San Francisco

Most Romantic Restaurants In The San Francisco Bay Area

5 Restaurants
Taste California through Thai, Cantonese, and modern American lenses at these five romantic restaurants in and around San Francisco.
Updated on 04 March 2022
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Nari
1625 Post St., 94115 San Francisco
Thai
65 - 95 USD

Chef/owner Pim Techamuanvivit infuses her bold, vibrant Thai cooking with a thoroughly modern Californian sensibility—sliced fresh stone fruit in a Massaman lamb curry, for instance. The result is delicious, elegantly composed food in an equally sleek setting. Kick things off with a starter of crispy fried veal sweetbreads, tangy with tamarind and spicy with chilies; or tender Monterey Bay squid and chili-spiced pork jowl, accompanied by sticky rice served in a banana leaf. Desserts are an absolute must: try the Dreaming of Lod Chong with cold, salted coconut cream around a pandan parfait; or Babin coconut cake, topped with long, curled pieces of toasted coconut and purple basil.

Frances
3870 17th St., 94114 San Francisco
Californian
59 USD

This tiny, intensely personal restaurant from chef/owner Melissa Perello has been a local hit from the get-go. Chic and always packed, it’s as perfect for a low-key date night as it is for dinner with the kids. And while reservations are nigh-impossible to score here, its astonishingly cozy setting attended to by a gracious staff justifies planning ahead. Perello eschews trendy powders and foams for hearty and seasonal fare like charred baby octopus with homemade yogurt and olive tapenade. Honey-brined pork chop rests over creamed escarole and fennel slaw; while McGinnis Ranch carrots are roasted with sunchokes for an interesting blend of sweet and savory. Desserts like a black sesame pavlova with chicory root ice cream offer a light, fresh conclusion.

Empress by Boon
838 Grant Ave., 94108 San Francisco
Cantonese
78 USD

For decades, this iconic location housed one of Chinatown’s most storied banquet halls, and now its kitchen dishes out refined, modern Cantonese fare with a touch of California seasonality. The prix fixe menu, well-suited to groups, features a flurry of tempting dishes. These might include skillfully made shrimp dumplings with truffle and summer squash; or crispy, juicy fried chicken in a Malaysian curry sauce (a nod to the chef’s birthplace) served alongside fragrant lotus rice with dried scallop and shrimp.

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Marlena
300 Precita Ave., 94110 San Francisco
Californian
65 - 110 USD

Serena Chow Fisher and David Fisher manage both the savory and sweet side of things; and their fine dining pedigree is apparent in the cooking, deftly marrying simplicity with sophistication. You'll appreciate the precise technique and understated yet imaginative use of ingredients found throughout the prix fixe menu, which shifts frequently to reflect the season's peak produce. A meal here might commence with slivers of lightly cured kampachi delectably layered with melon and an herbaceous lovage vinaigrette, before culminating in a sweetly satisfying pistachio cake with rhubarb jam and jasmine bavarois. In between, a sumptuous entrée features Sakura pork loin cooked to rosy perfection and garnished with silky green garbanzo purée. 

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Spruce
3640 Sacramento St., 94118 San Francisco
Californian
75 USD

The dining room here, with its cathedral-style ceilings and skylight, is masculine yet modern—think studded leather chairs and splashes of charcoal and chocolate. Micro-seasonal and thoroughly Californian, Spruce spotlights cooking that’s both simple and undeniably elegant. Rustic and homey starters may include hand-shaped ravioli filled with fresh ricotta and bathed in a broth of tart whey with fava leaf purée. A roulade of guinea hen stuffed with pork and duck sausage is exquisitely moist, juicy and accompanied by thick fingers of nutty-sweet brown ale toast that is perfect for sopping up every last drop. For dessert, a decadent crème fraîche cheesecake is thick, creamy—and necessary—with sweet vanilla flavor and a classic graham-cracker crust. Juicy citrus segments and a quenelle of brilliantly tart makrut lime ice cream add a delicious bit of zing.