Everyone’s pace of entering back into society is going to be a little different. Maybe you’ve been cooking most of your meals at home for longer than you’d like to think about. Or, perhaps you’re completely tired of eating celebratory takeout dinners on your couch. Or, maybe, you’re fully vaccinated and feel ready to head back out into the world. Whatever the reason, it might have been a while since your last “Big Night Out” dinner. And, if any of this applies to you, the restaurants on this guide can help give you the blowout meal you deserve.
Walking into this Mission izakaya will make you feel like you’ve left the world completely. The tiled courtyard is quiet and plant-filled. And the indoor dining room is packed with exquisite wooden booths. But it’s not just the space that’s magical, the food is incredible too - and coming here will make you want to try everything. When they reopen May 3rd, you’ll get a $45 set menu of small dishes, like a sashimi plate, hand-rolled udon, and savory daikon and lingcod fishcakes swimming in a rich dashi. Be sure to get the optional add-ons - everything on the yakitori menu and the meatiest pork dumplings.
The Sardinian restaurant in Noe Valley doesn’t just make some of the best seafood dishes in the city, it’s one of the best Italian restaurants, period. And ordering from their menu of excellent dishes shouldn’t be an exercise in restraint. Get the spicy octopus stew, the fresh spaghetti with bottarga shaved on top, the pan-seared branzino, and don’t pass on the hearty gnocchetti with pork sugo. La Ciccia delivers an intimate feel with its cozy patio and string lights, small dining room with white table cloths, and a casual buzz that makes this spot perfect for a date night, a celebration, or a laid-back weeknight out.
We love Nari. The well-lit dining room with high ceilings and lush plants will make you feel like you’re eating inside the world’s most stunning botanical atrium. And every dish from the Kin Khao sister restaurant in Japantown perfectly matches the bold, beautiful space. The food layers sour, sweet, and spicy flavors and textures that command your attention, like a plate of sweet pork jowl covered in a sticky sauce, or lettuce cups with a charred mushroom and puffed rice salad that’ll make your tongue tingle. Instead of their usual a la carte menu, Nari is serving a weekly-changing prix fixe dinner for $85 per person.
If you’re looking for a Big Night Out restaurant that’s also a Best New Restaurant, you need to visit Routier right away. The casual French spot in Pacific Heights is co-owned by b. Patisserie’s Belinda Leong. So, based solely on her incredible kouign-amann and financiers, you already know this place is one to look forward to. The airy dining room with blue velvet, gold, and marble accents is a contemporary spin on the French brasserie, and is the ideal backdrop to savor the $39, three-course prix fixe dinner featuring things like rillettes de volaille, petrale sole with mustard sauce and a rich potato puree, or buttermilk panna cotta topped with persimmon strips and pomegranate seeds. There are also plenty of weekly-changing a la carte options, like a game-changing chicken liver mousse with a chunky sweet red currant compote, and one of the most tender beef cheeks you will ever have.
If you’ve only been acquainted with this new upscale Vietnamese restaurant through their pandemic takeout, like the duck confit chao, it’s time to get properly reintroduced. Lily on Clement is now open for dine-in, and serving incredible contemporary Vietnamese dishes that go beyond pho and banh mi - braised oxtail stew, spicy fried chicken wings doused in a caramel fish glaze, vegetable curries, and calamari with sweet red peppers and pineapple. Do not leave here without getting their Vietnamese iced coffee with salty duck egg foam.
This small, 12-seat sushi counter in NoPa is the epitome of somewhere you file away for a special occasion. And because of the pandemic, Ju-Ni is also serving their 18-course omakase experience out on a newly built outdoor sushi bar and heated parklet. Every four people will have their own sushi chef, and still get course after course of handrolls, sushi, and soup, and optional add-ons like bafun uni. And while this place is expensive ($165 a person), it’s worth the trouble for some of the best sushi in San Francisco.
We already loved Prubechu before the pandemic, but our love for this Guamanian restaurant in the Mission was reignited when we had dinner in their new outdoor dining area. It’s spacious and socially-distanced, heated, and feels more like a chill backyard with colorful floral tablecloths and a low-key playlist. Come here for the creamy tinaktak with handmade egg noodles and coconut beef, the tender ko’ko’ wings and tangy lemon fina’denne sauce, Chamorro BBQ plates, and fluffy banana donuts for dessert.
Flour + Water is a San Francisco institution that has launched several spin-offs in recent years - Best New Restaurant Flour + Water Pizzeria, and a new provisions and sandwich shop. But if you’re looking to plan something special, nothing beats a (re)visit to the original. And these days, the Californian-Italian spot looks a little different. They’re still making some of the most creative pasta dishes in the city, but have since expanded to parklet seating. Grab their $65 tasting menu and a bottle of wine, and you’ve got one perfect night out.
Nothing says, “I’m done dining in my living room” more than going out for wine, oysters, and some really great dessert at Foreign Cinema. This long-standing restaurant needs no introduction, so here’s what’s up with it now. The restaurant is once again taking reservations, is serving dinner and incredible weekend brunch out in their secluded courtyard, and also screening movies up on the big patio wall.
Palette Tea House is one of those spots we reserve for pretty much any occasion, but especially when we want to go big. This Chinese restaurant is massive both inside and out on their shaded patio, and offers a pretty extensive menu of dim sum and mains. So keep the xiao long bao, ha gow, wagyu beef chao fun, and other vegetable and rice dishes coming to the table and don’t second guess it. If you want to keep the food coming after your meal, Palette Tea House is also offering bao slider meal kits and frozen dumplings to go.
If you want your meal to include the best hummus and labneh you’ll ever have, jet over to Beit Rima. Sure, you can come to this fantastic Arab restaurant, order the mezze sampler and the zaa’tar and sumac-dusted hand-kneaded pita bread and call it a night (you will not be disappointed). Or you could go big and order a lot of everything - you’re tired of cooking, after all. The whole fried branzino is crispy and leveled up with a mint and onion salad on top. The Gaza-style braised lamb is fall-off-the-bone tender, and the hearty ful is brightened by a nice chili relish. You’ll remember this meal for weeks to come.
At Mister Jiu’s, their Chinese-American food is fantastic, the cocktails are incredible, and the airy, gorgeous dining room is what we wish our living room looked like. If you order a bit of everything (and you should), the tab will most likely add up quick, but everything from the sea urchin cheong fun to the beet-chard-pork potstickers to the whole roasted duck (a $120 splurge) is worth it.
The Anchovy Bar
You could go to State Bird Provisions, one of the best restaurants in the city, for another big night celebration (again). Or you could try their new sister restaurant right around the corner. Anchovy Bar is a paradise for anyone whose primary love language is tinned fish, seafood, and cheese, and a meal here always feels like a special occasion - from the whipped cloud of Wagon Wheel cheese to the slick, salty anchovies bathed in olive oil, every dish that hits the table will be exquisite, delicious, and well-done.
Niku is one of the rare steakhouses we’ll head to whenever we’re looking to really drop some cash. The Design District spot specializes in A5 Wagyu beef that is slowly roasted over a banchan grill. Get the A5 tasting flight, a steep $245 dollars worth of the richest, fattiest, and most tender meat you will probably ever have. And because this place takes their proteins seriously, they also offer short ribs, New York strip, ribeyes, and giant tomahawks, and sides like wagyu meatballs and bone marrow. Pair it with a glass of wine from their impressive collection.