By: Stephanie Garr
With its curvaceous streets, voluptuous hills, and stunning water views in every direction, San Francisco may be one of the world’s most romantic cities. But no matter how seductive the landscape, everyone knows the surest way to anyone’s heart is directly through their stomach. Fortunately, San Francisco’s breathtaking beauty is only matched by its abundance of gastronomic delights—enough to satiate your sweetie eight days a week. For that truly special occasion, though (remember Valentine’s Day is just around the corner!), you’ll want to reserve a table at one of the city’s 10 most romantic bars and restaurants.
- Quince: 470 Pacific Avenue
For those who equate poshness with passion, look no further than this brick-lined, Michelin triple-starred restaurant located in the Jackson Square Historic District. This is dining so refined you’ll be hard pressed to find a drip of sauce out of place. Here, French and Italian-inspired dishes get a Northern California spin with all fresh, seasonal, and local ingredients—some that may even be served on an iPad.
- Absinthe Brasserie & Bar: 398 Hayes Street
One of Hayes Valley’s longest-running restaurants, Absinthe combines the casual elegance of a Parisian brasserie with an exquisite French and Northern Italian-inspired menu. The bar area is always bustling, but slip into a plush booth in the dining room for some true romance. Cozy up with your loved one as you snack on spicy fried chickpeas and caviar canapes, slurp up fresh oysters, and dig your teeth into their classic coq au vin or hamburger. And don’t forget to cheers to your love with an absinthe-infused cocktail. Check out more Hayes Valley eats (including next-door neighbor Arlequin) on our Hayes Valley Food Tour!
- Sociale: 3665 Sacramento Street
Usher your date through a small alleyway in the affluent ‘hood of Presidio Heights to this intimate hidden gem. Score a candlelit table in the charming courtyard and enjoy rich, seasonal Northern Italian classics with a sommelier-picked glass of wine. Since they switch up their menu monthly, you can make date night a regular occasion here.
- Foreign Cinema: 2534 Mission Street
This Mission District fave offers the classic dinner-and-a-movie combo without ever having to leave your seat. Catch a classic film out on the patio while indulging in fresh seafood and contemporary California cuisine. Or come early on the weekends for their outstanding brunch, where you can get a taste of childhood with their guilt-free organic ‘Pop Tarts.’
- Gitane: 6 Claude Lane
A stroll down Claude Lane—hidden between touristy Union Square and buttoned-up Financial District—will magically transport you to the sultry sizzle of the South of France. Gitane describes itself as blending the “sexy playfulness of a 1930s cabaret with the audacious spirit of the 1970s.” The swanky ambiance pairs well with its fusion-style cuisine, which spins Southern French, Spanish, and Italian tastes into exquisite comfort food.
- La Folie: 2316 Polk Street
This long-standing Russian Hill restaurant has all the hallmarks of quintessential romance: delicately crafted French-inspired cuisine, warm wooden décor, soft lighting, and service so good you’ll never have to unlock eyes with your beloved. The prix fixe menu features fresh, seasonal, organic, and sustainably harvested fare, and if you reserve for Valentine’s Day, you can impress your date with a little caviar.
- Café Jacqueline: 1454 Grant Avenue
There are certain foods that can induce the same kind of warm fuzzies triggered by a first kiss: Jacqueline Margulis’ signature soufflés is one of them. Her cozy and intimate North Beach restaurant has been serving up the light and fluffy wonders to amorous pairs for over three decades. Every soufflé is handmade to order, so you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy your company.
- Wine Kitchen: 507 Divisadero Street
Romance goes best with a glass of wine, something this Nopa establishment knows well. Wine Kitchen brings the chic yet casual ambiance of Napa Valley to the heart of the city with an extensive wine list and small-plates menu with suggested pairings. Before bringing your date, test out the spot and their wines on our Nopa/Alamo Square Food Tour—or better yet, just bring your date on the tour!
- The Riddler: 528 Laguna Street
If your significant other is more the champagne wishes and caviar dreams type, head straight to this sleek new champagne bar in Hayes Valley. If you’re more the beer type, you’ll be just as pleased: just order up the dish of caviar surrounded by shots of Miller High Life beer.
- Bouche: 603 Bush Street
If it’s not yet obvious from the rest of this list, the French clearly still reign in the romance department. Owned by a native of Provence, this rustic and cozy restaurant near Union Square makes up for its small space with big French and Mediterranean flavors and a wine list that specializes in rare French vintages.
Gourmet Walks is proud to offer fun and romantic Valentine’s Chocolate Tours from February 10 – February 14th. Don’t miss our special Valentine’s Cupcake & Chocolate Tour, or our ULTRA Chocolate Tour, complete with wine and cocktail pairings. Book ahead at www.gourmetwalks.com.