The Ultimate Guide to the Best Date-Night Restaurants in Philly and Beyond
These are the best romantic spots, no matter what stage your relationship is in.
When I was growing up, I pictured myself as an adult having candlelit dinners, staring across the table into the eyes of my lover while absorbed in rapid, never-ending conversations about … who knows what. I didn’t have a lot of serious-relationship experience when I met my current partner, so I tried to create these moments often. Sometimes the result was close to what I’d pictured as a kid, but more often, these nights felt awkward and stilted or, worse, ended in an argument because the evening wasn’t living up to my expectations. Eventually, my partner identified what was going on. “You cannot anticipate your happiest moments into existence,” he told me. He taught me that the important thing was to be genuinely present to each other; the romance comes from that. To that end, here are 15 date-night restaurants that can cultivate real connection, no matter what number date you’re on.
For a Low-Presh First Date
123 Chestnut Street, Old City
Han Dynasty’s Old City location is housed in a historic bank building with high ceilings and grand, arching stained-glass windows, making it a surprisingly vibe-y spot for enjoying dan dan noodles and cumin-spiced lamb. They’ve also got a full bar, so you can have a couple of beers while you cozy up in a huge booth and surround yourself with plates of spicy Sichuan food.
414 South 2nd Street, Society Hill
I don’t know if it’s possible to drink a bottle of wine in the fireside window seat at Bloomsday and not fall in love at least a little. Go here if you’ve suggested getting drinks but are hoping for dinner: It’s easy to progress from a vermouth-and-tonic and patatas bravas to a bottle of red wine and house-made pasta without even realizing you just spent three hours on the town on a Wednesday night.
For a Milestone Celebration
690 Haddon Avenue, Collingswood
Honestly, dinner at June is a bit of a show (in the best way). Call ahead and reserve a duck à la presse, and you’ll be treated to a three-course meal that uses every bit of the bird, including a tableside presentation in which your charming server will demonstrate the use of a heavy metal duck press in a process that involves cognac and fire, for a meal that will leave you both speechless.
699 North Broad Street, Poplar
An evening spent at Cicala at the Divine Lorraine means an evening spent wrapped in the embrace of a velvet banquette, eating indulgent, seasonal Italian food like house-made salumi, black truffle tagliatelle, and braised lamb. The wine list is full of special-occasion-appropriate bottles, and the dessert program is designed to make you linger just a little longer.
1 North 19th Street, Center City
This is a big one. Sure, you could stick with the sweeping views and white tablecloths at JG SkyHigh, the Jean-Georges joint upstairs. But there’s nothing more luxurious than tucking into eggs Benedict and a few mimosas before you even get dressed in the morning. Room service at Four Seasons is one of the best in-room dining experiences in the city, so when it’s time to pull out all the stops, this is the place to go.
For the All-Important Third Date
1601 South 10th Street, East Passyunk
Date three is around the time when — if all the ingredients are in place — you could find yourself on hour five of a hangout, hoping the night never ends. For that special concoction of crowded and cozy that lets you disappear into your tête-à-tête, go to Fountain Porter, split a bottle of wine, and let the intimacy and excitement of that third-date conversation carry you late into the night
1122 Washington Avenue, unit B, East Passyunk
Should you happen to know and love Indonesian food, Sky Cafe is a great place to show that off. If not, it’s a great place to team up and try something new (and delicious) with the help of the waitstaff, who’ll make sure you don’t mess up — and then leave you alone for as long as you like.
For a Date With Your Bae
600 North Broad Street, Spring Garden
I’m just going to admit it: Sometimes my partner and I run out of things to talk about, which is why live music is a nice distraction from the pressure of having a soul-baring conversation over dinner. Check South’s event schedule for the next live show and make a reservation to eat shrimp gumbo, drink a Sazerac, and enjoy the vibes.
1600 West Girard Avenue, suite C5, Fairmount
Stay with me here: A little healthy competition can help spark some romantic tension in even the most long-standing relationship. Grab a couple of highly curated local beers and a spicy fried chicken sandwich upstairs, then head down to the clubby Libertee Grounds mini-golf course, where you’ll compete for world domination (or maybe just who has to pay) over nine holes.
757 South Front Street, Queen Village
Looking for a spot where you can get dressed up and remember how cute you both look in candlelight? Fiore will give you those sexy vibes without the pressure. Some Italian wine, pasta and grilled meat will help you forget all the monotony of daily life, and a scoop of the perfect gelato will make your heart flutter even if it’s not with that first-date magic.
For a Midday (or, Ahem, Morning-After) Date
206-208 South 45th Street, University City
I don’t need to know what you did last night, but I do need to say that if I stayed over at someone’s place for the first time and then that someone took me to eat empanadas and drink tea in a sunny cafe that makes dulce de leche-filled alfajores from scratch, I would probably feel pretty good about my choices.
141 North 9th Street, Chinatown
Ray’s feels like a secret weapon. It’s the type of spot where if things go well, you can return again and again: The coffee is excellent, the handmade dumplings are delicious (get the sampler), and the family running the place knows how to make you feel like you belong. Grab a quick bite, then take a walk around Chinatown — or sit for hours and chat.
For When You’re Not Sure It’s a Date But You Hope It Is
261 South 21st Street, Rittenhouse
This is a move. The barstools are cozy, the drinks are strong, and the light bites are excellent. You might end up leaning close together, sharing drinks, sharing food — the perfect combination to light that spark.
618 Collings Avenue, Collingswood
The food at Zeppoli is served family-style, which means you should collaborate on your order and then let the relaxed, generous hospitality wash over you. Eating here is like sitting in your friend’s kitchen, if your friend was one of the best Italian cooks in the country.
614 South 7th Street, Bella Vista
I know I said romance doesn’t always mean candlelight and red wine, but sometimes it does. For those occasions, go to Le Caveau and pretend you’re in Paris — the most romantic city in the world, remember? If it all feels too serious, order a hot dog, which comes stuck in a baguette and is sure to break the ice.
For more Philadelphia dating inspiration, check our guide to romantic date ideas.
Published as “Know-it-All Guide: Do Date Night Right” in the February 2022 issue of Philadelphia magazine.