San Francisco is such a gosh darn charming place, it often seems as if there are more romantic dining options than available dates. To which we say: Never! Spring has sprung and frisky hormones are back in motion after cozy hibernation. Grab the nearest eligible and hit up the following delightfully intimate (and reasonably priced) eateries, if only to test-drive the menu.
Mouth-watering charcuterie for your cutie, an extensive wine list to revel in, and an atmosphere that, while occasionally heavy on the decibel level, will douse any diminished conversation expectations in attractive lighting so at least the potential partner across the table will look irresistible. Factor in a nifty little patio in back and an olive oil tasting menu to lubricate the cooing (plus a plethora of lip-smacking Italian dishes) and the mood is set for, if not love, then perhaps a memorable evening in the Mission.
2931 16th St., SF. (415) 701-8466, www.barbambino.com
You, of course, have absolutely no problem "closing the deal" but it's always good to have a secret weapon on hand, just in case. Café Andrée is mine. Every time I usher a hottie into Andrée's intimate, well-appointed librarylike setting in the Rex Hotel downtown (bookshelves line the walls and there are globes galore), I know the rest of the evening will be silky smooth. Executive chef Evan Crandall creates incredible pan-global dishes that never fail to tickle. And his new spring menu is on fire. The best part: if your date bores you to tears, you don't have to bring a book. Café Andrée does it all!
562 Sutter, SF. (415) 217-4001, www.jdvhotels.com/dining/sanfrancisco_cafeandree
Perfect for a leisurely luncheon prelude to any early-evening nuzzling, this Portrero Hill café's generous outdoor patio and savory dishes may be responsible for more than a few calls into work begging for the afternoon off. The theme is laidback French with some Mediterranean kick, which is actually the description of many a dream date as well. A come-hither combo that always works for me: assiette de merguez with harissa for starters, followed up by the mussels mariniere and pommes frites. Enjoy.
300 De Haro, SF. (415) 255-1021, www.couleurcafesf.com
1550 HYDE CAFÉ AND WINE BAR
Nob Hill: the dating double-entendres are endless. So is the romance, especially if you duck into the intensely cozy 1550 Hyde for an adventurous wine flight and delectable cheese plate or main dish. (If 1550 is featuring its wondrous Provençal fish stew while you're there, try it and thank me later). The emphasis here is on locally produced goods the better to draw you closer and the restaurant discourages cell phones, so your tête-à-tête is guaranteed to be restricted to sweet nothings.
1550 Hyde, SF. (415) 775-1550, www.1550hyde.com
I can't lie to you. I'm eating a can of Campbell's tomato soup while I write this, but I'm dreaming of the escargots in garlic parsley sauce and almond-crusted barramundi at this brand-spanking new French delight near Duboce Park. Needless to say, I've already spent many a cherished hour there with my lover-of-the-moment. The space is warm and inviting, and the friendliness of the service puts any haughty stereotypes of the French to rest. "L'Ardoise" means chalkboard, so be sure to check the specials, which usually include a number of creamy cheeses as well as unique entrées that'll have you're your date shouting "oui, monsieur."
151 Noe, SF.
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