early friday dinner - union square area
I'm coming to SF from NYC on December 8th. I have only one night to sample the highly esteemed cuisine of the bay area.
I've got to be at a cocktail event at 8PM but I would love to eat dinner beforehand with one friend.
We're thinking of perhaps a nicer restaurant with dining at the bar or tapas type food in the Union Square area.
not break the bank
good wine by the glass
not super heavy food
open at 5:30 / 6PM
any recs are greatly appreciated!
If you're thinking of having small plates/tapas at the bar, check out Le Colonial. I know you said you don't want to break the bank, so I wouldn't recommend it for a full sit down dinner. But a few small plates and glasses of wine in the bar/lounge is a good value for the ambience and good food. It's high-quality French-Vietnamese, a wonderful room, usually they'll have live jazz if you are there at the right time.
Unfortunately, Union Square can be a little tricky - it's a tourist-heavy area, so the good places tend to be quite pricey (although coming from New York I assume the prices wouldn't shock you) and there are a lot of mediocre options to weed out.
For small plates, you might consider Cortez - it's been a while since I was there, but it's kind of swanky and fun. I have never been to Postrio, which is close to Union Square, but have heard that it's pretty good.
Closer to the Financial District, there's a row of restaurants on Belden Place (near the Bank of America building) that has a few gems: b44 has pretty good Spanish food, and Plouf does mussells and other seafood quite well. Kokkari has upscale Greek food and it's very popular.
If you want to take a short cab ride, Bacar, Ame, or Town Hall in the SOMA area would fit the bill - also One Market or the Slanted Door (EXCELLENT asian fusion food) in the Ferry Building area are great.
Good luck - I hope you have a fantastic visit to our fair city!