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Proposing in San Fran (flying up from L.A.)

Hey all:

So I am surprising my girlfriend with an unannounced flight from Orange County to San Fran for dinner and a marriage proposal. Any suggestions for very classy/great food/intimate setting restaurants within reasonable range of the San Fran airport? (I don't know the city very well at all).

Any ideas for after dinner--espresso/dessert with a great view, etc.?

Thanks for the help!

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  1. All of san francisco is about 30 minutes from the airport, so just pick anywhere in SF proper.

    Napa & Sonoma have good fancy eats but are too far. Don't propose in burlingame or Daly City, it'll spoil the mood.

    My choice would be Aquerello. Awesome food, tables really far apart, the right atmosphere. Down side: no booths. If you want to go "of the moment" the answer is Coi.

    Knee jerk reaction for afterward is top of the mark, but I'm always disappointed because the city's usually fogged in. The bar at slanted door is senic, or you could try the new improved cliff house. Check when Sutro Tower is open too. Offbeat: the water harmonium.

    1 Reply
    1. re: bbulkow

      "I'm always disappointed because the city's usually fogged in"

      This is true for summer, but Fall (End Sep till end October-ish) is the exception -- during fall, the evenings are usually always fog free, especially on the south and eastern part.

    2. Is she remotely outdoorsy?

      If the weather is clear, you could say you want to 'make a brief stop on the way to dinner' and take her up to Twin Peaks. You could pack the trunk of the car with 2 sweatshirts and 2 blankets, an ice chest with a bottle of champagne and two flutes, maybe some chocolates and a thermos of hot coffee, and drive up to the top of twin peaks, the best most romantic sweeping view in the city.. But it can be foggy and cold, and might be impractical for a surprise visitor. You could also to the same down at Fort Point (where Kim Novak jumped in the water in Vertigo).

      Then, take her to Fleur de Lys (which is one of the most romantic rooms in the city), the Ritz (have not been but by all acounts it's fantastic) , or La Folie to celebrate.
      Or I suppose you could just propose at the restaurant.

      5 Replies
      1. re: pauliface

        Depending on her personality I'd go with the Ritz or La Folie.

        The Ritz is...the Ritz. You drive up to the huge hotel, bellhops greet you and open the door, and the whole experience is very upper crust.

        La Folie is on a busy restaurant/bar street. The restaurant itself is intimate, but the vibe outside is much more urban and noisy.

        Acquerello and Fleur de Lys, while getting great reviews for food, are both on what I consider more residential streets. A local might have a great time proposing as either, but if I were flying someone up from OC for a proposal I'd want them to see a little more of the city than either of those sparse blocks.

        Boulevard, which is right on the water, is also one of the city's mots popular restaurants and seems proposal appropriate.

        1. re: Pei

          What I like about Acquerello is how you go from a rather bland neighborhood street to whitewashed sunny italy with hovering waiters. It's a jacket and nice dress kind of place. The interior space seems to be transplanted brick for brick from somewhere very, very nice. Depending on taste, I'd probably do the three course in either place.

          What I don't like about the Ritz is it's I'm A Hotel atmosphere. Can't really get around that - has its plusses, as you say.

          In either case, go someplace else afterward for some of that SF charm and atmosphere - if they say yes. Or do a little before - taxi ride up twin peaks is classic, lesser known is go out to Treasure Island and enjoy the view back to SF. Going all the way out to the GGBR is a bit time consuming. The TI thing is cool because it keeps 'em guessing. ('ha ha, you thought we were going to san francisco? I can only afford oakland! jinx, we're going to SF.")

          If proposal fail, catch the next taxi to the airport.

          The benefit of the Mark Hopkins for later drinks is you make sure you've got a room reservation there. All the more reason to not go hotel for dinner.

          If you go boulevard, try to talk them into reserving you a table in the back by the window that overlooks the bay. That's where the rock stars sit.

          All of this is assuming near-infinite money. None of this is remotely the cheap part of SF. If money's a concern, you might try Tu Lan (very SF) and the Hi Dive (good view)

          1. re: bbulkow

            Oh, don't joke like that about Tu Lan and Hi Dive. They are not hitch-hiking to SF, Um, have you been to Treasure Island after dark recently?

            I think the Ritz would be wonderful especially if he splurged on a hotel room there. I'm guessing they are not taking a flight back that night. Everything about the place food, dining room, service screams you are special and wonderful.

            Then it is only a block (though uphill) to the Mark Hopkins. The nice thing about the MH is that it will probably still be there on their 25th, 50th, 75th anniversary and they can recapture the moment. Hmmm ... did I just talk you out of proposing?

            The chef that made The Cliff House new and improved just left. After dark there's nothing to see and the drinks are not at all special.

            1. re: rworange

              Agree that Ritz would be great. You are surrounded by luxury, the food is awesome, and spending the night would just be the icing on the cake.

              If you were to propose at the restaurant, this would be a good place as well as there is a lot of room between tables and it's not noisy at all (at least not from my experience).

