The Best Philly Restaurants For Date Night guide image

photo credit: GAB BONGHI

PHLGuide

The Best Philly Restaurants For Date Night

You’re better than takeout and Nicolas Cage movies on the couch. Here are the best restaurants for date night in Philadelphia.

You may think that after asking someone out and picking a day that doesn’t clash with the Eagles’ schedule, the hard part of date night is over. But finding the right place to sip some wine or have a meal will go a long way from keeping you wondering if their face actually matches their profile picture. And whether you’re heading out for a first date or taking your special someone out for a birthday, this city has plenty of options for you. From restaurants with live music to a tapas spot with intimate lighting and a spacious garden, here are 20 places in Philly that will help you make your first romantic impression, or your latest, a memorable one.

THE SPOTS

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9.0

Lark

$$$$

615 Righters Ferry Rd, Bala Cynwyd
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Lark has Schuylkill River views, candle lighting, and waiters on standby ready to fold your napkin when you head to the restroom. With that kind of fancy cloth origami, the Bala spot is the perfect place to grab some Mediterranean food with a new person you really like. The butter-roasted scallops are flawlessly charred and come with roasted squash, pumpkin seed, and a guanciale vinaigrette. When we want something that pairs well with their grilled trout (which gets a juicy boost from the sautéed green grapes), we go with their G Funk cocktail, which blends gin, fennel, and herby quinquina aperitif together for something refreshing. 


Hiroki is somewhere to save for a big date, like Valentine’s Day dinner or National Fruitcake Toss Day (it’s real, look it up). This omakase-only spot consists of one small room split between sushi bar seating and cozy tables where you’ll get all 20-or-so courses piece-by-piece straight from the sushi chef. At $145 per person, it’s one of the most expensive meals (and omakase options) in the city, but everything from the soy-marinated wagyu beef topped with slithers of truffle to thinly-cut raw butterfish fish makes it worth it.


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Friday Saturday Sunday looks like most contemporary American restaurants. But, the difference is that here you’ll have one of the best meals you can have in all of Philly, by way of their eight-course tasting menu full of dishes like sweetbreads, creamy agnolotti, and a juicy New York strip. It’s $130 per person, so reserve it for a date night with a person you like enough to plan Greek vacations with. 


A night out at Alpen Rose has the potential to cost a fraction of the price of an engagement ring, especially if you and your partner are both getting the tomahawk ribeye ($135) and caviar. But the Midtown Village steakhouse delivers with a large menu, crystal chandeliers, and a cozy interior that’s a cross between a railroad car and a library, all behind an unmarked door. They have all the steakhouse opening acts here like a raw bar and hearty potato, mac and cheese, and vegetable sides. But since huge cuts of beef are the headliner of the place, you should order the prime rib roast—it’s longer than a shoebox and the perfect size for two people. Plus, the blend of horseradish, au jus, and the tender cut comes together perfectly just like your Blazer ‘77s and jeans.


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8.7

Laurel

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If you’re at the point with someone when holding a conversation as long as the runtime of The Godfather is actually enjoyable, try out Laurel—their seasonal six-course tasting menu (at $135 a person) may have you seated for longer than a Sixers game. Whether it’s the type of night for monkfish that cuts like butter, poached salmon, or a braised lamb coppa dish, this French bistro is always worth the weaving you’ll have to do down Passyunk Ave. to find parking.


With pig’s head, a silky pork mousse, and pig’s blood cannoli on the menu, this South Philly spot has a few dishes you’ll only be able to find in their dining room. And just like its name, virtually everything here is charred or touches the flames in the open kitchen, including one of our favorites: the beef shin. It’s massive, it comes in an oval-shaped pan as big as the eggs in Jurassic Park, and you should take some of the curry-glazed shreds of beef and eat them in the accompanying lettuce wraps. Entrees here cost up to $80, so it’s a great place to celebrate an anniversary or when you finally find your lost car keys.


With massive picture windows and bright green signage, it’s hard to miss this Kensington pasta bar and wine shop. But even if you don’t notice the couples sharing bottles of merlot as you walk by, the unmistakable scent of lamb ragu will draw you in. From perfectly blended cocktails and unique, affordable wines to pastas so good that you’ll consider proposing to the chef, this intimate corner restaurant should be your go-to for every romantic night your have in mind. Tulip serves up modern takes on Italian classics, like cacio e peperoncini, Thai-inspired linguine and mussels, and our favorite, the Chesapeake Bay crab ravioli–perfectly doughy pouches stuffed with a creamy sweet-savory blend of crab and honeynut squash, finished with an irresistible crab butter.


With a nice long table in the middle of the dining space, this Kensington pizzeria is a relaxed spot that’s great for a double or group date. While any toppings they put on the airy, subtly sweet, and chewy crust will taste great, you should go for their spinach pie. Like creamy pasta in pizza form, it blends spinach, fermented chili, basil cream, garlic, grana, and breadcrumbs. But on dates where it’s just you and someone else, aim to grab one of the counter seats across from their oven. That way, you can sip on any of their natural wines while you share a plate of olives and watch the fire blaze across from you. 


Via Locusta is one of the better places to go on a date in Rittenhouse, and it should be at the top of your list if you haven’t been yet. The small pasta spot is full of two-tops, and there’s a long bar where you can order cocktails with all the other people on first dates. Almost half of the menu is pasta, and while they’re all great, the bucatini served with leek and piave bathing in a cream sauce is our favorite. The rest of the menu is just as good too, from fluffy focaccia with sweet and salty honey butter, to eggplant fritto on a heap of farmer’s cheese.


