The Most Romantic Restaurants in San Francisco
Surprise your date with a twist on dinner and a movie by taking them to Foreign Cinema, a beloved SF restaurant that’s been going strong for 20 years and shows subtitled films on the back wall of the enchanting courtyard, with heat lamps and twinkling string lights.
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But this beautiful restaurant, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, is equally as delightful at night when the long walk through the entry corridor into the various dining spaces feels like a journey into a magical world
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Dirnt had big words of praise for Foreign Cinema's Gayle Pirie, who's been at the helm of Foreign Cinema with John Clark since 1999. "Gayle absolutely kills it and has killed forever," Dirnt said. "She was the first person to stick her neck out there in the Mission — love the way she runs her business. You’re never going to go wrong there".
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Gayle Pirie, co-chef and co-owner of San Francisco's long-running Foreign Cinema restaurant, agrees that place matters. “Geography plays a lot in the food we prepare,” she says. “Which is why we look to countries like Italy, France, Spain, Greece, etc, to satisfy our customers, who want to taste the flavors that make these regions special.”
LASZLO & FOREIGN CINEMA: A winning bar and restaurant combo in San Francisco’s hipster Mission District
After spending a good few hours in Laszlo and the Foreign Cinema, it felt as if we were lost in a full length feature of our own. The atmosphere in both spots transports you to a world where you leave your cares behind and concentrate on happy hours, punchy martinis, fine food and charismatic servers.
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Twenty years after it first opened, this classic Mission mainstay continues to delight diners with its romantic atmosphere and California-Mediterranean fare
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The dinner menu changes regularly, and brunch is served on weekends. Foreign Cinema has a lot to offer besides oysters, so it's a good choice for groups who have varied and eclectic tastes. It's also one of the most romantic restaurants in the city!
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Honored by The World of Fine Wine for having a three-star wine list
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As much as people in this city love the outdoors, there aren’t a ton of great restaurants where you can experience it. So when we get a rare good weather day, we head for Foreign Cinema. This Mission spot’s courtyard is perfect for having Persian omelettes and fried chicken at brunch, or kicking back raw oysters while you watch the classic movies they project on the wall during dinner.
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WHY IS IT COOL? Foreign Cinema is a perennial San Francisco favorite. This charming restaurant has distinctive private dining spaces available, including gallery spaces and a heated outdoor courtyard space with video screen.
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Brunch at this Mission mainstay features fresh-from-the-farm fare served alfresco on the sunny patio or inside the romantic dinning room.
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The beloved Mission District Foreign Cinema celebrates 20 years of dishing food and film.
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Walking into Foreign Cinema isn’t like walking into any other restaurant.
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For one of the most unique dining experiences in San Francisco head to the Mission District’s Foreign Cinema, a restaurant that brings together the best of both film and culinary worlds.
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Carefully curate films and an even more creatively curated menu work to create a truly inspiring atmosphere at Foreign Cinema, one of the most romantic restaurants in San Francisco for millennials at the moment. Aside from the cinema-themed menu and romantic red-hued patio, the interior dining area is just as sumptuous and romantic. And, with dishes such as caviar and oysters, you’ll surely impress your date when it comes time to indulge in the main course.
Chef John and Chef Gayle's FoodTalk on Googles YouTube page
Chef John and Chef Gayle's FoodTalk on Googles YouTube page
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If your kids are constantly begging you to watch television at the dinner table, then Foreign Cinema might be their favorite place to eat in San Francisco. Foreign Cinema plays movies on an outdoor screen during dinner and kids get a fixed-price meal with ice cream, coloring pages and crayons.
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The combination of good food and an enlivening artistic endeavor just makes for a great date night. That’s the idea behind the nearly 20-year-old Foreign Cinema, San Francisco’s Mission District restaurant that marries innovative California cuisine with screenings of foreign films in its convivial outdoor courtyard.
