Best Dates for Dinner & Drinks

Il Brutto

East Side Evening

My ideal east side date begins at Il Brutto–one of my favorite places for pizza in town (they ferment the dough for 48 hours, and the best seat in the house is the bar area at the high tops). A dinner date over a formal table isn’t always my style, so I love this option for a more laid-back feel. I love the Burrata Pizza, the best extra cheesy Lasagna in Austin, and an Amaro to whet your appetite. Cap your meal with the Cardamaro Digestivi and the complimentary limoncello they make in-house. They have one of the largest Amari and Digestivi selections in town, and the knowledgeable staff will guide you on what to order. If you want to continue the evening, walk over to Lolo Wine Bar for a glass of wine or grab some sake at Domo Alley-Gato Tatsuya.

Lin Asian Bar + Dim Sum

Casual Clarksville

This quaint part of town has many wonderful date night spots, two of them being Hold Out Brewing for a casual burger and beer or Lin Asian for soup dumplings. Hold Out is a great get-to-know-you space because it feels low-pressure with a backyard feel, and counter service ordering. They have long picnic tables, so it’s usually easy to find a seat and drink as many beers as your conversation allows. For a dinner option, walk over to Lin to teach each other your specialty way of eating soup dumplings, and talk about your favorite places to travel. Or you can just eat your dumplings giggling and cover your mouth while you slurp 🙂 If impressing your date is the priority, waltz into Howard’s for pricier cocktails, espresso martinis on draft, and the bartender Travis who is my favorite in the city. This place has a sexy vibe at night, with DJs spinning and sports on the TV. Trigger warning: on busy weekends they have a red rope with a bouncer.

Farther East Side Evening 

My 3 go-to’s in this area: De Nada Cantina, Justine’s, or Central Machine Works. De Nada is always lively with guests chatting over frozen margaritas served in bright pink cups. There’s usually a line, but I love sitting at the bar instead of a table (and always have good luck getting a seat right away), chomping on chips and queso, the fried quesadilla, + sipping on the Mango Margarita.  For a fancier experience and more intimate lighting, sit at the bar in Justine’s. Share the mussels, steak tartare, and the burger if you want to soak up your previous margarita 🙂 You’ll see most people with a French 75 or Negroni. Continue the party at Central Machine Works or, if you like German Beer, walk over to Koko’s Bavarian

De Nada Cantina 

Justine’s Brasserie


Mingle on Manor

Newly opened, Este ,is from the same folks at Suerte, but this time with their take on Mexican seafood. While I would normally suggest going here with a big group since the menu leans to large format dishes that are pretty pricy. However, it’s a great date spot with its wrap-around porch (which is heated in the winter), colorful blue and yellow tiles, and the counter available for walk-ins. Grab a cocktail and some snacks like the Tuna Tiradito or Este Ceviche. Afterward, discover Techo next door, a speakeasy mezcaleria lit only by candles lining the walls and your buzz from the mezcal flights served in clay glasses.


Here Nor There and Milonga Room are cocktail lounges available for reservations–you usually don’t even have to make one too far in advance but you do need one to enter. Here Nor There is very unexpected: you’ll be led downstairs to a darker room with a New York/London-esque feel and enjoy an evening of great cocktails, classic bar snacking pretzels, and cute European bartenders 🙂 You can only make a reservation through a specific app you’ll have to download to your phone before. Let’s be real though, it’s hard to plan so far in advance sometimes, so check out The Treasury which is inside Shangri-La also on the east side. Walk on back outside and where it wraps around towards this blue door, ring the doorbell and they will let you in. You’ll dive down some stairs into this small bar area where you can snag seats in front of the bartender and have one of the best espresso martini’s in town.

Milonga Room is a speakeasy behind Buenos Aires Café and feels more “old Austin” and casual on the east side. They have small plates like the House Fries tossed with fresh garlic, parsley, and chimichurri aioli (so I suggest throwing some gum in your bag on your way out the door in case the date goes well!) When you arrive at the red door, you have to knock and give them a password they send you before you arrive.

South Lamar

For a unique dinner offering, try out Odd Duck. The chef has been nominated for James Beard awards many times, really putting the Austin culinary scene on the map years back. Their menu is very unique, showcasing a wide array of flavors you might not assume you’d like until you try it. Or, if you’re the kind of date that doesn’t mind slurping a bowl of ramen, grab dinner at Ramen Tatsuya and then walk across the street to their bar, Tiki Tatsuya. You can most likely walk in at 4 p.m. or after 9 p.m., so don’t spend too much time trying to snag a res (and sit at the bar)! This place is wild in the best way and reminds me of an adult Rainforest Cafe with sporadic cracks of “lightning,” tiki glasses custom-made in Japan, and light-up blowfish. This spot is definitely a conversation starter or distraction if you need one!

Ramen Tatsuya

Tiki Tatsuya

Lenoir Garden

Just for a glass of wine

Lenoir – meet up in the tented garden area for a glass of wine and a romantic feel. The entire selection is natural wines!

Aviary Wine & Kitchen – this small, casual space has a great bar area perfect for sipping and chatting over a bottle. You’d be surprised to know they have one of the best wine lists in town. 

APT 115 – with their thoughtful wine selection, charcuterie boards, and background music of spinning vinyl–a first or 50th date would be perfect here. 

June’s All Day – if you want to grab a glass of wine but still be a part of the hustle and bustle of Austin, June’s is a great date option for sitting on their front patio and people-watching on South Congress. I love late night wine at the bar surrounded by the black-and-white checkered floor and neon art.

Hotel Date

I would be shocked if The Peacock Mediterranean Grill inside the Austin Proper didn’t result in a successful date. There’s something for everyone (even healthy options), and they serve the best pita I have ever had. It’s THE doughiest which (if you haven’t noticed) is always my preference. The Peacock is an upscale option, and designer Kelly Wearstler’s sophisticated, colorful touch brings life to the space. Upstairs by the pool is La Piscina, another MML restaurant. They serve my favorite fajitas even though they are pricier than your usual Tex-Mex neighborhood spot. The fajitas are served over a sizzling pan paired with melted cheese, and again THE doughiest/fluffy homemade flour tortillas. Chips and Guacamole or Ceasar Salad are my go-to starters. End the night with Carajillo (coffee with hard liquor) instead of Espresso, and then go two-stepping at Donn’s Depot, one of the greatest dive bars in Austin simply because it’s full of people from age 20 to 80. Or if you want to stick around the hotel, try to sneak into Goldie’s, the bar only available to residents and hotel guests (but I’m sure you can finesse your way in). 

Shock your date with SoCo Hotel’s hidden gem, Watertrade. Literally, this spot is tucked away above the courtyard near Mañana. You’ll make your way up the staircase to the dimly lit, leather-seated cocktail bar attached to Otoko. Available by reservation, or walk-in if you’re lucky, their extensive cocktail menu and list of Japanese Whiskies are incredible intros to the Izakaya (small bites) menu from Otokos kitchen. I love the Hamachi, Oysters with Uni, and their custom label sake–Revenge of the Third Son. Cozy up with your date in a plush chair or sit at the bar and watch the bartenders do their thing.

La Piscina

The Peacock 

Goldie’s in Austin Proper Hotel

Watertrade’s Hamachi, by Chad Wadsworth