You’ve gone on a couple dates with someone and you’re surprised to find it’s not going terribly. You’ve bonded over the important stuff, like agreeing that people who don’t like queso are not actually people, that The Wonder Years is an underappreciated show, and that Pease Park is better than Zilker. So far, all signs point to it working out, but you haven’t yet discussed whether cover bands are good or bad, so it’s hard to know for sure.
When your next date comes up, you’re going to want to go somewhere affordable that doesn’t seem affordable. These are our go-to spots that will still impress a date, but won’t get you flagged for credit card fraud, and where you both can feel comfortable ordering what you actually want while expressing your true feelings about cilantro.
There aren’t too many places on Dirty Sixth that we’d recommend for a real date, but Easy Tiger is an exception. Grab a small table inside and share one of their boards, and after a beer or two, challenge whoever you’re with to a game of ping pong outside - just make sure you lose a few points to hide your awkwardly competitive side. Or find a spot at one of the communal tables where you’ll probably end up planning a double date with the strangers next to you.
Third dates are tough - you think you might like this person, but they also spent an extended period of your last date talking about their at-home pickling project. This is the time to be optimistic and choose somewhere with food interesting enough to talk about when the conversation stalls. Head to G’raj Mahal for samosas, chicken vindaloo, and curry. Their menu also has lots of gluten-free and vegetarian options in case you’ve noticed that your date is trying to hide their dietary restriction. Sit outside on the patio and plot where you’ll head after, since you’ve decided you’re ok with free pickled vegetables for life.
Guero’s can get crowded, so much so that you can't order a margarita at the bar while you wait because there are so many tourists talking about "real Tex-Mex" already there. If you head to nearby Hotel San Jose while you wait for your table, though, you can pretend it was your plan all along to get a little peace before your meal. When it's finally time to eat, try the tacos al pastor or fish tacos and keep the margaritas coming (all of their drinks are less than $10).
Between the beachy bar, tiki drinks, and abundance of outdoor seating, Pool Burger is an ideal spot to spend an outdoor spring or fall night with someone you like. Choose from their menu of burgers before pretending you’re capable of eating a burger politely and neatly while you explore the cocktail options.
This is the date that’s going to make you tell your mom you’re “seeing someone, and no I won’t send you a picture.” Round out the illusion by taking them to Licha’s - it’s located in an old house, so you can mentally prepare to take this person to your parents’ actual home someday. Get the roasted mushroom huaraches, cochinita pibil, and choriqueso (though it’s hard to go wrong here), and then be surprised when the bill comes and it’s less than you spent on your last bar tab.
Last time you went on a sushi date, you vowed to never make the same mistake again, after how high the bill was and how hungry you still were at the end of the night. Kome is one of the few sushi spots where the prices won’t give you anxiety and the fish is still really high quality. Start with shishito peppers, wings, or some yakitori and you’ll only need a roll or two afterwards. Though if you’re on a date with someone who is, according to their dating profile, “going through bulking season,” try to come during Happy Hour when certain rolls are only $6.
Ever since you showed up to your first date in what you thought were slacks and what your date informed you were actually fancy sweatpants, you’ve been trying to show that you can indeed clean up well. You don’t need to pull out all the stops, you just need to head to Bar Peached. The taco trios and the Malaysian fried rice are solid, plus there’s a full bar to keep both of you distracted from the fact that you already managed to drop food in your lap.
Most of the time you’re on Dirty Sixth, you’re planning your escape route. So when we tell you to bring a date there, you might start to doubt us. But Backspace is worth it - it looks like a romantic European street cafe and is one of the best date options in the area. Their Neapolitan-style pizzas aren’t huge, but they’re large enough that one, paired with the baked ricotta or roasted beets, will keep you both full.
Sometimes it feels like the only options on the East Side are to spend all your money at a new, high-end restaurant, or spend this week’s accumulated couch cushion change at a food truck. And when you’re at this stage, neither of those feels right. But Blue Dahlia has been on East 11th Street for a while now and it’s an ideal spot to bring a date - especially their outdoor space that looks like a secret garden. Everything on the menu is less than $20, so order some mussels and split a few tartines before you grab a nightcap at any of the 20 bars nearby.
Your last date on Rainey Street accidentally involved too many drinks and a fall, followed quickly by a “I don’t remember that curb being there.” Somehow you were charming enough through it, and they’ve agreed to another date - it’s time to redeem yourself. A picnic is an easy way to look like you planned something elaborate, when actually it’s pretty simple. Order food from Little Deli before heading across the street to pick up some beer and wine and before you know it, you’ll have a perfect picnic of pizza by the slice, a hot pastrami sandwich to share, a Greek salad, and whatever bottle you can find that’s not the cheapest in the entire store.
Fresa’s patio is located under a grove of trees and is the perfect scene for retelling that story about calling 911 when you were four and your sibling stole your last chicken nugget. They also make great flavored margaritas - both frozen and not - and if you’re not quite at the share-a-rotisserie-chicken level, order the Power Bol with chicken, sweet potato, and roasted cauliflower. Then get an order of Mexican street corn to split so you can elaborate on how important sharing food is to you.
Via 313 is the perfect spot to bond over how much you both miss Pizza Wednesdays from middle school. Their Detroit-style pies are some of the best and the location on Guadalupe has a full bar. Share a couple pizzas - if you choose one with pepperoni and another with something green, you’ll appear both complex and well-balanced.