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Dating ain't dead: 4 perfectly planned date-night itineraries in San Francisco

By Shoshi Parks
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Trying to wow that special someone? We’ve got you covered, with swoonworthy itineraries for every kind of couple.

THE PROOF-YOU'RE-IN-THE-KNOW DATE

Dinner: Shizen Vegan Sushi Bar and Izakaya

Drop some Michelin Guide knowledge on your beau with a meal at this gourmet eatery. Belly up to the polished-wood sushi bar for izakaya-style skewers, vegan ramen and Shizen shiitake (mushrooms stuffed with shredded tofu and tapioca) while you explain what a soy-milk egg is to your significant other.

Show: The Roxie

Wanna flex your cultural prowess? Head to the oldest and coziest theater in San Francisco for a screening of not just any regular Hollywood blockbuster but an obscure foreign film like the Japanese comedy-horror Hausu. Bonus points if you don’t need to read the subtitles.

Drinks: The Hideout at Dalva

Venture past the noisy crowds at Dalva to the back of the bar, where you’ll find the Hideout, a small, dimly lit lounge serving memorable cocktails like the gin and celery tonic. Feel free to make out in a dark corner.

If things go well: Bissap Baobab

Burn off a little energy at this little-known Senegalese institution with a bright-red storefront and colorful walls. You’ll hear a mix of African rhythms, hip-hop and soul and encounter diners who are always willing to get down for an out-of-the-ordinary dance party. Michael Franti has been known to stop by for impromptu performances.

 

THE HIGH-CLASS DATE

Dinner: State Bird Provisions

Nothing impresses quite like battling with State Bird’s notoriously tough reservation system and winning—even more so if you nab the table where Ryan Gosling dined. A recent renovation brought a bright, updated interior with a mural from Color Factory artist Leah Rosenberg on the back wall. Although the small plates can easily add up to a hefty bill, we suggest starting with lamb tartare before sharing the signature namesake bird: fried, cheese-dusted quail for two.

Show: The Book of Mormon at SHN

Your night of heavy hitters continues with the second Bay Area run of this hilarious Broadway show in which two squeaky-clean Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints missionaries are sent from Utah to proselytize in Uganda. Orchestra seats will set you back more than $200 per person, but it’s worth it to be front-and-center for this nine-time Tony winner at the ornate Orpheum Theatre.

Drinks: Louie’s Gen-Gen Room

This reservation-only cocktail bar lives in the basement of the trendy restaurant Liholiho Yacht Club. Tropical cocktails—like the one with Eagle Rare bourbon, passion fruit and burnt sugar, and another with Avuá cachaça, falernum, coconut water, lime and Green Chartreuse—are served alongside poppy-seed waffles with country ham, nectarine chutney and honey butter, or furikake waffles with avocado and uni.

If things go well: Wilson & Wilson

This 1930s-style detective-agency-cum-bar is a mind-boggling speakeasy inside of a speakeasy, where a reservation will get you a password that unlocks the secret door at Bourbon & Branch. The drink menu focuses on expensive whiskey like Yamazaki 12-Year and Old Pulteney 21-Year for a boozy yet civilized end to your night.

THE ODDBALL DATE

Dinner: Tonga Room

You won’t run out of things to talk about at this classic tiki restaurant, featuring a central lagoon with a band playing from a boat and faux storms that periodically sweep through, causing the walls to pour with tropical rain. Try the papa’i—fried crab claws with miso dressing.

Show: Audium

If a traditional theater is just too normal, head to Audium for an electro-acoustic show where theatergoers are left in darkness and washed in “sound sculptures” from the 176 surrounding speakers.

Drinks: Kozy Kar

Keep the weird vibes going with a stop at this dancey dive on Polk Street. Take a seat on a waterbed or in a booth fashioned like an old car, and analyze the retro TV shows playing on the bar’s many televisions. On the dance floor, vintage porn videos and a stripper pole display racier activities.

If things go well: Grubstake

Soak up the booze at Grubstake, one of the last few remaining diners open until 4am in the city. Set inside an old cable car, this place has plenty of regular burgers and omelettes, plus a menu of traditional Portuguese comfort food.

Cruising into the weekend like 🍾🕶💐🕶🍾 (@brittnacho knows how to do it)

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THE CLASSIC DATE

Dinner: Absinthe Brasserie

Don your finest for dinner here. With its deep-red velvet booths and hearty French fare, this intimate candlelit restaurant exudes romance. Start with an oyster/vodka shooter at the bar before moving on to French onion soup and coq au vin.

Show: San Francisco Symphony

It’s impossible not to be awed by a night at the magnificent Davies Symphony Hall. Grab a glass of wine at the lobby bar before you head into the modern, minimalist space for a night of Beethoven’s greatest hits (Feb 8, 15–17) or Amadeus scored live (Apr 6–7).

Drinks: The Riddler

Owned by an all-woman team, this small, cozy champagne bar has black-and-white seating and tabletops that read Hello Beautiful in gold writing. Head here for bumps of caviar served with champagne shots and free popcorn with seasonings.

If things go well: Smitten

End a classic date by showing how special your special someone is with liquid nitrogen–churned-to-order ice cream from Smitten. Share the berry-crisp sundae in pocket park Patricia’s Green across the street, illuminated by giant geometric light sculptures. 

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