One of the great things about living in San Francisco is that perfect pairings are available in all parts of town. Let me explain what I mean by this term: often, an evening out for me will involve dinner and drinks before or after at a location that is in the general vicinity of dinner. When the food and the drinks combine to make for a perfect dining experience, I consider this to be a "perfect pairing."
Some perfect pairings are across town. For instance, I happen to think that dinner at SPQR preceded by a drink at The Alembic is a perfect, if high maintenance, pairing. But that pairing usually involves a cab ride in between as The Alembic is in the Haight and SPQR is in Pacific Heights.
However, some pairings are not quite as far flung. And some have proven to be perfect time and again.
A new "perfect pairing" for me is close to Union Square and therefore perfect for entertaining out-of-town visitors who are already downtown and looking to meet for dinner. I've done it several times recently, and have complete confidence whenever meeting visitors and friends alike for this outing.
Bar Drake is a lovely bar that is located in the downstairs lobby of the Sir Francis Drake hotel. The drinks are delicious, the setting is intimate and usually pretty mellow, and the service is fantastic. Customers can choose to sit at the five-person bar, or can relax on couches and comfortable chairs throughout the lobby. I usually have the Bar Drake Manhattan that is made with Woodford Reserve Bourbon, Port, Angostura bitters and maple syrup and is served with delicious brandied cherries. If you'd like a snack, Bar Drake serves snacks and entrees from Scala's next door (where Top Chef 4 contestant Jen Biesty is the executive chef).
Bar Crudo is known throughout the San Francisco food community for its impeccable execution of raw fish. The restaurant almost exclusively serves fish, and only a very few dishes are cooked. In December, I placed Bar Crudo's arctic char on my "Top 10 Tastes" list, and a few of their other dishes could easily have been on that list as well. The dishes are inventive -- most recently I tried a yellowtail dish with lobster cream, vanilla salt, and licorice greens -- and are almost always delicious. I've taken visitors here with great success because the restaurant feels very San Francisco, and pleases anyone who likes raw fish.
Bar Crudo is a tiny restaurant with a small bar downstairs and a handful of tables upstairs. Because of this, reservations are highly recommended.