Last year, SFist brought you a list of nine easy ideas for nights out on the town, with a friend or a date, organized by neighborhood so you don't have to be ordering cars or hopping any trains, mid-date. Once again we have some prescriptive ideas for you for how to have fun outside your living room, be it on a weeknight or weekend, and this time we even cross the Bay for a couple, just to appease everyone who yells at us for ignoring the East Bay.
"Maternal Heights," as some refer to the neighborhood south of the Mission, is full of evening possibilities for those who do and do not require a babysitter on date night. Start with an evening hike up Bernal Hill to achieve some of the city's best views. If you're looking for a bottle of something nice on the way up and approaching from the North, stop by Harvest Hills Market (3216 Folsom Street). Take in bridge-to-bridge sights before descending to the Mission Street side of the hill, perhaps via the Esmeralda Street stairs and slides. Yes, slides. Between microbrewpub Old Bus Tavern, romantic and delicious Blue Plate, and casual and fun (tall boy PBRs?) Emmy's Spaghetti Shack, you're covered. And for drinks, if your date has already been to El Rio, try Royal Cuckoo for dim lighting, good cocktails, and live jazz. The spot received the New York Times nod in their "36 Hours in San Francisco" segment, a video in which I am myself visible, on a (very nice) date. If drinks aren't what you seek, head over to Mitchell's Ice Cream to seal the deal that way. —Caleb Pershan
Pizza is hot. It's a great, shareable date food. But crust can be too filling — bloating is less hot. Fortunately, there's Montesacro Pinseria-Enoteca (510 Stevenson Street), the only place in the US that serves up the super popular Roman alternative: pinsa, whose crust is light and airy and made with a blend of rice, soy, and wheat flour imported from Italy. The atmosphere here in a former bakery is casual and datey without being at all over-the-top — don't try too hard, kids — and it's nicely off the beaten path. The wine selection doesn't hurt, and neither do reservations, which are available here. If you fancy an after dinner drink, consider Tempest (431 Natoma Street), a classic dive with a great beer list and bar food next door at Box. Or, for more wine in another lovely environment, stroll to Terroir (1116 Folsom Street), which SFist called one of our best wine shops/bars last year. We said that in part because the atmosphere is just so damn charming. —Caleb Pershan
The rainforest sphere at the Academy of Sciences, at dusk. Photo: Tim Williamson/Academy of Sciences
It is far more fun, as an adult, to go to the Academy of Sciences when there are no children there. The aquarium experience, especially, benefits from the calm and tranquil vibe that adult company brings even if during certain of the museum's Thursday NightLife events, there might be a DJ set up down there. So, any Thursday, find a friend or a date and head over there after 6 p.m. (advance tickets may be necessary), wander the rainforest with a cocktail, canoodle in that awesome glass tunnel under the water downstairs, and emerge from the museum after dark for a quick stroll over to Ninth Avenue. Head to longtime neighborhood favorite Ebisu for sushi, or Kiki with its crooked door if that's too crowded. If Japanese isn't your thing, you could also drop in for some top-notch Mexican at Nopalito, and then after dinner, assuming you live elsewhere in town, you could wander up toward Seventh Avenue on Irving and drop into the charmingly divey Fireside for a drink while you wait for the N to arrive and watch the fog roll past. Jay Barmann
Photo: Sharon Hahn Darlin
Within 30 minutes (or less when BART is especially smooth), you could potentially find yourself in another lovely, food- and art-obsessed city just to our east, and I'm not referring to Oakland this time. Even outside the school year, there is a lot happening in downtown Berkeley. There's Berkeley Repertory Theater, where you're possibly going to see the next Broadway-bound hit. There's Comal, where a former Delfina chef is putting out some very good Mexican food. There's Freight and Salvage, where you'll find all kinds of NPR-friendly music shows. There's Ippuku, where you'll get some top-notch Japanese yakitori. And there's plenty of fun shops to wander into, like this game store, and this comic book shop. Stroll up toward the Cal campus and you could catch an exhibit or a movie at the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive, or just hang out for a beer near the fire pit in back of Jupiter, where you'll often catch a live band playing too. Or walk down Shattuck a few blocks to Tupper & Reed, for some high-end cocktails from the team behind Bourbon & Branch. If you're really feeling like dropping a few bucks and getting a full Berkeley experience, you could also hop in a three-minute cab up Shattuck to Chez Panisse Cafe, where you'll need to order a pizzetta, a salad, and some Bandol rosé. Jay Barmann
Photo via Facebook.