Rex at The Royal is one of those places to check out when you don't want to be on the wild end of South Street. And when it comes to date night, you’ll get a better dinner and a show experience here than hitting up the TLA a few blocks down. With a menu full of Low-country favorites like chicken and dumplings, shrimp and grits, and crawfish pot pie, you’ll get to choose from a lot of tasty dishes that are perfect for winter nights. And if the date goes well and you want a nightcap, they have a bottle shop inside.


This Center City sushi bar and izakaya is an ideal location for any stage of dating. If we’ve only had light talks with our date about why Lincoln Drive is the worst, we head to the cafe upstairs for a get-to-know-you coffee. And if we’re at the point where Netflix passwords are being exchanged like SEPTA Key cards between friends, we head downstairs for some drinks and an order of Japanese scallops topped with an onion ponzu sauce. They also have a wine and cocktail list as long as the Flyers championship drought, but we always go for the namesake Double Knot. It’s their spin on a Manhattan that’s served in a smoked glass with double the whiskey, vermouth, and bitters.


The dining room at Mish Mish in East Passyunk is totally relaxing, with a dimly-lit atmosphere and massive floor-to-ceiling windows that they open on a nice night. There’s no bad dish on the Mediterranean menu and everything on it is shareable, like grilled baby octopus with a peppery muhammara, a loaded bowl of marinated mussels with lobster-buttered bread, and a perfectly charred pomegranate-lacquered chicken. The menu rotates often, but there are a couple of things you can bank on: tasty seafood dishes, a great citrusy salad, and a lot of Sicilian and Turkish reds to share with whomever you bring. 


In a perfect world, I-76 would never be backed up, sunsets would happen at 8pm all year round, and we could all afford to live in Center City so Prunella could be our neighborhood date night spot. They have everything you want in a romantic restaurant: great pasta and pizza, intimate lighting, and a long list of Italian wines. Order a spread of crudos, crispy octopus, the Rabe The Bank pizza, and a juicy black bass entree that’s perfect for two. They have a big outdoor setup with rows of cafe tables that’s great for a day when you and your date both brought shades want to people-watch. 


Say through some twist of fate, you and your date happen to share a free lunch hour in Center City. This never happens, but if it does and you want to eat something a little more special than another $12 salad, Barbuzzo is where you should go. Sit towards the back, order the charcuterie board and some pasta, and start devising a plan where neither of you goes back to work.


If you’re taking someone to Union Transfer, you probably know the list of food options nearby is overflowing like a Sheetz parking lot. But that’s why there’s Osteria. This spacious Italian spot on North Broad has a beautiful covered greenhouse that's filled with flowers and a long bar that makes it an easy place to drop in before a show. The cocktails, pizzas, and handmade pastas are all excellent, especially their creamy francobolli ravioli that’s packed with robiola cheese and topped with large trumpet mushrooms. But we’re also big fans of the wood-grilled chicken if you want something that won’t weigh you down once the show starts.


Open until 11pm on Friday and Saturday, this Old City Japanese raw bar is the perfect last-minute option when watching the 7pm Sixers tipoff live is important to you. With a bunch of different sake options and flights, they offer a tastier way to learn the difference between Daiginjon and Junmain than any quick Google search. And since it’s best not to learn a ton about sake on an empty stomach, make sure to order some sushi or maki like the Broad Street roll filled with spicy salmon.


The best place we could send you for a date would probably be a cute little cafe on a side street in Paris. But since flying there just for dinner is something only Jeff Bezos would do, Forsythia is your next best option. It’s a small French restaurant in Old City that looks like a Parisian cafe, and it works well for both a dinner date or if you’re just grabbing drinks. In the front of the restaurant, there’s a long bar that’s great for sipping on a cocktail or splitting a bottle from their great natural wine list. The menu here is made up mostly of small plates, like a nutty lobster and chestnut bisque with puffed grains that’s so good, it remains stuck in our heads days after tasting it.


Dates are hard work. It’s not like The Sims where you can zoom through a night with a barometer telling you if the person is somewhere between “dream date” and “lame.” But that’s exactly why we like this Spanish spot in Old City—we’ll have some good tapas no matter how the date ends. They have a chic dining room that includes a lantern wall, wine barrels throughout, and a cool chef’s table counter space. Between the conversations about your favorite Rita’s flavors or who should’ve won Love Island, split the piquillos. These peppers are filled with so much crab that you might need to strategize with your date on who should take the first bite. But once you dive into this blend of silky manchego cheese and heat from the peppers, you’ll know that even if you bought every Sims expansion pack, you couldn’t make something this perfect.


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PHL Guide

The 10 Most Exciting Dinner Spots In Philly Right Now


Some couples plan their Alamfi Coast vacation two years in advance, while others can’t decide on which beer garden to hit up this weekend. If you’re one of those duos that need some help making a decision, listen to us when we tell you to snag seats near the grill at Pera Turkish Cusine. It’s fun to watch the smoky fish, chicken kebap, and juicy grilled lamb action go down, plus the staff at this cozy Northern Liberties BYOB is friendly and knowledgeable. Even the most indecisive couple will easily agree that Pera’s flaky baklava is some of the best in town. You’ll just have to settle on how many helpings you take home. 


With black and white marble floors, a towering bar, and every plant imaginable living inside, this French-inspired cocktail bar in University City is a great place for a first or 50th. Although the french dip here is fantastic, we suggest choosing something less dip-focused on a date, like the pan-roasted salmon. The herby boost from the chive vinaigrette might be the secret MVP of this whole place. Well, that or the 90s hip-hop and R&B playlist.


The Northern Liberties Mexican restaurant is a spot for a date night with simple needs: pitchers of passion fruit margaritas and an endless amount of tacos. Throw in an order of nachos, and then head down the street for our favorite romantic nightcap pastime: a few frames at North Bowl. 


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