Looking for a special restaurant for a special lady, in San Francisco.
November 26, 2007 2:56 PM   Subscribe

Where can I take my girlfriend for a romantic dinner in San Francisco?

My girlfriend is moving back to Australia, possibly forever, on Sunday night. I need to find a quiet, dark, romantic restaurant where we can have a great meal and some time to ourselves on Saturday night. The more privacy (relative) we can have, the better.

I'm trying to avoid places where we would be sitting elbow-to-elbow with other diners and having to speak up to hear each other. I'd love a place with a fantastic view, but it seems like all the places with a view I've looked at have mediocre food. The lady doesn't eat beef or pork, so something with a good seafood or pasta selection would be a plus.

Basically, this is the last time I'm going to see her for at least five months. I'd like to go someplace special that we'll both enjoy and remember.
posted by autojack to Food & Drink (24 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I would recommend

La Folie French Cusine, pretty pricey, but small and intimate. Good food and the chef sometimes comes out and hangs out w/ the diners. Highly recommended and very romantic.

Alternately, does it have to be in the city? If you're willing to cross the Bay Bridge to Berkeley, Chez Panisse is always a fantastic dining experience. However, once again, it's quite pricey...
posted by apark at 3:09 PM on November 26, 2007

Response by poster: Oh yeah, it _doesn't_ have to be in the city! And money is, basically, no object.
posted by autojack at 3:11 PM on November 26, 2007

I'm a sucker for old school charm

The Top of the Mark

It's a beautiful room.
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 3:13 PM on November 26, 2007

Well, if money is "basically no object..." (wink), then you may also consider French Laundry. It's pretty out of your way near Napa the food is good, the wine is very good, and if you can find a nice B & B out there, (of which Napa has many...) You can make really nice weekend of it. Very romantic...
posted by apark at 3:17 PM on November 26, 2007

Greens manages to have both a lovely view and tasty (vegetarian) food. It's not very dark, but it is quiet enough for a conversation.
posted by gingerbeer at 3:18 PM on November 26, 2007

I was about to recommend Florio, my favorite romantic French restaurant, but since money is no object, I've got to go with Boulevard.

It's on the waterfront, so there should be good views, although I can't remember for sure about that because the meal was so perfect. Excellent service, completely romantic, amazingly delicious food, and it's Michelin-starred to boot.
posted by KatlaDragon at 3:28 PM on November 26, 2007

The French Laundry takes several months to get in to, you need more than a few weeks to plan for it...

The Boulevard has pretty good food and is the higher end, Jack Falstaff is good.

If you're set on making it a weekend try booking the W in San Francisco and leverage their concierge service for a money is no object deal. They also can do unique services in room for ...erm romantic couples.
posted by iamabot at 3:31 PM on November 26, 2007

I would second Boulevard and Chez Panisse. Both are lovely restaurants. Upstairs at Chez Panisse has this beautiful arts and crafts decor and I think it is one of the nicest spaces to eat in.
posted by pombe at 4:05 PM on November 26, 2007

Echoing Greens, particularly if you can get a windowside table near sunset.
posted by asuprenant at 4:21 PM on November 26, 2007

I like Boulevard and it's fun to sit at the counter and watch the activity in the kitchen, but I found the place somewhat noisy and lacking in intimacy... YMMV however.
posted by apark at 4:28 PM on November 26, 2007

I enjoyed Gary Danko immensely. Awesome food (french), quiet, tables not too close together, incredible service. It is definitely top dollar, but worth it IMO. While its a popular restaurant, I managed to get a table for 8 at very short notice (3 days?) by being willing to eat early. Worth a call I'd say.

I also loved Michael Mina, which is a little less traditional than Danko. The restaurant is a bit noisier, but the tables are far enough apart that we felt like no-one could hear our conversation.
posted by Joh at 4:36 PM on November 26, 2007

Response by poster: Greens would be sweet, but she _just_ went there with a friend last week, so it would be a bit lacking in surprise factor : ) Also, see, Top of the Mark sounds great, but when you read the reviews it's all "blah" on the food. It makes me hesitate. Same with the Carnelian Room, and Julius' Castle. Annoying! These other tips are sweet though - I think La Folie might be too over the top for me, but I'm looking into the others.
posted by autojack at 4:38 PM on November 26, 2007

Cafe Jacqueline is supposed to be great for romance. I've never been but it always comes up in these discussions.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 5:09 PM on November 26, 2007

I wouldnt go to boulevard for romance... its kind of bistro-y and a bit noisy.

I would go to jardiniere.
posted by muscat at 5:14 PM on November 26, 2007

Seconding La Folie and Jardiniere.

Fleur de Lys
Dining Room at Ritz-Carlton - though I think this place feels more fancy than romantic
posted by junesix at 5:37 PM on November 26, 2007

Seconding Chez Panissse -- the food will be memorable. Downstairs prix fixe menus are more interesting, but you might get stuck with beef or pork, so go upstairs.

Some people like downstairs (the Bistro) at the Cliff House -- the view will be memorable.

The Vietnamese restaurant Ana Mandara has pretty spectacular decor and food, although we were close enough to listen to our neighbors on their first date. I mostly remember trying to stop laughing at them.

