Spots In San Francisco for Celebrations and Special Occasions
I recently celebrated my 26th birthday, which meant I had to pick a restaurant for my birthday dinner. Picking a place combined all of my favorite things: planning, yelping, and going out to eat- pretty much my only three hobbies. I love to yelp because it's helped me find some of my favorite spots, and luckily in San Francisco there is no end to the selection of amazing restaurants. I thought I would share some of my favorite places for dinner in San Francisco when you want to celebrate. Whether you're celebrating a birthday, a promotion, an engagement, or just life-- these restaurants are all my tried and true favorites for a great meal and a special evening.
1. House of Prime Rib: This is my absolute favorite restaurant in the city, maybe in the world. This meal is a nod to the English Sunday roast. They serve one thing and they're damn good at it, you guessed it, it's Prime Rib. Just pick a cut, the temperature you want your meat, mashed or baked potato and it all comes with a salad bowl, creamed spinach (or corn in you're in the know) and Yorkshire pudding (popover's English cousin). Why are you still reading this? Make reservations for your hunk of meat.
2. Trestle: Trestle came recommended by a friend who raved about her dinner here for several days after, I had a hunch I would love it too. The tiny triangle-shaped dining room holds only 45 people at a time. They have a limited menu, $35 for a 3-course pre-fixe menu with 2 choices for each course that changes almost daily, if not weekly based on what's in season and local. Make reservations well ahead of time as they fill up fast, and for good reason.
3. Bella Trattoria: They say you remember moments, well, I think you remember meals. For me, Bella stood out as a happy memory for almost 10 years before I went a second time. I first went to Bella my sister's college graduation celebration dinner. I remembered the meal being amazing from start to finish, particularly the gnocchi, but mainly I remembered the dessert- zabaione with fresh berries -- which I never again saw on a menu, but talked about often (not weird). This cozy Italian joint is tucked away in the Inner Richmond district not far from the beach, which is probably why I lived in San Francisco for 6 years before finally going again, and yes, the zabaione was just as good as I remembered.
4. Wayfare Tavern: The brainchild of celebrity chef Tyler Florence, Wayfare Taven is a San Francisco staple. The restaurant itself is expansive, yet still feels intimate. The menu features upscale American cuisine, the pub-like decor is familiar and warm, and their cocktails are always inventive and approachable. Whether you sit at the bar or a table-- get the steak tartare and ask for an extra popover, you won't regret it.
5. Foreign Cinema: In all the lists of quintessential San Francisco restaurants Foreign Cinema is always in the top 3, on my list, it's number 1. The restaurant is a converted movie theatre building with a big covered courtyard that features bistro lights, brick walls, and a movie being projected on the front most wall. The movie is always classic and the food is always to die for, upscale California food at it's finest. I always get the beef carpaccio and the duck, and I am never disappointed. Sidenote, Foriegn Cinema is a popular wedding venue and it's the stuff Pinterest dreams are made of.
6. Trou Normand: In all my years in the city I have passed by Trou Normand no less than one million times, and I almost always spot in front to gawk at the gorgeous naked lady mural above the bar, when you see it you immediately think "paint me like one of your French girls." I had always meant to stop in for a drink and a snack, but life happens, amirite? When my uncle was in town a few months ago I made a reservation on a whim, and oh my goodness why did I not go sooner? My uncle and I had a very long dinner-- eating and chatting, and had the nicest evening on their covered, heated patio. Trou Normand has a whole animal butchery program, all their meats and charcuteries on the menu are butchered and made in-house. I will tell you, you have not had charcuterie until you've had it butchered and homemade fresh. Follow that up with the best pork chop of your life and you have Trou Normand.
7. Le Colonial: This beautiful, airy colonial Vietnamese restaurant is hidden away in Cosmo Alley. I've been several times, including for my college graduation dinner and the food at first glance seems to be nothing special, but when you have your first bite it's amazing. They serve upscale and inventive French Vietnamese food paired with an amazing cocktail program. The atmosphere is lively, yet not loud and even has a gorgeous balcony with pillars overlooking the downstairs covered patio area. Book a table and do not forget to order the banana split with bruleed bananas and fresh ice cream covered in chocolate and caramel.
8. Quince: I went to Quince with a girlfriend right after they got their third-star Michelin star. Right from the moment you walk in you can see why they received all three, the space is to die for-- brick walls coupled with thick textured wallpaper on others, high ceilings, GIANT floral arrangements in gold urns that make you question why you even use vases. It's one 13 course tasting menu and has everything from appetizers served on ipads to a kitchen tour with an iced amuse bouche. We were greeted at our table with champagne and sent off with housemade hot chocolate and pastries for the morning when we left. Pro tip: make a reservation on the early side and come hungry but not starving. It is a LONG meal (ours was over four hours) so you don't want to feel tired and full because it's approaching midnight.
9. Zuni Cafe: Another SF classic, right on the edge of Hayes Valley and SOMA. Zuni is home to a lot of good memories for me-- a lunch with my mom when she visited while I was in college. She had read about it in a magazine and had been dying to go. She had also been talking about going to Bell'occhio, a tiny boutique known for their delicate stationary and specialty odds and ends, for many years. Over lunch at Zuni we decided we would make it happen that day, we left lunch and pulled up a map to figure out where we had to go, and to our surprise and delight, it was directly across the street tucked behind a brick building down a narrow side road. I often stop into Zuni for oysters, their amazing burger, or their world famous roasted chicken (expect a 40-minute wait for your chicken), and I'm always reminded of that day with my mom in college.
10. Jardinere: It seems quintessential SF restaurants and special occasions go hand in hand because we're ending with another one. Jardinere is a big 2 story brick building on a corner in outer Hayes Valley, it has an art-deco-inspired interior that serves the most amazing French-California food. While the food will leave you speechless, the service is what really stands out to me here. The waiters are friendly and attentive without hovering, and dinner is paced such that it feels leisurely, but not long. The cocktails look amazing, but I always get champagne, as one does at a fancy French restaurant, and I always dress up because even if you're not celebrating anything specific, you can be certain it will be a special night at Jardiniere.