San Francisco is arguably America's foodie capital, and romantic couples have a wealth of restaurants worthy of their love. Thanks to the bounty of produce that grows in the California sunshine and the wines of Napa and Sonoma, the city's most romantic restaurants have access to top ingredients and that inspires chefs to outdo themselves.
The following are among the most romantic restaurants in San Francisco — but the list certainly isn't exclusive. Some are pricey, but keep in mind that not every romantic meal in San Francisco's best restaurants is. Ethnic neighborhoods, including Chinatown and North Beach (Italian), are havens for cheap, tasty eateries. And food truck fare continues to grow in popularity.
In this casually sophisticated and very comfortable space inside the Loews Regency San Francisco Hotel, couples can indulge their passion for fine, local-inspired food and spirits. This intimate space, with excellent service, is one of those unsung treasures. The bar is a study in gins and the drinks menu includes artisanal tonics to compliment the firewater.
There's nothing pretentious about Frascati, and that somehow makes it even more appealing to hungry romantic couples in search of a good meal in San Francisco. The fare in this bistro-style restaurant is a melange of Greek and Mediterranean. Octopus salad with potato confit, wild arugula, orange segments, olives and chorizo vinaigrette is one of several tasty appetizers. And if you're lucky, you'll get a window seat and be able to watch the cable cars go by.
The Stinking Rose
Do you, like the ancient Greeks and Egyptians, consider garlic an aphrodisiac? If so, a meal from the garlic-infused menu at The Stinking Rose may leave you in a state of romantic intoxication. The setting, a series of rooms festooned with empty wine bottles, curtains fashioned from used corks, and photos, murals, and memorabilia covering every wall, looks like a tourist trap. Don't let that deceive you: The food, generously seasoned with the "stinking rose," is delicious and the service and ambience a welcome and affordable relief from San Francisco's pretentious foodie temples.
Birthplace of new American cuisine, Chez Panisse is just across the bay from San Francisco and the restaurant indisputably worth the trip. The freshest ingredients go into Alice Waters' imaginative, healthful, Mediterranean-inspired dishes. Her prix-fixe menu changes daily, and advance reservations are essential.
This isn't one of the most romantic restaurants in San Francisco — it's more corporate chic. But since a honeymoon or anniversary dinner is as much a big deal to you as a major business deal is to a tycoon, it's still a place for couples. The eponymous chef, who consistently wins the Five-Star award for his cuisine, says, "My cooking is not cutting-edge. I won't serve guinea pig food. We do not experiment on the guests!" We like that.
Love sushi almost as much as each other? Then head down the Embarcadero to Ozumo, where you can feast on a creative variety of fresh fish and lubricate it with selections from the extensive sake menu. If you prefer cooked food, the restaurant has an authentic Japanese robata (grill) that yields small, delicious plates of Kobe beef and other delicacies. Since Ozumo can be a bit noisy, we recommend bringing some friends and reserving one of the private dining areas, which would be perfect for a small rehearsal dinner or celebration.
The French Laundry
Chef Thomas Keller has made this one of the restaurants every self-respecting foodie must experience at least once. Each day two unique, nine-course menus are presented; one is vegetarian. No ingredient is repeated twice in the service, and inspiration comes from what's fresh each season. The setting, just 15 tables inside a two-story stone house surrounded by heirloom flowers and fragrant in season with roses, is very romantic.