HELP: Romantic dinner suggestions in SF (budget)
South Park Cafe. $36 prix fixe menu, good food, bistro-ish atmosphere, nice location, interesting mix of people. One of the few places in SF that actually feels a bit like Paris. Fits my definition of "romantic," though different people will interpret that one in different ways.
South Park Cafe
108 South Park, San Francisco, CA 94107
You could eat for that at Aslam's Rasoi, though depending on the size of your order, you might have to keep your drinks limited. It's in the Mission, lots of places to walk to afterwards for coffee. Very attractive restaurant, pretty at night, excellent Indian and Pakinstani food. I have never once ordered a curried dish here - I haven't gotten around to it, the chef is 4 star.
You could eat for that at Da Flora if you skip the drinks. It's great Italian, one of the most romantic places in San Francisco, on the far end of North Beach. After dinner walk up the street and have a drink in one of the many cafes or go to Cafe Greco for some of the best coffees in the city. Then you can head further down the street to City Lights bookstore which is open til midnight most nights - this is where Jack Kerouac and Alan Ginsburg were first published and it's retained a lot of it's individuality - 100% better than a Barnes & Noble.
Go grab sandwiches at Ike's in the Castro - $8 apiece, excellent choices, substantial size. Buy wine or beer and take to a park to eat.
Chapeau! has an excellent prix fixe menu.
701 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133
1039 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110
My last visit was several years ago - thanks for reminding me that I've been meaning to go back:
The decor is almost surreal; painted leather shields adorn the walls amidst low ceilings and heavy, dark pillars, pink tablecloths with candlelight and roses adorn the tables. Ceramic cherubs look down upon diners from unassuming locales and a very amateurish painting of Provence shows age from water drips from the ceiling and cracked paint. Too much of the upholstered banquets have been taped from wear. Again, all circa 1976.
Then came the food... We started with escargot which was served appropriately in the shells with clamps and the even-rarer long, two-pronged fork. With the restaurant's warm, crusty bread, we made short order of the snails. Then came a split pea cream soup. Not overly thick the way so many pea soups are, this was creamy, smooth, and elegant with an undercurrent of fresh sage. To our surprise, a salad came next; fresh butter lettuce with a perfectly light, creamy dressing. I can't remember the last time a restaurant served a soup AND salad course along with an entree that cost less than $20!
The entrees? Kevin ordered Duck a l'Orange and I, a roasted rabbit. Accompanying sides were fresh haricot verts (a tad overcooked), a sweet potato puree (excellent!), and a savory rice with the duck and a potato gratin with the rabbit. Being too full to stay for the complimentary ice cream, we opted to take home a creme caramel that I still enjoying, bite by bite. In tasting the food, it TASTED the way I remember "fancy" French food tasting in the 1970s. Eating the left-overs today, Kevin suggested that MSG (remember, Accent?) is being used which may give it its 70s flavor. It was wholesome, hearty, and savory. It was not cutting edge. It was not haute cuisine. It was surreal and enjoyable.
As it happens, the restaurant has been open for over 40 years. Ten years ago, two Cambodian brothers purchased it (which may explain why, in a room of a dozen people, we were the only non-Asians). There were only Asian people in the kitchen and on the service floor. Yes, the room and building itself is showing its age. But the service was impeccable and the entire experience memorable. So, two entrees in the $20 range, an hors d'oeuvre, the most expensive bottle of wine on their list (a du Pape for $42), a dessert and tip put us back a little more than $100. Pretty cool in my book. I like retro-eating and look forward to similar dining experiences, when I can find them!
I would recommend Cassis they have both a $34.95 prix-fixe available all the time, but if you are willing to go early (5:30 to 7:00), the prix-fixe is $25 on Sunday through Thursday (closed Monday).
It is romantic without being stuffy and the quality of the food is excellent.