The Haight has a lot going for it, but it frequently gets a bad rap for the throngs of tie dye-sporting tourists (and stoned panhandlers) that clog the sidewalks. And while, yes, that's part of it, it is only part. Haight Street also has all you need for an amazing night on the town. Start with cocktails at The Alembic, or Martinis at Aub Zam Zam, a dark and cozy cocktail spot with a curved semi-circular bar that means you can actually look at your date as your sip and talk about the artwork that adorns the walls. If it's a first date, and you're still trying to find your conversational footing, the jukebox packed with great tunes has your back. When you've drank your fill, walk east on Haight a block and a half to Club Deluxe. With live jazz seven nights a week, and no cover ever, this bar would be amazing even without the killer pizzas coming out of their kitchen. However, you would be foolish to pass on the pies (our favorite is the mushroom, but the spinach pizza is also on point). This is the perfect moment in the evening to sit back, put some food in your stomach, and impress your date with your knowledge of Charles Mingus. Post dinner calls for a quick stroll to head off potential sluggishness that can follow pizza, so settle your tab, hold your lover's hand, and head east on Haight Street for about 15 minutes until you get to Noc Noc. Walking into this Lower Haight beer, wine, and sake bar has the feeling of entering a hip cave of some sort — the ceilings and walls curve and, if you've had enough drinks, start to undulate with the low lighting. Order a Speakeasy Massacre and find a nook. At this point, making out is highly encouraged. With your blood flowing and your cheeks rosy, it's time to head to the block away Underground SF. If you've timed it right, a dance party will be in full swing. Jack Morse
We certainly hope Yelp user Debby L. wasn't planning on drinking all of these. Then again, why not?
I've been married for almost ten years now, so I guess it might be safe to give up my surefire secret weapon: The Outer Richmond date night that will let you know, once and for all, if your new crush is ride or die or pump and dump. I successfully used this night, or close variations on it, on a multitude of partners from 1997 through 2002. (And, yes, the last time I used it was on the man I married.) Start with dinner at an area hot pot joint: I like Boiling Hot Pot at 5512 Geary or The Flame at 1801 Clement. Hey, look, you're cooking together! Watch your potential mate for compatibility in re control freakiness, squeamishness, adventurousness, and willingness to share. All these are indications not just of your possible future together, but what they will be like in the sack! This is important data. After dinner, hit the Four Star Theatre (2200 Clement, and one of SF's best movie houses) for a flick. (Sit in the back row, so if it sucks you can make out instead.) When the movie's over, cross Geary and head to Tommy's Mexican Restaurant (5929 Geary) for one of the Bay Area's best margaritas or, if you're feeling reckless, a selection or two from their staggering tequila list. Now, Tommy's shuts down at 11, by which time both of you should have made your mind up about which way this night is headed. But for picky/indecisive types, I have one more stop: Trad'r Sam (6150 Geary). By 11, that dump will definitely have one or two unpleasant drunkards in there just spoiling for a fight. Now, I'd never tell you to go start a brawl, because that would be very bad! But there's nothing sexier than fighting side by side, Mr. and Mrs. Smith style. It got Brad and Angie together, and it just might work for you, too. — Eve Batey
One of the SF Zoo's charming capybaras. Photo: Marianne Hale
Parkside By Day
"Let's play hooky" you say to your crush as he/she prepares to hop out of bed for another day at the rat race. "Wanna go to the zoo?" The zoo? Yeah, the freakin' zoo. Here's the deal: Every month, the SF Zoo has a "resident free day," during which people with local IDs (a bill with your address works too) get in for free, instead of the Zoo's usual admission price of $17. So check their calendar, and when the big morning comes, head to Java Beach Cafe (2650 Sloat) for a nice cup of coffee, because just because you're skipping work doesn't mean you need to pass up on glorious, glorious caffeine. The Zoo opens at 10, so you can hop across Sloat any time after that and go talk to the animals. When I go, I always make sure to visit Silent Knight and Henry, catch the penguin feeding, and say "hi" to the capybaras — but this is your date, do what you want! When you've had your fill of wildlife, walk a couple blocks to 3132 Vicente Street, home of the Old Mandarin Islamic Restaurant and one of San Francisco's best Mandarin Chinese joints (do not miss their Beijing-style hot pots). They're open from 11:30-5:30 most days so it's the perfect spot for a post-Zoo late lunch/early dinner. — Eve Batey
Photo via Yelp.
