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Recently renovated dining room at Boulevard Patricia Chang

Where to Celebrate Special Occasions on a Date in San Francisco and the East Bay

Lock it down at one of these special occasion spots

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When you're ready to signal to someone that you're serious about the relationship, it's time to head to a special occasion spot that shows your intentions through delicious food and top-notch hospitality. Sure, you could just type in “$$$$” into any reservation app and get a decently nice special occasion spot, but this list looks to give a bit more guidance than that.

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Juanita & Maude

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Juanita & Maude is an East Bay favorite for special occasions, one where each dish on the rotating menu feels like a solid hit, no matter what you choose. It’s a neighborhood spot, to be sure, but it still works for an intimate dinner date, whether out in the main dining room or the charming back patio.

Patricia Chang

Chez Panisse

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Not only is Chez Panisse a Berkeley classic, it's also the birthplace of California cuisine. Alice Waters' prix-fixe restaurant is still serving pristine Bay Area produce, amazing wines, and impeccable ambiance. Make sure to take a peek into the gorgeous kitchen before the night is over.

The exterior of Chez Panisse is seen along Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley, Calif. Tuesday, September 17, 2019. Photo By Jessica Christian/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

The two-Michelin-starred restaurant in the East Bay is an obvious choice, and one of the grander gestures available. It's a relaxed vibe with super precise, flavorful food.

House of Prime Rib

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House of Prime Rib has long been regarded by locals as the splurge-y spot for special occasions, with good reason. There are not many other places that serve a slab of prime rib with aplomb like House of Prime Rib — a strong martini alongside, and great sides to boot.

A thick slice of prime rib on a plate with creamed spinach, a baked potato, and a martini. Lauren Saria

Boulevard

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Boulevard returned with a glam refresh of its space in 2021, with decor so luxurious that it will almost compete with the attention from your date. The food itself is just as distractingly good, with a multi-course menu starting at $115 per person.

Patricia Chang

Waterbar

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The view from luxe seafood spot Waterbar is all you need to signify serious. Located at the base of the Bay Bridge, the best time to go is at sunset, sitting on the heated patio while watching the sun go down and the bridge lights start to dance in front of you.

Patio at Waterbar Waterbar

Nightbird

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Chef Kim Alter’s Nightbird is a modern, elegant dinner perfect for date-y celebrations of all types. The five-course tasting menu shifts with the seasons, but expect nothing but artfully plated dishes cooked to perfection with warm touches of hospitality. The intimate next-door bar, Linden Room, is also worth a stop if you’re looking to extend the night a bit longer.

Celebrate the fact that you and your date actually enjoy each other's company with a romantic patio brunch for two at this relaxed longtime neighborhood favorite. Besides, if you're going to wait that long for gingerbread pancakes and challah french toast, you might as well make it official.

Longtime fans of Rich Table may already be clued into chef Brandon Rice’s new-ish spot, Ernest, but in case this restaurant has slipped under the radar for date nights, it’s worth a second look. Try dishes off the a la carte menu, or let the kitchen decide on your meal, with a $95 “chef’s choice” option. A word to the wise: don’t skip out on dessert if you can help it.

Entree at Ernest Ernest

Frances

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After a lengthy closure, chef Melissa Perello beloved Californian restaurant Frances returned earlier this year. Although the dining room’s received a makeover, it still maintains its cozy vibe that will make your table feel intimate, and the dreamy food will give you a break from swooning over each other.

A front window that reads Frances. Patricia Chang

Californios

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Californios is perhaps the most underrated tasting me destination in San Francisco; taking someone here will make you seem very in the know. The Mexican food is surprising (when's the last time you had aerated beans?), the decor is stylish, and the service is spot-on. Make sure you get the inventive wine and beer pairings, too.

