Solid Date Night Spots To Redeem Your Last F*ck Up
15 go-to restaurants to make a date more memorable—in a good way.
Picking an occasional bad movie is redeemable. At least that leads to funny conversation about plot holes and overacting. Picking a bad restaurant, however, can be absolutely damning. Trash food and service can make an already awkward first or second date even more painful. And if you’re in a long-term relationship, please believe your partner will hold that failure over your head for the next few months. So set the record straight (and ramp up the brownie points) with one of these picks, where the mood and food are sure to impress.
Cooks & Soldiers
Cooks and Soldiers has three things that make it great for a date: candlelit tables, an interesting wine list, and the best ham and cheese sandwich you’ll ever have. Even if you’ve never been to this upscale tapas spot in West Midtown, you’ve still probably heard of the Bikini: their grilled white American cheese with Iberico ham and white truffle. It’s the perfect thing to snack on with a glass of wine, and once the two of you are ready for something else, try the roasted rabbit saddle roulade, or split the 32-ounce bone-in ribeye.
photo credit: Josh Swinney
Oreatha’s at the Point
The Cascade Heights restaurant occasionally has a performing jazz musician, in which case you can pretend you’re in some romance movie where all the characters coincidentally have an expert-level knowledge of music theory. But even when no one is playing, Oreatha’s just feels jazzy. From the gray abstract floor tiles and the cool blue glass drinkware to the creative riffs on soul food classics, the place just sings to you. Start with the panzanella salad, which is a fun Southern spin on the traditional bread salad that uses cornbread croutons and shredded collards. Then share the smoked duck pot pie or the fried Thai-seasoned catfish and grits.
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Sotto Sotto is the place to go when you want to dress up and feel a little fancy, or when the two of you (or, you know, your throuple. We don't judge) just want to eat some really good pasta. This Inman Park restaurant also has one of the largest Italian wine lists in the city. Plus they have a really cozy enclosed patio, which makes us want to grip our wine glasses underhand and walk around barefoot like we own the place. But of course, we would never do that (on a date anyway). Share a few pastas, split one of the larger second courses, like the ribeye or the whole roasted fish, and make sure to get the creamy panna cotta afterward.
photo credit: Andrew Thomas Lee
If you really want to reclaim your title as the best date planner, make a reservation at Lazy Betty in Candler Park. The award-winning restaurant offers a six- and eight-course tasting menu, and they even throw in a few additional plates like their warm cheesy biscuit that’s basically a cuddle in your mouth. Everything here is fun, creative, and full of tasty surprises that make you say things like, “Wow, I never thought beef fat in my bourbon cocktail could be so good.” Even when you think you’re ready to tap out, you’ll have a hard time putting down your fork when unexpected desserts like the corn mousse arrive at the table. Yes, that’s right, it’s ca-orn, but plated with sweet and syrupy Peruvian corn tea, fluffy popcorn, and charred corn ribs.
photo credit: Katherine Brennan
Victory Sandwich Bar
Meeting up for dinner is a great way to get to know someone, but sometimes it’s good to switch things up from the traditional “sit at a table and exchange stories of weird holiday traditions over food” set up. When that’s the case, head to Victory Sandwich Bar in Inman Park, and play some ping pong over a few whiskey Coke slushies. Or if it’s super crowded, get your order to go and head to the BeltLine instead. The park is a much better environment to explain why your family celebrates Christmas in July, anyway.
Sometimes dates are for more than just eating with someone you like. They can be for celebrating a new job, an anniversary, or surviving meeting your partner’s parents for the first time. When these occasions pop up, it’s good to know where to splurge. Umi in Buckhead should be high on your list. This is one of the best—and most expensive—sushi spots in Atlanta, and when you want to go big, come here and get one of their two omakase options ($155 and $190). It’ll take a few hours, you’ll drink plenty of sake, and you can debate how well it went with their folks in the meantime.
Bastone in West Midtown gives you an easy alley-oop to kick off your meal and conversation with a mozzarella tasting. You can offer your take on your favorite cheeses on the tasting board (maybe you liked the smoothness and salt content of the housemade fatt' a mano) and discuss the potential pairings—the Italian-imported stracciatella is a nice fit, with a little sweetness from the honeycomb and crunch from the taralli crackers. More cheesy goodness makes its way into some of the other dishes, like the handmade pasta, which Bastone switches up pretty frequently. But we hope the fresh peach salad, which sits in a creamy yogurt bath and is truly more soup than salad, is a keeper—it’s pure happiness.
