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 25 places in Philly that will help you make your first romantic impression, or your latest, a memorable one.

The Spots

The Good King Tavern in Bella Vista manages to be both a casual spot to go with a few friends for a Sunday night dinner and also a quiet and dark enough place to be the perfect choice for a mid-winter date. Make sure to get the duck wings—they’re crispy and topped with a tangy glaze that almost makes us forget we’re on a date when we go to lick our fingers. You really can’t go wrong with any of their small plates either, like steak tartare or socca served with an eggplant puree. After your meal, head upstairs to their wine bar, Le Caveau for a nightcap of natural wine and chocolate mousse.

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 Double Knot. It’s their spin on a Manhattan that’s served in a smoked glass with double the whiskey, vermouth, bitters.

On any given night, you’re bound to pass at least three first dates happening outside of Pub & Kitchen. It’s close to Center City, Graduate Hospital, and Point Breeze, which makes it an ideal “let’s just meet in the middle” spot. Split some oysters if you want something refreshing and quick so you’re freed up to keep debating over the ending of Insecure. And while the burger is also a good bet, it’s notoriously messy–they layer a 6-ounce patty with caramelized onions, pickles, bacon, and gooey cooper sharp cheese. Maybe save that for a fourth or fifth date.

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.

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 flowing 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 and earthy 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–especially if you're planning to hit the dance floor.

Charley Dove–formerly Audrey Claire– is an open-air, Mediterranean BYOB in Rittenhouse that’s always crowded and will remind you how much better your dining room would look if you bought fresh flowers regularly. This place is ideal for any kind of date, but they also have heated outdoor seating if you need the bonus of people watching as a conversation starter. There’s a great bottle shop across the street if one of you forgets to bring some rosé or a merlot. No matter which wine you get, it’ll go great with their roasted beet salad and whole roasted branzino that’s big enough for two.

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.

The 10 Most Exciting Dinner Spots In Philly Right Now guide image

PHL Guide

The 10 Most Exciting Dinner Spots In Philly Right Now

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 go back to work.

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 to take someone you’re so comfortable with that you don’t go full eyeball emoji face when they ask for the keys to your car. 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.

Sometimes you don’t want to invest in a full meal with someone new, but after missing lunch, you kind of need a menu with a ton of options so you can’t focus on something else besides your date’s “forever single” t-shirt. When that happens, we suggest going to Tria Cafe. The Spruce Street location has our favorite outdoor seating in the area and is comfortably away from the chaos of Center City. Split some wine and cheese, and if you need something to go with your glass of chardonnay, the burrata toast is excellent. It reminds us of the fanciest Lunchables ever, as it stacks burrata and fresh basil on a layer of garlicky tomato conserva.

Hiroki is somewhere to save for a big date, like a 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.

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.

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 game at Wells Fargo. 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.

Helm in Kensington is essentially made for dates. It’s a BYOB with string lights draped around the chalkboard menu, and a majority of the people here are past their 100th date talking about how their friend’s new baby looks like an alien. The food changes often, but the majority of the dishes are small and easy to share—like oxtail polenta and short rib with mandarins.

The two of you aren’t quite ready to take a trip abroad, but you want to eat somewhere that feels like you had to fly across an ocean to get there. When you find yourself in this situation, have dinner at The Dandelion. This Center City spot looks a bit like an English country house mixed with the pub that’s around the corner from your imaginary apartment in Dublin. And they serve great versions of British classics, like fish and chips and Welsh rarebit. They also have a nice fireplace, which is the perfect place to have a pre- or post-dinner pint.

We can think of a few reasons to go on a Happy Hour date, like trying to avoid a lunchtime friend zone first date. The best reason, though, is the $8-and-under cocktails and wines and the remix of a citywide (kirin lager and a shot of shochu) you can get at this Fishtown Japanese pub. Even better, you have another chance to eat some of the best wings in the city. Their black garlic wings are crispy enough that the glaze poured all over them doesn’t make the texture too soggy, and we’d order them by the bucket-full if that was an option.

The Best Chicken Wings In Philadelphia guide image

PHL Guide

The Best Chicken Wings In Philadelphia

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—like the Broad Street roll filled with spicy salmon.

Spring Garden’s SOUTH is part Southern restaurant and part jazz club with two memorable seating options: an open atrium and outdoor garden space. And between the live music, cocktails, and the outdoor space, it’s one of the most romantic spots in the neighborhood. If you want to impress your date with something other than the saxophone solos coming from the stage, make sure to order the shrimp and grits. The grits are creamy and buttery and get drenched in a peppery creole brown sauce. But the entire dish is about the size of a softball so you might need to order a bowl of their shredded chicken and turkey gumbo to fill out the meal.

If your date’s the type that does all of their shopping at farmers’ markets and always talks about wanting to “explore beekeeping,'' then there’s a good chance they’ll like Pumpkin. This small South Street BYOB has a tasting menu that changes daily based on what’s in season, but if you see any type of crudo on the menu, make that the first dish you order. We’ve had one with kanpachi tossed with pomegranate seeds and Asian pears a while ago, and it’s still right up there with the recent Eagles Super Bowl victory as one of our favorite memories.

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–or one you’ve named a few kids with. 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. 

With a nice long table in the middle of the dining space, this Kensington spot is a relaxed pizza 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 and 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. 

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 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.

Rex at The Royal is one of those places to check out when you want to be on the wild end of South Street. But 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.

Head over to this Market East spot when you’re in the mood to eat neat dumplings with someone who deserves a daily “good morning” text. This low-key spot has a menu as long as the tourist bus line across the street, including some pillowy crab pork soup dumplings packed with comforting warming broth.

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.

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