San Francisco is arguably America's foodie capital, and romantic couples have a wealth of restaurants to sample. 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.
The following are among the most romantic restaurants in San Francisco. Most 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.Dine Out for Less
Buy a Restaurant.com Gift Certificate
1. Fleur de Lys
Considered by many to be San Francisco's most romantic restaurant, Fleur de Lys' setting — a softly lit room with pleated fabric gracefully draped from the ceiling down to the walls — creates a hushed and elegant environment for couples who come to celebrate. Highly praised by food critics, chef Hubert Keller is known for his menu of contemporary French cuisine; adventurous diners are likely to be challenged and thrilled, but conservative palates may find Keller's creations overly exotic and elaborate. The restaurant has a knowledgeable sommelier who can point interested customers to top-rated California vintages to complement each course. Even teetotalers will be quenched, with a menu of tasty non-alcoholic cocktails.
Seafood lovers savor appreciate the intensely flavorful cooking in this relaxed yet elegant downtown space. If you favor fine fare but can't spring for a big meal, consider visiting at lunch time. Entrées such as clam-crusted Alaskan halibut and seared petrale sole are extraordinary.
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.
4. Tommy Toy's
Tommy Toy's is not one of your typical Chinese restaurants; the setting is both romantic and seductive as opposed to greasy and hurried. Opulently designed to resemble an empress' sitting room relocated to San Francisco, the restaurant's walls display centuries-old authentic tapestries, mirrors, paintings, and Chinese fans. The fare is "cuisine chinoise," traditional Chinese specialties, presented in the French style.
5. Gary Danko
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.
Wolfgang Puck's Union Square outpost delights diners with signature dishes from the celebrity chef. If torn between starting with the shrimp-and-pork potstickers or the house-smoked salmon with dill crème fraiche, share. Smoked lobster, bacon, and arugula elevate a mundane lunch-hour club sandwich to culinary greatness.
Michelin-starred Ame is located inside San Francisco's St. Regis hotel. The emphasis on texture, balance, and presentation creates dishes that are works of art. Although there's a pork chop, duck, and strip steak on the menu, the sensibility is Asian and it would be a shame to eat anything but that cuisine here. The restaurant's environment isn't notably romantic; rather, it's as clean, subdued, modern, and as expensively furnished as the food.
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.
9. Chez Panisse
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.
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.