Last month I covered five places to go for the first blind date/I only know you via your profile pic on OKCupid, but now it’s time for the first dinner. You don’t want a place that’s too romantic, expensive, loud, sceney, or challenging (this is not the time to take someone to a sushi Nazi). Here are five spots to consider that have delicious food, fun style, and won’t have you yelling over the din (and hey, don’t forget to make a reservation—waiting an hour for a table can get awkward):
When was the last time you ate at this neighborhood gem in Bernal? (I have to admit, I recently had a meal there after a long hiatus, and was so impressed with the quality of the food and the well-chosen wine list). It’s cozy, charming, the seasonal menu is appealing (if you’re going out with more of a meat-and-potatoes type, the fried chicken and meatloaf are perfect picks), and there are plenty of cool bars in the neighborhood where you can meet up before or after (like the Royal Cuckoo, Iron & Gold, Rock Bar, and El Amigo).
I adore this Noe Valley restaurant: the Cal-Spanish food is delicious, the staff is friendly, the room is comfortable and stylish without feeling too too, and the menu is very approachable (and not too spendy). There are many dishes to share (don’t pass up the sardine and avocado toasts), and the neighborhood vibe keeps things relaxed (ditto the Spanish wines). Don’t pass up the chance to share bites of one of the tasty desserts.
This colorful Mission spot (and I mean colorful) has some of the most cheerful décor in the city, and will give you plenty to talk about when you first sit down. The creative Mexican menu is full of small plates, and features the cult classic taco tropical (panko-dusted shrimp in a jicama “taco”); their brand-new liquor license means you can get fired up on some agave and mezcal-based spirits. Your date would have to be really lame if you had a bad time here, seriously.
Out the Door (Bush St.)
Some servers here have confirmed my impression that it’s a good first date spot—and who doesn’t love Charles Phan’s Dungeness crab and cellophane noodles? (Although the daikon rice cake and fried chicken are both especially delicious). Bonus points for the space in between tables, friendly staff, modern style, killer desserts, and wines on tap. (I also love coming here for breakfast during the week—why aren’t there more breakfast first dates?)
The Turkish cuisine at the this Upper Fillmore spot adds a little air of exotica, but nothing is too outré, and the menu is downright affordable. It’s fun to share dishes here (get the moussaka, and if your date is a vegetarian, you’ll also find plenty of options. The contemporary décor is understated, and it’s helpful that there’s a little room in between the tables so neighbors don’t have to hear your entire “getting to know you” conversation.
Want more date spot ideas? Be sure to check out my book, mentioned below, which is all about finding the right spot for every occasion.
Marcia Gagliardi is the contributing food editor for 7x7 and author of the weekly Tablehopper e-column and book The Tablehopper’s Guide to Dining and Drinking in San Francisco. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, and read more at tablehopper.com.