The Infatuation is built on the idea of “Perfect For” categories, catering to assorted restaurant needs. Dinner With The Parents? Date Night? Impressing Out Of Towners? We got it.
But occasionally, we field requests that don’t quite fit into any of The Infatuation’s predetermined categories. And there is one such genre of restaurant that comes up over and over again - at parties, shuttle stops, and cardio boxing classes we don’t actually attend. It’s what we’ve come to call the “Super Cute Reasonably Priced Restaurant To Catch Up With A Few Friends” (SCRPRTCUWFF).
In general, SCRPRTCUWFFs are:
Somewhat quiet. But not boring. Relatively small. With plates mostly under $20. (Drink as much Sauvignon Blanc as you want, though.) You have our list - now go ahead and plan that Tuesday night dinner.
Elda does small plates, but there are a few things on the menu that are large enough to be considered a meal, like their fried chicken sandwich or carnitas tacos. This Mission bar also has spicy cocktails that are refreshing and delicious - the Vampiros with mezcal or the Hot Stepper with rye, hot honey, and grapefruit. Ask for a few extra straws so everyone can taste each other’s drinks while you all work out the details of your friend’s surprise party you forgot to plan.
Somehow Flour + Water Pizzeria hits a trifecta that’s rare in this city - the pizza is delicious, the wait is never long, and everything on the menu is under $20. If it’s only two of you, you may get a seat at the bar where you can watch the cooks spin pies. If you’re meeting up for a casual birthday dinner, there are big tables out front with heaters. Whatever you do, just make sure you order their mozzarella sticks.
Every time you go out with friends, one of you runs into someone you know and winds up stuck in a thirty-minute conversation. If you’re sick of that, get a reservation at Altovino in Nob Hill. There’s not much around this Italian wine bar and restaurant, so your odds of running into familiar faces are slim. You’re then free to focus all your attention on each other - at least until their excellent chicken liver pate bruschetta and pastas show up.
The shorter menu that includes roasted chicken and cauliflower means you won’t have to debate what to order for long, and can focus your energy on venting about all the drama of the day with your friends. This place also has counter service, so by the time you sit down, you’ll already be well into your story of how you recently scored fancy clothes on Poshmark for the first time.
Sometimes, there’s a short wait at this Cambodian restaurant in Fruitvale, but you’ll spend all that time catching up with friends in their small courtyard and will barely notice. All of the food here is so good that you won’t know whether to share it, or hog it all for yourself. Whatever you do, don’t miss the prahok ktiss pork stew and the crispy catfish.
You and your friends work in the same industry, and sometimes getting together can feel like you’re at a conference but without the nametags. Meet up after you leave the office and head to Verjus in Jackson Square. Instead of discussing APIs or ad sales, pick a few bottles from their tall shelves and learn about wine together over small plates like pate en croute.
After three days of half yesses, everyone finally agreed to do dinner. Now that it’s too late to make last-minute reservations, go to The Italian Homemade Company on Union St. It’s always easy to find a table, even if you have to wait a bit. Plus, unlike the North Beach location, this one has wine. One serving of pasta is enough for two people, so get the ravioli and pesto or the tagliatelle with bolognese to share while you compete to see who had the hardest week.
Like RT Rotisserie and Flour + Water Pizzeria, Al’s Deli is also a casual offshoot of another nice SF restaurant. Here you can get things like shawarma spiced roasted chicken and smoked brisket in platter or pita sandwich form as well as a bunch of other things to split like hummus, Israeli salads, and corn-dog bites wrapped in falafel. And while the pink and blue paint job here will remind you of stepping into a Baskin-Robbins, you’ll forget about that when your stuffed latkes show up.
We love this Hyde St. wine bar as a first-date spot and as a chill weeknight place to hang with two or three friends. They have plenty of great charcuterie boards, cheeses, and carafes of wine on tap, and it’s usually not hard to get a spot at one of their large communal tables. But even if you end up sitting in a row at the bar along the window, there’s enough space for one of you to stand without getting in anyone’s way.
With its white walls and big windows, Noosh feels like the blank slate you wish your mind was after a long day of shooing people out of the conference rooms you booked. This place has a big brick oven that makes Turkish flatbreads in addition to dips like hummus and muhammara that you can eat while you drink a few of their fantastic cocktails - and try not to go on a rant about the office.
The Mill is one of the best spots in the city to meet up on a weekend morning to recount everything that happened last night at [Madrone] (https://theinfatuation.com/san-francisco/reviews/madrone-art-bar) over toast. In the evening, they serve cheap, delicious pizza in a bright, open space. They also have always-changing salads, garlic knots with dipping sauce, and beer and wine in case you want a more “complete” meal. But the pizza alone is worth coming here.
This mini chain based out of Palo Alto is designed to give business people a place to go for a quick and easy meal. But if your friends are already in SoMa, head here - and admire all the chandeliers and plants you’ll wish were in your apartment. Order some wine and the hummus with lamb, which will help you forget about the fact that you probably couldn’t keep all these plants alive if they really lived in your apartment.
