Where to go on date night?
It’s Saturday night. The $12-an-hour babysitter has arrived and she might actually wash the dishes and not spend all evening on the Internet. The minivan has at least a half tank of gas. A dress has been picked out. A husband has been told to change his shirt with food stains on it.
Time for the parents to dine in a restaurant. Drink a bottle of wine. Order a $23 fish entree. Share a chocolate dessert. Spend, oh, $175 for an evening that involves only sitting, eating and conversation as normal. But this time it will be — not that we don’t love them — without kids.
The AJC’s Momania blogger Theresa Walsh Giarrusso set this conversation in motion when she asked me and restaurant reviewer Meridith Ford Goldman about our favorite no-fail, always-reliable, babysitter-worthy restaurants. Theresa was concerned with finding places that offered good value for the money, and where the staff would make minivan-driving suburbanites feel welcome rather than not cool enough.
Meridith complied with this list of her favorite restaurants at every price level, from burgers to Bacchanalia.
As someone who is a veteran of many date nights and who is a little further along in the parenting game than Theresa and Meridith (we just shipped our first born off to college, but have not yet outgrown the need for babysitters), let me add these tips to the conversation.
- Establish a relationship with a good restaurant near your home. If they recognize you as a semi-regular customer, you’ll feel so much more comfortable coming dressed as you are, making special requests and camping out at a table. Plus, you know you like the food. When my wife and I find ourselves suddenly without children, the first question is, “Cakes & Ale or Pura Vida?” Good prices, good food, usually a couple of seats at the bar.
- If you splurge, go for the food you really like. It’s fine to try out the hot new restaurant where critics were impressed by the chef’s pickled octopus or the Southern farm-to-table sensation where one gorgeously sourced radish will cost $8. But think about the food that makes you happy. My wife and I are fiends for sushi, so if we really want to drop some change on great food, we’ll head to one of our favorites, such as MF Sushibar or Tomo Japanese Restaurant. But if you want a great steak, or a shellfish platter, or a spin in the meat wonderland of Fogo de Chao, go for it. You want your dinner to relax you, not make you more tense.
- If you want to try a new restaurant, follow the advice of a critic, blogger or friend whose food taste you respect. Web sites and guides that aggregate reviews let loudmouths rule the roost.
- Don’t spend more money that you should and then suck it in because that’s one of the rules of Date Night. My wife and I enjoyed a wonderful meal without the kids at the plain, neon-lit Cafe Agora in Buckhead. Great Turkish food, cheap wine, enticing smells — it reminded us of how much fun we had in restaurants when we were young and poor.
- Hop. Go to a sensible restaurant for dinner and a trendy glitz palace nearby for dessert and coffee at the bar. If it’s pretentious and hate-able, you’ll have more fun rolling your eyes and people watching if you’re not dropping a chunk of change.
Do any other veteran parents have good Date Night advice for our friends who still change diapers? Let us know.