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How to eat dinner on Valentine's Day?

We are going to be in San Francisco for several days next month. Unfortunately, Valentine's Day will fall right in the middle of our stay.

We NEVER would go out for dinner on Valentine's Day if we were at home. It is one of THE worst nights to eat out, IMHO [along with NYE and Mother's Day].

What about alternative to eating out? Some good "to go" or "take out" that would give us a nice meal in hotel room.

We don't mind paying $$ for meals that are memorable. We just hate to have to pay for a "special" prix fixe outrageous meal with few options etc.

IF we must go out - we will be staying in Union Square area and won't have a car. We don't mind taking public transit.

Can you suggest a local neighborhood place that you love that won't be in that frenzy? Cuisine is open, price under $150 for 2.


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  1. That area will have highly priced menus for that day. A place that I love that isn't in the obvious range of nice places is Baker Street Bistro in Marina right above the palace of fine arts, perfect for a stroll beforehand. It's french fare done with care. It's cozy and quaint, great prices.

    The first time I was there, I witnessed smoke coming from the kitchen, a fire truck pulled up, firemen walked in, everyone clapped and continued eating. Nothing was on fire but no one cared. That is customer loyalty.


    1 Reply
    1. re: amedemonet

      That looks wonderful! Any other suggestions along the same lines for other nights - neighborhood gems?


    2. With Valentine's Day falling on Saturday, I'd suggest that you also be cautious about Friday night. I know that in Los Angeles, restaurants would do the prix fixe menus for more than one night when V-Day fell on the weekend. Aside from that, Friday night will likely be usually busy at the usual suspects, so your goal of finding good neighborhood restaurants is a good one!

      For V-Day itself, I'd probably walk down to the ferry building, gather a ready-to-eat picnic, and either eat outside or in the hotel room. Charcuterie from Boccalone, a couple nice cheeses from Cowgirl, maybe an apple or pear from Frog Hollow, a great loaf of bread from Acme, and a couple of pastries from Miette sounds perfectly romantic to me! Boccalone does nice "picnic platters" now that make it easy to get just enough for the two of you. If you need something more substantial, there are lots of options to add in, as well.

      1 Reply
      1. re: cyberroo

        Great idea. While you're there, grab a bottle of wine at the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant....or you could also just eat your picnic there and watch the world go by.

      2. "Ethnic" restaurants should be better choices. West of Union Square there are Indian/Pakistani restaurants, Vietnamese restaurants, Turkish restaurants, etc. that may be crowded but won't have gouging prix fixe menus. And there's always Chinatown. If you want something special, maybe Jai Yun (which is always prix fixe).

        2 Replies
        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          Chinatown was my first thought as well. When I was in London on New Year's eve and facing a similar dilemna, a Chinese restaurant fit the bill perfectly.

          Another very good option along the lines of Ruth's suggestions, would be Cafe Zitouna.

          The Ferry Building shops close up pretty early, so if you go that route, which is also a good idea, get your fixings in the afternoon.

          Cafe Zitouna
          1201 Sutter St, San Francisco, CA 94109

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            How about Sultan for Indian?

            340 Ofarrell St, San Francisco, CA 94102

          2. Since you're visiting, and I assume not working, I'd do lunch and avoid the mad rush, then do something low key for the evening. Your options will be much greater.

            1 Reply
            1. re: ML8000

              Low key would be great, just not sure what falls into that range of ideas. That was kind of the idea of trying to find a local, neighborhood spot where we wouldn't necessarily be celebrating Valentine's Day, but rather getting a good meal.

              The picnic idea with things from Ferry Building sounds good, how late are the shops open on Saturdays?


            2. Does Sam's or Tadich do Valentine's Day?

              1 Reply
              1. re: wolfe

                Tadich is on our short list of places we want to go to again this trip. I can't imagine they would do a Valentine's Day thing, not with those surly guys! But we loved the place, so maybe thats a possible place for us.
                Thanks everyone for all your continued ideas and help.

              2. we're going for chinese on vday and quince on sunday because we didn't want to have a prix fixe super inflated charged menu.

                1. A follow up: we went to the Farmer's Market at the Ferry Building on Saturday morning [V day]. Followed suggestions for a picnic and ended up with: a baguette from Acme Baking; 2 cheeses from Cowgirl; mixed olives and some nice roasted almonds and a few dates[ also from Cowgirl]; a beautiful tomato from an outdoor vendor; and truffles and turtles from Scharffen Berger [I was underwhelmed by the turtles, not enough chocolate or caramel and the pecans didn't taste fresh].

                  We took the F up to The Castro, walked around a bit and then picnic'd adjacent to the Eureka Valley Rec center on some benches outside of the playground. The weather was far from romantic, but the rain held off while we had lunch.

                  We grabbed some Irish Coffee at Twin Peaks Tavern before heading back to our hotel.

                  We went to Sultan for dinner. Got there just before 7 and got seated right away. They did get busy, by the time we left, there was only 1 empty table. Several tables had reserved plaques on them.

                  We had a really nice Tomato Cucumber salad to start [lovely tomatoes that actually tasted like tomato]; DH had Rogan Josh which was excellent. I ordered Spinach Chicken. When the order came, I took a serving and started in on the spinach. Then I took a bite of the chicken and thought, wow this has a really weird texture.

                  I thought it might have been tofu, but that didn't sound right. When the waitress was called, she said it was paneer. She quickly apologized for the mistake and wisked it away. The correct dish was brought out in a fairly short time.

                  We also had Garlic Naan; the naan was really light and fluffy, but there was too much raw garlic on the naan.

                  There was only 1 waitress with a couple of busboys that brought out the food. The restaurant was pretty quiet, so you could actually have a conversation. It is a minimalist decorators' dream. There was only 1 piece of "art" on the walls, but that really doesn't add or detract from the food.

                  The prices were right; entrees were $10 or so.

                  Thanks for all your help and suggestions!