One of the most common questions I receive is “Where should I bring my date?”
I wouldn’t consider myself an expert on dating locations necessarily, but as someone who has been actively dating in Boston for the better part of six years, I have gone on enough dates (too many first dates, very few second dates, and don’t get me started on third dates - do those even exist?) to put together a list of places I would recommend for other people to go on dates. That’s right, I have been on so many dates at okay locations so you wouldn’t have to, and now you can go off and have that amazing date night.
There are a few points I keep in mind for the date:
Sit at the bar: I find that sitting next to someone at a bar allows for the opportunity to converse with someone more personably and openly. It is the combination of close proximity and opportunity for readable body language and physical touch (nothing too frisky, I am talking about those moments where something is so utterly hilarious that you have to give the person a slight pat on the back… or something PG like that). If I were seated at a table for the first meeting across from my date, I would instead feel like I am on a work outing conducting formal business agreements.
Be somewhere that has light bites: I love breaking bread with people. Going somewhere that has easy bites like charcuterie boards, a selection of appetizers or sharing plates, helps as a conversation point since this is a mutual shared experience, but is not too messy and allows you to take turns chatting.
Be in an area you can go for a walk: Stretch your legs and keep on chatting if the vibe is right. This allows an opportunity to keep on conversing in a more private scenario away from other bar-goers and away from the restaurant team, but I like to be in areas I know are still populated and I would still be passing by other pedestrians - most of the time, I am meeting someone for the first time, so I want to be safe during this getting-to-know-you phase.
Many times when I am about to meet someone, whether off of a dating app or through various meet-cutes life may bring, somehow the decision of where to go falls into my responsibility (but honestly, I would be more impressed if he tried to choose a location he thinks I might like!), and I ask, “Are you a beer, wine, or cocktail person?” This will help me understand which location to choose.
To be honest, this list can be great not only for dates, but also any scenario that calls for conversing with another in a 1:1 experience. Without further ado, the list:
Backbar (Union Square, Somerville)
Tucked away in the alley by Journeyman and across the way from Ebi Sushi is Backbar - home of Star Wars decal subtly placed throughout the interior with moody lighting bouncing off the darkened walls to experience beautifully crafted cocktails and mocktails alike. The noise level is mixed with an array of intimate conversations and the team’s choice playlist of the evening, never causing your own conversation to drown from the surroundings. There are snack bites, great to share amidst conversing, and the team rotates a new beverage menu every few months, but are happy to make an off-menu drink if you let them know what you like.
Still want to keep chatting at a new location nearby? Walk on over to Bow Market for some more bites and sit under the heated lamp with a blanket and a glass of wine in hand from Rebel Rebel.
Great location for: people who are cocktail aficionados or are looking to for the mix of comfort drinks and stepping outside of the box with an intimate atmosphere.
7 Sanborn Court, Somerville
Nathálie Wine Bar (Fenway, Boston)
A newer addition to the ever burgeoning Fenway neighborhood, the team at Nathálie Wine Bar curates a selection of small production, natural, and female-produced wine. Choose a glass from a bottle that is already opened, or open a bottle from Nathálie’s listing if you are willing to commit to at least two glasses (perfect - one for you, and one for your date). While you’re at it, grab a couple of montaditos or a cheese plate to share.
If you’re in the Downtown Crossing area, head to Nathálie’s sister location: haley.henry wine bar for an assortment of tinned seafoods to pair with your wines.
Great location for: the novice wine drinkers
186 Brookline Ave, Boston
PABU (Downtown Crossing, Boston)
A modern izakaya and sushi bar located on the second floor of the Millennium Tower. Do not be frightened by the price points, because there is a happy hour Monday-Friday from 4-6 PM and 9-10 PM with bites from $2-7 and a daily “Japanese Chuhai” creation (bartender’s choice cocktail) for $7, sake can for $9, daily selection of red or white wine for $6, and HH beer for $4.
Still want to chat after PABU closes? Walk over to Yvonne’s for creative cocktails within their library room or jm Curley for poutine and an amazing burger.
Great location for: Japanese food lovers, people looking to experience light, fresh bites
3 Franklin Street, Boston
Night Market (Harvard Square, Cambridge)
Downstairs from the bustling streets of Harvard Square, Night Market brings forth authentic Asian cuisine and street fare. This vivacious location may be small, but it packs a lot of energy. There are only so many seats at the bar, so despite what I said earlier, most of the seating here are tables, but the seating sure is cozy, and you’ll feel the positive vibes of Night Market’s team as they roll out several Asian bites and snacks, as well as sake cocktails - not to mention their beer and wine selection.
Don’t forget about their tasty sake slushies - but don’t drink too fast, you don’t want a brain freeze.
Great location for: the casual diner, the travel lover, the sake enthusiast, the sake curious
75 Winthrop Street, Cambridge
Lamplighter Brewing (Kendall Square, Cambridge)
I don’t drink beer, and I often have a hard time understanding which beer to drink or what flavors I would enjoy. Each time I have gone to Lamplighter, I have always found at least one beer I enjoy thanks to the team (and often times my date) teaching me more about the flavors.
Tuesday nights are trivia nights, and there are the occasional events in the back taproom. Don’t forget about the bring-your-own-food policy, where you can even have food delivered straight to Lamplighter to share and indulge.
Great location for: the beer aficionados, the amateur beer drinkers
284 Broadway, Cambridge
Wink & Nod (South End, Boston)
Hidden away downstairs off of Tremont Street, head to Wink & Nod where the team prepares their juices, cordials, and infusions in-house on a daily basis. The atmosphere is reminiscent of what, I imagine, the prohibition era would have been like with its dark interior and vivacious crowd with the team skillfully slinging drinks. Don’t worry, there is also an expansive beer and wine selection, too.
Every six months is a rotating chef for the food menu, so if you are looking for something new, stop by to see which chef is showcasing their latest culinary project.
Great location for: cocktail goers, foodies looking for a change
3 Appleton Street, Boston
Alden & Harlow (Harvard Square, Cambridge)
This Harvard Square location is versatile for an assortment of events with its open space layout, and you will be greeted with a selection of seats at their bar. The beverage list consists of cocktails: classic and creative, brews, and wines. If you don’t drink alcohol, fear not, there’s a selection of mocktails to choose from here, too.
The food menu consists of shared plates, with the menu often rotating based on seasonally available goods. The standard suggestion is two to three plates per person, depending on how hungry you are. Always ask the server how large the plates are, too, as you order.
Great location for: the beer aficionados, the cocktail drinkers, the foodies
40 Brattle Street, Cambridge
The list could go on and on, there are so many great places in Boston to go on dates, but here are my go-to’s so far.
Honorable mentions that will be elaborated in full another time are:
Deep Ellum (Allston)
Taste Wine Bar (Downtown Crossing)
Blossom Bar (Brookline) - honestly, one of my favorite locations, but I could write a whole post as to why I love this place for dates, friend catch-ups, and going alone