Lauren Saria

3rd Cousin

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3rd Cousin is one of those spots that happens to have an under-the-radar feel to it (it perhaps isn’t as showy as some of the other options on this list) but has the food to make you feel loved and appreciated — like any good date spot should. The menu is full of great a la carte options, but take advantage of the tasting menu or chef’s counter if you’re looking to splurge.

Uni creme brulee Michelle Chou Photography

Juanita & Maude

Juanita & Maude is an East Bay favorite for special occasions, one where each dish on the rotating menu feels like a solid hit, no matter what you choose. It’s a neighborhood spot, to be sure, but it still works for an intimate dinner date, whether out in the main dining room or the charming back patio.

Patricia Chang

Chez Panisse

Not only is Chez Panisse a Berkeley classic, it's also the birthplace of California cuisine. Alice Waters' prix-fixe restaurant is still serving pristine Bay Area produce, amazing wines, and impeccable ambiance. Make sure to take a peek into the gorgeous kitchen before the night is over.

The exterior of Chez Panisse is seen along Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley, Calif. Tuesday, September 17, 2019. Photo By Jessica Christian/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Commis

The two-Michelin-starred restaurant in the East Bay is an obvious choice, and one of the grander gestures available. It's a relaxed vibe with super precise, flavorful food.

House of Prime Rib

House of Prime Rib has long been regarded by locals as the splurge-y spot for special occasions, with good reason. There are not many other places that serve a slab of prime rib with aplomb like House of Prime Rib — a strong martini alongside, and great sides to boot.

A thick slice of prime rib on a plate with creamed spinach, a baked potato, and a martini. Lauren Saria

Boulevard

Boulevard returned with a glam refresh of its space in 2021, with decor so luxurious that it will almost compete with the attention from your date. The food itself is just as distractingly good, with a multi-course menu starting at $115 per person.

Patricia Chang

Waterbar

The view from luxe seafood spot Waterbar is all you need to signify serious. Located at the base of the Bay Bridge, the best time to go is at sunset, sitting on the heated patio while watching the sun go down and the bridge lights start to dance in front of you.

Patio at Waterbar Waterbar

Nightbird

Chef Kim Alter’s Nightbird is a modern, elegant dinner perfect for date-y celebrations of all types. The five-course tasting menu shifts with the seasons, but expect nothing but artfully plated dishes cooked to perfection with warm touches of hospitality. The intimate next-door bar, Linden Room, is also worth a stop if you’re looking to extend the night a bit longer.

Zazie

Celebrate the fact that you and your date actually enjoy each other's company with a romantic patio brunch for two at this relaxed longtime neighborhood favorite. Besides, if you're going to wait that long for gingerbread pancakes and challah french toast, you might as well make it official.

Ernest

Longtime fans of Rich Table may already be clued into chef Brandon Rice’s new-ish spot, Ernest, but in case this restaurant has slipped under the radar for date nights, it’s worth a second look. Try dishes off the a la carte menu, or let the kitchen decide on your meal, with a $95 “chef’s choice” option. A word to the wise: don’t skip out on dessert if you can help it.

Entree at Ernest Ernest

Frances

After a lengthy closure, chef Melissa Perello beloved Californian restaurant Frances returned earlier this year. Although the dining room’s received a makeover, it still maintains its cozy vibe that will make your table feel intimate, and the dreamy food will give you a break from swooning over each other.

A front window that reads Frances. Patricia Chang

Californios

Californios is perhaps the most underrated tasting me destination in San Francisco; taking someone here will make you seem very in the know. The Mexican food is surprising (when's the last time you had aerated beans?), the decor is stylish, and the service is spot-on. Make sure you get the inventive wine and beer pairings, too.

Lauren Saria

3rd Cousin

3rd Cousin is one of those spots that happens to have an under-the-radar feel to it (it perhaps isn’t as showy as some of the other options on this list) but has the food to make you feel loved and appreciated — like any good date spot should. The menu is full of great a la carte options, but take advantage of the tasting menu or chef’s counter if you’re looking to splurge.

Uni creme brulee Michelle Chou Photography

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