How to Scope Out a Restaurant for Date Night

Whether you’ve been together for 10 days or 10 years, there’s one question that always arises in every relationship: what to do for dinner. From the earliest days of your courtship, setting the right tone when it comes to dining can be as monumental a moment as deciding whether you’re dog or cat people.

With all the awkward conversations to be had, weird quirks to overcome and inevitable decisions to be made over the course of your relationship, we’re giving you one less thing to worry about with our tried-and-true tips for choosing the perfect date night restaurant for any occasion.

1. Don’t Try to Break the Bank

If you’re in a new relationship, it makes sense that you’d want to impress your date with a five-star experience. While wining and dining certainly has its place, we recommend that place be reserved for special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, promotions and other major milestones. If you’re just getting to know each other, choosing a less formal, more relaxed setting can help alleviate some of the pressure—both on the conversation and your wallet. The best memories are often born from spontaneity, and you’ll probably cherish the one of that awesome late-night taco joint you stumbled upon over that awkward seven-course meal you started to fear may never end.

2. Be Wary of Food that Fights Back

Ramen, buffalo wings, corn on the cob—all delicious, but perhaps best to save the tougher-to-eat foods for dates five and beyond. Especially as you’re just getting to know each other, trying to balance the act of eating and conversing is a challenge in itself. No need to make it that much more complicated with foods that require slurping, peeling, cracking or any other tool beyond a fork and knife. As a good rule of thumb, if it can’t easily fit on a fork, it’s probably not the best choice for at least a preliminary date night. So maybe hold off on all-you-can-eat crawfish night for the time being.

3. Set the Right Ambience

Date night is about connecting, which is why it’s so important to choose an environment that allows you to really enjoy each other’s company. Obviously, being able to hear is number one, but it’s not just about acoustics. It’s about the atmosphere as a whole.

If you’re starting with happy hour, consider finding a spot outside or on the beach and kicking off the evening with some sunshine before moving inside for dinner. The quality of the food, of course, is a non-negotiable—but you also want to strike the right balance between sharing a table with the couple next to you and being the only two people in the place. After dinner, take a late-night stroll to your favorite café or gelateria. Creating the perfect date night will take some trial and error and will vary depending on the occasion, but thinking more about the experience as a whole rather than the meal itself will help ensure a night to remember (for all the right reasons).

4. Keep a Shortlist

This is key to avoiding what can easily become an hours-long decision every time you decide to go out (not to mention having to consult the embittered feedback of the Yelp community to aid in the process). As you find a great spot, make note of it and add it to your list of go-to restaurants. In San Diego especially, there will be plenty of opportunities to try the newest and hottest in world-class cuisine, but having a list of places you both know you like is an absolute must. Not only will a shortlist save you considerable time in the decision-making process, but it will allow you relive some of those great memories you’ve established over the course of your relationship.

5. Take Advantage of Restaurant Week

There is an unparalleled time to scope out the scene and build out your perfect date night: San Diego Restaurant Week. With more than 180 restaurants participating in eight straight days of vibrant tasting menus, uniquely crafted cocktails and unbeatable deals, it’s a fun and cost-effective way to check out some of the best in local fare and set the stage for your 2019 #DateNightGoals.

Is your favorite date night spot on our list of participating restaurants? Visit to see which of San Diego’s culinary masterminds will be showcasing their talents January 20-27, and be sure to follow us on Instagram and Twitter @SDRestaurantWk for all things #SDRW!

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