Whether it’s for a first date or a hundredth one, upscale or divey, we’ve got the right spot for the two of you.
With so many great places to eat and drink in Seattle and beyond, how do you plan the perfect date? Depends, of course, what you have in mind — whether it’s a getting-to-know-and-hopefully-like-you foray for cocktails or something a little (or a lot) more serious. Here are 20 ideas for the two of you, from a few of the usual romantic suspects to stuff you might never think to do.
Foreign National on Capitol Hill: It’s a tiny spot, so you have to get cozy. It’s retro-glam, like you’ve magically transported your date to a much more interesting place and time. The drinks are ambitious and delicious, and the snacks are from its sibling, the great Stateside (get the curry puffs!). And it’s very dark, so inadvertent — or advertent — touching just might occur. (300 E. Pike St., Seattle; no phone, foreignnationalbar.com) — Bethany Jean Clement
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Daphne’s in Edmonds: Don’t pick the obvious. The impressive date places are those that show you put thought into it, like this wisp of a spot in the North End, with eight bar stools, the Rat Pack crooning over the speakers and avuncular barman Desmond van Rensburg slinging martinis. He always remembers your first name. (415½ Main St., Edmonds; on Facebook)— Tan Vinh
Sun Liquor on Capitol Hill: Few venues are better suited for dates than Sun Liquor Lounge. It’s dark but not divey, intimate but not so romantic as to be intimidating for strangers to meet. Grab a table at one of the dim nooks or cozy up to the bar, where cocktails are well-crafted, creative and cheap. (607 Summit Ave. E., Seattle; 206-860-1130, sunliquor.com/bars/lounge. Note: Don’t get this confused with Sun Liquor Distillery.) — T.V.
JarrBar in Pike Place Market: This drinking den of shoebox dimension sits on the back side of the market, the best-kept secret in the most touristy of destinations. JarrBar, all 470 feet of it, channels the Mediterranean. Think all those lovely, tiny bars down those winding, cobblestone alleys in Madrid. (1432 Western Ave., Seattle; 206-209-2239, jarrbar.com) — T.V.
Mbar in South Lake Union: Arriving for a date at Mbar involves an elevator ride to the 14th floor, a trip down a long, windowed hallway bathed in violet light, and a spectacular view. On a nice day, you can sit on the rooftop and huddle by a fire pit, sipping cocktails and munching on some sophisticated comfort food. And if the date goes poorly, at least you have that view. (400 Fairview Ave. N., Seattle; 206-457-8287, mbarseattle.com) — Paige Collins
Little Gull on Lake Union: How your date reacts to the notion of oysters on the half-shell is telling: You’re looking for “Yes?!?!?” or “YESSSSS!” (“Ewww!” indicates a lack of adventurousness of which you want no part.) And Little Gull’s marble-topped bar, twinkly candles and lovely lakeside location make the adventure perfectly romantic in a low-key way. (Westward, 2501 N. Northlake Way, Seattle; 206-552-8215, westwardseattle.com) — B.J.C.
The Terrace Lounge downtown: Find a couch or a loveseat in the classically elegant lobby of the 1924 Fairmont Olympic Hotel, order a couple martinis and some fancy snacks, and show your date how luxurious life with you can be (at least temporarily). Hell, if it goes well, get a room! (Fairmont Olympic Hotel, 411 University St., Seattle; 206-621-1700, fairmont.com/seattle) — B.J.C.
Little Tin Goods & Apothecary Cabinet in Ballard: This new bar looks like it had “date place” as a guiding phrase when the staff came up with it. There’s a “meet me in the arbor at midnight on the next full moon” vibe to it. Soft circles of light shine from the Tiffany-style lamps. Get under the iron trellis and leafy plants and clink coupes of cava. For $32 a bottle, it won’t break the bank. (5335 Ballard Ave. N.W., Seattle; 206-268-0143, littletinballard.com) — T.V.
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Altura or Dick’s Drive-In on Capitol Hill: The couple that runs Altura met in line at Dick’s Drive-In, five blocks down Broadway. If the two of you did, too, then by all means, propose over a yellow-paper-wrapped cheeseburger; otherwise, consider springing for the prix fixe at their intimate, stellar spot. (Altura, 617 Broadway E., Seattle; 206-402-6749, alturarestaurant.com) (Dick’s Drive-In, six locations; ddir.com) — B.J.C.
Canlis on Aurora: It’s Seattle’s quintessential fine-dining establishment — and for good reason. As you sit side by side at a table covered in a perfectly ironed white tablecloth, take in the lake view and the room full of well-groomed servers and customers alike. The food coming out of 30-year-old chef Brady Williams’ kitchen will happily keep you there for hours. Surrounded by elegance, you’ll feel so yourself, bringing all the confidence you need to pop the question. (2576 Aurora Ave. N, Seattle; 206-283-3313, canlis.com) — P.C.
