The Best Date Night Restaurants in Philly

Romantic (but not cheesy) options, no matter the stage of your relationship.

Zeppoli’s dining room in Collingswood / Photograph by Samuel Markey

Romance is an elusive beast. Try too hard to achieve it and you may find yourself staring across the table at someone you genuinely love, wondering why the conversation feels so stilted. Depending on the stage of relationship you’re in, you’ll want different things from a romantic night out. For a new couple, almost anything can feel sexy, while a long-term couple might need a bit more of a push in the right direction. Whatever your needs, use this list to plan your next hot meet-up, whether it’s the all-important third date or your 25th wedding anniversary.

The Lunar Inn, Port Richmond
The Lunar Inn has what some Philadelphians (okay, just my friends) believe is the most perfect lighting in the city, which is to say that during the day this corner room looks all golden and filtered, and then transitions to soft and diffused in the evening. Consider this good news for anyone who would like to feel like a slightly hotter version of themselves whilst on a date. The Lunar Inn’s natural wine list also helps in this pursuit: It’s more interesting than your run-of-the-mill Philly bar options and includes helpful tasting notes like “grippy” and “luscious texture” that won’t leave you feeling like you need an enology degree in order to find a glass you’ll enjoy. Pair your wine with a hot dog or a pickle plate. And, if the date goes well, grab a bottle from their wine shop in the back to take home with you for part two. 3124 Richmond Street. 

La Llorona CantinaSouth Philly
Seafood and mezcal combine for an undeniably hot date-night experience. And both of these things are available to you at La Llorona, South Philly’s favorite Mexican cantina. Try to sit in the quiet back room where the staff will give you plenty of time and space to hang out and get to know each other. If you’re feeling unsure about your drink order, ask for a recommendation of mezcal to sip. Then share a plate of zippy scallop aguachile when you get hungry. 1551 West Passyunk Avenue.

Cicala, North Broad
At Cicala, you can sit in a big velvet banquette, drink a bottle of red wine, and order house-cured salumi, spaghetti with lobster and tomatoes grown next to Mount Vesuvius, and a roasted rack of lamb. If that’s not enough to inject romance into your evening, know that there’s also an exceptional dessert menu that can extend your meal for another hour. 699 North Broad Street.

Ray’s Café and Tea House, Chinatown

With its excellent siphon coffee and Taiwanese dumplings, you should make this Chinatown cafe a regular destination in your Philly dating life. It’s the type of daytime place where you can return again and again and it’ll always feel like your special spot. Get a dumpling sampler, say hi to the incredibly kind family who runs the place, then take a walk around Chinatown. 141 North 9th Street.

route 47 food

Po’ boys and oysters from Sweet Amalia Farm Market & Kitchen in Newfield / Photograph by Michael Persico

Sweet Amalia Market & KitchenNewfield, NJ
One of the best dates I’ve ever had involved a 45-minute drive into the middle of nowhere, followed by eating ribs and drinking beer in the back of the car on the side of a quiet country road. Sweet Amalia is where you can recreate this: About halfway to the Shore (less than an hour from Center City), you’ll find a market-style restaurant serving Melissa McGrath’s grilled oysters, fried clams, and fried oyster rolls, all available for the perfect road trip lunch. Eat them with reckless abandon in the sunshine on your way to the shore, or make the market a destination in itself. 994 Harding Highway.

Fountain PorterEast Passyunk

Fountain Porter is good for all kinds of casual dates, but it’s particularly useful for a night earlier in your relationship, when — if all the ingredients are in place — you could find yourself on hour five of a hang. The room stays dark, the bartenders are friendly, and they serve both beer and wine, so you don’t have to choose. When you get hungry after talking for all those hours, Fountain Porter’s $6 burger will surely come in handy. 1601 South 10th Street.

South Jazz KitchenSpring Garden

In a long-term relationship, sometimes you need to spice up your date-night routine. Live music does the trick especially well. At South Jazz Kitchen, you can eat Southern staples and drink a Sazerac in front of a jazz trio or maybe just a saxophonist who makes delightful faces while he plays. Check South’s event schedule for the next show — you’ll need to buy tickets ahead of time to ensure a spot. 600 North Broad Street.

ZeppoliCollingswood, NJ

This Sicilian-leaning BYOB serves a $55 three-course or a $75 four-course prix-fixe meal in a room that feels like your friend’s rustic kitchen. (If your friend was one of the most impressive cooks in the region and left you alone to canoodle during dinner.) Go for the lemony grilled shrimp over cannellini beans, a plate of mezze rigatoni, stewed rabbit, and the eponymous doughnuts for dessert. The understated warmth of Zeppoli works well for a random Friday night date. But the food is so good — confident in its simplicity — you’ll want to come back for all of your special occasions. 618 West Collings Avenue.

Sky CafeEast Passyunk 

No, Sky Cafe is not candlelit. But this casual Indonesian restaurant does happen to be one of the best places in Philadelphia to over-order fried chicken and noodles, bring a couple of beers, and linger for a long time. Come here when you know the conversation will take care of itself. The staff is happy to help you pick from the menu, but they’re also happy to leave you alone with your gado gado and googly eyes. 1122 Washington Avenue.

