If you want to date in this town, you need a plan. Here are seven drink-and-dinner itineraries that only require finding one parking spot.
The Blind Date: Rickhouse + Gitane (Union Square)
Pick a Friday night, post-work when Rickhouse is packed. You’re guaranteed a good strong drink, a lot of distraction (“What?! I can’t hear you!”) and an easy escape (“Wow, it’s been a long work week. I’m beat!”). But should things be looking up, proceed to dine at the Gitane bar, which is properly dark. Note: The striking black-and-white tiled bathroom is
unisex and private. rickhousebar.com, gitanerestaurant.com
The I’m-Just-Not-That-Into-You Date: Rosamunde + Toronado (Lower Haight)
This combo is good for a just-one-of-the-guys, noncommittal kind of night out, but prepare to work it because unless you’re Padma, eating a hot, dripping sausage can have its drawbacks. Paired with a beer at Toronado, it says very, very casual. But bring breath mints—just in case. toronado.com, rosamundesausagegrill.com
The I’m-Into-You-But-Playing-It-Cool Date: Kiji + Lone Palm (Mission)
Candlelight at a bar is a good thing, as are tables: Lone Palm has both. Proceed here after Kiji, a sleeper Japanese spot that’s mysteriously never too crowded. Test your date’s spirit for foodie adventure and order the live scallop sashimi, which comes with a baked scallop tendon. The night is low-key and reads hipster without trying too hard.
The Big First: Date Florio + SPQR (Pac Heights)
Neither too fancy nor too down-and-dirty, this one-two provides a safe bet for uncharted territory. Yes, there will be a wait for dinner, but put your name on the list and spend your time at Florio’s bar actually getting to know each other before making the deep dive into a red wine-and-carb coma. No yawning. floriosf.com, spqrsf.com
The Drunk Date: Nopa + Tsunami (NoPa)
Skip the agonizing wait for a table at Nopa, and instead, take advantage of their cocktails, like a Manhattan with your choice of artisanal bitters. Booze followed by a low-carb sushi dinner equals a good, strong buzz: Inhibitions unleashed, go lock hips at Madrone Lounge (Thursday is salsa night; lessons start at 9 p.m.). nopasf.com, dajanigroup.net
The Make-Up Date: Ruby Wine + Aperto (Potrero Hill)
The 5-to-8 p.m., $10 Friday-night flights at this quaint wine bar and shop set a cozy mood before you head to Aperto, a true neighborhood Italian restaurant. Two bonuses: the easy parking and the breathtaking view. A few blocks east on 18th, as you cross Missouri Street, the night skyline opens up to la bella luna—enough to make anyone forgive and forget. rubywinesf.com, apertosf.com
The Get-Lucky Date: Slanted Door + Hog Island Oyster Co. (Embarcadero)
Dining among the deafening hordes of tourists at the Slanted Door is not conducive to sweet-nothing conversation, but sidling up to the bar for one of their potent cocktails first is quite nice. Post-drink, take a stroll along the water, then circle back to the Ferry Building for dinner at Hog Island. Because you know what
oysters can lead to—and if you don’t, you can just hang it up now. slanteddoor.com, hogislandoysters.com
Bad First Dates:
Coi + Showgirls (North Beach)
Don’t let the next-door proximity of these establishments confuse you. This combo is never a good idea.
El Farolito + Carlos’ Bar (Mission)
Achieving street cred is not the goal of a date. Burritos and a dive bar? Even a hipster should be ashamed.
Ritz-Carlton Dining Room + Top of the Mark (Nob Hill)
10-year anniversary? Yes. First date? It signals “crazy.”
Got other drink-and-dinner date ideas? Comment below or send in a letter to our editors.