(Updated 10/20/14) A while back I had written up some of my favorite date spots in Raleigh and it got me thinking about the same deal for Durham. Where to go when you’re meeting someone for the first (or second) time and want to make a nice impression? A place where there’s decent food, energy and a discrete back door out to an alleyway in case you need to escape? Ok, I’m just kidding about that last requirement but everything else still stands. And the place needs to be reasonably priced cause you know you shouldn’t be blowing a ton of money on a first date! So here are some of my favorite options in the D-ham, when you’re looking to stir up a bit of l’amour…
My first and foremost favorite in Durham is probably Toast because it does gourmet while keeping things real. Bright cheery inside, cool sidewalk seating on Five Points, great sandwiches, soups, salads with some inexpensive wine. Love their tramezzini, mozzarella crostini and pretty much everything else on the menu! And you can easily get out of here for $30 with an adult bevvy. The wine quartino’s are a deal and usually are good for two glasses of vino. And if the date went well, you could head on over to Whiskey or Alley 26 to continue the conversation. I’ll be honest with you, if I brought a date here and she DIDN’T like Toast, I doubt there’d be much of a future for the two of us!
Another casual choice for me would be to match up Fullsteam Brewery with one of their food trucks, preferably KoKyu. I mean you can really tell a lot about somebody and if they are good with this pairing, you know your date is pretty easy-going and fun. How can you go wrong with some great Southern beer, happy Durhamites and delicious Asian-inspired street eats?! Yeah, it can be a bit messy eating one of KoKyu’s short-rib quesadillas while standing but what better way to show you care but to share some of their delicious eats? And afterwards, maybe you can catch some live music at Motorco.
Another great option in a similar vein would be Guglhupf out on Durham-Chapel Hill Road but in a very different way. You could do a lunch-brunch on their huge patio and enjoy their sandwiches or pastries. Or come at night where they atmosphere totally changes. Guglhupf literally glows at nights with the outside lighting and overhead lanterns. Great German food with solid service, you really can’t go wrong and there’s plenty of people-watching options. Guglhupf is a great place to woo a date but the one drawback is there’s not much else to move on to after dinner in this area.
Next on my Durham dating list would be Little Dipper out in Brightleaf Square! Known for its fondue, Little Dipper makes a dinner a dining experience with romantic, decor, great service and the fun act of dipping all sorts of goodies in cheese, broth and chocolate. And if your date drops her/his bread into the pot, well somebody should get kissed! While Little Dipper is not an inexpensive date, they run a lot of specials Monday to Thursday so check out their website for details and savings. But overall a GREAT spot for a fun evening…
My final dating option would be the newer Mateo for Spanish tapas. Similar to Guglhupf, this place also glows at night and is filled with European ambiance. Large mirrors, blown glass lighting fixtures in addition to a great small plates menu that allows you to graze a bit. Mateo is a lovely experience that takes you away for an hour or two with fantastic food, wine and ambiance which is great to get to know somebody. The one concern I’d have is to avoid the crazy times if you want to have a conversation cause this place is usually busy and can get quite loud. I think it would work perfectly on a Tues-Thur or slightly off-peak hour period. But yeah, great spot for a potentially great date, you will pay a bit more for Mateo.
So there you go, four great options for a great date without totally killing your wallet. Food has always been to me, a way to bring people together, even if it’s just two of you. And I have to confess that it’s a great way to screen in (or out) if somebody’s going to be compatible. You can tell if somebody is adventurous, easy-going and fun in no time at all once you’re sitting down with a menu in front of you right?! But in the end, it should all be fun because if you hit one of these places up for a date, while you may not find love, you will find yourself a great meal. Bon appetit!