“Date night” can mean a lot of different things. Maybe it’s your first date and you’re trying to find something in common beyond your mutual love of true crime podcasts. Or maybe it’s your 50th date and you’re debating what your new shared wifi password should be. Either way, it’s good to pick somewhere with good food and drinks. Here are our favorite spots for general date night excellence.
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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 white American grilled 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 get hungry for something else, try out the roasted rabbit porchetta, or split the bone-in ribeye.
If you’re meeting someone for the first time - or just want to get home early to start the newest Netflix show about a cult - check out Kimball House in Decatur for their weekday Happy Hour. From 5-7pm, most of the 20+ types of oysters on their menu are half off, and while the cocktails are still full-price, we recommend trying one with your bivalves. They also specialize in absinthe, which can be a bold move for an early date, but worse comes to worst, you might just fall asleep in the middle of your new favorite show once you get home.
Sotto Sotto is somewhere you can go when you want to dress up a bit and feel a little fancy on a date, or when the two of you just want to eat some really good pasta. This Inman Park restaurant also has one of the largest Italian wine lists in the city, which the staff will be happy to walk you through. Besides sharing a few pastas, split one of the larger secondi courses, like the ribeye or the whole roasted fish, and make sure to get the panna cotta afterward.
Just like Marvin Gaye or The Princess Bride, if your date doesn’t like Bocado, you know it’s an immediate red flag. This Westside restaurant has a big patio, makes great cocktails, and serves a rotating menu of dishes we always want to eat, like roasted chicken and one of the best burgers in the city. This place works just as well for drinks and snacks on a first date as it does for when you’re at the point where sharing dishes is a given. Either way, you’re going to like it here.
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 a Vicnic Basket, which includes a blanket, sodas, sides, and a few sandwiches for under $30, 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 the other person’s parents for the first time. When these occasions pop up. it’s good to know where to splurge, and Umi in Buckhead is just the place. 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 three omakase options. 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.
When you want to spend a few hours discussing every minute detail of each dish put in front of you, and are cool with dropping at least $100 per person (without wine pairings), go to Staplehouse in the Old Fourth Ward. Even a few years after opening, this restaurant’s seasonal tasting menu is still the holy grail of date experiences in Atlanta - both because of how good the food is and how tough it is to get a reservation. If you and your date are feeling lucky, Staplehouse saves eight seats at the full-service bar for walk-ins every night, and they also have a separate cocktail bar upstairs where you can eat a snack while you wait.
Once you’ve been seeing someone for a while, you start to accept that you aren’t both going to love all the same things. While we can’t help when the two of you are split on the Dave Matthews Band or cat memes, when the issue is sushi, we suggest you go to O-Ku. Besides a wide range of rolls, sushi, and sashimi, this restaurant in Buckhead serves things like chicken teriyaki, crispy pork belly, and a Wagyu steak. This means that while you enjoy some uni and hamachi, your date can eat something they actually like, rather than spend the night explaining how Crash made them the person they are today.
This seafood spot on the Westside feels a little upscale for a weeknight date, with seafood towers and a $55 steak on the menu. At the same time, though, The Optimist hosts a daily $1 oyster Happy Hour and has a putting green out front. It’s a great option for when you want have a few cocktails on the astroturf patio, split some oysters and a whole roasted fish, and get a little competitive with your date all in one place.
Sometimes it’s fun to have someone over for dinner and cook something really elaborate for them. But if you didn’t prep ahead of time and it turns out that you don’t have half the ingredients required to make a dish your friend told you was “super simple,” you need a plan B. For us, that’s Chai Yo in Buckhead. They serve upscale Thai food that we really like, and it’s a great option for when you’d rather just let someone else cook something complicated for you and your date. 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.
Happy Hour dates can be great, but one miscalculation and you end up somewhere with nothing more than cheap beer and complimentary popcorn. Instead, go to The Iberian Pig in Decatur for their weekday jamon Happy Hour. From 5-7pm, you can try a few different types of Iberico ham and Spanish cheese for cheap, and drink $5 sangria at the same time. If the two of you hit it off, stick around and order a few things off the tapas menu. And if you don’t, at least you have a new favorite Happy Hour.
For the rare occasion when all of your friends are seeing people at the same time, it’s good to get together for a double, triple, or the rare quadruple date. And when the stars do align, rather than just grab dinner, head to The Painted Duck for duckpin bowling and shuffleboard. Your friend’s boyfriend can show off his oddly elegant bowling form and everyone can split much 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.
If you ask your non-single friends where you should go on a date, Miller Union will be one of the first places all of them mention. It’s an old faithful of the Westside and does a good job of feeling a little luxurious without being stuffy. They have an extensive wine list and a seasonal menu that changes each week, so regardless of whether it’s your first or tenth time here, it’ll still feel new and interesting. One thing that never leaves the menu though, is the farm egg, which is baked in celery cream and served with grilled bread, and should be the start to every meal here.
If you want to show your date that you know your way around Buford Highway, take them to Lee’s Bakery. It’s a small Vietnamese restaurant in a strip mall that you’ve probably driven by 100 times without ever thinking twice about it However, Lee’s also serves the best banh mis in the city, along with great pho, spring rolls, and avocado smoothies that we will happily drive out of our way for.
When your friends set you up with someone and you want to make it very clear that you’re just looking for something casual, head to Bartaco in Inman Park. Order some little tacos, share some guacamole, and drink a margarita, all while sitting on a patio that makes you feel like you’re at the beach. If you want to keep things super casual at a second destination, head to Barcelona Wine Bar across the street or the basement bar at Beetlecat next door for a second round.
After your sixth or seventh date with the same person, you need to do something big, like a feeding tour at the zoo or a 1920s-themed night, complete with an itinerary and a costume change. These things tend to get complicated, so instead just focus your night around dinner at The Mercury at Ponce City Market. Start with cocktails at the bar and once you’ve been seated, order the prime rib - or the prime rib sandwich if you don’t want to spend $40 each on a roast. After dinner, grab dessert at one of the stalls downstairs, and then head to the rooftop for some mini golf and one of the best views of the city.
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 French restaurants are always a little romantic. Bistro Niko in Buckhead is one of our favorite French spots, and it’s a great option for 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.
Between the great cocktails, shareable dishes, and dim lighting (at least at night), Le Fat is one of the best spots in town for a first 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.