Best Romantic Dining in San Francisco

Leave Your Heart in San Francisco: Best Romantic Restaurants

When you're looking for ambience as much as food, stellar restaurants can be hard to come by. After all, you want the whole package, not just a suitable meal. Fortunately, San Francisco delivers in spades. The city promises a superb selection of restaurants to sate your desire for romantic dining. These places take care of the details, making you feel welcomed, plying you with wonderful dishes, and sending you on your way with an experience you won't soon forget.

If you're a traditionalist, go with the tested package: seafood, wine, and a view of the water. Boulevard has you covered in that department, not to mention having a sophisticated staff that have been serving up romance to locals and tourists alike for years. If your idea of romance is a lively spot with dancing, then Le Colonial is the place for you. This downtown gem has been the hottest swing dancing spot for couples for years - and their stiff drinks will get those shy dancers out on the floor before they know it. 

Whatever place you choose, just remember that both love and food should be savored - especially when you share it with that special someone.


With all the fuss about the French and the Italians and their romantic ways, we shouldn't forget that the Greeks have been in the business of pairing food and love since ancient times. One of the most enchanting dinner destinations in the city, Kokkari Estiatorio offers a refined yet cozy ambiance that sets the mood for a perfectly picturesque evening. Fresh, seasonal ingredients are carefully combined to create Mediterranean delights like moussaka, zucchini cakes and grilled lamb chops. There are plenty of suitable wine pairings, as well, no matter what menu item you choose. The traditional walnut and honey baklava is a must for dessert.

Recommended for Romantic Dining because: With their unique Greek menu, Kokkari is a sensual delight for those feeling both adventurous and romantic.

Tom's expert tip: Top off your meal with some excellent grappa!

Read more about Kokkari Estiatorio →

Noe Valley

Marked only by the image of a firefly, this neighborhood restaurant features a fabric-draped ceiling and impeccable seasonal cuisine. Local, organic ingredients play a major role in the menu, especially in favorites like shrimp and scallop potstickers and scrumptious fried chicken. Richly creative dishes also include roasted duck breast with chestnut bread pudding, slow braised beef short ribs, and cornmeal-crusted rock cod with bacon-braised cabbage. A three-course, prix fixe option is available for $35 Sunday through Thursday and is a great deal. Wonderfully unpretentious and casual, Firefly lets the natural seasons dictate their menu. For example, a summer menu highlight is "Chopped Salad of Yummy Summer Stuff with Fun and Exciting Vinaigrette." Who said eating healthy can't be fun?

Recommended for Romantic Dining because: Firefly is a great choice for a quiet, romantic night.

Tom's expert tip: Leave room for the Lemon Verbena Soda Float with Ollalieberry Sorbet and Lemon Graham Cheesecake Cookies. To...die...for.

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Although the French certainly know their way around romance, we can't forget the passion of the Italians, whose love for food, people and life in general is unrivaled. If you're in the mood for love - and great Italian food - Piazza Pellgrini is the spot for you and that special someone. A cozy restaurant in the heart of North Beach's Little Italy, Piazza Pelegrini features the Italian classics of Rome. Chefs use only the best, local ingredients, and any couple that has even the whiff of romance about them will be wooed all dinner long in this charming establishment.

Recommended for Romantic Dining because: If you believe the Italians beat out the French in the romance department, head to Piazza Pellegrini.

Tom's expert tip: Woo her with simplicity: caprese, which is just fresh mozarella, local tomatoes, and basil. Bene!

Read more about Piazza Pellegrini →


Absinthe recalls the days of Dorothy Parker and her circle of witty, sardonic critics. Along with dicing celebrities, they took great pleasure in good food and drink. Plenty of both can be found here, and weekend brunch is especially delightful. Champagne and wines balance the cuisine, which includes cold seafood platters, imported French cheeses, and coq au vin. A tasty caesar salad and a risotto with fava beans, basil, and parmesan are also great options. If you can't make it for brunch, its' definitely worth visiting at night, where the bar serves some of the most inventive cocktails in the city.

Recommended for Romantic Dining because: It's hard to find a more cozy and romantic French Bistro in the city.

Tom's expert tip: Within walking distance of SF Jazz, Davies Symphony Hall and the Herbst Theatre, Absinthe is the perfect spot for a before/after meal/drink.

Read more about Absinthe Brasserie and Bar →

Photo courtesy of used in book.

If romance is the reason you've come to The City by the Bay, Boulevard is the picturesque place to dine. Located in an historic waterfront building, this eatery's intimate Belle Epoque aesthetic and sumptuous food hit all the right notes. The menu showcases regional flavors and French style with dishes like Sonoma Foie Gras and California Sea Bass a la Plancha. A sommelier and 500-item wine list ensure the perfect pairing. Surrounded by Pat Kuleto's timeless Belle Epoque inspired design, Chef Oakes wonderful expression of American regional flavors with a French influenced style has made Boulevard a culinary landmark on San Francisco's revived Embarcadero waterfront.

Recommended for Romantic Dining because: Boulevard's location on the lovely Embarcadero makes it a great "after-dinner-moonlight stroll" spot.

Tom's expert tip: Check out the gorgeous Bay Bridge Lights display after your romantic meal.

