It's in the Cards

Restaurant gift certificates might be the best presents ever

It's about now that you realize you've blown it on the gift front: The holidays are here, and you've got a frighteningly long list of friends and family to whom you've been planning on giving the perfect present.

Fear not: If time is tight (too tight for our handy gift guides), turn to the multitude of excellent local restaurants offering gift certificates. Despite your lack of advanced planning, you may well be the favorite gift giver after all.

For the Local: Nopa & Nopalito

Why mess with perfection? There are few greater pleasures than a meal at Nopa or Mexican sister restaurant Nopalito. If you play your cards right, you may even get invited along for French toast eating support.

For the Mission Scenester: Flour + Water & Central Kitchen

If you've been waiting for "the crowds to die down" to try Flour + Water, well, keep waiting. In the meantime, hook up a loved one who always manages to finagle a table. The pizzas and pastas of Flour + Water and the stunning California-centric plates at Central Kitchen are both worthy gifts.

For the NOLA Expat: Boxing Room

Cure homesickness by giving a New Orleans native a gift certificate to Boxing Room, where the gator's fried, the gumbo's tops and the baked oysters are worthy of an epic poem. Give the lucky recipient a heads up about half-price oysters at lunchtime, as well as the Sunday brunch featuring a gypsy jazz band.

For the Creative Minded: Bar Tartine

Have a friend obsessed with all things pickled? A sibling mastering the art of home fermentation? Let them experience Bar Tartine, where one can expect to find one of the most consistently interesting, dynamic and delicious menus in town. Drop subtle hints for a doggie bag of bread in lieu of a thank-you note.

For the One in Need of a Date Night: Frances

Going crazy with kids? Working all day and all night? For the friend or family member who could really use an evening off, Frances is a perfect fit: The charming, pocket-size restaurant is just mellow enough to relax and so good it will make the evening a special occasion. Yes, you are allowed to offer to be their date for the evening.

For the Life of the Party: Rich Table

We've all got a person who makes everything a little more fun. That person deserves a meal at Rich Table, where you can eat doughnuts for dinner, choose a different cocktail for every course and taste some of the finest food in town with zero pretension.

For the Haute Food Lover: Quince

It's on every serious San Francisco eater's must-try list. And for those who have been, it tends to sit high on the must-return version. Quince is a legend and for a reason: Its nine-course tasting menus are the stuff of legend, and, oh yeah, it has a full caviar menu.

For the Serious Sushi (and Serious Fun) Lover: ICHI Sushi + NI Bar

This is for the sushi aficionado who can recognize and appreciate the highest-quality nigiri and sashimi, but has also been known to start a dance party after throwing back some sake. ICHI has both the good-time vibes and one of the best omakase experiences in town—a true win-win.

For the Cocktail Obsessed: Trick Dog

There's nothing not to love about Trick Dog, from its consistently killer cocktails to its thoughtful menu of fantastic, elevated bar food. Get this for the person in your life who takes cocktail hour very seriously.

For the Road Warrior: Molina & Bull Valley Roadhouse

They're always off to wine country or Tahoe, or planning a camping trip or group hike. Get this adventurer a meal for the ride: Molina in Mill Valley offers a menu of seasonal, wood-fired delights, while The Bull Valley Roadhouse is the spot for potent cocktails and thoughtful, hearty comfort food.