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Then for the reception, we only visited one venue and it was the one we chose, Foreign Cinema. It’s just a fantastic restaurant on its own, and we wanted a place that was beautiful as is, without having to put in lots of time and money decorating it.
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While the beloved brunch, flickering hearth, and nightly movies continue to be projected onto its patio walls, Gayle Pirie and John Clark are keeping things fresh at their Mission standby, with a menu that leans North African and Mediterranean and a deep wine program.
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We recently ranked this as one of the most romantic restaurants in San Francisco. But, our readers clued us in on the fact that Foreign Cinema is also home to a creative, scrumptious brunch as well. From their famous homemade Pop-Tarts to their sumptuous slow-cooked brown sugar smoked bacon, this place delivers on all fronts.
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In the Mission, discover vibrant murals, Mission Dolores Park (which is packed with picnickers on a warm day) and flourishing local restaurants and bars. Some favorites include pizza joint Flour + Water, Mexican eatery Lolo, cocktail lounge Wildhawk and popular brunch spot Foreign Cinema.
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No other restaurant in San Francisco produces the same gasps as Foreign Cinema, whose dark entryway unexpectedly opens into a bricked courtyard and lofty raw-concrete dining room. It’s a deus ex machina twist, one that always feels like a city apart from the city around. The movies projected on the back wall? They haven’t gotten old.
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This cookbook explains the concept behind Foreign Cinema, the quintessential San Francisco food-and-film restaurant, and offers a loving history of the Mission District neighborhood it calls home. Fun fact: The "Black Sabbath" cocktail – the ingredient list includes Prosecco and blood orange liqueur – was a nod to Italian horror film I Tre Volti della Paura, later called Black Sabbath. Renowned chef Alice Waters wrote the introduction, and film references are woven between recipes for seared sea scallops with Champagne butter sauce, brown sugar-smoked bacon and Tahitian vanilla Pavlova with strawberry coulis and rose-scented rhubarb.
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This place has been around for a while, but it has a cool enough space and modern menu that you’d believe someone who said it had just opened.
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Even if your parents aren't the most adventurous duo out there, this SF fixture is a good way to introduce them to the Mission. It's hipster, but possibly in a way only a parent would recognize. Still, dining al fresco under twinkling lights while an old movie plays on the wall never stops feeling a little magical, especially since the California-Mediterranean fare is always spot on.
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Congratulations for earning Wine Spectator’s 2019 Best of Award of Excellence for Foreign Cinema!
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“[Gayle Pirie] has created this very San Francisco restaurant in the Mission where it’s seasonal, farm-to-table, and fun—but then you can also watch old movies. I go there all the time and sit at the bar, but my favorite is brunch, when I get an omelet.”
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Blending food, drink, film, and art into one space, this beloved San Francisco establishment puts on quite a wedding.
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While the beloved brunch, flickering hearth, and nightly movies continue to be projected onto its patio walls, Gayle Pirie and John Clark are keeping things fresh at their Mission standby, with a menu that leans North African and Mediterranean and a deep wine program. It’s one of the city’s most romantic restaurants, with high ceilings, low lighting, and dishes like the ever-popular Madras curry-sesame fried chicken with chickpea hummus, Moroccan carrots, radicchio salad, and ice-cold raw oysters.
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Touted as one of the most popular spots for brunch in SF, Foreign Cinema’s bright dining space, lively outdoor patio, and innovative menu is a great place to celebrate any occasion with friends and family.
An enduring and magical setting for a film and a feast in San Francisco, Foreign Cinema is a restaurant that combines beautiful food, wine and fine art. Dine a deaux for a date night to remember or book the Mezzanine with 40 of your closest pals. Each film runs for an entire month, currently it’s Eve’s Bayou on the schedule until May 13th.
May 15, 2018
Along with Delfina, this modern classic (since 1999) was Mission-cool before the Mission was cool. It still delights with its big open-air central patio, movies screening nightly, and elegantly executed menu. Even in the daylight it’s a stunner, with fans flocking to brunch each weekend.
