The Best Bars For A First Date In HoustonIt’s rough out there. We’re here to help.
After endless swiping, unmatching everyone whose opening line is a flat, “sup?” (uncapitalized), and staring blankly at the mounting ghosted chat graveyard, you finally secured a first date with an actual human being you feel you might enjoy an in-person conversation with. Now the work begins. You need a place that’s casual and quiet enough to hear one another, but not a total ghost town. It’s got to have solid drinks and hopefully good food in case the date goes well enough that you feel like bravely witnessing another person eat. Maybe it should also have good music, or activities, or a patio. Got all that? Good. Here are some of our favorite first date bars right now.
Nearly everyone else here is on a date, so you probably should be, too. The Midtown wine bar 13 Celsius is great not only for its seasonally curated wine list, but also for the candle-lit ambiance, historic architectural patina, and dreamy romantic vibes. Whether you sit at the bar, a table, or the patio, service is always attentive and discreet. Trade glances over charcuterie, slowly snack on baked brie or duck rillettes, or order the toast-your-own s’mores for dessert with someone you want to get closer to.
The inside of Montrose Cheese & Wine in, well, Montrose, feels exactly like what it is: the inside of a cheese shop. But the leafy green patio could easily be in Paris or Modena or Barcelona, where time stretches and bends slowly, especially after a glass or two of June’s rosé. The food here also plays into the fantasy. What’s hedonism if not feeding your date fresh grapes, wildflower honey, soft cheeses, and cured meats? Lean into the escapism under the patio’s scalloped awnings, and lose yourself to the twinkly French pop music, glasses of lambrusco—oh, and your date.
If you want dive bar vibes but high-end booze, EZ’s Liquor Lounge in the Heights can set you up. Choose your own adventure at EZ’s: dress it up with an expensive bottle of champagne (don’t do that) or the champagne of beers (do that). So grab some beer by the bucketful, coax your date into a game of pool and a couple chili dogs, and admire the beer paraphernalia artwork or the fact that the music switches from George Strait to DJ Screw and back again.
Refuge, an intimate bar in Montrose, serves upscale drinks in an excessively dim space. Table servers ply you with tiny bar snacks, cloth coasters, and careful attention so you can stare into your date’s eyes instead of flagging down a bartender. The cocktails riff on common classics, but add in esoteric twists with liquors and spirits like Pineau de Charentes and St. Lucian rum. It’s a bar without time, or overhead lighting, which is great for before (or after) a date. Or a chic start to a night out. Walk-ins are welcome, but it’s better to snag a reservation for a seamless evening.
The bright blue door marking the entrance of Marfreless, a, uh, “lifestyle” bar in River Oaks, is legendary, as are the discreet activities that happen in the couples-only upstairs balcony. Going to Marfreless for a first date is a bold choice, and one your date should also be up for (no, really, get their explicit consent). Because you’re not at Marfreless for the drinks—although they are well-made and strong—you’re here to either see, or be seen. Head upstairs with your date and a dirty martini, and then settle into one of the plush red couches. Ignore what the couple across from you is doing, or don’t. We’re not going to say anything.
Lei Low, a tiki bar in the Heights, is for rum lovers. The bar serves classic but highly potent tiki drinks and large-format cocktails (that are great for inching that much closer to your date). The inside—which is fully decked out with grass cloth, palm trees, and tropical tchotchkes—is small with very few tables, so plan for a weeknight if you want to keep things casual.
First dates sometimes require a lot of contingency plans, especially if you don’t know the person well. Do they just want a beer and a shot, or craft cocktails? Do they prefer to sit inside or outside? Will the two of you hit it off so well that photographic documentation of your budding connection will be required? Enter: Two Headed Dog, a small cocktail dive bar in Midtown. The cocktails here are excellent and inventive, but the bartenders will also pour shots of Fernet if that’s your thing. Stay at the bar, grab a booth inside, or hang on the patio. At Two Headed Dog, you can choose-your-own first date adventure, and jump into the photo booth if needed.
Take a date to East End Hardware at the edge of East Downtown and impress them with your knowledge of craft beer and mid-2000s emo bangers you pre-selected on the jukebox. This place looks like a converted small town community center, which ups the charm factor, as do the remnants of the actual hardware store that used to be there. If you’re braving a first date mid-summer, there are also boozy snowballs to cool you down.
Take your date somewhere absolutely nobody knows your name: La Carafe, the cash-only wine bar downtown. Rumored to be haunted, La Carafe has all the trappings of a late-night date spot: a giant gold cash register, candles burning atop giant pillars of drippy wax, old paintings of weird people, a friendly yet disinterested bartender, and a jukebox that may or may not work. It’s perfect.
Monkey’s Tail, a cocktail bar in Lindale Park, is almost always busy, but luckily there are plenty of tables and patio seating, so it never feels cramped. There are also so many daily Happy Hour specials that you could take a different first date here every night of the week and have a different but equally well-cared for experience. Grab a Chango Burger with valentia mayo, a frozen hand grenade, and Mexican Candy shot and get weird.
If you’ve ever wanted to go on a date and immediately watch someone attempt to ride a mechanical bull, you’re in luck. Neon Boots, a honky tonk dance hall and bar in Spring Branch, has you covered. Bask in the glow of the cowboy boot disco ball, two-step until your heart’s content, or belt out some Dolly Parton karaoke bars. There is an endless list of activities to keep your date engaged, or at least distracted.
Taking your date to Light Years, a brutally hip natural wine bar in Montrose, shows you mean business—if your business is developing and dissolving situationships on a weekly basis. You probably just got done silently sizing each other up while shuffling around the Menil galleries, so it only makes sense to walk over to Light Years and pop open a bottle of Slovenian orange wine or some funky chilled French red. Stretch out on the string-light lit patio, or squeeze into the small bar. You’ll be cool, and full of excellent wine, no matter when you shack up.