Help: Mid-priced first date restaurant needed!
Hi, I need help in choosing a first date restaurant in SF. Both of us are in our mid-twenties. My date is a recent transplant from LA and he has had time to do the touristy things in SF. I'm looking for a restaurant that is easy for conversation but not too quiet, a little cozy but not too romantic. Since it's a first date, I want something that is mid-priced with entrees topping out at ~$20.
I like Range but it's a bit loud and all booked. How about Perbacco? How's the atmosphere there? Or maybe Rue St. Jacques? Any thoughts would be much appreciated.
Suggestions for after dinner venues are also welcome. I thought maybe we could go CAV if he likes wine. Or maybe Cafe Roma or Greco at North Beach? Anyone been to Harry's Bar or Lion's Pub on a Sat or Fri night? Are they too much of scene? I've only been on Sunday nights and during happy hour.
I think the patio at Bistro Aix should do the trick. Slightly romantic but not overly so -- there are just as many friends there as couples. Easy to talk. Young crowd. After, there are tons of nice bars in the area. California Wine Star is a great wine bar half a block away. Several nice spots on Fillmore between Lombard and Union.
Another suggestion would be Fringale, but there isn't much to do around there.
I really like A 16... that is probably in the upper part of your price range (main courses are all $23, I think). That is a little more hardcore of a restaurant -- really nice stemware and great wine list. (Fringale and Bistro Aix also have good wine lists, although the stemware is questionable at Bistro Aix and you have to ask for the Spiegelaus at Fringale.) A 16 is also in the Marina so same night stuff as Bistro Aix.
Rue Saint Jacque would be very nice. They have a $35 three course prix fixe dinner that includes the whole menu, just pick your first course, entree and dessert. Plus, it's a very nice little neighborhood restaurant, not overly loud, good service.
Have you ever been to Venticello? It's quiet, not terribly pricey, and it's got delicious pastas and flatbread pizzas. It's on Taylor at Washington. We used to live right across from the place, and we really miss it now that we've moved.
For after dinner...I would definitely avoid Harry's Bar. It gets REALLY loud and meat markety on the weekends...like a grown-up frat party. I love the cocktails and the ambiance at Absinthe - it's a nice after dinner spot. They also do a killer cheese plate that you could have as dessert with some wine.
I would second Venticello. For an after-dinner spot, try Hotel Biron (Rose @ Gough, just north of Market, right near CAV). Hotel Biron is quieter and more intimate than CAV (but still packs a good crowd and a good time!)- nice exposed brick walls, good wine, snacks, friendly service.
We just had a great meal at Nopa - it gets crowded and can be noisy, but the upstairs is quieter. They have great cocktails (try the Elderflower Gimlet and the Ideal) and the food is very good. I'm also a huge fan of Isa in the Marina. The time we went to Rue St. Jacques it was disappointing and, frankly, I wouldn't deal with that parking situation again for such an average meal. (I'd rather deal with the parking situation in the Marina for Isa!) I'd say Nopa would feel more hip than Isa, though.