Venturing out of SOMA's hipster bubble can severely cramp one's style. Some of us have boyfriends or girlfriends engaged in "normal" jobs, taking them to places in the city that most of us avoid like the plague. We're talking about Union Square.
The utter nonsense of formula restaurants yields places as bleak and uninspired as The Cheesecake Factory. Still, Union Square does have some surprises beyond the lame tourist offerings. Take the Rotunda at Neiman Marcus.Elegantly lofted on the topmost floor of the Stockton Street department store, the Rotunda smugly welcomes brunchers to cast aside all prejudices and embrace elegant midday cuisine. Surrounded by shoppers worn out from a morning of spending, you can greet your significant other beneath the Rotunda's magnificent stained glass dome. An innovative alternative to the diner.
Your waiter presents you with an amuse bouche of chicken consomme. The seasonal pasta verde ($20) that follows is just as classic, garganelli tossed with nutty pistachio pesto, supple cherry tomatoes, and fresh, vividly green fava beans. A perfectly prepared pasta dish is one way to remind a boyfriend (or girlfriend) why you find him (or her) so special. You can add shrimp, but maybe even the best boyfriend isn't quite that special ― you'll get dinged an additional $10 for four measly shrimp.
Then again, there's virtue in not being cheap. Taking your special other to new heights at the Rotunda, away from the Mission's hipsters, can be intimidating. But think of the glamorous act of pulling your bike up to the doors of Neiman Marcus and passionately embracing your lover. Priceless.
The Rotunda at Neiman Marcus: 150 Stockton (at Geary), 362-4777.