The Cliff House reminds us of some of our love lives: it started out modest, gained a scandalous reputation, got burned in some disasters and then emerged stronger and better than ever. The stories that it could tell could make even the ghosts at the nearby Sutro Baths ruins blush.
The Cliff House is arguably the most romantic place in San Francisco, and possibly in all of California. Hugging the coast at Land’s End, the Cliff House offers unparalleled views of the vast and moody Pacific Ocean, with the rocky, mysterious Farallon Islands peeking out in the distance on non-foggy days. Sunsets there are so dramatic that they are choreographed, with the window blinds slowly rising like a theater curtain before nature’s colorful show starts.
There is a three-way aspect to the Cliff House, given that visitors can wine and dine in one of three gathering spots within the overall building: the Zinc Bar, Bistro and Sutro’s. Sutro’s actually has a gorgeous light and airy separate Bar & Lounge, so actually this could be a four-way. In any case, the varied offerings allow everyone from singles to large parties to feel comfortable and at ease, even while enjoying such a glamorous, dreamy setting.
“Cliff House has a long history of romance,” Chef Kevin Weber, Executive Chef and Director of Food Operations for the Cliff House, told the San Francisco Bay Times. “Several years ago I received a call from a family celebrating their parents’ 70th wedding anniversary. They were married here at the Cliff House in 1937, and wanted all the family here to celebrate. I welcomed them when they arrived and the ‘groom’ asked me if the prices were the same as 70 years ago. I showed the couple the personalized menu we had created for them giving the couple those same prices. They were deeply touched by our efforts and it helped make their day even more special. We really try to make memories for all our guests here at the Cliff House.”
We can vouch for that. Members of our team have had their wedding receptions at the Cliff House, first dates, celebrated birthdays there and much more. While we like to stop by for a quick and reasonably priced breakfast or lunch, the Cliff House is still at the top of our list for Valentine’s Day destinations. One reason is Chef Kevin himself. He fell in love with the Cliff House shortly after he moved to the Bay Area, and has worked there for decades.
Under his culinary leadership, the Cliff House has won numerous awards. As the prestigious Michelin Guide notes, “Sutro’s would be worth a trip just for its commanding views of the rugged California coastline. But this SF landmark doesn’t rest on its laurels; instead, it serves surprisingly good food. In season, Dungeness crab is unmissable here, whether in a terrifically colossal crab Louie with avocado mousse and hard-boiled eggs, or shatteringly crisp panko-crusted crab cakes over carrot hummus and lemon-tarragon aïoli. The tasty seafood-focused fare goes on to include mussels steamed in Anchor Steam beer and harissa; as well as a sautéed red trout sandwich with fennel, cucumber, and yogurt. After your meal, stroll along the beach or visit the windswept ruins of the Sutro Baths next door.” We should add that there are incredible vegetarian options too, as well as great fare for red meat-craving carnivores.
The menus at all of the restaurants within the Cliff House continue to evolve and change while still keeping classic favorites. As Chef Kevin said, “The Cliff House, although it celebrates many traditions, is always moving forward and staying abreast of current trends. I think, with the different restaurants within the Cliff House, we are able to honor the traditional San Francisco dishes in our Bistro restaurant while the Sutro restaurant is constantly changing to keep up with our clients’ desires. California cuisine with global influences would be the best way to describe the focus of our menu here in Sutro’s.”
He added, “Although this Valentine’s Day my partner (Rex) and I cannot be physically together, due to his being in Beijing, I just look out the window looking due west and the beautiful sunsets seem to melt the distance away. I hope everyone finds the love they seek in the coming year, so whether a first date or a 70th anniversary, allow us to be part of the memories you will make here at the Cliff House.”