6 Locals Reveal Their Go-To First-Date Spots!

Awkwardness aside, first dates can actually be pretty thrilling — in the right conditions. And it all starts with a perfect initial meeting spot. But, how do you find a suitable locale to get the mojo flowing? Striking the balance between the romantic, unexpected, and still in-the-know is hardly a no-hassle affair.
So, we called in the big guns and asked six local tastemakers to dish on their favorite first-date venues sure to break the ice. And just in time for Valentine's Day. So, skip ahead and set the stage for dreaminess galore!
1 of 6
Name: Michele Janezic
Gig: Store Manager and Buyer at Mill Mercantile, Owner and Designer of Janezic
Hood: Diamond Heights

What is your go-to first-date destination?
"My favorite type of date would include a drive and lunch along the coast, sunset glass of wine at Cavallo Point, and dinner at Zuni Café or Bar Jules."

What makes this so perfect for a first date?
"It's a shared experience with a bit of adventure, discovering both known and unknown areas together, and genuinely getting to know someone better in relaxed and beautiful settings."

What elements do you think contribute to the perfect first date?
"The perfect date is one you never want to end — one that's thoughtful, unique, comfortable, relaxed, fun, and unexpected."

Describe your most outrageous or unexpected date experience.
"Being out with a new friend who I thought was gay, discovering mid-evening that he was straight, and then realizing that I was actually on a date. That was awkward."

Photos: Michele Janezic photographed by Molly DeCoudreaux; Courtesy of Bar Jules; Cavallo Point
2 of 6
Name: Carolyn Alburger
Gig: Associate Editor at San Francisco magazine
Hood: Nopa

What is your go-to first-date destination?
“Dinner at Bar Crudo followed by drinks at Waziema and a show at The Independent.”

What makes this so perfect for a first date?
“I think raw fish is one of sexier foods out there, so Bar Crudo is definitely a top pick. It's an understated, sweet little spot in Nopa where the crudo plates are easy to share. Plus, it's busy enough so you won't feel awkward if you're just getting to know your date. Waizema is my pick for affordable post-dinner drinks because it's got a damask-wallpapered, dark, step-up-from-a-dive atmosphere and you can consume yourself with a game of pool or some picks from the jukebox if the conversation needs some sparking.”

What elements do you think contribute to the perfect first date?
“An unstuffy atmosphere is key and sharable food never hurts because it forces you to get close. Follow it up with some sort of activity to get you chatting — like a stroll somewhere pretty, a game of trivia, a live show, or something unexpected.”

Describe your most outrageous or unexpected date experience.
“Once this guy surprised me with a trip to that trampoline place, House of Air. I wasn't exactly delighted about it. We had everyone else's age beat by at least a decade, and we both threw out our backs. But, we had fun working up an appetite. Luckily, the guy had made reservations at Forbes Island, this quirky underwater restaurant in a ship-like barge off the Wharf. There's an actual bar and a fireplace in the 'ship,' so we had some martinis followed by steaks and red wine by the flickering hearth. It ended well — two years later, that guy and I are now getting hitched.”

Photos: Carolyn Alburger photographed by Molly DeCoudreaux; Courtesy of Bar Crudo; The Independent
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3 of 6
Name: Kelsey Sheofsky
Gig: Owner of Shelter Co.
Hood: The Mission

What is your go-to first-date destination?
"Picnic on Baker Beach followed by a hike from the beach to the Golden Gate Bridge and back. Get sandwiches from Salumeria, a bottle of wine, and head down to the beach on a sunny afternoon."

What makes this so perfect for a first date?
"There are some amazing views of the Bay from this vantage point as the trail weaves up to the top of the hill from the beach and down through the Presidio along the bluffs. There are also some awesome old army bunkers, wildflowers, and native plants to explore on the way. It's a really easy hike, so it's totally doable on a full stomach of wine and sandwiches."

What elements do you think contribute to the perfect first date?
"Definitely good company, the perfect outfit, and an element of surprise. Some of my most memorable dates aren't about the actual activity of the date, but something unexpected that happened that created a funny memory or inside joke we now share."

