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7 Great First Date Bars in San Francisco

Updated: Nov 18, 2016 10:35
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First dates can be weird and awkward. That’s generally why you get booze involved. It smoothes out both you and your date’s awkward edges…most of the time. Whether you just met a hottie on tinder or you *gasp* actually met someone in real life, these seven bars are the perfect place to go for your first outing. Unless of course the date goes horribly wrong. Then blame them, not me, ok?

The Royal Cuckoo


image from Royal Cuckoo

Dark lighting, fresh cocktails, and an organ player. What else cold you want right? Even if the cat behind the keys isn’t around that night, the bartenders at The Royal Cuckoo still play vinyl records, giving it that extra crackly feeling that makes you feel like you’re in a movie. Cool off in the back patio if things get too steamy for you and your date.

Noir Lounge


image from Dana B. on Yelp

I worked at Noir for over six months and I saw all kinds of people get hella handsy up in there. Not like up the skirt handsy, but still people would knock back a few cocktails and there would be plenty of hands on knees and thighs action. Besides having a great wine selection, classic cocktails, and solid food, there is also a piano player a few nights a week to compliment the old noir films played on the screens.



image from Roadtrippers

I generally always take girls to Specs’ on a first date. I figure if they didn’t like Specs’, we probably won’t work out. It’s my favorite bar in the world so I’m a little biased, but to me it’s what every other bar should strive to be like. The drinks aren’t fancy and they aren’t expensive. There are plenty of interesting characters hanging around and talking shit, and if for some reason you and your date run out of things to say, you can always comment on the bric-a-brac that covers the walls.

Top of the Mark


image by Anna-Alexia Basile for Refinery 29

Top of the Mark has been a stellar date spot since it opened in 1939. In fact, for many soldiers during WWII it was often their final date spot before they shipped off. There’s a window on the northwest corner that was called the “Weeper’s Corner” because so many of the GIs’ sweethearts would go there to look out the window and cry as the warships left San Francisco for the Pacific. But please don’t come here to weep. Come here because you wanna feel fancy and drink a martini while taking in stunning views of one of the finest cities in the world. Plus there’s nothing quite like getting fancy drunk. It makes you feel, for a brief second, almost like you’re rich.

p.s. make sure to read the article I wrote about Top of the Mark for my old Weeknighter column. It’s pretty damn good.



image from Art Nicholls

Lit by little flickering candles and a jukebox, the front end of Dalva is somewhere between a perfect dive and a perfect date. Grab a little table along the wall so you and your new person can tipsily whipper things into each others’ ears, while getting high on pheromones and alcohol. If that doesn’t work, check out the “hidden” bar in the back where they make magical cocktails that will make you salivate. I’ve been here with porn stars, CEOs, and food critics, and it never ceases to be perfect.



image from Susan on flickr

Show tunes and torch songs come slinking in from the other room while you sit at a tiny table in the front part of Martuni’s. The martinis here are huge and cheap, which is both terrifying and brilliant, and they have to be that big to give people the liquid courage to sing with the piano player. There are few things in the world better than sitting in a dark corner with a new hot person and listing to a drag queen sing “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman”

Persian Aub Zam Zam


image by Kendra Aronson

Looking like it’s straight out of Casablanca, Zam Zam as the regulars call it, actually might’ve been around when the movie came out. This tiny bar is wonderful because the tunes are old, the light is perfect, and the atmosphere is almost exotic. A martini is an absolute must at Zam Zam. In fact Bruno, the old guy who owned the place up into the late 90s or early 00s would kick you out if you tried to order anything else.

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Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, poet, TV host, activist, and general shit-stirrer. His website is one of the most influential arts & culture sites in the San Francisco Bay Area and his freelance writing has been featured in Lonely Planet, Conde Nast Traveler, The Bold Italic, and too many other outlets to remember. His weekly column, Broke-Ass City, appears every other Thursday in the San Francisco Examiner. Stuart’s writing has been translated into four languages. In 2011 Stuart created and hosted the travel show Young, Broke, and Beautiful on IFC and in 2015 he ran for Mayor of San Francisco and got nearly 20k votes.

He's been called "an Underground legend": SF Chronicle, "an SF cult hero":SF Bay Guardian, and "the chief of cheap": Time Out New York.