Where To Dine On V-Day In SF?


So, the other day I was a little stumped when the Mr. asked me where I want to go for our Valentine’s day dinner? Sure, he gets credits for being ahead of the game. But boy, I have no idea! I was still sinking in the fact that I was writing 2012 in my checkbook. So, what’s a girl to do? I turned to some of my favorite SF ladies (who all happen to have a thing for good food!) to see what they’d recommend. It may seem a little soon for a Valentine’s day post, but hey, those tables fill up fast!

So, let’s hear it from these local fabs! Oh, be warned, you might end up celebrating Valentine’s day for the next nine months!

Katie Hintz-Zambrano, San Francisco Editor, Refinery 29.  ”A super romantic Valentine’s Day option would definitely be CHEZ SPENCER in the Mission. I’m a vegetarian and my husband is a carnivore, and while there aren’t tons of options there for me (although I love the beet salad, truffled asparagus, and mushroom risotto), I basically live for the warm chocolate pudding cake and the rustic-cool atmosphere.”

Laura Ellner, Fashion/Personal Style Blogger, On The Racks.  “I think my favorite Valentine’s Day restaurant would be ROSE’S CAFE. It is quaint and close by where we live near Union Street. They offer great food and a cozy vibe! I can’t get enough of the pizza there…especially when you add truffle oil. YUM.”

Jennifer Margolin, Personal Stylist/Fashion Blogger, Red Sole DiaryKOKKARI – there is nothing more romantic than sitting in the front room by the fireplace while eating your delicious meal.  Kokkari is an dining experience making it one of my favorite restaurants in the city.”

Joanna Riedl, SF Publicist. “I love GREENS on the water for a few reasons: Coming from a meat eater the food is vegetarian and oh so good, the view is spectacular and lastly you won’t feel all bloated on meat and carbs when you give your fella his REAL present later that night (wink wink).”

Victoria McGinley, Lifestyle Blogger, VMAC+CheeseBISTRO AIX. “Whether it’s Valentine’s Day or just a regular Friday date night, this neighborhood restaurant is one of my all time favorites in San Francisco. Their approachable California-meets-French-bistro menu appeals to everyone (even the most stubborn meat and potatoes guy), while their wine list, warm ambiance, and friendly service will round out what’s sure to be a great meal.”

Lindsay Stevens, SF Publicist/Lifestyle Blogger, A City Undressed. “I’d have to say FIFTH FLOOR in the Palomar Hotel. Splurge and go with the tasting menu with wine pairing. Chef Baz’s dishes will put anyone in the mood. And you’re in a hotel so get a room and really indulge!”

Natalie Goel, Fashion/Personal Style Blogger, Like Fresh Laundry. “For yummy American fare I’d suggest FIREFLY in Noe Valley. The ambiance is just right for Valentine’s Day — cozy and romantic, not too bright, not too dim. Everything I’ve tried there is so flavorful, right down to the complimentary bread with spreads.”

Lorraine Sanders, Editor/Founder, SF Indie FashionLA CICCIA: “This is an amazing little restaurant with plenty of oh-so-romantic tables for two hidden away at the far end of Noe Valley on 30th Street. The menu’s Sardinian, which I like to think of as Italian with a seriously welcome twist. The owners are regularly there chatting with patrons, suggesting wines from the great wine list and the atmosphere is what I’d call lively and convivial, but still low-lit and intimate enough for a date. One tip: reserve in advance, as this place is often packed.”

Annie Wilson, Lifestyle Blogger, Poetic & Chic. “When I think of Valentine’s Day dinners out on the town, I always get a flash of the uber-fancy spots around town that certainly fit the bill. That is, if all you want to do is spend money on a fussy meal. 

For me, I would choose FOREIGN CINEMA every time. I’ve had my share of important meals at Foreign Cinema, each one vividly remembered as decadent, delicious, fun, and special.  I’ve been coming to this restaurant since it opened 12 years ago and I’ve never once had a bad time there. I love everything about it, from it’s relaxed but artistic atmosphere that’s tempered with a bit of Mission District “edge”, to the menu that’s the perfect mix of modern Californian and classical French cuisine. I love that the entire space seems to have a bit of buzz about it, a mood enhancer if you will, no doubt due to the film being splashed across the back wall. Regardless of the film that’s showing, it is that extra dose of light and glamour in the room that elevates everything.  The film doesn’t really matter at all; no one goes to Foreign Cinema to watch movies, you go there to eat and be with the people you love.

One of the best things about Foreign Cinema is that there’s a wonderful pace in the atmosphere, but the service never feels rushed. You can really settle in for a while, have a great conversation, relax and enjoy. The people watching is fabulous too, with everyone from tattooed Mission bike messengers to Pacific Heights philanthropists mingling together at neighboring tables. A cocktail of sexy and easy-going, dressed-up and cozy, the patrons seem to have an air of hip stylishness that’s carried off without feeling like anyone actually cares about being hip or stylish at all. I have a theory that even on your worst day you’d still look like a million bucks at this restaurant. 

I don’t typically enjoy raw oysters, but for some reason at Foreign Cinema that’s how I want to start my meal. Just a few oysters and a tall, cool glass of champagne. After that, it’s anyone’s guess, but I generally veer toward whatever beef or lamb is being prepared that night. What I choose is usually something hearty and unctuous, with a sturdy, spicy glass of Cabernet or Chateauneuf du Pape. In all honesty, the meal is just a lead-up to the chocolate pot de crème for dessert, which cannot be missed, nor can an array of pungent, creamy cheeses. Both are the perfect accompaniment for that final touch of wine waiting to be finished at the bottom of the glass. 

If all this doesn’t sound romantic to you, I probably wrote it wrong because the romance of Foreign Cinema hits you as soon as you walk in the door. It’s another world in there, and doesn’t everyone want to find one of those on Valentine’s Day?”