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Your Guide to Dating in Hayes Valley and Mid-Market

The best date spots in the neighborhood

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Nailing the perfect venue is an absolutely essential component to the success of a date. But here's the thing: What makes a great first date spot is definitely not the same as what makes a place the best to celebrate a special occasion or even a second date — so deciding where to take a plus-one doesn't always get the same answer. Every situation has different needs — neighborhood, vibes, price point — and it can be tricky to find the right bar or restaurant if you've never been there. So next time you're trying to pick a fitting location, just consult this guide. We've got you covered if it's Hayes Valley and Mid-Market you're cornering.

In need of the best date spots in other neighborhoods? Check out this ultimate guide to dating in San Francisco.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

First date, drinks: Mr. Tipples

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Live music may seem too loud for a first date, but the upbeat jazz (no cover) and lively scene at Mr. Tipples will work in your favor in this case. Over snacks and expert cocktails from the Maven team you can either have such a good time that you end up dancing, or be grateful for the music to fill the space if conversation falls silent.

First date, coffee: Ritual/Smitten or Cafe La Vie

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Choose from Ritual coffee or Smitten ice cream in Patricias Green park, or — pro move — go to both and make an affogato to enjoy while you sit in the grass and learn everything there is to know about each other. Bad weather? Just walk on over to family-owned Cafe La Vie (514 Octavia St.), where charmingly small tables will get you appropriately close.

Second date, moderate: Absinthe Brasserie & Bar

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Absinthe is that perfect restaurant that fits into so many life occasions. In this case, its lively bar, familiar menu, and killer cocktails add a twinkle that makes second dates seem special. Hopefully you'll start with cocktails and some shared plates only to linger over a bottle of wine.

Second date, expensive: Zuni Cafe

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San Francisco's iconic roast chicken restaurant will do much of the work of charming your date for you. No matter where you sit in its five disparate areas, the vibes and lighting make it feel good to be there. Ice cold oysters and bubbly champagne are the right way to start off the night (or day!), followed by — obviously — the chicken, though be forewarned that it takes an hour to prepare, so you better have your talking points ready.

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Where to lock it down: Petit Crenn

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Queen bee/SF chef Dominique Crenn's second, more casual venture is a dinner party of a restaurant, where the kitchen takes you on a journey to Crenn's French hometown Brittany. Go along for the multi-course, wood-fired meal ride, being sure to pair it with a few bottles of wine from the all-natural list. Crenn knows how to do it right, so though the restaurant has a more low-key vibe than her original fine dining temple Atelier Crenn, you'll still walk away feeling wowed.

LTR, moderate: Rich Table

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The food you eat at Rich Table is unlike any other in the city, yet also fits right in. The multi-ingredient, innovative dishes don't seem to make much sense on the menu, but come together on first bite. It's a fun experience that will get you and your partner vibing on new flavors.

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LTR, expensive: Cala

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Chances are the two of you are dying to make it to Mexico City. Instead, head to Cala, where the Mexico City-native chef brings fresh flavors to the table. Be sure to get the mussels over toast and the charred sweet potato with bone marrow salsa negra.

First date, drinks: Mr. Tipples

Live music may seem too loud for a first date, but the upbeat jazz (no cover) and lively scene at Mr. Tipples will work in your favor in this case. Over snacks and expert cocktails from the Maven team you can either have such a good time that you end up dancing, or be grateful for the music to fill the space if conversation falls silent.

First date, coffee: Ritual/Smitten or Cafe La Vie

Choose from Ritual coffee or Smitten ice cream in Patricias Green park, or — pro move — go to both and make an affogato to enjoy while you sit in the grass and learn everything there is to know about each other. Bad weather? Just walk on over to family-owned Cafe La Vie (514 Octavia St.), where charmingly small tables will get you appropriately close.

Second date, moderate: Absinthe Brasserie & Bar

Absinthe is that perfect restaurant that fits into so many life occasions. In this case, its lively bar, familiar menu, and killer cocktails add a twinkle that makes second dates seem special. Hopefully you'll start with cocktails and some shared plates only to linger over a bottle of wine.

Second date, expensive: Zuni Cafe

Eater Archives

San Francisco's iconic roast chicken restaurant will do much of the work of charming your date for you. No matter where you sit in its five disparate areas, the vibes and lighting make it feel good to be there. Ice cold oysters and bubbly champagne are the right way to start off the night (or day!), followed by — obviously — the chicken, though be forewarned that it takes an hour to prepare, so you better have your talking points ready.

Eater Archives

Where to lock it down: Petit Crenn

Queen bee/SF chef Dominique Crenn's second, more casual venture is a dinner party of a restaurant, where the kitchen takes you on a journey to Crenn's French hometown Brittany. Go along for the multi-course, wood-fired meal ride, being sure to pair it with a few bottles of wine from the all-natural list. Crenn knows how to do it right, so though the restaurant has a more low-key vibe than her original fine dining temple Atelier Crenn, you'll still walk away feeling wowed.

LTR, moderate: Rich Table

Eater Archives

The food you eat at Rich Table is unlike any other in the city, yet also fits right in. The multi-ingredient, innovative dishes don't seem to make much sense on the menu, but come together on first bite. It's a fun experience that will get you and your partner vibing on new flavors.

Eater Archives

LTR, expensive: Cala

Chances are the two of you are dying to make it to Mexico City. Instead, head to Cala, where the Mexico City-native chef brings fresh flavors to the table. Be sure to get the mussels over toast and the charred sweet potato with bone marrow salsa negra.

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