It's Valentine's Day, a holiday for suckers if you ask me. But for those of you suckers who don't have a dinner reservation for tonight (and you just noticed that your girlfriend is giving you the silent treatment), do not despair. The most canoodle-friendly seats in the house are at a restaurant's bar anyhow. And the bar is always reserved for drop-ins.
I wrote about the relationship benefits of bar dining long ago for the Tacolicious blog (the restaurant owned by my husband Joe) but in honor of Valentine's Day, I'll make my case for 7x7.
Five reasons why dining at the bar beats a table.
1. At a loud restaurant—which most are—your date often can’t hear you when you're sitting across from each other. Conversation must be able to flow and yelling at each other is not romantic. A bar puts you cheek to cheek and ear to ear.
2. At a table, you can’t lean your head on your love's shoulder or covertly place your hand suggestively on their thigh.
3. You can’t share food as easily (the Lady and the Tramp would have been well advised to do the spaghetti maneuver at a counter). Not to mention to mention wine.
4. Sitting at a bar often cuts your wait time for a table in half. Low blood sugar has never lead to a hot date.
5. And when the romance is over and you’re sitting at a table, what’s there to do but awkwardly study your plate of food? But! When you’re at a bar or a counter, the action is straight ahead: The kitchen getting your dinner ready, the bartender making drinks. It’s a conversation starter—a conversation that might even reignite the flame that has been snuffed after years of sitting together at too many tables.
I rest my case. This Valentine's Day, get yourself to a bar stool and reap the rewards. Here are some of my all-time, date-night-out restaurant bar favorites. What do they all have in common? Good lighting, quality booze and good food.
1. SPQR A smooth white marble bar (request the counter in front of the kitchen if you want the real action) and a great wine list to go with Matthew Accarrino's food.
2. Bar Tartine More smooth white marble. Plus, this restaurant has perfect lighting: just bright enough to see, just dim enough to look good. Bonus: the talented chef Nick Balla, formerly of Nombe, is going to be starting here soon with his take on Hungarian food. Hungary is hot.
3. Absinthe Great cocktails, Parisian vibe, so much cooler than the dining room. Order these pretzels and a martini and I promise that you will feel a great surge of love (whether it's for the cheese sauce that goes with the pretzels or your companion, I can't say).
4. Nopa This is your late-night date. The restaurant closes at 1 am. Get there at the stroke of midnight. Share one of their perfect burgers.
5. Cotogna A fireside dinner (well, fire-front, I suppose, if you can nab a bar stool in front of the rotisserie fire)? $40 bottles of wine? Pasta? Yes, yes, yes.
6. Sebo Top-notch sake and front row seating for some of the most beautiful sushi preparation in SF. (Not to mention sushi never leaves you bloated, a plus for any girl in a skinny dress.)
7. Perbacco I know, I know. Little sister Barbacco is essentially set up on the premise of a bar, but it's really more of a counter, and to my mind, low seating doesn't empower romance. I like bar stools and feeling tall. Thus I choose Perbacco, especially if you get their perfect seared calamari dish.
8. Bar Jules The seats are not the most comfortable, but sitting at the bar here makes it feel like you're being treated to your own private dinner party, which is the charm of this intimate little restaurant.