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Date night in SF - something exceptional and "reasonable" (?)

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I'm looking for date night recommendations for my wife and I, that might fall into a more "moderate" price category. We just moved back to the city, and I am salivating at all the great fine dining options, but need to reign it in a bit for our more frequent (say bi-weekly) nights out together. We started out strong a few weeks ago at Fleur de Lys, which was outstanding (and almost $500 for two). I took my daughter out to RN74 for an off to college celebratory dinner last week. Perfect for the occasion, fun and hip, lovely room, and the food was fine (~$250). So, where to go next? I have reservations on Wednesday night at Perbacco, but I'm not too excited about it. Considering Bix, because of the cool alley location and live Jazz. Couldn't get in to A16 or Flour & Water at a reasonable time (we have young children at home, and a sitter). Any thoughts on a nice room with excellent food, at a price that would actually allow us to do it again in a few weeks...? I'm also considering bringing our own wine, as the markup is, insane. I love the idea of wine pairings for the wonderful, special occasion dinner, but spending $80 for a $30 bottle seems unnecessary for the casual night out. I look forward to hearing your thoughts. Cheers!

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Fleur De Lys
777 Sutter St., San Francisco, CA 94109

RN74
301 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94105

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  1. We were delighted with Perbacco, but if that's not your cup of tea, perhaps The Moss Room at the Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park would suit you for an evening out.
    www.themossroom.com
    Another option: Murray Circle - at Cavallo Point, under the Golden Gate Bridge

    What is your "moderate/reasonable" range?
    we had a lovely wine at Da Flora for $45

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    Da Flora
    701 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

    Murray Circle
    601 Murray Circle, Sausalito, CA 94965

    Moss Room
    55 Music Concourse Drive, San Francisco, CA 94118, USA

    1 Reply
    1. re: Cynsa

      We had a lovely meal at the Moss Room for my wife's birthday, and it certainly is a unique, smaller space. And I love La Ciccia, one of my favorites.

      I think for our next date night my we will be going back to the Universal Cafe. We haven't been in a few years, but every time we check back in it has been very good. And it seems like it would be close to you.

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      Universal Cafe
      2814 19th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

    2. Why aren't you too excited about Perbacco? If you're just disappointed because you couldn't get into A16, I say go for Perbacco. I've been to both and would return to Perbacco before A16.

      If you're just not in the mood for Italian, Bix is a very fun spot but I went last week and would say the appetizers are much stronger than the entrees. Call and see when the music starts on the night you want to go so you can enjoy it for at least part of your meal. We had 7pm reservations on a Friday and weren't able to catch any music because it started after 9pm.

      1. Have you considered La Ciccia? They didn't spend $4.5 million on the room a la RN74, the food and atmosphere are great, and they have one of the best and most affordable Italian wine lists in town.

        Standard wine markup in SF is 3X wholesale = 2X undiscounted retail. If you see a bottle that lists for $30 retail marked up to $80, that's a ripoff. On the other hand, if that wine lists for $40 but you can find it for $30 if you shop around, the restaurant's not ripping you off--and with typical corkage fees, you wouldn't save any money by bringing it yourself, either.

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        La Ciccia
        291 30th Street, San Francisco, CA 94131

        1. Different category but Bar Tartine is one of they places that has stood out to me and my husband recently as quality, creativity, and price point. Service was also very nice.

          1. Thanks for the replies. I am (still) very interested in the menu at Perbacco. I think I was put off by what I perceived the size/atmosphere of the restaurant to be. A bit less than intimate, perhaps? I will certainly add it back to the list. For Wednesday night we have decided on Serpentine, which is within walking distance of our home. My wine comment was motivated by a New Zealand Pinot on the list at RN74 priced in the 80's, that I found at K&L and Beltramo's for $35 or 40. I guess that's close to 2X retail, but it still pains me. As an aside, what turned me on to the NZ Pinot was one we had at Fleur de Lys from Whitehaven ('06). This appears to have been all bought out, so if you see a bottle, I would highly recommend it. The 50% off wine deal at Fifth Floor had me considering this as well. Many terrific options. Thanks again.

