Before we tell you, San Francisco, what the best date bars are, let us tell you what a date is! It's not dragging a woman to hang out with your friends at Bender's (that's icky!). It's not consuming a burrito and a bottle of Odwalla Superfood whilst sitting on the sidewalk in the Mission (done that twice!). It's not taking that twink you met on Grindr to Blackbird (he's looking for a husband!). A date is an nerve-wracking occasion to get to know a potential paramour in a quiet, subjectively romantic spot where just the two of you can talk and, if all goes well, neck. Granted, a date can lead to symptoms of both adulthood and intimacy—two issues that rub many a San Francisco Peter Pan Syndrome sufferer the wrong way—but a necessary one. And with that, here are the top San Francisco bars in which to bring a date.
THE EMPRESS OF CHINA: This sixth floor view lounge overlooking Chinatown and North Beach is criminally underpopulated. By which we mean it feels like walking into a meeting of the Hong Kong triads every time we visit. Use this to your advantage and you'll have the place all to yourselves once the mob bosses depart for their safehouses. (We assume.) Add to the intrigue by bringing your date through the China Trade Center import store just off Portsmouth Square. Head straight to the back, past the tea sets and the Samurai swords and take the elevator to the top, where you'll be greeted by a balcony lined with fishtanks and a bartender who makes some of the most mediocre (but effective) martinis in town. Stumble out through the lobby on Grant Street and snicker at the photo gallery of famous Empress patrons — all of whom were probably up to dirtier business than the two of you.
The Empress of China is located at 838 Grant Avenue; 415-434-1345
TWO SISTERS BAR AND BOOKS: With an unfussy cocktail list and wines by the carafe, the cozy space feels as though it was dreamed up as the perfect spot to have a few casual drinks over simple plates of food that won't get embarrassingly stuck in your teeth. You might even forget for a moment that you're just off the busy stretch of Hayes Valley where every storefront is romantically lit from above by a tree full of Christmas lights. Added bonus: nearby dessert options abound. The drawback? The word is out and competition for the precious few bar stools and tables can induce unnecessary pre-date anxiety. Pro-tip: Grab a seat early. Not only will your punctuality impress your potential mate, but you'll also get a chance to calm those nerves with a rye Manhattan.
Two Sisters Bar and Books is located at 579 Hayes Street (at Laguna), S.F.; 415-863-3655
The Residence (photo: Alexander K./Yelp)
THE RESIDENCE: Tucked around the corner from the hustle of Churchill, The Residence has a reputation amongst locals in the know. It will get you laid. A special kind of classy comfort stems from this spot's red wallpaper, vaguely Victorian parlor room furnishings and accomplished but unpretentious cocktail list. And no matter the night, the Residence always seems to have the right amount of people: enough to make you feel like you're out at a bar, but few enough to guarantee a spot to sit and have a decent conversation with your date. Word to the wise: it's cash only and last call always seems to come too soon.
The Residence is located at 718 - 14th Street (between Market & Church), S.F.; 415-797-8866
Hotel Biron (photo: Google)
HOTEL BIRON: Not a hotel, Biron is tucked away on the same block as Zuni. It's a narrow space ideal for intimate conversation, replete with copper tables, wrought-iron bistro chairs and "zinc-green" walls boasting revolving exhibitions of local art. But the real draw is the wine. Biron features an extensive wine list with selections from French and Californian vineyards (with a strong emphasis on award-winning reds.) Best of all, it can be found on a quaint and quiet alleyway just off Market Street. Charmant.
Hotel Biron is located at 45 Rose (at Gough), S.F.; 415-703-0403
The View at the Marriott (photo: DavityDave)
THE VIEW AT THE MARRIOTT HOTEL: In-the-know Don Juans and Don Juanitas around town have always kept this one in their back pockets, and with good reason. The hidden away, tourist-approved lounge inside the jukebox crown of the Marriott does, in fact, have spectacular views. Find yourself a nook with couple of chairs, and the dimly lit corners of this place, pressed up against the glass and overlooking every angle of the city, can become ideal spots for canoodling. You may come up for air whilst making out to find a real housewife of Topeka giving you a sidelong glance while she is also quietly enjoying the view, but no matter. Give her a wink. Ask her to join in. This is San Francisco! Yes, the carpeting is tacky and the drinks are sub-par and overpriced, but if you stick to the basics (Manhattans, gin and tonics, etc.) you should be okay.
The View is located on the 39th Floor of the Marriott Hotel at 55 4th Street; 415-896-1600
We also asked readers to give us their favorite date bar, which you can find on our Facebook page.Two Sisters Bar and Books (photo: Facebook)