Sometimes, takeout on the couch is just what you’re in the mood for. But other times, date night calls for the works—dim lighting, flickering candles and intimate nooks built just for two. The next time you’re in the market for a special dinner, head to a spot that serves up charming ambience and great food. We rounded up nine of the most romantic restaurants in San Francisco, including lots of pizza and pasta options…because carbs are the way to every girl’s heart.

Editor’s note: Because of the latest COVID surge, many SF restaurants—including Zazie (our top choice for this list)—are closed temporarily, and masking requirements, proof of vaccination and indoor dining restrictions are constantly changing. The restaurants on this list are working hard to adapt and follow the latest safety protocols. Before you visit, be sure to check out their websites and social accounts for the latest updates.

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Romantic Restaurants in San Francisco ABSINTHE
Absinthe Brasserie & Bar / Facebook

1. FOR THAT FRENCH BISTRO FEEL (WITHOUT HOPPING ON A PLANE): ABSINTHE

Surprise your sweetheart with a quick trip to France—and by that we mean reserving a table at Absinthe. Snag an alfresco spot outfitted with the restaurant’s signature bistro chairs and say cheers over caviar, pan-roasted duck breast and a bottle of Burgundy. The meal will be so memorable that your S.O. might finally agree to that French vacation you’ve been dying to go on ever since you started binging Emily in Paris.

Outdoor seating: Yes, sidewalk seating and outdoor parklet

Takeout: No

398 Hayes St., 415-551-1590; absinthe.com

2. FOR THE MOST CLASSIC DATE NIGHT: ZUNI CAFE

There’s plenty on the menu at Zuni, but we always suggest sharing the roast chicken for two with warm bread salad and a bottle of lightly oaked chardonnay. Classique. If you’re open to dining indoors, the corner table overlooking the street from the second floor is the definition of romantic.

Outdoor seating: Yes, sidewalk seating when weather permits

Takeout: No

1658 Market St., 415-552-2522; zunicafe.com

Romantic Restaurants in San Francisco WATERBAR
Waterbar / Facebook

3. FOR SEAFOOD LOVERS: WATERBAR

Do yourself a solid and make a reservation for waterfront dining at Waterbar, which just happens to be situated right by the “Cupid’s Span” sculpture on the Embarcadero. What better way to say “I love you” than under the stars gazing up at the twinkling lights of the Bay Bridge while you toast with Champagne and oysters?

Outdoor seating: Yes, full waterfront dining on a heated patio

Takeout: Yes, order at the bar inside the restaurant (no over-the-phone orders)

399 The Embarcadero, 415-284-9922; waterbarsf.com

4. FOR ITALIAN FOOD AFICIONADOS: COTOGNA

James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Tusk and his wife Lindsay Tusk are the power couple behind this rustic Cal-Italian restaurant in the city’s historic Jackson Square neighborhood. Their gorgeous terrace decorated with olive trees and twinkling lights (plus heat lamps and blankets) is the outdoor dining area making us swoon. Order the ribollita di Toscana (a hearty bread soup), the soppressata with red onion and shishito peppers and the garganelli pasta with rabbit and fennel to share with your beau…because a heaping bowl of housemade pasta is always the way to win someone’s heart.

Outdoor seating: Yes, outdoor dining terrace

Takeout: Yes

490 Pacific Ave., 415-775-8508; cotognasf.com

Romantic Restaurants in San FranciscoPENNY ROMA
Courtesy of Penny Roma

5. FOR A ROME-ANTIC EVENING: PENNY ROMA

With its artfully modern interior and charming, plant-filled outdoor courtyard, it’s no wonder co-chefs Thomas McNaughton and Ryan Pollnow’s newest restaurant Penny Roma has quickly become a date-night go-to. The latest destination for mouthwatering pastas and seasonally-driven rustic Italian fare by the Flour+Water Hospitality Group means you’re in for a night of crave-worthy dishes, including antipasti, tagliatelle alla bolognese and bistecca alla fiorentina. The restaurant will even be offering a “Rome-antic” five-course menu on Valentine’s Day. And for folks who want to stop by the Flour+Water Pasta Shop next door either before or after dinner, they’re doing rosé flights all night.

Outdoor seating: Yes, courtyard dining

Takeout: No

3000 20th St., 415-826-7004; pennyroma.com

Romantic Restaurants in San Francisco BIX
Bix Restaurant / Facebook

6. FOR AN UPSCALE AND SWANK EVENING: BIX

Don your best LBD and get ready to make an entrance. One of the few remaining supper clubs in San Francisco, Bix has the dining room of our dreams—two levels of Art Deco design, a grand staircase, soaring ceilings and a mahogany bar where bartenders in white tuxedo jackets and bow ties mix classic cocktails. Did we mention the live jazz seven nights a week and the martinis shaken tableside? Date night just got real classy, real quick.

Outdoor seating: Yes, outdoor tables under cafe lights in the quiet alley outside the restaurant

Takeout: Sometimes, call after 5 p.m. night-of to confirm whether they can accommodate to-go orders

56 Gold St., 415-433-6300; bixrestaurant.com

Romantic Restaurants in San Francisco CAT
Foreign Cinema / Facebook

7. FOR DINNER-AND-A-MOVIE VIBES: FOREIGN CINEMA

We couldn’t round up romantic alfresco dining spots and not include Foreign Cinema’s famous outdoor patio, strung with café lights, warmed with heat lamps and bounded by a blank wall where they project a mix of classic and contemporary movies nightly. Sneak in a kiss between scenes and courses of farm-to-table dishes, such as mushroom risotto and golden beet salad.

Outdoor seating: Yes, large open-air patio

Takeout: Sometimes, call after 5 p.m. night-of to confirm whether they can accommodate to-go orders

2534 Mission St., 415-648-7600; foreigncinema.com

8. FOR A COZY SPOT THAT ISN’T TOO FORMAL: PIZZETTA 211

Intimate, candle-lit table for two? Pizzetta 211’s just the spot. It doesn’t get more romantic than this tiny neighborhood gem serving up a small, rotating menu of mouthwatering pizzas and salads. For a winning combo, try the spicy tomato sauce, mascarpone, wild arugula and olio verde pie and the cheese salad with artisanal cheeses, organic greens and spiced walnuts. This popular restaurant doesn’t take reservations, so plan on an early-bird date night if you don’t want to wait.

Outdoor seating: Yes, sidewalk and parklet tables

Takeout: Yes

211 23rd Ave.; pizzetta211.com

Romantic Restaurants in San Francisco TRESTLE
Courtesy of Trestle

9. FOR MAXIMUM ROMANCE ON MINIMUM BUDGET: TRESTLE

Inflation? Not at Trestle, where the $39 three-course, prix-fixe menu (plus an optional pasta dish for an extra $12—trust us, you want this) has been the best value in SF’s dining scene since 2015. No matter what chef Danielle LeFevre is cooking up for the weekly rotating menu, you’re in for a taste of fine dining without the hefty price tag. There will even be a special Valentine’s Day menu this year—details TBC.

Outdoor seating: No

Takeout: No

531 Jackson St.; trestlesf.com

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