July 25, 2018
Since 1981, Wine Spectator has been honoring restaurants with extraordinary wine programs. Congratulations to this year’s seven new Grand Award winners, bringing our Grand Award total to 91.
Best of Award Excellence 2018 Foreign Cinema
July 2, 2018
Foreign Cinema is the kind of brunch spot you’d take your parents or a date, but it’s also a legit option for when you’re hungover and want to dine alfresco on fresh oysters, an organic version of a Pop-Tart, and egg dishes that are so well made we simply can’t pick one (the Dungeness crab frittata does to come to mind, however). Be sure to make a reservation -- or come prepared to wait.
July 25, 2018
For more than twenty years, Foreign Cinema has been one of San Francisco’s most sought-after brunch destinations. Chefs Gayle Pirie and John Clark are talented practitioners of all things seasonal, local, and delicious, one of the prime examples being these flaky pastries filled with whatever fruit is at its peak.
March 22, 2016
We both lead by example and teach people every day to provide warmth, humanity and sensuality in all that we do. Then we get to do it again the next day
February 11, 2016
Consistently voted one of the best brunches in San Francisco, Foreign Cinema offers a variety of private dining options and a mix of Mediterranean and California fare such as fresh oysters, poached eggs with duck confit, and Croque Madame sandwiches.
January 6, 2016
San Francisco stalwart Foreign Cinema goes beyond film and food with a comprehensive wine list sporting terroir-driven bottles from around the world. Wine Director Shannon Tucker is the driving force here, ensuring that her juice properly pairs with plates of lavender-baked goat cheese and brown sugar-brined pork.
December 3, 2015
Dinner and a movie isn’t a standard meeting activity but the concept is completely different at Foreign Cinema
2015 Best of Award of Excellence
Foreign Cinema has doubled the wine list to over 600 selections, with extensive staff training and wine-country excursions making this convivial neighborhood spot a true wine destination.
Dinner & a movie gets a serious upgrade at San Francisco’s renowned Foreign Cinema.
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Shannon Tucker, of Foreign Cinema, on wine in the Mission
I think that wine is having a bit of a renaissance with young people. I’m seeing more people around my age—I’m in my mid-30s—who are more open to it, and will let you open stuff for them.
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Our Test Kitchen tasters declared this might be their favorite scrambled egg recipe ever, thanks to the flavorful combination of three robust cheeses and a vibrant sauce, along with the smart cooking techniques for keeping the eggs moist.
15 Years in with Foreign Cinema
Foreign Cinema turned 15 years old last night (and threw themselves a grown-up quinceañera to celebrate). To commemorate the occasion, Gayle Pirie and John Clark looked back on their work so far-which dates to a time when the wasn’t the restaurant row it is now.
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Gayle Pirie, co-owner and chef at San Francisco’s Foreign Cinema, fills corn tortillas with warm pastrami and a tangy cabbage-poppy seed slaw for a taco that is at least as Eastern European as it is Mexican.
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This Mediterranean themed restaurant serves a stellar selection of oysters. Independent films are screened each night in the courtyard.
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The best looking of the group, Foreign Cinema is not just a good idea – in its inner courtyard, old movies are projected onto a neighboring building- but a good restaurant. New chefs – John Clark and Gayle Pirie, a husband and wife team – have boosted the level of the food considerably since I first ate there over a year ago.
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It’s always a double feature at the Mission District’s Foreign Cinema, where you eat oysters, house-cured sardines, and duck confit while watching old films in an open courtyard….
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During the dot-com boom, San Francisco’s Foreign Cinema restaurant was one of the Mission District’s hip hang-outs. Of late, it has recast itself as a sophisticated dining destination that emphasizes film as much as food…
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Watch it: Classic films and foreign flicks screened in the courtyard of San Francisco’s new French bistro, Foreign Cinema. Diners listen on personal speakers at each table.
