After an Outdoorsy Date: Sutro's at the Cliff House
The Cliff House is kind of far out for those not living on the western half of the city, but there are several reasons why it makes a great spot for a date. Located right between Sutro Baths and Ocean Beach, the Cliff House has been one of the best places in San Francisco to watch a sunset since 1858. Start with a walk on the beach, or head over after checking out the Sutro Baths. The bars at Cliff House and down below at Sutro's have similar cocktail menus, but with its floor to ceiling windows, Sutro's wins for best view of the Pacific...on a clear day you can see all the way to the green rolling hills of the Marin headlands.
What to Order at Sutro's: The Ramos Fizz
When visiting a place this old, it makes sense to stick to a classic cocktail like the Ramos Fizz. This light and foamy drink gets its body from vigorously shaken egg whites mixed with half and half and Gordon’s Gin. A touch of orange flower water adds a delicate floral side. And at $5 a pop, you don't have to stress about picking up the tab.
For an After-Work Date: RN74
If you're working downtown, meet up for drinks at RN74; the sophisticated lounge area offers some great happy hour deals as well as a serious wine list. Even when it gets a little crowded, the dim lighting and soft low-set leather couches make for a comfortable atmosphere. Happy hour bites, like smoked salmon beignets and buttery escargots, are just $7 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., so order when you arrive.
What to Order at RN74: The Twelfth Hour
Start with a glass of happy hour bubbly: the Serious Eats-approved Torley sparkling wine from Hungary is $7, and just right for drinking alongside $1.50 oysters. But go ahead an order a cocktail if you're feeling like it. We like The Twelfth Hour, a remarkably smooth blend of Cimmaron Tequila, lime, cucumber, Green Chartreuse, agave and jalapeno tincture. The cucumber really brings all the flavors together and helps the drink go down easy...maybe a little too easy.
Before or After a Movie: The Hideout at Dalva
This hidden gem in the back of Dalva can get crowded on weekends, but hit it up on a weeknight before or after a movie at the Roxy Theater next door. Intricately prepared cocktails make this a great spot for the fancy cocktail lover. The sultry atmosphere mixed with strong drinks means it isn't uncommon to see someone making out in one of the dark corner booths. Don’t be afraid to ask the bartenders for a cocktail recommendation; if you're in the mood for mezcal, go with The Hideout Sour, a deliciously smoky blend of Fidencio Clásico Mezcal, honey vinegar, lemon, egg white and Angostura. The foamy texture makes for a potent but incredibly rich and smooth concoction.
For Beer Lovers: St. Vincent
This Valencia Street destination is another bar that focuses on wine but doesn't stop there, and it's just the place to bring an ale aficionado when you're looking for somewhere quieter than Monk's Kettle. You're likely to see some local beers you've never found elsewhere, and the folks behind the bar are happy to help you choose between them. My advice: look for the Points North, a blended sour dark lager from Moonlight Brewing in Santa Rosa. Though it's billed as a sour, it drinks more like a dark beer with coffee notes and a dark foamy head leaving only a light tart taste on the finish. Pair it with the bone marrow if you're feeling decadent.
For a City View: Top of The Mark
This bar on the top floor of the InterContinental Mark Hopkins hotel offers one of the best views of San Francisco you can find. If you feel like dancing, stop by Wednesday through Saturday for oldies and funk bands, and snag a corner table for views that span from the Golden Gate Bridge all the way to the Bay Bridge. For a quieter evening, plan your date for Sunday or Monday.
What to Order at Top of the Mark: A Martini
Go with the classic “Top of the Mark” which is made with Ketel One, Martini & Rossi Dry Vermouth, and 2 olives (sometimes 3). It may not be the newest thing, but it fits with the classy surroundings.