Cafe Juanita in Kirkland: Set in a midcentury home in a lovely little bit of Kirkland woods, tranquil, sleek Cafe Juanita has been making special occasions more special since the year 2000. You can’t go wrong with the Northern Italian cuisine made with exquisite local ingredients, and the caviar-and-Champagne tasting menu has “Yes!” written all over it. (9702 N.E. 120th Place, Kirkland; 425-823-1505, cafejuanita.com) — B.J.C.
Willows Inn on Lummi Island: Arguably the pinnacle of Pacific Northwest cuisine, the Willows Inn just feels magical — the alchemy on your plate, the gorgeous yet unpretentious dining room, the views of trees and water and sky. Getting here on a tiny, picturesque ferry is part of the loveliness, and you’re only going to do this once (hopefully), so be sure to book a room (and do not skip the glorious breakfast). (2579 W. Shore Drive, Lummi Island; 360-758-2620, willows-inn.com) — B.J.C.
FlintCreek Cattle Co. in Greenwood: You’ve had steak together before, but how about venison loin, fennel-braised shoulder of wild boar, or bison short rib? Change it up at this lively, loftlike new sibling of celebrated RockCreek — all the meat comes from scrupulous, small-scale ranches. (8421 Greenwood Ave. N., Seattle; 206-457-5656, flintcreekseattle.com) — B.J.C.
Bruciato on Bainbridge: Even for the umpteenth time, there’s something romantic about the ferry — and they now have Sofia Coppola sparkling wine in the galley to start your date out right. On the other side, walk up to brand-new Bruciato for wood-fired Neapolitan pizza from the same chef as Hitchcock. On the way back, more bubbles — why not? (236 Winslow Way E., Bainbridge Island; 206-201-3462, pizzeriabruciato.com) — B.J.C.
Island Soul in Columbia City: With tropical-bright walls (and a rum bar!) bringing sunshine to the exposed brick, this mini-holiday in the Caribbean has been a favorite date place for some for years. If you’ve never been, grab someone good and go — as they put it, “You’ll never forget your first time!” (and, they promise, “You’ll be back for more”). (4869 Rainier Ave. S., Seattle, 206-329-1202; islandsoulrestaurant.com) — B.J.C.
Lionhead on Capitol Hill: Chinese food may not sound exciting, but Lionhead’s Sichuan-inspired food made with carefully sourced, high-quality ingredients is really, truly thrilling. Acclaimed chef Jerry Traunfeld promises “deep flavors from fermented tofu and aged hot bean paste; sourness from pickles and black vinegar; notes from ginger, sweet spice and toasted sesame paste; and the wonderful fragrance and strange numbing quality of the Sichuan peppercorn” — and he delivers. (No actual delivery is available, but if the bustling dining room with the red lanterns is too busy for you, get takeout and light some candles at home.) (618 Broadway E., Seattle; 206-922-3326, lionheadseattle.com) — B.J.C.
Treat yourself — flying solo
Goldfinch Tavern downtown: The seats at the central bar of this Ethan Stowell restaurant in the posh Four Seasons are extra-cushy (be sure to choose one with a Puget Sound view), and nobody looks askance at solo diners at a hotel. While you’re here, you can pretend you’re visiting from somewhere, anywhere, else. Order whatever you want — you deserve a vacation. (Four Seasons Hotel Seattle, 99 Union St., Seattle; 206-749-7070, goldfinchtavern.com) — B.J.C.
Cafe Presse on Capitol Hill: It’s never awkward to be by yourself at this lovely but casual spot; they even sell magazines, in case you want a little silent, glossy companionship. And even the simplest stuff on the French menu here is so simply delicious, you really won’t want someone to share it with. (1117 12th Ave., Seattle; 206-709-7674, cafepresseseattle.com) — B.J.C.
Canon on Capitol Hill/Central District: Have a dram from one of the world’s largest whiskey selections. On Valentine’s Day, come solo for another reason. Squirt guns are placed between every two seats. Bartenders are armed with super soakers. The mandate: Shower any lovebird who shows affection. “If you want to sit in a booth and hold hands with your significant other and whisper sweet nothings and share a glass of Champagne with one another, Canon is the wrong place to be,” warned co-owner Jamie Boudreau. The V-Day drink special “will be something bitter.” (928 12th Ave., Seattle; canonseattle.com) — T.V.
Shorty’s in Belltown: It’s an oasis, where you’re perfectly accepted the way you are. You’re left to your own devices. Play pinball. Wolf down a hot dog. Order a cheap whiskey. Chase it with a slushy. Or hide away in the back bar. This is a poor man’s escape, a soul of Old Belltown. In this time of wealth and high-rises, it’s comforting to know you still have Shorty’s to turn to. (2222 Second Ave., Seattle; 206-441-5449, shortydog.com) — T.V.