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Aug 20, 2012 12:24 PM

Cool / offbeat romantic in North Beach/Chinatown/FD [San Francisco]

I'm taking the boyfriend up to SF for his birthday and I want to take him somewhere cool for dinner the first night in the North Beach/Chinatown area. (I love that part of the city and we're going to hit the Tonga Room, his favorite, after.)

So I want something special and romantic-ish but not white table clothes and roses. More like a hidden gem, something with personality, instead of just expensive and fancy.

I haven't lived in SF for years so I'm not up on what is still open.

Any tips?

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  1. How about Txoko? It's in the old Enrico's space and has character without being fussy/fancy, and I always enjoy the chef's food.

    1 Reply
    1. re: amydeastbay

      That place looks great. It looks nice without being too trendy, which he has a very low tolerance for. Thanks for the tip.

    2. What about Park Tavern, in the old Moose's space?

      Moose's was one of the greats of SF, with old Ed Moose and his "always Mooseburgers". The new folks come from a trendy background - Marlowe - but Marlowe really has soul.

      The other Ed Moose space was the old WashBag, which is now Bottle Cap, anyone care to comment on current quality?

      Another option would be Sam's or Tadich. These are the two really, really old school SF places with tons of character. Special places. Tadich gets more tourist traffic, but these aren't generic places.

      If you get creeped out at the Tonga with the kitch, consider hitting a cab over to Tradr Sam's or around the corner to the Tunnel Top, a real local's place, which has a good off-the-beaten-track cocktail program going.

      (I don't get over to that part of town much, but I do like an eggplant parm at the counter of Mario's Bohemian. That's a local, special type of place - more lunch, though)

      4 Replies
      1. re: bbulkow

        Is Tadich good? I checked it out before but I've never eaten there.

        As far as Tradr Sam's, I used to live near there (@ 9th & Clement) so I thought about it but I wondered if it was really worth the long trek out to the Richmond. I'm not going to have a car and it's a long cab or bus ride for some fun drinks but the atmosphere is lacking. Tonga is too much for more than a drink or 2, but I think Tradr Sam's is not quite enough, unless you happen to be nearby.

        Tunnel Top looks good.

        1. re: marot

          It's possible to eat well at Tadich if you order right and aren't unlucky. Otherwise:


        2. re: bbulkow

          Tunnel Top? ehh they went clean. when they got rid of the broken fold-out sleeper couches and the broken karaoke machine upstairs, took Waylon Jennings off the juke box and actually started stocking the bar, it just went downhill (I still think there was a secret staircase to the massage parlour downstairs)

          1. re: bbulkow

            If you want to stay near downtown for drinks you might want to try bourbon and branch. There's also a place a block away on O'Farrell called Jasper's that has equally impressive cocktails.

            If you like the feel of Tadich but want something a bit more modern try Wayfare Tavern.

            I have to try Txoko. I've always liked the ambiance there, it sounds like they now have good food as well.

          2. Drinks @ 15 Romolo. Tapas @ Bocadillos. Dessert chocolate souffle @ Cafe Jacqueline.

            1. Check out DaFlora on the outskirts of North Beach. Definitely not your typical North Beach experience.

              4 Replies
              1. re: mindyb

                I've seen reports elsewhere that the owners are wonderful if they like you, but rude if you don't follow a particular protocol. Is there any truth to that or is their reported "old world charm" part of the reason one would prioritize them?

                1. re: hyperbowler

                  I have never had a problem with them, but I always have a reservation and always show up on time. I have seen others that were late be turned away, and one should NEVER ask for olive oil for their foccacia. I heard someone do this, and they got a bit of a scolding!

                  That being said the food is delicious, and they have a great ecclectic wine list. We usually tell them how much we want to spend, and they choose a wine for us. It is a nice, quaint, romantic restaurant in an area of the city I don't typically associate with having the best food.

                  1. re: hyperbowler

                    I don't know about a "particular protocol" at Da Flora, but the service at our table was perfunctory at best whereas I noticed that people who seemed to know the owners also seemed to get a warm welcome and a wonderful experience. This was very disappointing because I'd enjoyed my meal the first time I went there (the owner was somewhat gruff but more friendly that first visit) and looked forward to returning. But the second experience was bad enough that we never wanted to go bac again.

                  2. Cafe Jacqueline for souffle. Offbeat because that's pretty much the only main course.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: ML8000

                      And the only dessert. It literally has white tablecloths and roses.

                      1. re: ML8000

                        I went on a date with a guy a looong time ago who worked at Cafe Jacqueline. Haven't thought about it in forever. Looks super charming and I love the pic of the Madame Jacqueline on Yelp.


                        Offbeat and not trendy for sure.

                        1. re: ML8000

                          Be prepared to spend 3 - 3.5 hours at Jacqueline.