        2. re: pauliface

          This is a great suggestion -- I would rather be proposed to in private -- on top of Twin Peaks, not in a restaurant as a big spectacle. Moreover, unless there's an unbelievable earthquake some day leveling Twin Peaks, it will always be there to return to, unlike restaurants that come and go.

          So, propose on top of Twin Peaks and then have dinner at the Ritz, La Folie, Fleur de Lys, Acquerello, I wish you the best.

          La Folie
          2316 Polk St., San Francisco, CA 94109

          Acquerello Restaurant
          1722 Sacramento St., San Francisco, CA 94109

        3. Second (third?) on Acquerello. Great food, romantic, great service, but not overly formal or stuffy.

          I find the tables for two along Boulevard's north wall very romantic, the rest of the place not.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Love Acquerello, but...

            There are a fair number of hard surfaces in the restaurant. If you're seated next to a wall and have a rambunctious party nearby, the acoustics can work to your detriment. Odds are against it being a problem, but if the response to The Question is "WHAT?" - well, you get the point.

            I'd go for La Folie.

            1. re: alanbarnes

              I've never found that room noisy, it doesn't seem like the kind of place that inspires boisterous behavior.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Last time my wife and I ate there we were seated at a table mid-way back against the wall that's to the left as you walk in the door. There was a party of six in the middle of the room. They weren't obnoxiously loud; they were just talking and laughing as groups are wont to do (especially after a few bottles of good wine). But something about the acoustics made it distinctly uncomfortable. Fortunately the group left between the amuse and the first course.

                This kind of experience is certainly the exception, but I figured that for a once-in-a-lifetime dinner, the OP might want to be aware of the possibility.

          2. I would definitely not propose at Boulevard - a huge restaurant and lacks the intimateness of the proposal. I do think that the Twin Peaks idea was cute and not too cliche.. assuming not a foggy day! =) Never been to Acquerello so I cannot comment on that... Presumably a restaurant where the tables are not too close together if you go the restaurant route (i.e. the only reason I would not recommend Gary Danko).. Napa prob does win on that front of great scenery ...

            4 Replies
            1. re: jlfoodie

              Thanks everyone for the suggestions. I've got a lot to work with. Still mulling the many good "the moment" recommendations.

              Has anyone been to Epic Roasthouse? Acquerello still sounds preferable to me (a little more interesting and I can count on great service which is a huge plus).

              I've also heard that Kokari is excellent. Do either of these stand up to Acqu.? I realize that Kokari, at least, is a big cuisine change.

              1. re: rpwilliams

                I recently ate at Epic. I thought it was fine. Nothing special, at all. I recall it being very loud, and the food was ok, but not for the price. I would have rather spent less $ for better steakhouse food at Ruth's Chris. I definitely would not have been impressed if I had been proposed to there.

                1. re: rpwilliams

                  I like the food at Kokkari a lot, but it's not a good engagement or post engagement place. A little businessy.

              2. Michael Mina
                Minimalist, monochrome environment focuses the attention on your lovey without putting her in the spotlight.

                Food's pretty good too.
                You could stay in the hotel there or one of the many other stellar houses in town.

                Maybe Danko. Right nummy bites there, mate.

                MeatBoy wishes you luck.

                4 Replies
                1. re: BigMeatBoy

                  I would rule out Mina because of the noise levels, and because part of the restaurant feels like it's sitting on top of the waiting area outside Clock Bar. Also, if the OP thinks he will ever want to re-visit the restaurant for nostalgia's sake, it's already known that MM is closing soon. Of course, this being SF, anything might close soon. But chances are Acquerello, La Folie, and the Ritz still have plenty of life in them. Of the many responses I think those are still his strongest contenders.

                  Epic feels like a casual steakhouse, despite the gorgeous view. More of a place to take a group or have a "casual but fancy" night out.

                  1. re: Pei

                    I hadn't heard that Michael Mina is closing. Where did you hear this?

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        I thought there was a post a few weeks ago on Chowhound that MM was closing, or at least moving out of the St. Francis? Perhaps I miss read. The post was entitled "RIP Michael Mina" and there was understandable panic on the board due to the missing "Restaurant" to distinguish the man from his business. I just did a search and the post is either gone or re-named.

                  2. How about Carnelian Room? It's on the 52nd floor of the BofA building. View is great (top of SF), quiet, classy (jacket required). Food is good (not great), but the setting makes up for it.

                    You have to go before the end of the year--unfortunately it'll be closing on Jan 1.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: nccyber

                      aside from the fact that Carnelian Room's food isn't that great, and I don't think the atmosphere is that great (sure, nice view if there isn't fog, but not much else), I dislike the symbolism of proposing in a place that is going out of business. ..but then, I am not a fan of proposing in the restaurant in the first place:


                      I do like the Ritz idea for the celebration, particularly if, as rw suggests, you get a room there as well.

                      1. re: nccyber

                        Didn't the Carnelian Room just announce its closure?

                        1. re: Rapini

                          Yes, but it announced it will close around Christmas. Given that, the staff certainly has little incentive to perform well. I would not recommend it.

