First dates are tricky: you don’t want to invest too much in a relationship that hasn’t even started, but you also want to make a good impression. As a lady who has been on many dates in many neighborhoods, I am here to tell you that the following restaurants do a nice job of walking that line.
The Best First Date Restaurant in (Almost) Every Boston 'Hood
Deep Ellum (address and info) and Lone Star Taco Bar (address and info)
Learn a little about your date by having them choose between the two restaurants, under the same ownership and conveniently right next door to each other. The food is consistently delicious and creative at both, and neither one will break the bank. But is she a tequila and guac kind of girl, or more of a whiskey and burger type? Also, FoMu is only a few doors down and makes an excellent dessert.
Zocalo (address and info)
Don’t want to give off sugar-daddy vibes to that random OkCupid person? Luckily, this cute little place plates fresh Mexican at first date prices. The dishes are Instagram-worthy, and the cocktails (like a fig Manhattan with molé bitters and a hibiscus margarita) feel more fun than fancy.
The Tip Tap Room (address and info)
The Tip Tap Room is the perfect combination of classic and distinct, and the ambiance is as good as the food. With a gorgeous wooden interior and huge garage door-style windows, it’s an ideal place to while away the last of the warm weather while sipping a Manhattan (or one of 70 beers!) and chowing down on wild boar tips.
Pier 6 (address and info)
There’s nothing more romantic than a sunset over the skyline, except maybe a sunset shared over drinks and appetizers at a rooftop bar.
Gourmet Dumpling House (address and info)
Dumplings! GDH has some of the best bite-sized Chinese food in town. Also, if you move in together and microwave frozen dumplings for half your meals instead of actually cooking, you can always chalk your laziness up to the beautiful memory of the day you met.
Marliave (address and info)
For a classy lunch date look to Marliave, a sunny French place tucked away off Tremont St. It’s both upscale and unexpected, and odds are you’ll win points just for knowing it was there.
If you’re going on a first date in Faneuil Hall, it’s probably because you’re a tourist (and/or from the suburbs) and don’t know any better. So, uh, yeah, don’t do that.
Thaitation (address and info)
Thaitation has some of the best Thai food in Boston, and attentive service to boot. It’s bright, well decorated, and offers sidewalk seating during the warmer months.
Centre Street Café (address and info)
Even if you’re going on a more casual date, you still want the place to be cute enough to rub off on you. Centre Street does that, but in a good way.
Carmen (address and info)
For Italian food in a cozy environment, Carmen is your move. Beware, though, you’ll need reservations if you want to beat the line. Follow it up with some of the neighborhood's best cannoli for a thoroughly Italian-themed outing.
Gaslight (address and info)
There are SO many places to choose from in the South End, but Gaslight wins for its laid-back atmosphere and modest pricing (for the South End, that is).
Trade (address and info)
Trade has a cool interior and a fun twist on small plates (try the sausage flatbread). And since it's a date, sharing is fun. Or if your date doesn't like to share, well, you've just learned something important. It’s also close enough to the water that you can see out over parts of the seaport, or walk around afterwards on your way to Drink.
Local 149 (address and info)
Comfort food and craft beer should win the heart of any South Bostonian, and whimsical offerings like cast-iron Point Judith squid or flash-seared yellowtail are great for those with a slightly adventurous side.
Park Restaurant and Bar (address and info)
If you want to up the ante, Park Restaurant and Bar’s posh couches and swanky cocktails will make you feel like you’re hanging out in a James Bond film.
The Friendly Toast (address and info)
Trust on this one. We already told you about the Sklarmaggeddon, right? But be sure to get there early -- it’s popular.
Tupelo (address and info)
This chic Inman Square spot pairs surprisingly affordable Southern comfort food with drinks in Mason jars. Whether you’re actually a lumbersexual or your plaid is just occasional, we recommend that you embrace the hipness and go.
Cuchi Cuchi (address and info)
This strange, sparkly mecca of cocktails, small plates, and waitresses dressed like flappers is fun without being too cheesy. The staff has enough of a sense of humor that they’ll entertain you even if your date turns out to be a bore. Plus, the banana bread is the perfect size to share. And if you make it past the first date, be sure to hit its sister spot off Inman, Dali.
Christopher’s (address and info)
The following is a real conversation:
Me: “What good first date restaurants are there in Porter?”
Friend: “That you would actually go to, that aren’t Christopher’s?”
There you have it. So grab an English burger with avocado and follow it up with some live music at Toad.
Foundry on Elm (address and info)
It’s classy bar food, but there’s something available for almost anyone, including oysters and a fun twist on bacon-wrapped dates. Also, you don’t have to be a mixologist to order a cocktail that you’ll enjoy. Try the On Fleek for something fresh and different.
Bronwyn (address and info)
If it was a really, really good date, you should be treating your companion to a really, really good brunch. The same applies if you're about to embark on one of those epic all-day dates that will no doubt involve day drinking, kayaking on the Charles, and a long "aren't we having so much fun today" stroll along the Esplanade. At Bronwyn, you can get maple-drenched German baked pancakes, sausage that is miles better than “breakfast sausage,” and surprisingly delicious grapefruit beer to wash it all down. And you can eat it all outdoors on the patio if you like.
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By day, Kim Prosise writes and edits content for clients around the world; by night, her circus freak alter ego performs high-flying feats of fantastic daredevilry. When she's not working, she's traveling, baking, or Dustbusting glitter. Ask her for facts about sea creatures.