There are a million things to do in the Mission, and the neighborhood rightly plays host to many date nights. Start off in the late afternoon by grabbing a bite to go at Taqueria Vallarta. This place has a well-earned reputation for being one the best taco spots in the city, and you won't be disappointed. Tacos in hand, walk down the street to Galería de la Raza (they close at 6 p.m., so keep that in mind). The nonprofit arts organization focuses on the work of Chicano/Latino artists, and always has interesting work up. Next, walk the four blocks to Southern Exposure. Discussing the exhibition at the 20th Street gallery will give you a chance to sound artsy and intellectual early in the night. With plenty to talk about, head over to the Armory for a workshop (these sell out, so make sure to buy tickets in advance). Run by Kink.com, and with titles like "Beat it! Everything You Need to Know About Flogging" and "Stripping and Lapdancing 101," this is probably not first date stuff (although, depends on the date, we guess). The workshops are super fun, and taking one also gives you a chance to go inside the Armory (which you've always wanted to do). With the class over, and a new host of skills, it's time to celebrate with drinks. Stroll on down to Latin American Club. Although just like everything else in the Mission, it's gotten more expensive over the years, snagging a window booth and people watching while you sip one of the bar's notorious margaritas is still one of the best bargains around. As a bonus, no one will judge you and your date for sitting on the same side of the booth. Next, walk down 22nd to the Make Out Room. By this time you've probably missed whatever live act was playing earlier in the night, but that's OK because there will be a DJ spinning something extremely danceable. Jack Morse
Photo: Aya Brackett for Ramen Shop
There are a few reasons to go to Rockridge, if you live in SF, besides Ramen Shop. But mostly, you really want to go to Ramen Shop. Yes, it is popular and awesome enough that there can be a long wait, so early and off hours are recommended, but if you don't mind waiting they do offer a full bar featuring some lovely Japanese whiskey cocktails. Also notable in the 'hood and great for dinner are À Côté, with some fine Cal-Med-by-way-of-France fare; A16, the East Bay spinoff of the popular southern Italian spot in the Marina; Wood Tavern, which has California comfort cuisine and friendly service down pat; and Oliveto at the higher end, the OG fine dining spot in this 'hood. It is also a very cute neighborhood for strolling that will make you wonder, if you hadn't already, why you haven't considered living in the East Bay. (One reason, this neighborhood is just as expensive as some in SF.) Jay Barmann
Lisa I. via Yelp
Photo: Jeff Rosen/Flickr
You know what's even easier to get to than the Richmond from downtown SF or the Mission? Oakland. Yes, you heard me. It's about a 20- or 22-minute trip from the Mission to 12th Street in Oakland, in fact, even shorter if you're at the Embarcadero, and just try getting to the Richmond or Outer Sunset in less than that. And there's a pretty booming food scene over there in case you hadn't heard, not to mention awesome music venues and galleries. An easy night might just be dinner in Uptown at Hopscotch (for California-ized American comfort food with some Japanese flair) or Duende (for excellent Spanish tapas and paella), followed by a show at the impressively grand Fox Theater (see also How to Do the Fox Theater). But you could also just hop over the Bay for a date that started with gallery browsing along Telegraph Avenue and Broadway Patricia Sweetow and Betti Ono are just a couple. Grab a drink and snack at Plum Bar, taste some beers at DIY brewery Diving Dog, and/or head to Cafe Van Kleef for a greyhound and frequent live music in a lively, flea-market-inspired setting. Jay Barmann