10 Spots for Drinking and Dining on a First Date in San Francisco

Swipe right on these bars and lounges

May 7, 2024 6:08 am
Bar Sprezzatura in San Francisco, one of our favorite first date spots in the city
One tip: Make sure you know how to pronounce cicchetti (chi-KET-tee) before meeting a date at Bar Sprezzatura.
©️ 2022 Galdones Photography

Scoring a first date in San Francisco is tough enough, but then comes the real test: planning said date. To make the most of a first impression, you need to do more than hit the boba shop around the corner, but not quite as much as splurging on a bank-account-draining tasting menu. To help, we’ve gathered 10 places that strike a perfect balance between low effort and overkill. From an elegant, Venetian-inspired lounge to a food truck park with mini-golf, consider this your starting point for first dates in the city. Below, 10 first-rate first-date spots in S.F.

lights and lamps, blue chairs, bar
Bar Sprezzatura
©️ 2022 Galdones Photography

Bar Sprezzatura

Spend your evening sipping Negronis and grazing on small plates at this Italian cocktail lounge dedicated to cicchetti — those delectable Venetian bar snacks similar to tapas. The gorgeous Financial District lounge sits on the second floor of One Maritime Plaza at Clay and Front Streets, with walls of towering windows and plush, blue velvet couches to get cozy in. The Espresso Martini with a pizzelle garnish is dessert-worthy, while the “Risi e Bisi” razor clam risotto is large enough to share.

One Maritime Plaza, #100

couches with throw pillows, windows, fairy lights, exposed brick
San Francisco Wine Society
San Francisco Wine Society

San Francisco Wine Society

Here’s another small-plate hideaway in the Financial District that’s worth discovering. San Francisco Wine Society feels like a cozy rendezvous, with crackling fireplaces, leather chairs and rustic brick walls — with a bonus bocce ball court in the back. While the award-winning wines aren’t entirely bargain-priced, those on a tighter budget will appreciate the wine flights starting at $25 and curated cheese and charcuterie boards. Heads up: there’s caviar if you do feel like splurging.

408 Merchant St

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Zombie Village

What would a first-date list be without a solid tiki bar? Operated by the folks who brought us Pagan Idol, Zombie Village in the Tenderloin blends tiki kitsch with a more mid-century vibe. It’s a sprawling space with various milieus for a rum-fueled first date. There’s a thatched main bar underneath a starlit ceiling, a candlelit cave corner in the back, eight bamboo huts that can be reserved for private drinking, and a spooky upstairs bar called Doc’s Voodoo Lounge. If you order the Chief Lapu-Lapu punch bowl, the server will set it on fire.

441 Jones St

red sign on a truck
Spark Social

Spark Social

You can’t go wrong with this something-for-everyone food truck park in Mission Bay. Vegetarian food? Check. S’mores around a firepit? Check. Cute dogs? Check! (The park regularly hosts adoption and fundraising events for CalPaws K9 Rescue.) With a variety of options, it’s an ideal spot for getting to know someone new — and you can easily eat for under $20. Afterward, head across the street and tee up at Stagecoach Greens, the city’s only outdoor mini-golf park.

601 Mission Bay Boulevard N

The Royal Cuckoo Organ Lounge

This Mission bar encapsulates what makes San Francisco’s nightlife so alluring: a hole-in-the-wall thrumming with friendly energy and intriguing (often spontaneous) live music. This is the Bay Area’s only organ lounge and will be a night to remember, but it’s not just about the Hammond set up behind the bar or the jazz playing from a turntable — the cocktail list is short but expertly crafted, and the vibe is not pretentious. But it’s funky and cool nonetheless.

3202 Mission St

Moongate Lounge at Mister Jiu’s

Head past the Michelin-starred restaurant Mister Jiu’s — save it for the second date — and go straight upstairs to the Moongate Lounge, a moody drinking den with dramatic views of Chinatown. Talented bartenders concoct cocktails featuring seasonal fruits, flowers and spices, drawing from the Chinese agricultural calendar. With dreamy neon lighting, occasional DJs and plush couches, it’s a good spot for those who place a premium on ambiance.

28 Waverly Place

man playing piano in a suit in dim lit room
Harris’ Piano Bar
Harris’ Piano Bar

Pacific Bar & Piano Lounge at Harris’ Steakhouse

While Harris’ Steakhouse in Nob Hill is a veritable institution (celebrating its 50th anniversary this year), the attached Pacific Bar & Piano Lounge flies under the radar. Offering a classy, calm and romantic setting to sip Martinis and sample oysters on the half-shell, this old-school beauty will wow any first date. Dark wood paneling and live jazz riffs from a pianist and bassist provide a sweet backdrop for conversation while bartenders shake and stir up the classics.

2100 Van Ness Ave


The lush, semi-outdoor patio at this modern tavern in Nopa exudes a chill backyard vibe that puts everyone at ease. With cocktails incorporating celery juice and lime (the California Cooler), and turmeric honey gin and coconut water (the Golden Hour), drinking feels kind of healthy, too. The small menu of crowd-pleasers, like tacos, salads and poke bowls, makes sharing plates super easy. Perhaps the most versatile place on our list, it’s a solid pick for either daytime or evening dates.

528 Divisadero St

Dandelion Chocolate

For something unexpected, head to this chocolate emporium where you can sip on all manner of drinking chocolates. The Aztecs believed chocolate was an aphrodisiac, one that boosted sexual power, and who are we to argue? You’ll find a wide selection, ranging from iced jasmine tea-infused drinking chocolate to classic hot cocoa (made with premium single-origin varieties). The Valencia location of this mini-chain stays open until 9 p.m. on weeknights and 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

740 Valencia St

The Riptide

The city has no shortage of interesting dive bars, but few are first-date-worthy. This Sunset District bar ups the ante with a roaring fireplace, live honky-tonk music and, perhaps most importantly, a seaside location convenient for romantic strolls along the beach. Riptide is dog-friendly too, so don’t be surprised if you see a pup lounging at the bar.  

3639 Taraval St


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