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quirky romantic SF dinner

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My husband wants to celebrate my 37th birthday with a special night out. Great idea, hey ho let's go, I say... So dear Chowhounds: What's your favorite quirky, romantic, atmospheric, delicious (though not necessarily over-the-top-expensive or high brow) restaurant in San Francisco? Thanks!

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  1. Souffles at Jacqueline's on Grant Ave. is very romantic and has great food. Or how about dining on a barge with a palm tree - moored off of pier 39.
    Forbes Island is the name of the floating restaurant. 415, 951-4900 The rack of lamb is good from what I hear.

    1 Reply
    1. re: gordon wing

      We dined at Forbes Island. I had a great prime rib, but I recall that the tables were very close together. It's definitely an experience, with a decent wine list.

    2. Jacqueline is a great suggestion.

      For less "quirky" but very romantic and warm, with wonderful food, consider Absinthe in Hayes Valley.

      A bit less expensive than Jacqueline... but then again, not as unique an experience.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Fatemeh

        i know fatemeh loves absinthe, as do i. and i must say that steve and i had an extremely romantic dinner there seated in a booth near the waiters station (of all places! normally not my choice). the food is wonderful, the desserts divine, an all around lovely experience.

        my first impression, tho gordon mentioned it immediately, was cafe jaqueline. both quirky and extremely romantic.

        we had really delicious food at jardinere (sp) not so long ago. the mezzanine is quieter and a nicer place to dine than the main floor.

        cozmos corner grill on fillmore and chestnut is a pretty happening place. tho i've only been there for an amazing cosmopolitan and hor s' the night they opened. the ever distained michael bauer just gave it 3 stars. the calamari and fried olives are really yum.

        our tradition is breakfast in bed, heart shaped pancakes or waffles and heart shaped eggs on a light blue rattan breakfast tray with the paper and a tulip. it's the only time that day we can count on being together, so we go all out.

        have a wonderful time wherever you end up.

        1. re: Fatemeh
          t
          Thomas E Gorman

          I had a very poor lunch experience at Absinthe last year, and was much more impressed with Hayes St. Grill. Amazing calamari.

          --tom

          1. re: Thomas E Gorman

            How unfortunate!

            i would urge you not to write them off just yet... give them another shot.

            We've had several amazing dinners (including our New Year's Eve dinner) there, as well as a couple of really nice brunches.

            Hayes St. Grill is also nice, but I'm not sure it fits the bill... "Quirky", "romantic"...

            Please do give Absinthe another try.

            Oh, and a quick side note... the Chowhound Team requests that posters not change the title of the posting from the original as this will disable the efficiency of Hot Posts.

            Thanks, and welcome!

            1. re: Fatemeh

              Actually, the way the header was changed was fine, as it contained the original topic, just expanded (although when headers are too long that causes a different problem).

              To clarify:

              You SHOULD change headers when the subject changes -- for example, this discussion is no longer about quirky, romantic restaurants in SF, so I changed the header.

              You should NOT change the header when you are still discussing/responding to the original topic. A common example is that someone who has received a response to a request will respond, changing the header to "Thanks". Because hot posts shows only today's posts, and not necessarily the originial message(s) they are responding to, a header that contains no clue as to what the original topic was can be very frustrating.

              One useful guide could be: would readers who saw only the header know whether this is relevant to a discussion they have been following?

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                Thanks for clarifying!

                That makes lots of sense...

                Fatemeh

        2. You used a nice variety of adjectives to describe the kind of place you were looking for ("romantic, not too expensive, delicious, not too high brow") but the word that caught my attention was "quirky". When you put that into the mix, the restaurant that came to mind is Liverpool Lil's. It's fun, lively and romantic in it's own way. It's located next to the Presidio so you can go for a walk before dinner.
          (2942 Lyon St. 415 921-6664)

          Also in the same vein, but a little quieter, is the Brazenhead. It's a quirky, romantic place and not very expensive. (3166 Buchanan 415 921-7600

          Also in the running for quirky romantic would be Cafe Jaqueline. The pricy-est of the group, but the most romantic too. Located in North Beach it's charming and different, with excellent food. 1454 Grant 415 981-5565. Happy Anniversary.

          1. What about Cafe Kati? Small, very nice place run by Kirk Webber, one of the very few chefs in town who can do Asian-fusion well. It's near Japantown in Pac Hts/Western Addition. I haven't been there for a while, but it was very good the last time I went (about 3 years ago). I also love the food at Liberty Cafe in Bernal Heights, but it's not particularly romantic, as it's very small and the tables are rather crowded together. For full-on romance, nothing is quirkier or more romantic than Manka's, in Inverness (western Marin county, near Pt. Reyes). The restaurant is part of an inn that is totally unique (none of that horrible faux-Victorian kitsch) but very very expensive.

            1 Reply
            1. re: dixieday

              Oooooooooh: Manka's. I just swoon at the memory...spent one night there five years ago with husband and then two-year-old daughter who did giggly laps in the dining room, much to the non-amusement of the waiters and oh-so-serious fellow diners, but still: heaven. I loved the big beds made out of logs, the claw foot tub, and that they grilled the meat right there in the dining room fireplace.

              Thanks to all for your marvelous recommendations. I've decided this birthday to take the advice of a friend who when asked about romantic quirky restaurants replied "No contest: Woodward's Garden. Looks like a shithole on the outside, but inside is paradise." So, we'll see...no chowhounders have confirmed her opinion. I'll report back after the fact (Sat. night).

              Until then,
              Gina

              p.s. Our charming now seven-year-old daughter will fortunately NOT be joining romantic birthday outing this year. Any giggly laps will be my own.

            2. how about Rick's in the sunset...very small...but the food is out of this world...the crab dip and the Doti mans shrimp....I could eat them every day...quirky? the nautical atmosphere is fun and nice....the flamming punches go quite well with the Hawian/Italian fare...it's on Taravel.

              or theres always Diego Marys...but thats a bit of a dangerous area