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Planning a great date can be daunting. Even more than timing, locations can play major roles in the success of your rendez vous with your special someone. Finding a place to eat, drink and converse that has the right ambiance can take time, especially if the person you’re with has strong personal preferences or food restrictions, like vegetarianism. Finding a place that feels romantic and that you will both enjoy can seem difficult. Don’t psyche yourself out with planning!

With the Bay, the Bridge and the amazing sunsets, you can easily plan a romantic venture without straying into formal dining establishments. San Diego has a plethora of amazing and romantic settings. One could argue, in fact, that most places could be romantic to the right person with the right efforts. However, there is often something special, whether it’s the lighting or the décor, that makes certain places stand out as romantic hot spots.

Do you associate romance with certain foods, like French or Italian, or even tapas, which are made for sharing? Do you believe you need soft music, candles or perhaps an extensive dessert menu? How can you figure out which places are going to make for the best mood?

To make things easier on those courting love or trying to strengthen an existing bond with a special person, we’ve collected information about five different romantic establishments in San Diego. Instead of rolling the dice and hoping for the best, make a reservation at one of these great restaurants.

Classically Romantic

La Bonne Table
Location: 3696 5th Avenue
Hours: Monday-Saturday: 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Price: $$

If you’re looking for classically romantic, consider making a reservation at La Bonne Table. This French bistro features a cozy and intimate interior with a few tables, as well as a quaint outdoor patio for enjoying the evening air during your meal. You can expect truly individually crafted dishes, carefully planned French wine pairings and impeccable service when you bring a date here.

If you’re going for an earlier or casual date, consider bringing someone special for brunch on Sundays. Otherwise, expect an intimate and amazing dinner, which they serve nightly. Entrees include steak frites, pork chops, trout and duck. Appetizers range from classic French onion soup to foie gras. The menu does change to reflect seasonal produce and offerings.

The intimate and small atmosphere is perfect for a pleasant evening with someone you love. Conversation won’t get drowned out by loud music or groups at La Bonne Table. You want to be sure to treat your date to one of their exquisite desserts. There’s a crispy and perfect crème brûlée on the menu, as well as chocolate mousse. Whatever you order, it’s hard to make a bad choice with the quality of food and the kind of atmosphere offered at La Bonne Table.

Dinner on the Water

Tom Ham’s Lighthouse
Location: 2150 Harbor Island Dr.
Hours: Monday-Thursday: 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday: 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday: 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Price: $$$

If you want to do something out of the ordinary, take your date on a trip to Harbor Island! After a lovely afternoon, show up for your dinner reservation at Tom Ham’s Lighthouse. This building used to be a functional lighthouse, but now it’s one of the premiere fine dining destinations in San Diego. There’s plenty of indoor seating, all of which is surrounded by walls of windows, as well as an outdoor dining deck where you can watch the lights of San Diego as they light up the night.

The menu focuses on fresh seafood and local craft beers. You can order fresh oysters in the half-shell, salads, chilled shellfish, sandwiches ranging from burgers to a crab BLT, paella and even steak. The assortment of drinks at Tom Ham’s Lighthouse doesn’t disappoint either. From hard root beer and cider to fine wines and local brews on tap, you can have just about any drink you’re in the mood for with your meal.

You can even stop by for Sunday brunch after a romantic evening together on Saturday. For convenience, you can make a reservation right on their website. That way, you don’t have to worry about securing one of their tables, each of which has a fabulous view of the Bay.

Casual and Fun

The Prado at Balboa Park
Location: 1549 El Prado
Hours: Monday: 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday-Friday: 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday and Sunday:  11 a.m. to 3 p.m., 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Price: $$

Looking for American dishes, instead of French cuisine? The Prado at Balboa Park could be your perfect date setting! Located in the charming House of Hospitality in historic Balboa Park, there is both indoor and patio seating available. Unlike some places on this list, The Prado at Balboa Park accommodates both larger groups and families. You can even bring your own wine for a $15 corkage fee. Considering their well-stocked full bar, however, there’s little reason to bring your own.

There are vegan and vegetarian options available at The Prado at Balboa Park, which is important if your special someone avoids animal-based foods. Dishes range from Kobe beef sushi rolls and an assortment of salads to paella, surf and turf options and even pasta. There are plenty of creative cocktails available to order, as well as local beers in the bottle or on tap.

Dress to the Nines

Mister A’s

Location: 2550 5th Ave. Floor 12
Hours: Monday-Thursday: 11:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m., 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Friday: 11:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m., 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Saturday: 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Sunday: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Price: $$$$

If you want to wow your date with expensive dishes, then head to Banker’s Hill, where you’ll find Mister A’s on the 12th floor of a high-rise building. If the weather is agreeable, see if you can snag a table on their fabulous wraparound balcony. This place demands a bit of preparation, as dressy clothing is recommended. This is not a blue jeans establishment, but dressing for dinner is part of the experience, after all.

You can expect a romantic and upscale atmosphere at this establishment. The menu at Mister A’s is regularly award-winning. They happily accommodate dietary restrictions and allergies, so long as you advise your server before ordering. Dishes range from local octopus and beef tartare to short ribs, sea scallops and even lamb chops.

Their dishes are complemented by an assortment of beers, wines and liquors. There are also after-dinner drinks and desserts that include a chocolate éclair and a coconut tres leches cake. The quality of the food and the powerful ambiance certainly offset the pricier dishes offered at this fine dining establishment.

Un Po ‘Italiano

Salvatore’s Cucina Italiana
Location: 750 Front Street
Hours: Sunday-Thursday: 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday: 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Price: $$$

What romantic restaurant list would be complete without an upscale Italian eatery? Salvatore’s Cucina Italiana is the perfect downtown destination when you’re craving carbs and want to impress your date. This is another restaurant where taking some time to dress up will contribute to your overall experience. The atmosphere is romantic, with live music and intimate seating. You can make reservations on their website, which makes ensuring you have a table for your special night a breeze.

The menu is as expansive as it is delicious. You can find traditional appetizers, including prosciutto and melon, mussels, as well as salads and soups to start your meal. Main dishes include rustic penne, lasagna, house-made ravioli and even veal dishes. They have an assortment of wines, including European and Californian offerings, as well as a range of sparkling wines and house cocktails.

You can enjoy an espresso with your dessert. Consider trying their amazing tiramisu, which is a beloved classic for a reason!

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For more date ideas around San Diego check out our events page!