With its white columns and second-story balcony overlooking the dining room, Pearl looks like an Airbnb in Savannah you saved for that friend trip everyone says they don’t have time for. The food here isn’t Southern, it’s Italian, and their handkerchief pasta, crudos, and salads are all great and easy to share.
The best thing about this Greek mini-empire is that no matter where you are in the city, you’re probably not too far away from one of Souvla’s many locations. And after you’ve determined which is nearest to you, you and your friends can get chicken salads and lamb sandwiches while you drink wine and have a stare down over who gets the last fry.
Sometimes you want to catch up with friends, but you don’t want it to take the entire evening. When that’s the situation, go to Bonita. This little spot in the Marina is great for a quick dinner, especially on a nice night when you can sit on the patio in the alley without freezing. They have margaritas and beers and excellent salads and tacos - carne asada and carnitas are the way to go.
For a weeknight catch-up dinner with friends, this place is less packed than a lot of other restaurants in the neighborhood. The food is also very good, with the short menu ranging from fried chicken to kale salad. The poke bowl is our favorite thing here aside from the cocktails, especially the California Cooler with gin, thyme, and Sauvignon Blanc syrup.
Glena’s is a laid-back, order-at-the-counter spot that’s perfect for discussing everyone’s life updates over great tacos, and chips and guacamole. The menu has good vegetarian and pescatarian options, and even pina coladas if your friend’s overly talkative coworker managed to tag along.
Most of The Snug is bar space, but they have a second floor that’s ideal for getting great hummus, poke, and salads to go along with their cocktails. This place takes reservations, but they always have space open last-minute - so when you completely forgot that it was your turn to pick a place to meet, The Snug has you covered.
This Mission spot has a menu of incredible pastas and everything is under $20 (a glass of wine is $10). After dinner, grab some soft serve and wrap up your conversation about the horrors of dating in SF while you weigh the pros and cons of grabbing one more round of drinks down the street at Bon Voyage.
On weeknights, this Castro spot can be a little more laid back than other places in the neighborhood. The Mediterranean menu is also perfect for sharing a lot of things with a few friends. We like the appetizers and small plates more than the entrees, so stock up on those for the table and call it a night.
Sitting under the heaters on the back patio at Sparrow won’t make you feel like you’re basking under the sun in Dolores Park, but if it’s the middle of a work week, it will cut it. We usually come to this spot in the Haight for their brunch, but on a Thursday night, a baked brie and some mussels are all we really need to carry us into Friday.
Pizza night is one of our favorite ways to do dinner with friends, and if you all work in the Financial District, you can meet up after you leave your offices at Il Casaro. It’s an excellent Italian restaurant in North Beach and is also one of the few places on Columbus that isn’t slammed with tourists. We love the salsiccia pizza but the burrata is something we could stare at for hours - if we didn’t want to eat it.
Maven is our go-to spot in the Haight when we want to grab dinner and drinks without having to wait long for a table. The upstairs area never gets too loud, so you can hang out for a while without straining your ears. Their cocktails are great and their mussels are good to share, but if you’re really hungry, go for the burger and let someone else do the talking while you eat.
Piccino looks like a scene from an Ikea catalogue with its wood paneling, white walls, and sleek, minimalist chairs. But instead of Swedish meatballs, this Dogpatch restaurant makes delicious Italian food - go for a few salads and pizzas to split, especially the funghi one.
Unlike most of the places on Union St., Gamine is low-key, so come here with your friends if you want to avoid the crowds who are in search of shot specials and margaritas. Instead, there’s French food like mussels and escargots. The really nice wait staff is also heavy-handed on the bread refills, which is pretty much a free appetizer, so really, you’re saving money.
If the long lines at Burma Superstar are getting in the way of your after-dinner plans to binge-watch shows on Disney Plus, B Star Bar down the block is a good choice. Like the original restaurant, this spot also serves Thai, Japanese, and Chinese food, but makes other dishes that are not at Burma Superstar, like khao soi. We love coming here to enjoy the tea leaf salad on their back patio.
Little Gem in Hayes Valley skews healthier with things like salads, rice bowls, and wraps. And while the larger plates are around $30, you can get away with sharing everything. This place also has floor-to-ceiling glass windows that only exist in your dream penthouse - or Peloton commercials - which make it a sunny and relaxing place to drop in for dinner.
San Francisco nights get cold, which makes hanging out in your backyard not always the easiest thing to do. Instead, go to Ragazza for dinner. You can enjoy their pizzas, or share their small plates and roasted chicken on their back patio with heaters, so you won’t have to worry about bringing all of your blankets outside like you’d have to do at home.
All of your friends work so late that they get dinner delivered to the office on some nights, but you still try to make it a point to meet up at least once a week. So plan to convene at 20 Spot in the Mission. It’s a wine bar with solid music, but you can still hear each other talk. And even if you already ate dinner at your desk, they have great cheeses that you should definitely get for the group.
Fiorella in the Richmond is one of our all-time favorites because the pastas, especially the cacio e pepe, are great, and the pizza and appetizers are good to split. It’s a small neighborhood spot, but you can usually get a reservation last-minute on weekdays, so when no one will step up and choose a place to go, you won’t have trouble going somewhere great with your friends.