Thanks to the flower and chocolate industries, February has become the month of romance, climaxing on February 14, the most romantic day of all. If you're already coupled, then you'll want to refer to our list of restaurants serving Valentine's Day specials. If you're not, then it's time to get back on the horse.
Here's our list of the best restaurants for a first date.
This Deep Ellum dive is the place to go if you're putting out a profile of casual and street-savvy. Its anything-goes atmosphere provides a good cover for a wealth of potentially embarrassing moments, and the cheeseburger and fries will present as a good surprise. The walls are notoriously covered with graffiti; if the date goes well, you can add your own initials enclosed in a heart.
With more than a dozen restaurants, West Village is a sure thing for first dates. But he who chooses Baboush gets extra points for being plugged in to this sultry spot. Between the satin pillows and the Moroccan cuisine with kebabs and hummus to share, you'll feel transported. Belly dancers and hookah pipes add a little exotic wildness, and — best of all — Baboush is also affordable, providing a big bang for the buck (and less money down the drain if the date turns out to be a dud).
Funky compound combining a restaurant with an outdoor bar feels laid-back and relaxed. No pressure, man. The food is fabulous, with great salads, rotisserie chicken, homey sides, and the signature chicken biscuit sandwiches — almost everything priced under $10. Frequent live music gives you that extra something, making this first-date option more like a night out and not just dinner.
An offbeat location helps guarantee that you won't have to fight for a table at this chic bistro, but it's not empty either. It can be your "discovery." It also offers you the chance to look worldly. "Does this remind you of Paris?" you can ask, without ever admitting you've never been. Whether you have or not, the atmosphere at Mercat is Euro-charming with its fine china and Moulin Rouge bar. There are dishes to share, such as the charcuterie, and a split of sparkling Mumm's is $12.
Thai restaurant with two branches is a hip place that feels cool without trying too hard. The Asian-fusion menu has enough intrigue to please congenial gourmands. Atmosphere is upscale without being fussy, serene but not whisper quiet. You definitely don't want your first date to be too quiet. Most of the clientele is young and attractive, so you'll acquire some of that by sheer proximity. And if the date doesn't go well, you can console yourself with an impeccable dessert cake.
Casual Oak Cliff restaurant feels unique, yet with a familiarity that's relaxing for a first date. There are beverages on both ends of the spectrum — excellent espresso drinks or cocktails and beer on tap — and a menu with burgers, grilled chicken, and mac and cheese that's a little bit comfort food, a little bit gourmet. After dinner, you stroll Bishop Arts and gaze in the shop windows, just like Rene Russo and Pierce Brosnan did in A Thomas Crowne Affair.
Don't mistake this for a culinary experience. Other than a killer arugula salad and some decent pizza, Phil Romano's Saint Rocco is not much more than a dumbed-up Macaroni Grill. And it's in Trinity Groves, a suburban mini-mall with drive-up parking that's plunked close to downtown. But it has the atmosphere down. Its warm colors, top-notch lighting, and old-school Sinatra all combine to make you feel invincible, like Phil.
The phrases "wine bar" and "next to White Rock Lake" are pretty persuasive on their own. Service can be oblivious, but the wine flights help ease the pain. There's a bistro menu with well-executed flatbreads, salads, panini, and craft beer. Urban Vines also has an outdoor garden and some kind of discount every weeknight, such as half-priced wine by the glass on Thursdays. A Thursday night is a fun change of pace for a first date, right?
Whisk Crepes Cafe
The Sylvan Thirty center off I-30 west of downtown is an option when you feel like foraging for inner-city grub but have already done Bishop Arts and Trinity Groves. Crepes are one of those cuisines ripe for special occasions, and Whisk comes through with savory options and sweet. Split a savory first such as one filled with smoked salmon, mozzarella, and cherry tomato, then move on to the sweet: raspberries, coconut ice cream, and chocolate sauce. They're BYOB, so you can stop for a bottle of wine at CiboDivino next door.
Chef Yutaka Yamamoto's eponymous restaurant is one of the better-rated sushi spots in Dallas, and a favorite of local chefs. Go ahead and casually mention that to your date; doesn't hurt to show you're in the know. The menu has all sorts of crossover; in addition to sushi, there are items such as crab tacos and beet salad. If dinner is a success, you're in Uptown, and can catch a nightcap at any of the countless bars nearby.