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            Serpentine
            2495 Third Street, San Francisco, CA 94107

            6 Replies
            1. re: imkasman

              Palio d Asti has some good prix fixe menu options and free corkage for the month of August.

              1. re: imkasman

                I love Perbacco and if you're looking for more intimate seating, I'd say ask for a corner banquette downstairs. . I've always admired the couples cozily enjoying meals in those nice, intimate corners. Same for Bix. . downstairs corner banquette is lovely for a nice night out.

                I know you said SF but if you were inclined to try the East Bay might I suggest Five in the Hotel Shattuck in Berkeley? I had two wonderful meals there recently. The room is very unique with soaring ceilings so it can seem to be somewhat sterile but again, a seat at the main banquette area in a corner might just do the trick. The food is exceptionally good and request Ken as your server. . he is a career server and one of the best I've ever had. The wine list is all California and resonably priced - I'd like a little more diversity in the wine menu but what they have matches the food well. . the by the glass Riesling with the pork belly appetizer is exceptional.

                1. re: imkasman

                  Perbacco's quite a big place, but the downstairs area under the stairs has a somewhat cozy feel.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    If you can get to Chapeau by 6, definitely go there. $25.50 prix-fixe menu for food that feels much more expensive. Very romantic and cozy. And even if you don't get there by 6, the rest of the menu is still very reasonably priced.

                    1. re: vulber

                      Do you mean the current Chapeau location at the former Clementine? The original restaurant has closed.

                      1. re: rworange

                        yes, it appears like they've kept everything the same, just moved

                        i normally recommend aziza for people looking for amazing food at slightly higher prices, but for a date night, not as much; the service is good, but not amazing, and the seats can be uncomfortable

                2. I went to 54 Mint a few weeks ago with my husband and had a great time. The restaurant is rather new (maybe 3 or 4 months) but the food was great. I think we spent about $80-$90 for two including a bottle of wine, a delicious artichoke appetizer, two entrees and coffees. Their pasta was great (I had a bolognese sauce) and my husband had the pork belly which was delicious. The pastas are around $15 and the entrees about $18-$25. The bottle of Italian wine was probably $30. The restaurant is right on Mint Plaza across from Blue Bottle and the room itself is similar to Blue Bottle with high ceilings, a marble(?)-like bar - it's a great space.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Mari

                    for photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/CMO0157/5...
                    http://www.flickr.com/photos/foodnut/...

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                    54 Mint
                    54 Mint St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                  2. I think Aziza is one of the most reasonable date night restaurants in town. Food is excellent and the atmo and service are usually spot on...

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                    Aziza
                    5800 Geary Blvd., San Francisco, CA 94121

                    1. Re: Perbacco. I *LOVE* it and the markup on wine is next to nothing on some of the wines. Seriously, I paid $59 for a $40 retail bottle of Etna (Outis) when I was there two weeks ago.

                      Other restaurants to consider:

                      Piperade
                      Aziza
                      A16 (a little trendy)
                      NOPA (but loud)
                      Delfina
                      La Ciccia
                      Fringale (haven't been there since the new chef took over)
                      54 Mint (I haven't been yet, but I hear AWESOME things)
                      Slanted Door

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: whiner

                        Oh, I like this list. Maybe I must send to my husband??!!! ha! ha!

                        Will add Kokkarri and Salt House to consider too.

                        1. re: whiner

                          This is a wonderful list and is almost a map of my favorite 'moderately priced nice places'
                          I would add Canteen (have only been once but it was one of the most memorable dinners I have had in a while) and possibly Range - which has been hit and miss for me, but still I am usually up for a chance.

                        2. Unfortunately, we are missing our night out tonight due to a sick kiddo, but thank you all very much for the great suggestions, and many new ideas. Cheers.