Sometimes it’s fun to have someone over for dinner and cook something really elaborate for them. But then it turns out that you may have ignored the necessary prep and don’t have half the ingredients required to make a dish your friend told you was “super simple.” It’s time for plan B. For us, that’s Chai Yo in Buckhead. They serve some of the city’s best Thai food, in a setting (and also at a price point) that screams “date night.” The beef cheek panang curry and lobster tom kha are two of our favorites, but it’s hard to go wrong with anything on the menu. Chai Yo is always a great option when you accept that it’s better to just let someone else cook something complicated for you and your date.
The Painted Duck
For the rare occasion when all of your friends have entanglements/prospects/new baes, etc at the same time, it’s good to get together for a double, triple, or the rare quadruple date. When the stars do align, rather than just grab a run of the mill dinner, head to The Painted Duck in West Midtown for duckpin bowling, shuffleboard and better food than you’d ever expect to find at a bowling alley, like housemade cracker jacks, duck fat fries, and whiskey glazed turkey legs. You can show off your oddly elegant bowling form, and everyone can get acquainted in a low-pressure setting.
photo credit: Amy Sinclair
Floataway Cafe is date night-chic all the way. But we’re not gonna lie, we get X-Files vibes whenever we pull up to this Druid/Woodland Hills restaurant, housed in an old warehouse and looking like a suspiciously ideal spot to do research on alien lifeforms (just us?). Get past that, because once you do step inside, the mood is welcoming, relaxed, and romantic. Floataway has an a la carte, micro-seasonal menu of French-, Mediterranean-, and Italian-inspired dishes. We especially like the super flaky oven-roasted loup de mer, which is simply prepared with fennel and herbs. The cocktail menu also plays in the garden with drinks like the gin-based Botanist, elevated with a hint of thyme, rosemary and St. Germain.
Show your date that you know good food and where to get it with a stop at Lee’s Bakery on Buford Highway. The small Vietnamese restaurant, located in a strip mall that you’ve probably driven by 100 times without ever thinking twice about it, serves the best banh mis in the city, along with great pho, spring rolls, and avocado smoothies.
One Flew South - BeltLine
For years, One Flew South at Hartsfield-Jackson airport was the only reason we showed up hours ahead of our departure time. Now, their first restaurant that doesn’t require TSA pat downs has opened on the Eastside BeltLine (not far from the Krog Street Tunnel), and it delivers their signature first class service, sushi rolls, cold noodle salad, and other favorites from the Asian-fusion restaurant. Start with the DIY deviled egg appetizer, which you can assemble with a sticky bacon jam, crunchy radishes, and even caviar or the shishito peppers with a sweet soy-ginger glaze. And we highly suggest ending things with their rice pudding dessert, made with black forbidden rice cooked in coconut milk and topped with chewy coconut flakes and sticky mango cubes.
Bartaco - Vinings
We wish that order by phone table service was a thing on all dates. At Bartaco, you can avoid those moments of interruption when you’re already in deep conversation about the evolution of boy bands. Just order when you’re ready and when you do, make sure you place a few orders for the crispy fried oyster taco and the street corn on the cob, which has a little cayenne kick. Plus, this Vinings location gives off the same signature resort restaurant energy as the other Bartacos, but on nice days, they open the garage door that serves as a wall so that the al fresco vibes extend throughout the restaurant.
Maybe it’s the wine, small tables, or the noisiness of the space that forces you and your date to sit super close together, but it’s the French restaurant cinema tropes that help to set a romantic scene. Bistro Niko in Buckhead is one of our favorite French spots, and it’s a great option when you want to sit on a patio, drink some good wine, and tell your date all of your favorite stories from when you studied abroad in Paris. Start with some oysters and then split the coq au vin and duck confit cassoulet. If one of you is especially into sweets, make sure to get the apple tart, too.
photo credit: Andrew Thomas Lee
Between the great cocktails, shareable dishes, and dim lighting, Le Fat is one of the best spots in town for a dinner date. This Vietnamese bistro in West Midtown finds a nice balance of being super casual while still feeling a little upscale, which is exactly what you’re looking for on a second or third date. If things are going well after you’re done splitting some summer rolls, papaya salad, and fried chicken, head up the street to Little Trouble for a nightcap.