The Best Casual Date Night Restaurants In Austin guide image


The Best Casual Date Night Restaurants In Austin

Our favorite Austin date night spots for when you want a classy dinner without getting too dressed up.

Date night is (theoretically) a special night, but in Austin things are a little different. The overall “I’m never growing up,” non-committal vibe of the city as a whole has trickled down to the dating world too—things stay pretty casual around here. But if you’ve established that you enjoy each other enough to sit at a real table across from one another, here’s a solid list of restaurants that will impress, without being too over the top. 



Housed inside (you guessed it) a converted laundromat from the 1960s, Launderette is one of the most attractive restaurants on the East Side. A few blocks away from the hustle and bustle of East Sixth, it’s a place to enjoy fancy small plates in a very pretty atmosphere, where you’ll feel perfectly welcome in a nice polo or in your favorite sundress. It’s unstuffy and unpretentious, with a bright and airy dining room that feels just as well-suited for casual weeknight dates as it does for Sunday brunch. Just don’t come here with a sack of dirty clothes—those days are long gone.

This food trailer parked at Butterfly Bar on Manor Road has it all—great pasta, ambient lighting, and easy access to $20 bottles of wine from the bar. The pasta here is made from scratch, which becomes apparent after a few bites of textured al dente noodles. After those first few bites and a couple glasses of wine, you may forget entirely that white tablecloths don’t exist here. Since this is a no-reservation situation (it is a trailer, after all), lines can get a bit long during peak weekend hours. Get there early, or just grab some wine for the line.

Birdie’s, the natural wine bar and cafe on East 12th Street, doesn’t take reservations—so be ready to wait in line. Lucky for you, you can grab a glass of wine (or two) to keep you company while you wait. This cozy neighborhood cafe has a regularly changing menu, made up mostly of small plates pulling from American, Italian, and French influences. The dining room is small, but the shaded back patio filled with trees and small wooden benches is where you want to be, especially when the weather is nice.

Located near the end of a busy stretch of South Congress, June’s is an effortlessly cool all-day bistro and wine bar, with a bright and airy dining room, accented with a long marble bar, checkered tile floors, and a vintage jukebox. The outside feels like a Parisian sidewalk cafe, where you can enjoy a long, drawn-out conversation about what you’re going to order, while the inside is packed full of tiny round tables. Your job is to pack those full of small plates of bone marrow bolognaise, steak au poivre, and excellent wine.

If there are two things that 95% of Austinites can get behind, it’s a great patio and a well-made taco. Fortunately, Nixta Taqueria is one of our favorite spots in Austin for both of those. The tortillas kind of steal the show here—which means there’s no wrong answer on taco choices—but the excellent natural wine list plays a strong supporting role. Grab a seat on one of the colorful picnic tables on Nixta’s expansive outdoor patio and enjoy one of the best food-drink-patio combinations in town.

In an ideal world, MoPac would never have traffic, summer nights would always be breezy, and we would live close enough to Clark’s to be known as regulars for a weekday date night. Between the loose nautical theme, the patio that you definitely want to be on, and the abundance of oysters, eating here always feels a little high end without being stuffy. Show up early to grab a prime seat outside and order a glass of something refreshing while you and your date casually snack on oysters and lobster rolls. If you find out too late that your date isn’t a fan of seafood, Clark’s makes a great burger, too.

Some couples plan elaborate cross-country road trips and others have had “do something fun” on a to-do list for months. If you’re more the latter and not the best planners when it comes to dates, Hopfields is a great place to go without having to make a reservation a week in advance. Just show up, order the mussels and fries and whatever else sounds good from their French-inspired menu, and have a casual night. It’s simple, easy, and way less stressful than picking a road trip playlist.

Buenos Aires Cafe is one of Austin’s few Argentine restaurants, and it’s held its own on the East Side for a while now. The empanadas are crusty (in the best way), and there’s a pretty big menu of meat-heavy dishes—like steaks, grilled chicken, and Argentinean sausages—all served with their tangy housemade chimichurri. The dining room is cozy, with wood-paneled walls and floors, and has a buzzy energy that makes the whole experience feel very lively. And as if we needed another East Side secret to try to keep, there’s a speakeasy bar under the restaurant called Milonga Room, with vintage ’20s decor and excellent cocktails.

Our favorite thing about Bufalina Due is that they don’t take reservations, so it’s super walk-in friendly. So when it’s late, or it’s a Monday and almost everything is closed, or you tried to go to the new peking duck place and there’s an hour wait and you’re hungry and want something great to eat right now, Bufalina Due is frequently the solution. While there are simple seasonal salads and rotating fresh handmade pastas on the menu that you should definitely order, the Neapolitan pizza is why you’re here.

Asti Trattoria in Hyde Park is a neighborhood gem, and one that functions equally well for a simple time with pizza and beer at the bar, or a quiet date night out on the covered patio. True to the spirit of an unfussy Italian trattoria, the menu is short and focused, with pastas that are made in house, seasonally-minded, and somehow always al dente. The wine list runs deep, with a surprising amount of affordable wine by the glass.

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photo credit: Richard Casteel

The Best Casual Date Night Restaurants In Austin guide image