A top-tier night on the town in San Francisco

by Liz Hamill Scott on January 28, 2010

Performers in The San Francisco Ballet

Performers in The San Francisco Ballet

Photo courtesy of Saturday Matinee

Known for its romantic possibilities, San Francisco is a city that encourages visitors (and locals) to dress up and head out for a leisurely evening out. One great location for a hot night on the town is the Civic Center district, where the opera house and the symphony hall vie for the patronage of classical music lovers. Here’s one of our favorite itineraries:

Start with an early dinner at Jardiniere, the first restaurant opened by local celebrity chef Traci des Jardins. You’ll be comfortable wearing evening dress in the two-tier art deco dining room. Live jazz slides smoothly through the air, enhancing the haute flavors of the French brasserie inspired California cuisine.

After dinner, stroll across the street to the gorgeously refurbished War Memorial Opera House. The San Francisco Ballet and the San Francisco Opera companies take turns on the stage in this determinedly European gilded style. The Opera puts up grandiose works of classic musicals, and the Ballet creates splashy contemporary scenes complete with absurd yet shiny costumes.

For après-opera dessert and drinks, head down the block and just around the corner to Absinthe Bar & Brasserie. Even before executive chef Jamie Lauren became a top contestant on Top Chef, Absinthe was the go-to spot for great cocktails and fine dining. The fries are fabulous, if you want a salty snack rather than a sweet late-night treat.

If you’ve made a late night of it, your best choice is to grab a quick cab ride to the Hotel Kabuki or the Best Western Tomo. Both of these hotels offer good rooms for prices that make it easier to splurge on the evening’s entertainment.

- Liz Hamill Scott of eatswritesandleaves.com and travelswithpain.com

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