Guide

10 Sexiest New Restaurants and Bars in San Francisco

By Trevor Felch  |  October 10, 2016
Credit: Chloe List

Let’s face it: The Bay Area is a good-looking region in all directions. From the Golden Gate Bridge to the Santa Cruz Mountains to Napa’s vineyards, the vistas are stunning. Our restaurants certainly catch your attention as well, for gorgeous food that screams for Instagram posts and decor that doesn’t merely play a quiet supporting character to what’s on the table. In fact, many of our new restaurants have downright exquisite atmospheres that make dinner or drinks truly festive because they are, dare we say, sexy. We’ve got seductive dark jazz bars like Black Cat and mesmerizing variations on Japanese pagodas at Miminashi that invite first dates to come closer. These 10 new sexy restaurants and bars in San Francisco are quite the catch.

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  • Credit: Eric Wolfinger

    Bird Dog
    Who knew the Peninsula could be so stylish? Swipe left at those misconceptions about cities like Palo Alto. This runaway hit has serious bite, both in terms of food and decor. There is the cuteness factor of multicolored ducks hanging from the ceiling and on the walls (first-date conversation starter!) and the cosmopolitan appeal of scuffed white concrete walls, tatami screens and alluring black tones. Add in many VC and tech power-hitters to the fashionable mix, that is, the sport-coat and nice-jeans crowd, not the hoodie set.

    420 Ramona St. Palo Alto; 650-656-8180

  • Credit: Black Cat/Facebook

    Black Cat
    What is sexier than a sleek jazz club? Pretty much nothing except maybe being able to accompany your well-made martini ($23 but you probably won't need two...) with food until 1 AM nightly at the Tenderloin's jazz-cocktails-dinner trifecta venue. The bi-level space is full of leather and black velvet. In other words, hints of temptation that make you want to say a soft “meow.” If you're looking for prime atmosphere and people-watching, come around 9 PM for the live jazz.

    400 Eddy St.; 415-358-1999

  • Credit: Gabrielle Lurie

    The Bywater
    You’ll find plenty of families and couples of all ages at the NOLA-themed Los Gatos restaurant that has all the Mardi Gras vibes of Bourbon Street without the sloppiness or debauchery. But as this is Los Gatos, there are definitely singles on the prowl. Beyond the bar, The Bywater packs a lot into a little space decorated by wrought-iron gates suggesting old-world elegance and window shutters just like you’d find everywhere in the French Quarter. The good times definitely roll, especially after a few Sazeracs. But the beads are symbolic here...at least that's what we've been told.

    532 N. Santa Cruz Ave., Los Gatos; 408-560-9639

  • Credit: Chloe List

    Cala
    You know that smart kid from high school blessed with dashing good looks, intelligence, a kind personality AND talent? That person has a lot in common with this year-old Hayes Valley Mexican restaurant that's still as popular as the day it opened. It's so good at everything. And, yes, it's mighty attractive like that prom king or queen. The flora and fauna catches the eye first, where vines and a central fig tree mingle with the formality of white tablecloths. It feels like you're in the center of fashionable San Francisco when you're having dinner at Cala.

    149 Fell St.; 415-660-7701

  • Credit: Courtesy of Leo's Luxury Oyster Bar

    Leo’s Luxury Oyster Bar 
    Was that Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant strolling into the FiDi seafood restaurant and bar? Leo’s is San Francisco’s September issue of Vogue: stylish and glamorous in every detail down to the pickled vegetables served with the martini. The razor-sharp suits and ties and dresses reflect the midcentury New York penthouse conservatory design motif with a tinge of Palm Beach: ferns, seashell-covered lamps, custom floral wallpaper and a pink onyx bar. You'll fee as suave as Bogie and Bacall.

    568 Sacramento St.; 415-872-9982

  • Credit: Luke Beard

    Mason Pacific
    Forced to close earlier this year from a fire, the under-the-radar Nob Hill restaurant and bar is once again as sharp as a four-piece suit. There is something inherently romantic about looking at the tourists with their selfie sticks traveling the cable cars outside the window. However, it's the luxury parlor-evoking dining room with oversize mirrors (and a tufted banquette that calls for snuggling) that really ups the date-night credibility. For a more casual night out, the front lounge's low-key bar beckons. Take your pick. Both are wise choices for great food, wine and conversation.

    1358 Mason St.; 415-374-7185

  • Credit: Michael David Rose

    Mezcalito
    Dominated by an agave plant mural, the very new Oaxacan restaurant and bar in Russian Hill exudes serenity. Yes, it’s filled with a well-dressed crowd that loves to work hard and play hard, but it’s also a relaxing place where you can discuss deep subjects beyond which mezcal style you prefer. There is a cathedral-type aura with the tall ceilings and spiritual connotation of the agave-based spirit. Think of this as the bar where you don’t really know what mood you’ll leave in: crazy-party Polk Gulch-style (mezcal is very good at this) or calm as the sunrise over the Mayan step pyramids.

    2323 Polk St.; 415-441-2323

  • Credit: Bob McClenahan/Miminashi

    Miminashi
    The Downtown Napa contemporary izakaya is dark — don’t try taking pictures of your food without a secondary light source. But the mood lighting makes the setting feel downright intimate and harmonious. That isn't surprising since the two-part wood interior design is meant to evoke Shinto and Buddhist pagodas coming together as one. This is that encounter with a yoga master who has such inner peace that it can’t help but rub off on the rest of us and sweep away some stress.

    821 Coombs St., Napa; 707-254-9464

  • Credit: Chloe List

    Tawla
    Dominated by intricate lattice work and tiles, the decor of the Mission’s Eastern Mediterranean newcomer is a feast for the eyes. Strings of Edison bulbs add some lighting to the otherwise dark atmosphere. It’s transporting to a world far away from NorCal, but it also boasts a distinctive, casual San Francisco energy. Tawla finds that middle ground between exotic and intimate, inviting you to hover a little closer to the table and your companion.

    206 Valencia St.; 415-814-2704

  • Credit: Matthew Millman

    Wildhawk
    Taking over the venerable lesbian bar The Lexington Club this year, Wildhawk has heard plenty of gripes about the gentrification in the Mission as represented by its own arrival. Another thing they’ve surely heard a lot about: This bar is a looker thanks to chic low-lounge seating with inviting couches and a leather-lined bar. Drinks are outstanding too, thanks to the team from (also sexy but not as new) Forgery. You’ll end up leaving feeling a little frisky from the vermouth cocktails and those zebra-print stools. After all, the inspiration for the bar’s name was an 1800s dancer with the nickname “Wildhawk.”

    3464 19th St.; 415-829-7860