First dates are hard. Maybe you’ve been doing you for a while and are finally getting back into things. Maybe you just moved to Seattle and are wasting no time finding someone, because you’re afraid of getting seasonal affective disorder. Or, maybe you just got dumped three hours ago and surprised yourself with how quickly you could score a phone number. No matter why you’re single, you’d rather not be, and that’s where we come in.
Whether you’re looking for a vibey bar to camouflage your lackluster personality, or pulling out the stops for something more impressive, you want somewhere with a good mix of food (and booze), and a vibe that won’t turn awkward. You also want a place where you don’t have to wait twenty minutes for a seat at the bar while they think about all the things they’d rather be doing than dating you. With all that in mind, here are our best first date ideas. Don’t screw this up.
So, you’ve secured a first date and both parties agreed on “somewhere in Cap Hill.” Artusi is the bar that does most of the work for you, starting with the smells of grilled bread and extra virgin olive oil blowing from the kitchen vents. It’s a great icebreaker that you’ll later tell the five children you’ll raise together. Plan to sit at the bar, but make a reservation for a table as a backup plan. They pour good wine, their cocktails are strong, and a meat/cheese board is a great way to test the waters as you figure out whether you actually like this person.
You were chatting about music when your date texted you that Mumford and Sons is “so raw and experiential” and the only logical thing to do was lie through your teeth and say “I have every album on vinyl.” Eventually you’ll have to admit that you initially thought Mumford and Sons was a shoe repair shop, but for now, make moves to The Sexton. This small Ballard bar is basically folksy music personified as a drinking establishment. Order some hush puppies and have the bartender surprise you with a custom cocktail, and said date will be so impressed she won’t even care when you finally admit you only listen to Action Bronson.
If you’re heading to Georgetown, it’s probably because your date lives nearby and wants to hover close to home. You’re not going to argue, because you really have quite a bit to lose here. That’s when Fonda la Catrina comes in the clutch. It has a laid-back feel, a summer patio with twinkly lights, flights of tequila, and tacos containing bacon. So really, this is a ploy to ensure that your date loves bacon.
Nothing says “We just met, but you’ll learn to accept my idiosyncrasies” like taking a first date to a restaurant with taxidermy all over the walls. Yes, it’s a little weird. But if you think she’ll be into the lumberjack thing, then by all means. Smith is like having cocktails at a cabin in the woods, except you will likely not see a live bear. They also make one hell of an aperol spritz if you ask nicely for it, which is currently not found in the wilderness. Clink glasses over a couple of apps, or order the burger and cut it in half. If you don’t get a second date out of it you can send us an angry email or one of those potato-grams.
Damn The Weather is exactly what it sounds like - an exposed brick and alcohol-filled respite from Seattle’s heinous rain patterns. It’s always pretty crowded, the place feels cool (but not too cool), and the menu has a solid mix of small plates, pastas, and entrees (but get the chicken fat fries). If you play your cards right, you should continue your date down the street at Altstadt for a beer.
The Independent Pizzeria is the perfect first date move when you want to get straight to the point, which is that neither of you wanted a salad. There, you have something in common already. The Independent is a tiny, romantic little place where you can still destroy a Neapolitan pepperoni pizza and tall boys of hard cider together. There are only about two dozen seats, so get there at 5pm when they open, or you’re probably not getting dinner. Or dessert, if you know what we mean.
San Fermo is in a historic Ballard house that you’ll step inside of and immediately feel like there should be a film crew hovering around here somewhere shooting an indie rom-com. In other words, this is not the most casual of the first date moves - this is where you take someone if you really want to impress. They make fancy brown liquor cocktails, classic Italian pastas, and an excellent pistachio affogato to seal the deal. Consider San Fermo your relationship starter kit.
Pioneer Square has an outstanding selection of bars, and this one is no exception. Good Bar feels like a fancy vintage hotel, with lots of white marble, and it’s an overall-excellent place to spend an hour or two sipping Sazeracs and eating charcuterie. Show up after 7pm when the lights start to dim and you’ll have a more private setting for getting a little handsy.
You want to make the perfect first impression with someone that you’re actually really excited about. Luckily, we’re pretty sure that’s why Anchovies & Olives exists. That, and to bring their smoked whitefish crostini into the world. Most of the snacks come in multiples of two, and the pastas and mains are easily shareable (if they have any variation of gnocchi with crab, get it or die alone). Pair your meal with some excellent Northwest wine, and brace yourself for the bill. Much like love itself, the perfect first impression does not come for free.
So, your coworker who you may or may not have been dreaming about naked starts a conversation with you, and you’re so shocked that you black out and say “Hey, let me buy you a coffee.” Well, what now? Vif is the espresso cafe/wine bar hybrid answer. It’s quiet enough to hear each other, but the music pumps out at the perfect volume in case you both are extremely incompatible and have nothing to say. The coffee is great, but if things go well you can transition into glasses of wine and nuts and cheese. Plus, there’s a parking lot, so you don’t have to circle the block for half an hour while someone else swoops in on the girl who got stood up.
Some Random Bar is the perfect spot to keep in your back pocket. The cocktails are excellent, the energy is good, there’s a patio for when the weather’s warm, and the food ranges from burrata to crab nachos. Just make sure your date knows that this is an actual place despite the fact that your text said, “let’s meet at some random bar,” otherwise you’ll just come across as someone who doesn’t grasp basic logistics.
At Manolin, it always smells like firewood, the bar is massive, and the salt-and-pepper plantain chips pair with a cocktail just as well as you hope you will with this total stranger. This is a light and bright space that always feels casual, which is why your date will be so impressed when the food starts coming out. The light, fresh seafood here is outstanding - share some ceviches while you get to know one another. Plus, the price tag is so reasonable that you won’t feel bad about taking care of the bill for a person you may never see again.