Since it's Valentine's Day Eve and all, it's time to get shmoopy and talk about romantic restaurants. And since the typical Valentine's prix-fixe glass of bubbly-and-a-red rose affair is a tad trite in our book, let's take a moment to honor those restaurants that are romantic all the time, not just on Hallmark holidays. What follows are seven of our favorite San Francisco restaurants that somehow manage to be unexpectly romantic all year long.
1) Forbes Island (Pier 41)
Despite its kitschy nautical atmosphere in a boat off Fisherman's Wharf, Forbes Island isn't as much a tourist trap as a local's treasure. You take a two minute boat ride to its under-water dining room with a flaming fireplace and a full bar. The menu reads like a culinary school text book from the 1980's, but the wild mushroom ragout, flat iron steaks and such are surprisingly well executed. Don't head back to solid land before climbing the "lighthouse" for a new vantage on tourist central. Forbes Island is a light-hearted away to escape from SF without going very far.
2) Zare at Fly Trap (606 Folsom St. @ 2nd)
Gold-framed botantical prints, red walls and Hoss Zare's vibrant, slightly exotic take on Cal-Mediterranean fare never fails to seduce, even if it's half-pound meatball monday. We like to sit at the bar, split several appetizers and save room for the heavenly baklava finished with rose preserves and a fluff of Persian cream.
Live jazz, martinis at the bar and steak tartare to follow. It doesn't really matter what comes next. Bix is one of those timeless places that was making a mean deviled egg even when it wasn't the trendy thing to do.
4) Sons & Daughters (708 Bush St. )
The uber-talented chef duo of Matt McNamara and Teague Moriarty work in plain site in Sons & Daughters open kitchen, crafting meticulous dishes like confit squab leg with accents of hazlenut and pear. It's all exectued as you sit in an intimate dining room that feels like home—if home was bedecked in beatuifully framed wall-spanning mirrors and crystal chandeliers.
5) South Park Cafe (108 S. Park St.)
This is your classic, unassuming French bistro offering everything you'd expect from the best in its genre: adept service, nice wines and perfectly done rustic French staples like coq au vin, steak frites and chocolate mousse for dessert.
6) Gamine (2223 Union St. @ Fillmore)
Tuck into one of the rickety wood tables, and let the warmth of the red-walled decor and the burger with gruyere and egg overtake you.
7) Aziza (5800 Geary Blvd. @ 22nd)
Rich Cal-Moroccan fare like duck confit basteeya blends perfectly with the dark-hued purple, lanterned decor. Even the cocktails at Aziza play with your senses—like the "almond" shaken with smoked sea salt and tequila. Star chef Mourad Lahlou hopes to move his beloved restaurants to more central FiDi environs, but we don't mind waiting it out at the original—not in the slightest.