Ralph’s Italian RestaurantItalian Market
I’ve never had a Lady and the Tramp moment with spaghetti and meatballs, but if I were to recreate that iconic scene, I’d do it at Ralph’s. The staff and menu here somehow walk the line of Italian American kitsch in a way that is so cliche it becomes once again charming. See if you can grab a table in the grandiose second floor dining room, where uniformed waiters effortlessly ferry trays of red sauce up and down the stairs. You’ll be surrounded by families who have been dining at Ralph’s since the place opened about 100 years ago, and you’ll regret not coming here for every one of those years. In nice weather, grab a sidewalk seat and sip Negronis, share a gigantic veal cutlet, and try to avoid the temptation to use your nose to push the last meatball toward your date. 760 South 9th Street.

Shared plates at Bloomsday Cafe / Photograph by Ted Nghiem

Bloomsday CafeSociety Hill

The extensive beverage list and comfortable neighborhood feel of Bloomsday make this a perfect choice for any situation where you’re having drinks with a date but hoping it will continue into 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 three hours have slipped by on a Wednesday night. Bloomsday’s menu wouldn’t be out of place at a cool wine bar you visit on vacation, what with everything from tinned fish and oysters to a very good smash burger. 414 South 2nd Street.

Dankbaar, East Passyunk
Kind of like a hot date, Dankbaar makes you work for it. Joncarl Lachman’s reimagining of the dearly departed Noord is now a tiny, candlelit spot that’s only open on Friday and Saturday nights. You’ll need a reservation. One you’re in, crack open your BYO bottle of wine and order the vinegar-braised rabbit with cabbage and smoked sausage or a crispy duck confit. And make sure to check out the drawers in the bathroom for all kinds of useful and non-useful surprises. 1911 East Passyunk.

Han DynastyOld City

Han Dynasty’s Old City location is housed in a historic bank with high ceilings and arching stained-glass windows, which makes eating dan dan noodles and cumin-spiced lamb feel particularly memorable. Plus, Han Dynasty also has a full bar, so you can order a couple of beers while you sit snug in a booth and surround yourself with plates of Sichuan food. 123 Chestnut Street.

The bar at Friday Saturday Sunday, Rittenhouse

Take one look at the first floor of Friday Saturday Sunday and you’ll assume the person who designed it knows a thing or two about courtship. The barstools are comfortable (and have backs), the drinks are strong, and the shrimp cocktail with yuzu kosho is an undeniable aphrodisiac (don’t fact check this). You and your date will probably end up leaning close together and sharing a couple snacks. Show up early to make sure you get a spot at the bar  — seats fill up quickly in here and there are no reservations. 261 South 21st Street.

Le Caveau / Photograph by Emma Ressel

Le CaveauBella Vista

Romance doesn’t always mean tiny tables with flickering candles and glasses of wine, but sometimes it does. For those occasions, go to this second-floor wine bar from the team behind the Good King Tavern and let the French-heavy wine list and busy atmosphere take the wheel. If this all feels a bit too serious, order Le Caveau’s hot dog, which comes stuck in a baguette and is sure to break the ice. 614 South 7th Street.

Pho 75, East Passyunk
Early in a relationship, there’s romance in the mundane, like slurping a bowl of rice noodles at the spot you normally go to alone on a day off. For me, that place is Pho 75, where you can read a book at a cafeteria-esque table, watch whatever game is on the TVs up front, or, if I’m lucky, do a little flirting over pho with sliced steak. Bring cash. 1122 Washington Avenue.

Mish MishEast Passyunk
A list, in no particular order, of things that are sexy at this East Passyunk Mediterranean restaurant: the perfectly grilled baby octopus with muhammara, the upbeat playlist forcing you to wiggle in your seat just a little, the warm and glow-y lighting, and the bottles of wine on ice in the middle of the room, ready to be poured at a moment’s notice. Make a reservation for a not-too-formal dinner date, or come in later in the evening for a glass of wine and a slice of chocolate cake at the small bar. 1046 Tasker Street.

The bar at Forsythia, Old City
If you’re looking for a place to have an after-work drinks date, Forsythia’s happy hour is a great option. The crowd is more laidback than the average Center City happy hour goer, so you’ll be able to actually snag a seat and hear yourself think. Once you order an $8 glass of wine and snacks like savory beignets and foie gras mousse, there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself sitting there well after 7 p.m. 233 Chestnut Street.

Room service at Four SeasonsCenter City

For a big-deal date, like a birthday or anniversary, you might assume that dinner at Jean-Georges or Vernick Fish are the flagship experiences at the Comcast Technology Center. But there’s another option. Make an evening of it by staying at the Four Seasons and ordering room service in the morning, luxuriating in bed with a cup of coffee and a mimosa. Save dinner at a restaurant for a time when you actually want to put your clothes on. 1 North 19th Street.