There’s no shortage of fun and interesting activities in San Francisco. From a movie at the Kabuki Theater to a walking tour of the Mission District’s murals, there are plenty of engaging pursuits that could double as a first date. However, I’m of a certain old-fashioned mindset where I believe that a first date should involve some sort of wine-ing and dining. Bread must be broken, alcohol must be imbibed, and stories must be swapped. The restaurant doesn’t have to be fancy — if a guy took me to Saison on the first date, I would think he was crazy — but it should be inviting, stylish, and scrumptious. After all, a lively atmosphere and great food are necessary to survive the unavoidable awkward silences that may occur. Although I feel that first dates should involve dinner, I’m modern enough to realize that either party, male or female, can select the said location. Wondering where you should go on your next first date? Here are the top five restaurants for first dates in San Francisco.
Nopa is a classic SF restaurant that serves up stellar locally-driven organic California cuisine in a bustling two-story restaurant with open kitchen, wall length bar, and potent cocktails. The menu is filled with plenty of sharable options like wood-baked butter beans with feta and oregano, flatbread of bacon, mushrooms, and green garlic panna, and fried broccolini with horseradish cream. There’s also hearty large plates from the wood-fired oven like roasted trout with curried lentils and chicken with orange yogurt and potatoes. Nopa is always packed, so you’ll probably have to wait for a table if you don’t have a reservation. However, the bar and large communal table are first come first serve, so grab a drink and scope out a seat with your date. The only thing that’s unfortunate about a first date at Nopa is the food, drink, and environment might be more memorable than your date — yes, I’m speaking from experience.
560 Divisadero Street San Francisco, CA 94117
Gitane is one of San Francisco’s sexist restaurants. It’s located downtown on a little side alley in between Bush and Sutter Streets. While there is table seating outside in the alley, for the most romantic vibe, I recommend sitting inside. Downstairs is an elegant bar; two tapestries hang from the ceiling and one wall is lined with plush purple curtains that bring to mind a boudoir bedroom. Upstairs is the intimate dining room; it’s decorated with low lighting, red exposed bricks, black lacquer chairs, and plenty of mirrors. The menu is inspired by the regions in Southern France and Northern Spain. Wood-fired octopus with chorizo, salmon tartare, Moroccan-spiced salmon, and Basque-braised short ribs are a few of the menu’s standout items. Experiencing new things is a wonderful way to bond on a first date, so go ahead and order a flight of Sherry. You’ll learn about the fortified wine and taste some floral and light Sherry with your date.
6 Claude Lane San Francisco, CA 94108
Annie and Craig Stoll own several restaurants in San Francisco that all make for good date spots. While Delfina is ideal for a couple ready to define their relationship and Pizzeria Delfina is perfect for a casual fifth or sixth date, their best spot for a first date is Locanda. Located on Valencia Street in the Mission, this hotspot that is always jumping, serves up hand-crafted cocktails and finger-licking good Italian eats that are meant for sharing. Think fried olives, pizza bianca, and chicken liver mousse. The housemade pastas are to die for; the rigatoni alla carbonara with guanciale, Coast Hill egg, pecorino, and black pepper is one of the city’s best carbonara. Locanda also has an excellent cocktail list. The Aperitivo, a concoction of Campari, orange, lemon, and Prosecco is just the thing to get your first date off to the right start.
557 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110
4 Tacolicious Misson
Tacos and tequila are a can’t fail combination when it comes to a first date. While there are several locations of Tacolicious in San Francisco, the best one for a date is the one in the Mission. Why? Because it’s the most happening, has a mezcal bar next door, and outdoor patio seating. Share the guacamole and the housemade salsas, then order several different kinds of their flavor-packed tacos — the guajillo-braised beef short rib is a personal favorite. To loosen up, consider one of Tacolicious’s potent chupitos. These shots are made with fresh juice and strong tequila. Cheers to falling in love!
741 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110
5 Tony’s Pizza Napoletana
Pizza and cocktails are a great date idea and the best pizza in San Francisco can be found at one place and one place only: Tony’s Pizza Napoletana. This North Beach hot spot is always packed, but you shouldn’t have to wait too long for a table for two. Put your name on the list, then head a couple doors down to Tony Nik’s for a cocktail. Or find a spot at the bar where you can snuggle up to your date. The best thing about Tony’s is that the menu has all different kinds of pizza, so if you feel like a cracker thin pizza, but he wants a New York-style pie, you can each order what your heart desires. Whatever you do end up enjoying, you can rest assured that it will be downright delicious pizza — Tony’s won countless awards!
1570 Stockton Street San Francisco, CA 94133