Describe your most outrageous or unexpected date experience.
"We were working in Santa Fe and my husband spotted Lyle Lovett walking down the street. He randomly Googled him to see if he lived there, only to find out he was playing a show that night at the Santa Fe Opera House. We tried to get tickets to the sold-out show on Craigslist, and failed. So, on a whim, we drove to concert, went to the ticket booth, and somehow snagged the last two remaining tickets! It was a total stroke of luck and one of the most amazing concerts we have been to. A totally unexpected end to an otherwise regular work day."

Photos: Kelsey Sheofsky photographed by Molly DeCoudreaux; Courtesy of Salumeria; Golden Gate Bridge
4 of 6
Name: Anh Sundstrom
Gig: Global Marketing Manager for a medical software company and Blogger at 9to5Chic
Hood: Nob Hill

What is your go-to first-date destination?
"My perfect date is a wine picnic at Huntington Park in Nob Hill."

What makes this so perfect for a first date?
"It's such a beautiful and peaceful setting in the midst of all the city sounds: cable-car bells, Grace Cathedral, and taxis pulling in and out of the nearby hotels. Bring a bottle of wine, a few glasses, a picnic blanket to sit on, and be prepared to be visited by cute local dogs getting in their daily exercise."

What elements do you think contribute to the perfect first date?
"Let's be honest, it's all about the other person!"

Describe your most outrageous or unexpected date experience.
"Dinner and a movie. In a city as interesting as San Francisco, it would be a pity to fall back on the old standby. "

Photos: Courtesy of 9to5Chic; Huntington Park; Grace Cathedral
5 of 6
Name: Anh-Minh Le
Gig: Editor in Chief at Anthology magazine
Hood: The Peninsula

What is your go-to first-date destination?
"If we can venture beyond San Francisco, a day trip to Healdsburg is always a good thing!"

What makes this so perfect for a first date?
"Healdsburg has all of the components for a great little getaway. There are fantastic eateries: Start the day with a latte and pastry from Flying Goat Coffee, then follow up with lunch at Mateo’s, an afternoon treat from Moustache Baked Goods, and dinner at Spoonbar or Pizzando. There are quite a few cute stores — Looking Glass and The Mercantile Shop for clothes, Copperfield’s for magazines, Gallery Lulo for gorgeous jewelry — and several antique businesses on Healdsburg Avenue that you could spend hours in. And, that’s just the stuff that’s within walking distance if you stay near the town square! Hop in the car and it’s an easy outing to a number of wineries."

What elements do you think contribute to the perfect first date?
"I’m not really a fan of elaborate date scenarios — there are so many elements that increase the potential for more to go wrong. I like to keep things simple: the right person, some good food, and no constraints on our time. I love whenever I can enjoy a delicious, leisurely meal with my favorite person, my husband. I prefer an environment where we can actually have a conversation — i.e., no live bands on stage ten feet from my table. That's pretty much my ideal date."

Describe your most outrageous or unexpected date experience.
"A few years ago, for our anniversary, my husband and I went to Tokyo. One morning, at about 4 a.m., he woke me up and surprised me with an excursion to the Tsukiji Market. He had arranged for us to take a tour of the famous fish market with the chef of our hotel’s restaurant. We walked around for a while — witnessing the tuna auctions, and taking in the hundreds of stalls filled with the standard seafood fare, as well as more unusual edibles such as barracuda, puffer fish, octopus, and eels. Afterwards, we enjoyed the freshest sushi breakfast ever."

Photos: Anh-Minh Le photographed by Victoria Smith; Courtesy of Spoonbar; Moustache Baked Goods
6 of 6
Name: Carole Harari
Gig: Owner at La Boutique
Hood: Russian Hill

What is your go-to first-date destination?
“I like Garçon and Comstock Saloon."

What makes this so perfect for a first date?
"Comstock is such a beautiful space — the moment you walk into this spot, you are transported into another time. It's very cozy and intimate — we love to go there for after-hours dinners when we're working late at an event at La Boutique. Also, Garçon is a true French bistro, and I feel like I'm in Paris whenever I eat there!"

What elements do you think contribute to the perfect first date?
"Having fun!"

Describe your most outrageous or unexpected date experience.
"During Paris Fashion Week a couple of seasons ago, I got myself into a totally improvised party surrounded by one of my favorite designers, Jean-Paul Gaultier, and his crew of models and fashion editors. It was certainly unexpected and an indelible memory!"

Photos: Courtesy of Carole Harari; Comstock Saloon; Garçon
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