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 spot with enough atmosphere to camouflage your lackluster personality, or something fairly low-key that will allow you to show off your sparkling conversational skills, it should have a good mix of food (and booze), and zero potential for being awkward. With all that in mind, here are our best first date ideas. Don’t screw this up.
You’re not living in an episode of The Bachelor, and you probably don’t have access to a nearly-nobody country singer to perform a private concert in an empty room, but that doesn’t mean you can’t plan a cinematic night your date will remember. That’s where Foreign National comes in. It’s a psychedelic cocktail spot that could feasibly feature in a spy heist movie - specifically the scene when two enemy agents rendezvous and fall in love (location scouts, take note). Grab a spot at the bar for a few rounds of sparkling passionfruit punch, and add the cheeseburger bao and crispy creamy chicken curry puffs if things start to get serious.
We like drinking margaritas on the rooftop here in the summertime, but the lively indoor dining room works well for an early-in-the-game date, too. Sit at the bar, order a mezcal cocktail and shrimp tacos or some of the best pork mole in the city, and if there’s chemistry and no rain, head upstairs for a patio nightcap.
Belltown has plenty of spots that would work for a first date, but Black Bottle has some top-tier atmospheric magic happening. It’s noisy enough not to be awkward, but not so loud that you’ll miss any red flags that might come up in the course of your conversation, like that passing mention of your date’s creepy antique doll collection. The cocktails are strong, and the menu is full of solid little snacks if you’re hungry.
The only thing prettier than Bar Melusine’s white and seafoam green dining room by day is the same scene at nighttime - it’s hard to imagine the interior here not appealing to someone. If you’re hungry, get some oysters and mix and match other French small plates, or go for fancy burgers with fries and aioli. Honestly, the only wrong way to do Bar Melusine is to go somewhere else.
If you suspect that your date is a fun person (or need a foolproof way to find out), New Luck Toy is the place to go. This is a casual but exciting bar full of paper lanterns, golden cat ornaments, pinball machines, alcoholic slushies, and delicious Chinese food. Toast with frozen prickly pear margaritas and an order of General Tso’s chicken before tearing up the skee-ball court, and if your date doesn’t seem to be delighted by all of this, there’s a chance he or she is actually a cyborg.
Pablo y Pablo is a Mexican spot in Wallingford that seems like it was designed for first dates - the big bar and candelit small tables make it perfect for getting to know someone. And as an added bonus, it’s not terribly loud (or awkwardly quiet) in here. Food-wise, we especially like the steak tacos and chipotle chicken enchiladas. If nothing else, you will at least figure out how good your date is at using an eyedropper, since for some reason, that’s how you add hot sauce to your food here.
You and your potential future significant other have already agreed to meet “somewhere in Cap Hill.” Artusi is a good move. This place does most of the work for you, starting with the smells of grilled bread and extra virgin olive oil blowing from the kitchen vents. (That’s a nice memory for you to talk about with the five children you’ll eventually raise together.) The bar is a nicer place to sit, but if you’re the kind of person who needs a solid plan, make a reservation for the dining room just in case. 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. Your date will be so impressed she won’t even care when you finally admit you only listen to Action Bronson.
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 this person will be into the lumberjack thing, then by all means. Coming here is like having cocktails at a cabin in the woods, except you will likely not see a live bear. 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. Get the chicken fat fries, then continue your date down the street with a beer at Altstadt.
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. This is a tiny, romantic little place where you can still destroy a Neapolitan pepperoni pizza and tallboys of hard cider together. There are only about two dozen seats, so get there at 5pm when they open, or make sure you have a solid backup plan.
You’ll step inside this restaurant, located in a historic Ballard house, and immediately feel like there should be a film crew hovering around 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 you really want to impress. They make fancy 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 the inside of an old-fashioned hotel, with lots of white marble, and it’s an overall excellent place to spend an hour or two sipping sazeracs and eating charcuterie.
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 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.