1. Deep Ellum477 Cambridge St, Allston
2. Lone Star Taco Bar479 Cambridge St, Allston
3. Zocalo Mexican Bistro & Tequila Bar35 Stanhope St, Boston
4. The Tip Tap Room138 Cambridge St, Boston
5. Pier 6 Boston Waterfront1 8th St, Charlestown
6. Gourmet Dumpling House52 Beach St, Boston
7. Marliave10 Bosworth St , Boston
8. Thaitation129 Jersey St, Boston
9. Centre Street Cafe669 Centre St #A, Boston
10. Carmen33 North Sq, Boston
11. Gaslight Brasserie du Coin560 Harrison Ave, Boston
12. Trade540 Atlantic Ave, Boston
13. Local 149149 P St, South Boston
14. Park Restaurant & Bar59 Jfk St, Cambridge
15. The Friendly Toast1 Kendall Square, Cambridge
16. Tupelo1193 Cambridge St., Cambridge
17. Cuchi Cuchi795 Main St, Cambridge
18. Christopher's Restaurant & Bar1920 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge
19. Foundry on Elm255 Elm St, Somerville
20. Bronwyn255 Washington St, Somerville
Music, barbecue and drinks are the name of the game at this venue named after the Dallas region. The small gastropub has eclectic fare (root beer braised pork belly), beer nerd-worthy brews (Schlenkerla Helles Lagerbier) and proper cocktails (The Ward Eight). Deep Ellum slings many potables well-suited for its little Shangri-La in the way, way back as well.
Lone Star is the result of a collaboration between two dudes from Texas and Southern California, so you can feel pretty confident that they know their way around Mexican food. With a menu influenced by taquerias and markets in Austin, Dallas, and Mazatlan, Lone Star serves up a huge range of tacos, from carnitas and barbacoa to refried beans and huevos rancheros. They also do a killer breakfast menu (breakfast tacos! huevos rancheros!) and have an absolute ton of tequilas ready to pour.
Between its days in Brighton and now in the Back Bay, Zocalo has spent 25 years serving up faves like grilled jumbo shrimp in chimichurri sauce and chicken-stuffed batter-fried poblano peppers accompanied by killer margaritas.
Their concept is simple: cook up a variety of meat "tips", ranging from normal (steak and turkey) to exotic (Cilantro Serrano Kangaroo Filet), then pour more than 30 beers from their taps to wash it all down. And don't worry, if for some reason you're not interested in the tips or taps, they concoct a number of cocktails and serve other tasty eats, as well.
If you're looking for a restaurant with panoramic views of Boston Harbor, Pier 6 in Charlestown is for you. The three-floor restaurant focuses on New England fare and features a raw bar, a private dining room, and a roof deck.
If you're looking to stuff your face with delicious pork buns or other doughy comfort foods, this popular place serves cheap, authentic dumplings.
The Grotto chef meticulously restored this two-floor former speakeasy's Prohibition decor (original black and white paint job, tin ceiling, white marble bar), and's now slinging appropriate hooch like The Great Experiment (Hendricks, mint, cucumber, lemon, orange, and cucumber).
Aiming to instill "more authenticity" in the old Brown Sugar space, a longtime BS chef has Bangkok'd the joint out, instituting a legit Thai menu and renovating the interior to "make you feel like you're in Thailand" with "sunshine yellow" walls, authentic Thai artwork, and sweet Thai background music (but oddly, nary a lady-boy).
This bright, quirky spot sitting happily in Jamaica Plains boasts affordable breakfasts and Italian dinners. The menu's both vegetarian- and college kid-friendly (jackpot if you're both) with reasonably priced dishes like biscuits & gravy in the morning, pancetta-based burgers in the afternoon, and garlic-y corn risotto in the evening.
Reservations are recommended at this cozy, elegant Italian restaurant, because there are only nine tables. Carmen's boasts a seasonal menu that features items like spice-crusted tuna, seafood brodetto, pan-seared duck, and sautéed haddock Francese.
Parisian brasserie complete with cafe tables, communal booths, and an eclectic bar. Extensive wine list with over 20 French wines by the glass, and an impressive menu chock full o' Parisian delicacies.
Trade's industrial/wooded interior is quite the sight to behold until your meal arrives and you forget all about it. Award-winning chef Jody Adams features a menu of internationally inspired chow and specialty craft drinkables, wines and beer.
The Local 149 puts the emphasis on "Local," offering a cozy and welcoming atmosphere for folks to pick from more than 20 brews on tap and eat delicious and fresh bar grub in South Boston.
This place is a class act with comfy couches and killer cocktails. It's got a romantic vibe, and a late night menu.
The Kendall Square spinoff of the cult Portsmouth favorite, FT's Fri/Sat 24-hr, 150-seat full-service diner featuring a 22-seat bar, front lounge, and two dining areas adorned w/ lime green walls and hunter green vinyl seats and booths.
From the owner of Petsi Pies, Tupelo purveys "comfort food with a Southern flair" offering incestually authentic Louisiana recipes in a redwood-walled 45 seat space with white tile floors and chocolate wood tables.
Opened in July 2001, CC serves up small plates (don't call them tapas here) and have a full liquor bar available with experienced bartenders making delicious specialty drinks.
Christopher's in Cambridge offers up a delicious menu made up of American fare like wings and calamari, as well as great drinks.
A joint venture from two industry heavyweights who've dreamed of working together since high school, FOE's a brasserie-tavern hybrid (brassevern!) balancing oft-local hearty fare with delicious artisanal draughts.
This cozy Union Square restaurant serves up modern twists on traditional and authentic German fare (borscht, massive bretzels, every wurst imaginable). And, in true German fashion, Bronwyn offers dozens of beers (by the liter, boot or bucket) from all over central Europe and New England. Owner Tim Wiechmann was aiming to imitate the atmosphere of a European dive or hostel with this location, and he totally nailed it with its nearly medeival look (dark, heavy wooden tables, worn-leather bar stools, rustic red and blue walls).