Nearby is McCormick & Kuleto's, which will have a nice view and more traditional seafood.

Even more impressive is the wigged out Captain Nemo decor and seafood at Farallon.

My favorite restaurant in the city is Firefly, but it's not eye-popping like Farallon, just Noe-Valley-style homey and good.
posted by troyer at 7:20 PM on November 26, 2007

Do not go to McCormick & Kuleto's if this meal is important to you. It is the epitome of nice view, crappy food (and terrible service).

I'd second Jardiniere or Chez Panisse. Michael Mina is excellent but not the sort of intimate setting you're looking for.
posted by jewishbuddha at 8:00 PM on November 26, 2007

If money is truly no obstacle, the best views of any restaurant in San Francisco are at the Cityscape 46 stories up at the top of the Hilton, off Union Square. Reserve ahead and tip the maitre 'd as necessary to get a windowside table, it's worth it. The food is quite good as well.

(Caveat: I have never actually paid for this myself, my folks used to take me there on their dime when they'd come into town.)
posted by donpedro at 8:15 PM on November 26, 2007

Highly prefer the carnelian room. On the 52nd floor (I think the tallest restaurant in SF).

Definitely worth checking out!

I have eaten there several times and have been floored by the service, atmosphere and cuisine.

The Carnelian Room

(from their website)
San Francisco’s most spectacular panoramic views as a stunning backdrop to unique epicurean delights.

The Carnelian Room offers a world class fine dining restaurant, described as Cosmopolitan by its contemporary French character, Asian and South American influences, combined with the flair of California culinary creativity. Using only quality locally grown and imported fresh and seasonal ingredients, Carnelian Room combines professional attentive, yet unobtrusive service and a sophisticated, comfortable atmosphere for an exceptional dining experience.
posted by project 2501 at 8:22 PM on November 26, 2007

When I was in San Francisco, I had a chance to go to the Cliff House. Very memorable view!
posted by perpetualstroll at 11:52 PM on November 26, 2007

No, no, no. The ultimate romantic dinner restaurant in San Francisco is Cafe Jacqueline in North Beach. It's a one woman show in the kitchen and she only makes souffles (well, there are salads and escargot and things like that, too).

Absolutely the best.
posted by Mmothra at 7:42 AM on November 27, 2007

I'm kinda surprised Quince hasn't been mentioned yet. It's pricey but Mike Tusk can cook!!
posted by hangingbyathread at 11:04 AM on November 27, 2007

No view, but the Fifth Floor of the Hotel Palomar is warm, intimate, romantic and has top class food. My girlfriend is vegan, so she was basically ordering completely off-menu, but they were absolutely accommodating and friendly, and we had one of the best meals we've ever had. Definitely memorable.
posted by team lowkey at 6:03 PM on November 27, 2007

Response by poster: OK, so in the end, I basically ignored all of your advice and went with something completely different : )

No, that's not entirely true. I started with iamabot's suggestion that I get a room at the W and leverage their concierge service for the ultimate in private setting, view, and quality cuisine. Unfortunately, when I investigated, they had no decent rooms available for the night in question, so I had to bag that idea. But it made me realize that just spending a night in a swanky hotel would get me the privacy and view, and be even more memorable than just a great meal. Then I could afford to be a little less particular about the restaurant choice.

Thus it came to pass that I booked us a room in the Mark Hopkins, and a dinner reservation at Millennium. I convinced her to pack a bag for the night and give it to me earlier in the day, saying that I would leave it at my place so we didn't have to carry it around all evening. Then I went and checked in at the hotel, and as a bonus, they upgraded me to a junior suite! I put our stuff in the room, and stuck a bottle of nice champagne in the fridge.

I met her at her house later in the evening, and she looked absolutely incredible. Nice start to the night, that : ) We took the cable car to the restaurant, which went over quite well: "I haven't ridden the cable car since my first week in San Francisco!" We got to Millennium a little early, so we had delicious cocktails from their bar while we waited for our table. We were seated promptly at our appointed time. The food and service were impeccable, and although we were seated a little close to other diners, it was late enough in the evening that the place emptied out and was pretty quiet.

After dinner we walked a block and had a drink at Bourbon and Branch. The speakeasy you-need-a-password setup was charming and again, went over quite well with the lady. Unfortunately the clientele were rather loud and self-important, so we just stayed for one drink, and then hopped a cab up to the top of the hill. Walking in the door of the Mark Hopkins, she thought we were going to Top of the Mark, and tried to drag me out of the "wrong" elevator that doesn't go all the way up there. When we got out on the floor with rooms, she started to get it, and when we walked in and she saw the room we ended up with, she was basically speechless.

It was at this point that I presented her with the pearl earrings I had found and been unable to resist buying, as well as the framed picture of the two of us that I'd had printed earlier in the day. Then I cracked the champagne, we drank, [scene missing], and then we watched an absolutely spectacular sunrise.

The whole thing couldn't have come together any better than it did, and she was ecstatic about it all. It didn't end up breaking the bank, and was much more enjoyable for both of us than just a simple dinner out. Thanks for all your suggestions, be assured that I've filed them away, and hope to have the chance to use them with her in the future.
posted by autojack at 2:38 PM on December 6, 2007 [2 favorites]

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