Food + Drink » Food + Drink Feature

Best date restaurants

One-night stand? Falling in love? Proposing? Breaking up? 
Liz Feltham's got just the place to do it.


Let’s be real here: it’s Valentine’s Day, and if you haven’t made your dinner reservation yet, chances are you won’t get one.

Consider these recommendations for future dates (that is, if you have any after messing up your Valentine’s reservations).

There are plenty of really great restaurants in metro to fit just about anyone’s taste, no matter how eclectic or straight-laced it may be; it’s just a matter of matching up the date with the right eatery.

If it’s a hot date, the kind you expect to be getting lucky after, then why not go all out and hit up Gio in the Prince George? Fantastic food, great service---and lovely guest rooms upstairs if all goes according to plan. Oysters, chocolate, asparagus---the foods of love on the menu are ready to work for you.

Don’t have that kind of coin? Spring for a plate of fish and chips at the Esquire, then duck across the road to the Esquire Motel---cheap and nostalgic!

First dates can be awkward, especially if they’re blind dates, internet hook-ups, friend set-ups, or any situation in which you don’t really know the other person. The last thing you want is to be crammed in an intimate dining room with nothing to do but gaze in each other’s eyes and wrack your brains, trying to dredge up something to say.

You want to make sure there’s something else going on around you to focus on, and that’s the beauty of teppenyaki grill at Hamachi Steak House. When conversation stalls, you can focus on the antics of the chef; sitting side-by-side takes away that face-to-face discomfort, too. If you hit it off, stroll to Perk’s for coffee and dessert.

If you both have adventuresome taste buds, go for Thai at any of Halifax’s Thai restaurants (Baan Thai’s my favourite, Sweet Spice is another spicy option). Just make sure you’re both up for the challenge.

If you’re a little more cautious, go for one of the family-style restaurants that offers good, home-style (but not especially over- seasoned) dishes, like Cousin’s or Mary’s.

For oeniphiles, nothing beats Seven. You can sip at the wine bar, chatting about varietals and terroir and such things before sitting for dinner; for beer lovers’ dating, snacks at Maxwell’s Plum are always good. And the more beers you try, the better the food gets---funny, that.

If you’re going on a date, and don’t typically dine out, you want to try somewhere consistent, with a mid-price range---a place that sees its equal share of business dinners and romance. For that, Sweet Basil or sister resto Saege is where you want to be; the service, wine list and food are competent and reliable; the desserts can take you to a whole other level, if things go well.

For true romantics, no kitchen does old-world charm and food like Cafe Chianti, with La Perla across the harbour a close second. Both these restaurants are quiet and intimate; Café Chianti is perfect for people in love and a splendid location for popping the question (marriage, that is).

On the other hand, if you’re breaking up over dinner---a last date---then you must chose something loud and have a table close to the door, for escaping the bad scene quickly. I would opt for somewhere like the Economy Shoe Shop---perpetually loud and crowded, everyone’s too busy trying to see and be seen to notice the fireworks.

As for eating out on Valentine’s Day, tell your sweetheart it’s much too crowded, and that you’d rather do something truly romantic like cook at home (or order in); chances are, you’ll be forgiven for forgetting to make outside plans.

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