First rule of date night: take a shower. Second rule of date night: go somewhere fun. We’re neither willing nor able to help you with the former, but we got your back on the latter. Having fun on a date can mean different things depending on which date it is and what you’re looking for, so below are 15 places that cover just about any date night situation. From intimate wine bars to big spots with live music, one of these Boston restaurants will be exactly what you’re looking for. Just please, for everyone’s good, remember rule one.
This is one of the most interesting restaurants in the city’s most interesting neighborhood. If you’re tired of planning out your conversation topics before your dates, come to this JP tapas spot that’s part-bookstore, part-record store, and part-living room of the chef-friend you don’t have. Hit up the patio if it’s nice out, the slope-side cabin of a dining room when it’s not, and always order the stuffed dates. We also love the chicken wings, which are well worth the mess on your fingers, and a great way to test just how sloppy you can get before your date refuses to be seen in public with you.
Just about everything is served family-style at this small Asian fusion spot in the South End. Expect fun cocktails, really great smells, and a lively atmosphere that always feels like a party. You should also know about the “cheap date” special on Mondays and Tuesdays, assuming you appreciate the idea of a fun, affordable prix-fixe menu with punny names. Which you should.
You can’t take the T to get to Celeste, but there are still plenty of opportunities to experience some unintentional shoulder-rubbing here since it’s only about the size of a train car. That said, we still really like this place (rule number one of date night really applies here). You’ll feel like you’re having an intimate date in the living room of a questionably legal pop-up restaurant, though government regulations will be the furthest thing from your mind as you enjoy some pisco sours, ceviche, and lamb stew.
You could go to Bisq on a blind date, sit in the main dining room, and have a great meal. But if you grab a table by the bar in the back and tell your date that you’re eating in a new speakeasy whose mission is to serve familiar ingredients with an interesting twist (brussel sprouts with horseradish, or grilled pound cake with lemon-pisco curd, for instance), you can definitely earn yourself some cool points. To a person you’ve never met before, a little white lie can’t be that bad.
The kind of American comfort food at Beehive works for most occasions, and date night is certainly one of those occasions. While the food is probably not going to make you commit the rest of your life to anyone, you’re also really here for the nightly live music, which is a rarity in Boston. Go out and have fun at this loud, underground restaurant that makes you feel a little cooler than you probably are.
It’s appropriate that Puro is on Newbury Street, because this subterranean spot filled with cool people and pop art murals feels like an art gallery launch party. They do ceviches best, but don’t miss the panko-fried oysters. The big menu of small plates makes this a good option if it’s still early in the game and you don’t quite know what your date’s into yet.
On a first date, grab a casual breakfast at the kitchen counter. On a third date, move on to a soup and sandwich pairing at a high-top. When it’s time to define the relationship, the five-course seasonal tasting menu with wine pairings at a candlelit table should be your go-to. Juliet can work for just about every dating situation - you’ll just have to explain why the two of you keep going back to the same place over and over.
For a fun night Downtown that’s filled with as much flare as a Pitbull music video, you should head to Mariel. While the two of you are sitting in a pink suede booth, drinking rum that’s actually on fire, and consuming a whole roasted pork shoulder, you might think you’re having the time of your lives. Isn’t that the definition of a great date night?
Bondir is good any time of the year, but you really want to be here on a night when it’s snowing (or at least, when snow is still fun instead of rage-inducing). It feels like a little cabin in the woods that serves the type of hearty food you can’t cook yourself. It’s a tasting menu every night, so you’ll probably want to check the website before you book, but you can expect dishes like mutton and pumpkin molasses sorbet.
O Ya is a special restaurant - the kind you reserve for that talk you’ve been putting off about getting engaged, buying a house, or whether having one kid is already one too many. The $185 omakase delivers 17 courses of the best tasting borrowed time we’ve ever had. There’s also a significantly pricier and longer grand omakase available, but using sashimi as a means to avoid uncomfortable discussions just sounds like animal cruelty.
The North End is the only neighborhood in Boston where you’ll have to ward off those guys who come in off the sidewalk to try to sell you overpriced roses that you half-suspect got their color from a can of spray paint. But between all the twisting stroll-worthy streets and options for post-dinner pastries, it’s become synonymous with dinner dates. Taranta, a Peruvian-Italian place on Hanover, gives you a lot of the benefits of the North End without most of the drawbacks. You still get pasta, but instead of a tired red sauce menu, you’ll find interesting dishes like cassava root gnocchi. You still get an intimate, candle-lit dining room, but unlike half the other places on the street, you’ll never have to wait in line. It’s one of the more un-North End restaurants in the North End and is worth a visit for that reason alone.
When you need to show your date how classically cool you are, taking them to a hidden steakhouse in the back of a Downtown Crossing bar is a pretty good idea. Keep in mind, though, that you almost always need a reservation (this place is the size of your bedroom) and you can’t use your cell phone in here, so if the date isn’t going well, you’re not going to be able to call for help.
Maybe you record tasting notes in a leather-bound notebook, or maybe you’ve been known to sip a glass of wine and say, “Huh, this one’s a little more red.” No matter how many outlandish adjectives you can or can’t come up with to describe fermented grape juice, the people at this wine bar in the Fenway will help you find something you like. This dark, intimate spot is more for drinks and a bite than for a full meal (definitely go with the anchovies).
Woods Hill Pier 4 is a farm-to-table restaurant in Seaport, and it’s one of the few places in the neighborhood that doesn’t have 20 other locations throughout the city. So before a show at the pavilion that enjoys switching bank sponsorships, you can impress your date with a unique dining experience. There are some great cocktails and small plates - we like the Tigerlily (egg white, tequila and serrano pepper), as well as the whelk and fluke crudo dishes.
If you want to get into Oleana on a weekend night, plan accordingly. The relatively few tables in this small but much-loved Mediterranean restaurant on the edge of Inman Square book up quickly. It’s worth the effort, though, and it’s a little easier to get in during the summer when the backyard is open. Order some wine, and then pick out a few good-looking mezzes to share. If your date isn’t interested in the Sultan’s Delight, it’s kind of a red flag.