Restaurant guide

A guide to eating out and all the best restaurants.

What makes a good dating restaurant?

Posted on | July 13, 2011 | Comments Off on What makes a good dating restaurant?

Restaurants are the central pillar of the modern urban date. It makes sense — nearly every romantic dating movie includes a fancy restaurant scene. Most guys (and girls) know their date wants to be taken out somewhere for a fun, memorable experience – and everyone needs to eat. Some guys even have their go-to spots lined up and ready.

But what makes a restaurant a good place for a date, rather than just another boring restaurant? (There is something that separates a great date restaurant from a good one, but we’ll get to that later.) Here are a few of the important elements that make up a good date spot to take your fair lady or guy. Take some notes for the next time you’re in a new place, or compare your go-to spots to see if they measure up.

Ambiance: A great date restaurant has to have a personality. Whether it’s a contemporary, artsy sushi bar with glowing countertops, or an old-school tavern with dark oak and wood beam rafters, the atmosphere of the place is what will absorb your date and take them to another world. Many guys assume the ambiance has to be rich, luxurious and upscale. It doesn’t have to be, as long as it has something interesting to offer. For example, El Compadre is a relatively inexpensive Mexican restaurant near Sunset and Curson. It’s not the shining diamond of Mexican food, but the interior vaguely resembles an old Hispanic courtyard, and a mariachi band plays certain nights around 8 p.m., giving it an old Mexican feel that easily takes you out of everyday life. Then again, if the rich vibe is what you’re looking for, the right place will convey that clear as a bell.

Light food: One thing people always worry about on dates is their breath, so it’s almost common sense that a date restaurant shouldn’t leave you smelling like a living vampire deterrent. Another thing to consider is the overfull feeling you get after wolfing down a double-king at Fatburger. That isn’t good for sparking the romance, especially if it’s your date who is fighting off the urge to hurl. Most of Los Angeles leans toward sushi as good date food, but other alternatives could be tapas, seafood, soup or bisque, salad, Chinese or Thai food, or any place that serves those small, artsy-looking portions. LA also has a decent selection of vegan and raw-food restaurants that serve good-size portions without busting your gut.

Good wait staff: Nothing ruins a dining experience like a bad waiter, so the wait staff is almost as important to the date-worthiness of a restaurant as the food and atmosphere. Most high-end places have that area covered impeccably, so pay more attention to the smaller, more casual restaurants on your go-to list. For example, the wait staff at Mao’s Kitchen on Melrose is attentive and resourceful, they seem to know every detail about the food on their menu, and they’re more than happy to accommodate special food requests. They get an A in date-worthiness. The unnamed restaurant with the tip-hungry waiter who gets cranky upon realizing his guests don’t want to order a three-course meal – not so much.

The “cool thing”: Okay, here’s the clincher that separates a good dating restaurant from a great one. A great date restaurant has “the cool thing.” This could be something to do with the atmosphere, something about the food, something the wait staff does, or even just the location of the restaurant itself. But the cool thing is the part you tell your date about beforehand to get them psyched up. It gives the restaurant an extra little spark that ensures a fun, memorable date. For example, Don Antonio’s Mexican restaurant on Pico has a dining area designed to look like the inside of a cave. The ceiling, the walls, and even the lighting create the illusion of being in a stone cavern, complete with tribal masks and twinkling stars. Awesome. Using the El Compadre example again, their mariachi band could be their cool thing, though their flaming margaritas are close competition. One Chinese restaurant in San Francisco lets you leave your meal up to the chef, who surprises you with random dishes. If you know of a good restaurant that is equipped with the cool thing, you may have a great date restaurant on your hands.

Know anything else that makes a great date restaurant? Hit up the comment section below.

(For more great information about restaurants and nightlife in the Los Angeles area, visit, the locals’ guide to Los Angeles.)