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 a drink and keep the conversation fun will go a long way from keeping you from 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 you’ll want to spend the entire night in, here are 25 places in Philly that will help you make your first romantic impression, or your latest, a memorable one.
The Good King Tavern manages to be both a casual spot to go with a few friends for a Sunday night dinner, but also quiet and dark enough to be the perfect place for a mid-winter date. Make sure to get the duck wings, but you really can’t go wrong with any of their small plates. Afterward, head upstairs to their wine bar, Le Caveau for a nightcap of natural wine and chocolate mousse.
This Center City sushi bar and izakaya provides a location for any stage of dating. If we’ve only had light talks 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 that we’d be the first in line to stock up on if they ever bottled it. 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 smooth-tasting spin on a Manhattan that’s served smoked and has a campfire scent.
Throw some string lights in a garden just about anywhere and we’re confident it’ll be a great date spot. But the cheese selection, long wine list, and rotating menu of seasonal, produce-heavy dishes make Talula’s one of our absolute go-tos for dinner with someone you like. And even if there’s no room outside, or it’s 19 degrees out in February, the dining room is perfectly nice, too.
June BYOB is a tiny French restaurant on East Passyunk that only has about 10 tables - most of which are two-tops where couples split bottles of wine and plan what they’re going to name their children. The menu is pretty short and split up between appetizers - like seared scallops in a grapefruit vinaigrette - and bigger plates like roasted cod and a $42 trio of duck that’s especially excellent. Since some of the entrees are on the pricier side, we like June BYOB best for a date night when you’ve got something important to celebrate.
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 to class things up a bit, and while the burger is also a good bet, it’s notoriously messy, so you might want to save it 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 with a chic dining room that includes a lantern wall, wine barrels throughout, and a cool chef’s table counter space. Between the conversations about favorite Rita’s flavors or who should’ve won Love Island, try the piquillos. These peppers are filled with so much crab that you might need to strategize with your date on how to 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 as perfect.
If you’re taking someone to Union Transfer, you know the list of food options nearby is short, but that’s why there’s Osteria. This spacious Italian spot on North Broad has a great covered patio and a long bar, which makes it an easy place to drop in before a show. The pastas and cocktails are all excellent, and we’re also big fans of the wood-grilled chicken if you want something that won’t weigh you down once the show starts.
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 and they also have outdoor seating in case you want to bring your dog, too. They only take reservations on weekdays, but there’s a great bottle shop across the street if you need to kill time on a weekend night while you wait.
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 porcini and black truffle agnolotti that you eat with your hands is a must. The rest of the menu is just as good too, from fluffy focaccia with sweet and salty honey butter, to romanesco fritto in a pool of creamy goat cheese.
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, but after missing lunch, you want to make sure you’re not solely drinking on whatever you had for breakfast. When that happens, suggesting 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 a second glass, the truffled egg toast is excellent.
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, dark room where you’ll get all 20-or-so courses piece-by-piece straight from the sushi chef. At $135 per person, it’s one of the most expensive meals in the city, but everything from the soy-marinated wagyu steak to thinly-cut raw fish makes it overwhelmingly worth it.
Depending on the time of year, Noord is good for a few different situations. When it’s warm, they open up the large windows in the front, which gives this Dutch cafe and BYO a nice airy quality to it. And when it’s cold, it’s a great place to eat dishes reserved for months when you’re trying to stay warm, like fried pork croquettes and shellfish stew. It’s always pretty busy, but just grab a cocktail next-door at ITV while you wait.
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 with chili and chocolate bitters or splitting a bottle from their great natural wine list. The menu here is made up mostly of small plates like the creamy, salty corn and ham hock beignets and a citrusy mussels escabeche.
If you’re at the point with someone when holding a conversation as long as the runtime of The Godfather doesn’t make you pause, try out this East Passyunk spot - their seasonal six-course tasting menu may have you seated for longer than a game at Wells Fargo. Whether it’s the type of night for cod that cuts like butter, braised sea snails, or a smoky quail dish, this French bistro is always worth the additional time you’ll have to add on the MeterUp app.
Both the Rittenhouse and Kensington locations of Helm work for dates, but the Kensington one is essentially made for them. 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 this happens, 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, including not knowing if a lunch date puts you in the friend zone or if we like the person enough to use one of our new outfits on dinner. The best reason is the $8 and under cocktails and wines and the remix of a citywide (kirin lager and a shot shochu) at this Fishtown Japanese pub. Even better, we have another chance to eat some of the best wings in the city. Their black garlic wings are crisp enough that the glaze poured all over them doesn’t make the texture too soggy, and we’re sure we’d order them by the keg-full if that was an option.
Meeting someone who has a membership to Palizzi Social Club is a bit like hitting the dating lottery, just with fewer impromptu jet ski purchases immediately afterwards. This Italian spot in South Philly looks like the place where time stopped circa 1960, complete with old portraits and the same wood paneling your grandparents had in their basement. Have a few cocktails, get the rivolo vasto and spaghetti with crabs, and ask your date how they scored a membership. Or just try to convince them to bring you back again.
Open until 11pm on Friday and Saturday, this Old City Japanese raw bar is the perfect last-minute option when you can’t get off the couch before the game ends. With up to nine sake options and fun-sounding flights like Snow Beauty and Drunken Heart, 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.
Through some twist of fate, you and your date happened to share a free lunch hour in Center City. This never happens, so when 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.
Spring Garden’s SOUTH is part Southern restaurant and part jazz club with an open atrium that you can eat inside of, or opt for their outdoor garden space instead. Between the live music, cocktails, and the outdoor space, it’s one of the most comforting and romantic spots in the neighborhood. And if you want to impress your date with something other than the saxophone solos coming from the stage, make sure to order the creamy shrimp and grits.
If your date’s the type that does all of their shopping at farmers’ markets and always talks about wanting to “explore bee keeping,” then there’s a good chance they’ll like Pumpkin. This small BYOB’s menu 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. It’s cash only, so hit the ATM before you go.
You’ve reached the sweet spot in early dating where things are still new and exciting, but you don’t get that nervous pit in your stomach before every outing. This is when you should go to Burg’s Hideaway, a small bar in Point Breeze where the menu reads like a slightly upscale seaside snack shack (think miso salmon, rice cakes, and sake-steamed mussels). The cocktails are strong and affordable, the lighting is dim, and they’ve got a weekend brunch if you’re looking for a day date.