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The most romantic restaurants in San Francisco

From the downright sultry to the playfully cute, it's easy to fall in love at the most romantic restaurants in San Francisco
Foreign Cinema
Photograph: Courtesy Foreign Cinema
By Lauren Sheber and Virginia Miller |
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There's a wide spectrum when it comes to defining a romantic restaurant in San Francisco. For new couples (and those who haven't had "the talk" yet), a cheap date featuring affordable grub and tea lights might be all that's necessary to get the heart racing. For others, white tablecloths and a prix-fixe meal might have you playing footsie all night before looking up the nearest luxury hotel. Whether the mood calls for a place that's classy and comfortable or a special-occasion splurge, we found a few romantic restaurants that cover every scenario—all you need is your appetite.

RECOMMENDED: Date ideas in San Francisco 

Romantic restaurants in San Francisco

1
Avery
Photograph: Yelp/Lydia L
Restaurants

Avery

icon-location-pin Western Addition

Avery is tiny and warm with decadent dishes like sea urchin and caviar and savory pecan cheese buckwheat tartlet and poached oysters with chorizo, meyer lemon and cauliflower. Upping the romance quotient, the restaurant just launched a Champagne-only pairing showcasing France’s vibrant wine range, from sour natural beauties to refined brut rosés.

2
Beef fat waffles at Nightbird
Photograph: Virginia Miller
Restaurants, Californian

Nightbird

icon-location-pin Hayes Valley

At Kim Alter’s tasting-menu-only Nightbird you and your date can relax while savoring fine-dining-worthy courses like "meatloaf” beef tartare or Hokkaido scallops layered in paper-thin matsutake mushrooms. Impress bae by starting or ending the night in Nightbird’s hidden back bar, Linden Room

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3
Trestle
Photograph: Yelp/Noimee L.
Restaurants, Californian

Trestle

icon-location-pin Downtown

For couples on a budget, it’s hard to find a better deal than Trestle, where a high quality 3-course dinner costs just $38 per person. You can expect exceptional ingredients, a smart craft beer and wine list and skilled service in the intimate North Beach space. Dishes change regularly with the seasons, but the add-on pasta course (just $10 more) is often the highlight of the meal. 

4
Restaurants, Californian

BIX

icon-location-pin Jackson Square

Hidden down a FiDi alley, Bix has been bringing 1930s-themed supper club romance to SF since 1988, complete with live piano jazz and martinis shaken tableside. Helmed by chefs Emmanuel Eng and Bruce Hill, the food is classic but not dated, whether you opt for caviar and blini, a la minute (made to order) ceviche or their beloved chicken hash.

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5
Petite Marlowe
Photograph: Yelp/Petite Marlowe
Restaurants, French

Petit Marlowe

icon-location-pin SoMa

Petit Marlowe feels like a tucked-away Parisian bistro where they happen to serve NorCal seafood on the menu. Share an intimate moment over raw bar delicacies and impeccable shellfish and seafood platters. Also on the menu: braised short ribs, pressed sandwiches and French onion soup with wine, ciders and sparkling wines to wash it all down. 

6
Firefly
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/ Premshree Pillai
Restaurants, American

Firefly

icon-location-pin Noe Valley

Brad Levy and Veva Edelson opened this tranquil Noe Valley gem in 1993 and it’s been the poster child for an ideal neighborhood restaurant ever since. For romance of the homey kind, Firefly’s comfort food delights, whether you order the signature fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, to more creative changing plates like Japanese sweet potato tostones in a spicy pomegranate-ginger glaze. Save room for heartwarming desserts like apple galette with brown sugar sour cream ice cream.

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7
Pläj Scandinavian Restaurant & Bar
Photograph: Courtesy Pläj
Restaurants

PLAJ

icon-location-pin Hayes Valley

Looking for something a little adventurous for date night? Book a table at Plaj for New Nordic cuisine in a cozy setting. Chef Roberth pulls from his native Sweden for rarities like aged matjes herring, beet cured gravlax with sea buckthorn sorbet or Swedish meatballs. Finish with a shot of house-infused aquavit by the fire.

8
Californios
Photograph: Yelp/Chad S.
Restaurants, Mexican

Californios

icon-location-pin Mission

This Michelin-starred Mexican spot is sleek, but unfussy, from the mirrored, unmarked facade to the neon art in the restroom. With its black walls, low lighting, and vibrant art, the decor matches the food: splurgy and surprising. Slip into the leather banquette or snag a spot at the bar for a view of the open kitchen. Chef Val Cantu’s decadent, 16-course tasting menu changes seasonal—expect heart-stoppingly rich dishes like lobster tacos, wagyu steak, and foie gras-garnished churros. Splurge for the beverage pairing, which typically includes wine, beer, and cider.

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9
Foreign Cinema
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Dave Whelan
Restaurants, Californian

Foreign Cinema

icon-location-pin Mission

Want a whimsical twist on dinner and a movie? Though Foreign Cinema has been a Mission standby for nearly two decades, it remains one of the most stunning restaurants in town. The seasonal California fare is sourced from farms in Bolinas, Sebastopol, Healdsburg and Olema, complemented by an impressive 2,000-bottle wine list. Inside, you’ll find an elegant expanse of marble, stone and exposed beams under 18-foot ceilings. But the real draw is the outdoor patio, warmed by heat lamps and twinkling with string lights. The “cinema” comes in the form of the huge projector screen, where classic and contemporary movies play nightly. 

10
Zuni Café
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/ Derrick S.
Restaurants, Californian

Zuni Café

icon-location-pin Hayes Valley

Since its opening in 1979, Zuni has developed a dedicated following as a destination restaurant that helped define fresh regional Northern California cuisine. Open for lunch, dinner and deep into the night, Zuni’s modern classics include their signature Caesar salad and brick-oven roasted chicken for two. The light-filled, glass encased dining rooms and sidewalk seating when the weather cooperates still makes this space the place to see and be seen, especially before and after symphony and opera events.

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