HOUGuide

Great Restaurants For A Casual Date Night

Romance can happen on a Wednesday night, too.
Great Restaurants For A Casual Date Night image

photo credit: Richard Casteel

Sure, there is a time for romantic, candlelight dinners. But don’t underestimate the power of an excellent restaurant where you can take a date and still be able to wear a T-shirt. This guide is an ode to those weeknight date spots. Places where you and your partner can get comfy, don't have to get dressed up, and where love doesn’t require a reservation.

THE SPOTS

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Thai

Uptown

$$$$Perfect For:Date NightDrinking Good Cocktails
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Bring your favorite person to Songkran Thai Kitchen, because the little packed-in tables means getting up close and personal. The small Uptown spot is buzzing every night of the week, so make a reservation ahead of time, or hope for walk-in bar seats. Wherever you sit, plan to spend some quality time with yellow curry and steaming beef pad thai (and your date, too). And Songkran's intimate feel seeps out onto the glittering patio, too.

A meal at Josephine’s is a good test run for how your partner would fare at a family cookout. Every dish at the seafood-focused Midtown restaurant is deeply Southern, and the type of comforting that takes the edge off of a first date. And somewhere between hunting for the last BBQ shrimp in a dark roux and splitting a boozy chocolate shake, you can decide if your date can handle meeting your uncle at the actual reunion.

Winnie’s is fun, and not just because the Midtown Cajun-Creole bar is painted like a novelty candy shop. Winnie’s is cool enough to make it clear you put some thought into your date, but relaxed enough to not seem like you're trying to hard. Plus the pimento cheese queso with blackened crawfish is so good it's a conversation starter, and frozen drink flights served in treasure chests serve as built-in small talk. Maybe order a burger with your date at the bar, and if you want a little more privacy, you take the party to the small patio.

Even though the dining room at Himalaya feels stuck in time, with plastic-covered tables and napkins made of air, there’s a particular charm to this classic Pakistani and Indian restaurant. Everything at this Mahatma Gandhi District spot is no-nonsense and unfussy, meaning you can settle in knowing you’ll be both taken care of and unbothered. Share a spicy, herbaceous chicken hara masala or the sweet mutton biryani with a side of warm, buttery garlic naan. And since it’s BYOB, make sure to bring a bottle of wine.

Backyard Boil House is a hard-to-find spot in the Third Ward. Pay no mind to the missing sign out front. Which should be easy, since it’s not there. When you finally manage to locate this spot on the corner of Scott and Southmore, things can get real cozy, real fast. There are about six tables in this spot and it’s walk-in only, which makes it the perfect weeknight date spot. Come with someone you don't mind seeing you slurp crawfish and vigorously crack snow crab legs. That's what romance is all about.

The Ethiopian restaurant Blue Nile in River Oaks resembles a hall, filled with billowy white curtains and mesob sweetgrass baskets. It's the kind of low-key place where your hands can softly graze past each other’s while reaching for another piece of injera to scoop up the smoky, spicy yemissir wot lentils the onion-sweet kik alicha. The tender berbere-spiced lamb makes you wonder why you’d ever eat anywhere or anything else.

Giacomo’s Cibo E Vino is pretty chill for being located right off Westheimer. This Italian restaurant in River Oaks is great if you need a no-fuss night to yourselves, or a casual first date spot. Cozy up at a corner table and split a bottle of Italian wine over plates of mozzarella-stuffed radicchio and eggplant parmesan. Or sit on the plant-filled patio with as many half orders of housemade eggy pastas you can fit on the table. No matter what you order, the food here is consistent, comforting, and free of flashy distractions.

Maderas, a romantic (and colorful) Mexican restaurant in Montrose, is a great spot for a third or thirtieth date. Located in a strip center, Maderas feels unpretentious, yet still stylish with tropical plants, massive floral murals, and plush booths. And the food is full of flavor, from plates of crispy golden flautas in a pool of salsa verde or blue corn tortillas lying beneath charred octopus tentacles. Plus being surrounded by what feels like hundreds of LED candles makes any last-minute date night feel special, even if you’re just wearing a T-shirt.

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