A flirtatious atmosphere, seating you can cozy up in, strong drinks and an undeniable entertainment factor—these are the makings of a great first date bar. From rooftop views to mini-golf games, whiskey bars to dive barcades, the following ten spots check so many of the boxes, you might just end your night drunk in love (at least with the venue, if not your date).
If you're looking for a quieter second date, click here.
Boozing paired with an extracurricular activity guarantees you first-date gold stars, which is the sheer genius of this 14-hole, mechanized mini-golf course in the Mission, where you can putt your ball around the Transamerica Pyramid, inside a Jules Verne-esque submarine beneath the Bay, alongside cable cars and even through the 1906 earthquake. Adjacent to the all-indoor course is a sizeable bar—styled like a cross between an old ship’s grizzled galley and some steampunk fantasyland—it's the perfect spot to get a little lubricated before playing a round. Make a deal that the loser buys the next round (of drinks), then see where the night takes you.
This swanky SoMa rooftop feels downright cozy—especially when nursing a tumbler of bourbon beside the fire pit. Grab a seat and you and your soon-to-be sweetie can talk about how if someone had brought you here blindfolded, you’d swear you’d been kidnapped to Miami—the mod fire pits and flora-filled planters evoke a serious south Florida vibe. Though were you really been blindfolded, the two of you would miss the bar's sexy interior, where you can cozy up on a leather Chesterfield, sip your mezcal and passionfruit Banana Hammock (yep), and, if the night goes well, plan your second date for the real South Beach.
Pro first-date planners always come prepped with two things: an "out plan" (in case of emergencies of the incompatible type) and a "part-two plan" if the date is going well. While you’ll still have to dream up the former, this rooftop bar in the Mission provides the latter: Come here for mezcal-spiked margaritas and braised-pork quesadillas, and if things are going swimmingly, segue into a proper dinner downstairs at Lolinda, a swank Argentinian steak house that always seems to have at least one table available. On the flip side, if your conversation runs dry that pitcher of margaritas definitely won’t.
Games are fun. Especially the throwback games of our youth, such as Frogger, Donkey Kong 2 and Mortal Kombat. And what makes anything—especially games—more fun? Drinking. Such was the thought process of the folks behind this newly opened Castro bar, which has a huge rotating selection of both vintage arcade games and craft beers on tap. This spot doesn’t take itself too seriously (hopefully your date doesn't, either): It also has boozy slushies on tap and a fun-loving menu of caramel corn, corn nuts and jerky. It might be the only time that playing games on a first date will nab you a second—see what we did there?
You may get caught looking out the window more than at your date if you meet up at this 39th-floor bar atop the Marriott Marquis. Through the immense Art Deco sunburst window you can see out over the rooftops of San Francisco to the bay beyond. Though a bit touristy, it’s the kind of place where your date (or your parents, or your roommate for that matter) can’t help but be impressed. Split a couple of small plates—the pork belly and baked goat cheese are both good—try the namesake Marquis cocktail (a blend of 209 gin, fresh citrus juice and Grand Marnier Cuvee du Centenaire) and take in your city—and your date—from this bird's-eye perch.
Situated in a former newspaper printing room in the belly of the Hearst Building, this 1950s-styled cocktail lounge has an easy-to-miss entrance that gives the place an exclusive feel—that is, until you join the boisterous throng lining the bar. Stake out one of the dark corners decked with antique typewriters or bust out your swing moves when the live jazz band strikes up a tune. Our favorite spot is on the plush red banquettes ringing the room, where you can casually cuddle up as you sip your old-timey drink and talk in newspaper titles (“Catastrophic! Man Spills Drink on Lap!”) about the other patrons.
Bring a date here and the two of you can bond over the whiskey selection—and then the sushi. This atmospheric Japanese Izakaya and whiskey bar has over 500 single-malt options available. If you buy a bottle, they’ll store it in their private locker for you—but use this sparingly on dates: Your partner may be impressed, or they may wonder how many other first dates have sat in their place. If happy hour is more your speed than a private bottle, there’s a fantastic one here from 5:30-7pm when tasty bites such as Japanese-style buffalo wings and savory pork sausage are half off.
Attached to the Phoenix hotel, one of the swingingest in the city, this haunt has some serioues rock 'n' roll vibes—the fact that uber-cool musicians like David Bowie and the Red Hot Chili Peppers have stayed and partied here doesn't hurt. (And hey, maybe some of their lady-killing vibes will rub off on you.) Backing the bar is a lit-up sign that reads "Be Amazing" (encouraging), and the venue follows suit; the food is stellar (think tater tots, Kobe tri-tip, and one helluva burger). And if the date goes well, hey, there's a hotel on-site.
If you and your new paramour are fans of beer and baseball, this outdoor drinking venue is for you. Part of The Yard at Mission Rock permanent pop-up across from the ballpark, don't confuse this beer garden with the actual Anchor Steam Brewery. You may not be able to see brewing in action here, but you can belly up to the bar for a pour from one of the 16 taps and follow up your drinking escapades with a bite from one of the stellar food trucks parked onsite (the french-fry-filled California burritos with Korean-style pork from Senor Sisig are legendary). The relaxed, outdoor vibe (and tasty beer) has first date written all over it.
No time was wasted in adding a bar to the Clift after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, and the magnificent result has been a fixture for high-end cocktailing ever since. Although the decor shifted from art deco to postmodern, the bar is neither tacky nor too flamboyant, its towering walls still panelled in redwood thought to have come from a single tree. A DJ spins four nights a week for a sophisticated mix of locals and out-of-towners, and the place feels of clandestine affairs and under-the-table friskiness perfect for a first date. Fun fact to share with your crush: The portraits hanging around the room move ever so slightly, haunted house-style.