There’s no one kind of first date.
And there’s definitely not one perfect destination for all those early encounters.
What if you swiped right ... but want an early exit plan? What if you want five stars ... but a commitment limited to drinks? What if you’d swear it’s love at first sight and need a restaurant to match?
Herein, you’ll find the ideal Bay Area solutions for those situations and more.
Because sometimes you want $12 pretzels, and sometimes you want $300 caviar.
The Office/School/Co-Working Space Crush Date
Vibe: Maybe she likes you? Maybe she’s just nice?
Plan: Keepin’ it cazh until you can get a better read on the situation
Spot: Lone Palm
Why? Head here after a group outing elsewhere — if there’s such a thing as louche luxe, this is it. Not too swanky, not too divey, Lone Palm is the Goldilocks of Mission bars.
But make it upscale: Foreign Cinema is always going to be the Mission’s top date spot — or True Laurel for the best in fun, inventive cocktails.
The “I Love You but I’m Broke but Also Charming” Date
Vibe: You’re into it — but on a budget
Plan: Nothing’s cheaper/more romantic than a walk along the Embarcadero at sunset, amirite?
Spot: Meet at the Ferry Building, wander your way toward Schroeder’s for beer and pretzels.
Why? You can live here for 100 years, and few things are as easy on the eyes as the Bay Bridge at dusk.
But make it upscale: The Game Room Bar at Angler (you know, just Esquire’s best new American restaurant) is right around the corner, and none other than Joshua Skenes himself told us it’s his favorite bar in town.
The “I Swiped Right But Who F-ing Knows How This’ll Go” Date
Vibe: Looking good ... but looks can be deceiving
Spot: Hawker Fare
Why? The pina colada slushie isn’t on the menu, so ordering it’ll make you look cool. Also, everything here moves fast (food is served as it’s ready), so if it’s not happening, nobody will be stuck on a go-nowhere date for long.
But make it upscale: Hawker Fare’s not exactly downscale — but if you want to take it up a notch, Southeast Asian food-cred-wise, consider BARTing it over to Oakland for Nite Yun’s award-winning Cambodian at Nyum Bai.
The “Impress At Any Cost — but Still Drinks, Not Dinner” Date
Vibe: When you’re committed to showing off, but not to three hours of conversation
Spot: Bar Crenn
Why? It’s one of the hottest tables in town, given Dominique Crenn’s much-deserved third Michelin star late last year. The interiors are gorgeous and the menu pleasingly brief.
But it make it upscale: Difficult to do — but get it done with a reservation at the Atelier Crenn mothership. Just make sure there’s plenty of room under your credit limit.
Leo's Oyster Bar
The “I Barely Know You But I Love You” Date
Vibe: No retreat, baby, no surrender
Spot: Leo’s Oyster Bar
Why? Here’s the thing: if she’s the one, you should know her favorite restaurant and take her there, even if that’s, like, Tacolicious. But if you’re gonna guess, Leo’s is the spot, fizzy and glam in a Mad Men way. It’s impeccably designed — fun and not stuffy, not cheap but also not over-the-top expensive.
But it make it upscale: The price point’s about the same, but if you’re feeling like oysters with a view, you want Waterbar.
Main image via Schroeder's