Read more about Boulevard →

Russian Hill

Impress your beloved with a romantic dinner at Frascati, a Mediterranean-style bistro whose warm, intimate ambiance makes it ideal for amorous outings. Nestled in the Russian Hill neighborhood, this simply elegant establishment features an inventive menu that's constantly changing to reflect the season. You'll often find decadent options like gnocchi with butternut squash, beef carpaccio, smoked salmon risotto and pan-roasted pork tenderloin. The coveted black and white chocolate bread pudding provides a perfectly sweet finish. Owners Rebecca and Jon Radar will do everything in their power to insure that your romantic dinner is the highlight of your San Francisco visit.

Recommended for Romantic Dining because: Frascati's lovely Russian Hill views make it extremely romantic.

Tom's expert tip: Start off with the Monterey Bay Sardines with Meyer Lemon Aioli and Chili Oil.

Read more about Frascati →

Nob Hill
Le Colonial
Photo courtesy of Le Colonial

If you believe the steamy, mysterious atmosphere 1920s French Vietnam is romantic, then Le Colonial is the place for you. Patchwork tile floors, shuttered windows, antique lamps and rattan furniture set among palm fronds and lazily swirling ceiling fans all work in harmony to create an elegant, sultry mood where romance can bloom. Only the freshest ecologically farmed meat, game and poultry found at farms throughout the Bay area make up the Vietnamese-style menu at Le Colonial. Some of the favorites include Goi Xa Lach Ca Chua (Heirloom tomato salad with watercress, cherry tomatoes and red onions served with basil dressing and crispy pork belly) and Goi Ca Thu (Seared Ahi tuna salad with cucumber, avocado and red onion, served with an herb-lime emulsion and chili aioli).

Recommended for Romantic Dining because: Le Colonial has an exotic atmosphere that sets just the right mood for a romantic night out.

Tom's expert tip: For Valentine's Day, Le Colonial is serving a three course prix fixed menu per couple with a bottle of champagne at $225 & a three course family style dinner for parties of 3 and more at $90 per person.

Read more about Le Colonial →

Photo courtesy of ROOH

ROOH is an intoxicating blend of Indian cuisine influenced by the new world of tech and San Francisco swagger. Master Chef Sujan's guiding philosophy - "an exhibition of the potential that Indian cuisine can be elevated to, with the ultimate aim of evoking new flavors, emotions & ideas" - creates a warm, exciting atmosphere for a romantic night out. What couple out there doesn't need a a little stimulation to put some spice back in their relationship? You'll find all kinds of spices at ROOH, from your first sip of their marvelous cocktails like the Kerala (Rum, Hibiscus, Aloe and Pineapple) to your last bite of their delectable Phirni Mousse Cashew Cake (Thandai Ice cream & Wild Rice Wafer.)

Recommended for Romantic Dining because: ROOH is exotic in the most romantic sense, a wonderful choice for couples looking for stimulation.

Tom's expert tip: Start off with the chutney sampler, a wondrous mix of flavors that will whet your appetite for a night of culinary adventures.

Read more about ROOH →

Empress by Boon
Photo courtesy of Empress by Boon

Empress by Boon is San Francisco's newest, must-visit destination in the heart of Chinatown. Using fresh ingredients from local sources such as the restaurant's farm based in Gilroy, Michelin-starred Chef Ho Chee Boon produces distinctive contemporary dishes infused with Cantonese flavors. The expansive restaurant with carefully designed dining areas occupies an iconic location in San Francisco's Chinatown with striking city views. Reimagined by Chef Ho and team, the space embraces modern design elements creating a welcoming atmosphere. If you're looking for a Chinese cuisine experience that is both contemporary and rich in tradition, be sure to book a table at Empress by Boon.

Recommended for Romantic Dining because: Empress by Boon is a great choice when you really want to spoil that special someone.

Tom's expert tip: The prix fixe menu starts at $78 and features rotating specialities such as Iberico Ham Shanghai Xiao Long Bao and Steamed Zucchini-Prawn Dumpling with fresh Australian Black Truffle.

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Foreign Cinema
Photo courtesy of Postcard Communications

While Foreign Cinema's misleading moniker may seem a better fit for a movie theater than an oyster bar, this restaurant's real attraction is their Mediterranean-inspired menu and outstanding oysters. They do, in fact, offer film showings in the adjoining courtyard, an added perk for those savoring tasty shellfish like the Hog Island Sweet, Marin Gem, Chatham and Steamboat oysters. The dinner menu changes regularly, and brunch is served on weekends. Foreign Cinema has a lot to offer besides oysters, so it's a good choice for groups who have varied and eclectic tastes. It's also one of the most romantic restaurants in the city.

Recommended for Romantic Dining because: Despite all the changes to the Mission district, Foreign Cinema remains one of the most romantic restaurants in the city.

Tom's expert tip: One of the most romantic restaurants in the city - and the oysters don't hurt that a bit.

Read more about Foreign Cinema →


Meet Tom Molanphy

The only thing that Tom Molanphy loves more than the food, art, music, and culture of San Francisco is sharing it with others. San Francisco never gets old for Tom.

Tom has lived in the San...  More About Tom