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The Mission’s answer to Tinseltown is this “cinema buff’s paradiso” featuring an “arty film du jour” accompanied by a Cal-Med menu served “drive-in style” on a patio or beside a show stopping fireplace.
During brunch hours, Gayle Pirie and John Clark serve their version of a Pop-Tart: a rectangle buttery pastry filled with jam made from figs, nectarines, or whatever else is in season.
Knockout Brunch – Rise and shine with this fun, festive party. Sip an Indian-spiced bloody mary, enjoy a whimsical dessert inspired by a favorite childhood treat – and try bacon and eggs like you’ve never had them before. Recipes by Gayle Pirie and John Clark.
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Take a seat at Foreign Cinema's "director table" for an evening of sophisticated California-Mediterranean fare and a view onto the romantic, string- lit courtyard below. Adjacent to the table sits a vintage 35mm projector which plays out classic films beneath the translucent canopy.
Since 1999, Foreign Cinema has elevated the concept of dinner and a movie to spectacular effect, becoming one of San Francisco’s most popular restaurants, as well as one of its most original. At the Mission restaurant, you can either eat in the dining room near the fireplace or the amber lit courtyard, where films are projected onto a wall. The menu is daily changing, with Mediterranean accents. To begin, you might order brandade with house pickles and toast, or goat cheese baked in lavender. Foreign Cinema’s brunch is also renowned; like dinner, be sure to book early – and often.
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Earlier this year, Pirie and Clark released their first cookbook, The Foreign Cinema Cookbook: Recipes and Stories Under the Stars, where they share stories about their experience as a couple who run a restaurant together. Pirie’s writing style is captivating and engaging, so much so that we wanted to hear more from her. Precisely where she hangs out in the Bay. Here, in her own words, is Pirie’s guide to the good life in SF.
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The Mission restaurant Foreign Cinema is a San Francisco classic, and for a good reason. A few months ago, the institution, owned by the real-life couple Gayle Pirie and John Clark, issued an extensive cookbook covering its history and mouthwatering food, from brunch to appetizers. Despite the restaurant’s high-end profile, many recipes are surprisingly accessible and can be made with a tiny bit of effort. Plus, the stories will have you pining for San Francisco of the good, old, pre-tech boom days.
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"The book was a way to tell the stories,” says Gayle Pirie, a co-chef and owner of Foreign Cinema and author of The Foreign Cinema Cookbook. “It’s like a manifesto.”
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Rated as one of the Top 100 Restaurants for 16 consecutive years by the San Francisco Chronicle, Foreign Cinema gives you the chance to enjoy dinner and a show. The decor makes you feel like you're in an old-school drive-in. Sit in the outdoor space in the back, and you can watch a movie while you eat with the movie's audio coming through a speaker at your table.
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"Sherry has had an incredible renaissance in the last decade. Passum, Passito, Banyul, Madeira, Vin Santo, Sauternes, Barolo Chinato—their depth of flavor is incredible in a cocktail and I would love to see them used more often."
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Even when the weather outside sucks, if you find yourself sitting on the back patio of Foreign Cinema, things will start looking up.
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Head to Foreign Cinema for a “Technicolor themed evening,” with live music, films, a three-course dinner, and a midnight Champagne toast.
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Though it’s been a Mission standby for nearly two decades, Foreign Cinema remains one of the most stunning restaurants in town.
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When you think of Foreign Cinema you undoubtedly think of elegant Mediterranean-inspired food and the dreamy outdoor courtyard with movies quietly rolling each evening. Make sure you also file this under where to your Champagne fix—you can choose from four Champagnes by the glass, several magnums (like Egly-Ouriet Brut), or one of their 40-plus bottles including Salon Brut Blanc de Blancs or house-favorite Domaine Vouette et Sorbée Extra Brut.
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Courtesy Nicky Beyries, bar manager, Foreign Cinema and Laszlo Bar, San Francisco, CA
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