off the market (go ahead and scroll down, then start looking at rings). Pro tip: bring tall boys in a paper bag and set up camp an hour and half before they open to score one of the tables reserved for walk-ins at the first seating.
You know each other well enough that you want to grow together by learning a new skill, but you still want it to involve drinking. Enter this cool glass blowing class that offers just that: live music, glass blowing demos, and beer.
Attend a Giants game
A classic -- and for good reason! You learn very important things about people at baseball games, like how they feel about the kiss cam, what their favorite snacks are, and most importantly, what their walk-up song would be.
All of the above, plus a boat!
There’s something sexy about separate togetherness -- you’re on the same team but you’re separated by a court and forced to communicate through flirty looks and victory air fives.
Whether you’re headed down the aisle or simply can’t get enough of this person, you’re in the market for over-the-top romance. Weekends aren’t so much days of the week anymore, but rather opportunities to marinate in your love while attempting activities generally reserved for ABC’s The Bachelor.
Go on a road trip
Something about browsing up-cycled housewares together says: “I’m looking for a long-term commitment. Would you like to buy ceramics with me until we die?” The live music from local bands, amazing lawn and views, food trucks, and treasures from more than 400 vendors also make this a fun, casual weekend day with your wifey -- a preview of just the sort of laid-back, cool stuff you’ll do forever. Or until you have kids.
You’re long past the everything-is-sexy-with-this-person stage and even new ceramics don’t pack the punch they once did. But! You still like each other -- and that’s worth celebrating with a mini staycation that’s super intimate and sexy. Enter Cavallo Point, an old military fort in Sausalito that’s been restored into one of the most unique resorts in the country, where you can actually sleep in the old General’s Quarters. Relax in a rocking chair during the hosted happy hour or take a cooking class in the sunny working kitchen. If you can’t spend the night, a daily fee gets you access to the meditation, pool, sauna, and Jacuzzi. Whether you stay a few hours or a few days, the gorgeous, serene setting will rejuvenate your romance muscle.
You’re likely going for the Instagram, but this person knows you well enough to put up with the 15-minute deliberation on which filter to use. #romance
A true test of the strength of your relationship, especially if just one of you actually plays golf. Luckily all can be forgiven over a drink at the Presidio Social Club after (loser or gloating winner buys).
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Amy Copperman is a regular contributor at Thrillist. Tell her how your date went on Twitter.