                        2. re: nccyber

                          Carnelian Room is hotel food on top of a sterile office building. No way.

                        3. I proposed to my wife at the Carnelian Room. Although a search of posts reveals the restaurant isn't what it was back then, the view and ambience are incredible. It is fairly quiet and you can have a private dining room all to yourselves if you want. I decided on a table by the windows and it worked out great. Our ten year anniversary is this coming Friday.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: ucmewin

                            The Carnelian Room is beautiful, but the food is not good.

                            1. re: sfbing

                              The view is amazing, but the rooms have more in common with a hotel conference center than a nice San Francisco restaurant. They relied on the view to provide the atmosphere. It also has that tell-tale smell of a banquet center, a mix of pink pearl and button mushrooms. No big loss.

                          2. Please take a minute to consider the Fifth Floor in the Hotel Palomar. Many, many couple have proposed there. It's a delightfully quiet room with very polished service, an amazing wine list, no dress code and their entrees are under $30.
                            Also, it's not a problem to score a reservation!

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: plainfood

                              There have been a number of changes at Fifth Floor. How recently have you eaten there?

                              1. re: rworange

                                I dined at the Fifth Floor for my birthday, September 15th of this year. We were seated promptly at a window table overlooking the herb garden. The ambiance was soothing. The chairs were comfortable. The cocktails were delicious. The service was attentive without hovering. The manager introduced himself. The food was really, really good--surprising combinations executed with subtlety and finesse by Chef Jennie Lorenzo. The wine pairings were spot-on. The atmosphere was quiet and genteel but not so genteel that a gentleman from the next table came over to offer to share their large platter of various chocolate mignardaises with us. That was cute. They wrote "Happy Birthday" on my dessert plate (really good almond cake with ice cream & brandied cherries). The coffee was delicious. I would go back in a heartbeat. There aren't many restaurants that have lasted as long, been through so many chefs, and yet retain their exquisite "seamless" service standards and high level of cuisine. SF foodies are so trendy, always rushing off to the latest pizza place (!) and not seeming to understand that a fine restaurant deserves to be supported so it can continue to exist. Personally, I like to go back over and over to my favorite restaurants. They let me know that my patronage is important to them by recognizing me and adding the smallest personal touch. In this case, they wrote "Happy 45th Birthday" on my dessert plate--I'm now 68. That was a sweet little detail. Fifth Floor is full of such little grace notes. I think it would be a great place to propose. Best wishes to the young couple!

                                101 Fish & Chips
                                36700 Cedar Blvd, Newark, CA 94560

                                1. re: plainfood

                                  Thanks. We don't get many Fifth Floor reports.

                                  Fifth Floor Restaurant
                                  12 Fourth St., San Francisco, CA 94103

                            2. Good luck, I too proposed to my wife in the city 16 years ago. We did it at the Washington Square Bar and Grill, but it has since changed hands.

                              The Carnelion Room has gret views of the city and you could do it over Champers and then go someplace for a romantic dinner like dejardines.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: normalheightsfoodie

                                I would also recommend notifying the restaurant that you will be proposing. They are more likely to give you an excellent table. Good luck and congrats!

                                1. re: SarahKC

                                  you are spot on. The only people that knew what I was going to do that night was the MAitre De. I arranged with him the week before and they made it perfect and never let the cat out of the bag.

                              2. This thread makes me want to get married to everyone in it.

                                My choice would be: Waterbar. It's nextdoor to Epic Roasthouse.
                                Has a fabulous patio in what is probably the single most spectacular
                                setting in the city -- right under the bay bridge. If you time your
                                proposal to about 1.5 to 2 hours after moonrise, it will be up there
                                above the bridge towers. And right there, not 50 yards to the north, is
                                Oldenberg's "Cupid's Span" sculpture: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/object/...

                                The place is ridiculously expensive. But what the heck, you're getting married.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                  Wow, Chuckles. Just Wow. I have never been to Waterbar, but with a description like that I wish my husband would propose all over again. I have been there for happy hour though, and I think it's a much better proposal spot than its sister restaurant next door, Epic Roasthouse.

                                  1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                    There's not many reports on Waterbar and I don't remember one positive one. What do you like there food-wise?

                                    That was my nabe for a long time. I hate that stupid sculpture. Perhaps because it was installed too close to 9/11 and I still had cops in my backyard making sure the bridge was safe. I woke up every morning to see the end of my street covered in barbed wire and then would drive to woork seeing that ugly sculpture in ugly colors. It reminds me of war not love.

                                    1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                      I have not been inside waterbar, but I strolled by it one beautiful evening and it does look lovely (and expensive!)

                                      For a proposal, it could be truly romantic with that big-lights-big-city vie of the bridge. But I fear the atmosphere inside may be too hectic/trendy/noisy.

                                      I still vote for La Folie.

                                      1. re: pauliface

                                        many years ago i proposed to my wife in the city at the top of a skyrise building lookout..and then we went to La Folie for dinner afterward...it was great. Good luck!