Photo: Courtesy of Central Kitchen
Whether you've worked up an appetite practicing your walk down the aisle, or you're looking for a place to welcome guests who've started to arrive, a rehearsal dinner is the perfect way to kick off a weekend of celebrations. In a city like San Francisco, your choices are almost limitless, so we narrowed it down for you. Here are four Bay area restaurants that have it all: Private rooms, fantastic cocktails and wine lists, and menus that are sure to tempt your tastebuds.
The Upstairs at Central Kitchen (Above)
Located in the Mission District, Central Kitchen serves California cuisine using locally sourced ingredients. In 2014, they expanded their private dining to include The Upstairs, an intimate industrial-chic space ideal for a pre-wedding celebration. Seated dinners can accommodate up to 30 people and feature a five-course family style menu full of seasonal ingredients. For a cocktail-style reception of up to 45 people, passed and stationed hors d'oeuvres combine the best of Central Kitchen, as well as chef Thomas McNaughton's nearby Salumeria and Flour + Water. Don't miss the squash maltagliati, served with smoked crème fraîche and aleppo pepper, or the crispy duck rillettes croquettes.
Photo: Colin Price Photography
Bar Agricole has made a name for itself with a diverse cocktail list — and bartenders who really know what they're doing. The name comes from a French rum made from sugar cane juice instead of molasses, a nod to the focus on farmhouse distilling on their cocktail list. It's a perfect match for the space's contemporary tavern design, with dark metal paired with chairs made from a Napa vineyard's white oak barrels. The covered patio, with space for 38 at dinner or 60 for cocktails, is nestled between the restaurant's organic herb gardens, while the Grotto's reclaimed oak floors provide a cozy venue for up to 32. Work with the chef to create a family-style menu full of seasonal ingredients, then toast your upcoming wedding with inventive libations like the updated House Old Fashioned or the armagnac and aged agricole-laced Hallelujah.
Photo: Ed Anderson
For an evening of more intimate size, look no further than The Progress. The menu puts a custom spin on family-style dining, as guests pick six items from a list of nearly 20 to create their own prix fixe tasting menu. On the Balcony, a table for 10 offers dining room views, while the Mezzanine can seat up to 16. A six- or eight-course menu is an indulgent way to kick off a weekend of wedding celebrations! And if the black butter balsamic roasted figs with wagon wheel fondue and basil or the lamb merguez with yellow eye beans, octopus and crispy squid have your mouth watering, but your group is a little larger, don't worry: They're putting the finishing touches on a private events space this fall, so be sure to check back and see what they have in store.
Photo: Maurice Ramirez Photography
If you're looking for a spot to host a rehearsal dinner that's exactly what you want it to be, Cookhouse is the place for you. This corner apartment, a private venue rented by the hour, is equipped with everything you'll need to cook with friends, have dinner prepared by a culinary professional, or, like one recent couple, order in a few pies from Tony's Pizza down the street and pour some of your favorite wines. The party can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be, and the Cookhouse staff has a list of top chefs, servers, florists, photographers, and sommeliers to help you make it yours. A reservation includes custom furniture set-up (with space for up to 25 seated at a single table), use of all the cookware, bakeware, serveware, appliances, and more available in the Cookhouse kitchen, and post-event dishwashing and clean-up, so you can entertain like you're at home, without the hassle.