Admittedly, romance isn’t the first thing that springs to mind when it comes to Austin’s culinary scene. Bat City is better known for food trucks hauling smokey brisket and taco counters dripping with Jack. Add a hot and humid climate and some live music to the mix, and it’s no surprise that date night attire traditionally errs on casual. The question begs, can Austin wine and dine?
Thankfully, there’s plenty of sexy to be found here right now, providing opportunities to make an effort and show that special someone some serious TLC. Date night in Austin has graduated from flip-flops and communal seating to actual shoes for strutting through candlelit caves, chic patios, and designer interiors. Whatever y’all are after — an intimate rendezvous, celebratory anniversary, or just a treat after a long week of WFH — here are 12 perfect places for romance.
Intero (East Austin)
Eastside legend Intero is Austin’s beloved Italian restaurant and casual chic date spot. The emphasis here is on whole ingredients (Intero translates to “complete”); husband and wife team Ian Thurwachter and Krystal Craig source everything from farm-to-table organically, locally, and seasonally with a zero-waste ethos. The result, when paired with traditional Italian techniques and cooking, is feel-good down to the last slurp of house-made spaghetti.
Dining at the restaurant: Both indoor and outdoor seating options have a distinct homey feel. Patrons tuck into beautifully presented risotto on chunky plates and imported wine in simple glassware which matches the warm, inviting atmosphere. Happy hour runs Wednesdays and Thursdays for added ice breakage.
Takeout: Takeout is offered on the website. Craig is also a talented chocolatier and pastry chef, with a decadent selection of uniquely flavored truffles worth adding to the order.
Everyone’s favorite excuse to get dressed up and hit the town, Garrison is Austin’s multi-award-winning upscale dining experience. Chef Jakub Czyszczon leads patrons on a journey of Texas post oak flame-grilled Tomahawk steak, duck breast Rossini, and crispy octopus, alongside tater tots worthy of entree status.
Dining at the restaurant: Hidden at the back of the towering Fairmont Austin hotel, Garrison is a swanky spot where you can go all-out — vintage Dom, caviar, and proposal included. For those that have moved past early-year fireworks, the 24-ounce Porterhouse steak and a glass of vino should set those sparks off every time.
Takeout: No takeout options are offered, except for in-room dining at the hotel.
Experiences: Check out the special experiences available at this restaurant: Valentine’s Day Tasting Menu. Book the Experience here.
Bar Peached (Clarksville)
The low-key hangout that’s perfect for a new app date, Bar Peached cooks up Asian comfort food with a Southern twist, accompanied by a wide booze selection. Shareables include the spicy gochu pork fries (with caramelized kimchi, barbecue sauce, and sriracha), banh mi tacos (with Vietnamese braised pork and pickled carrots), and Thai chile barbeue steak (sided with jasmine rice and a 14-minute egg).
Dining at the restaurant: Loosen up with a drink at the adorable 13-seat bar, which stocks a neat selection of sake, then move on to the outdoor patio under the historic heritage tree for the evening’s tasters, rounding off and cooling down with bingsu (Korean-style shaved ice with toppings).
Takeout: Most of the menu can be ordered for takeout via the restaurant’s website.
ATX Cocina (Downtown)
Mexican restaurants in Austin tend to fall on the casual side, but ATX Cocina introduces a welcome upscale setting to experience guac, nachos, sopes, queso, and the like. Blonde wood, soaring ceilings, velvet banquettes, and a happening bar all make for a stunning setting to bring a date. The menu appropriately follows suit, with house-made masa using heirloom corn grown by small family farms in Mexico, and as for the portions, they’re most definitely Texas-sized.
Dining at the restaurant: The decor of ATX Cocina echoes wellness from the West Coast (plus the entire menu is gluten free), except there ain’t no spirulina here, but rather salsa, avocado, and queso-based glory. Come right after clocking out and enjoy happy hour deals on tacos and the classic margarita.
Takeout: Call for takeout of ATX Cocina favorites, plus taco kits for at-home, cook-together date night.
Devil May Care (Downtown)
An unexpected resident of Sixth Street, Devil May Care exudes the golden age of glamor steps below street level. Here, a chamber of sinfully good times awaits in the company of seductive candlelight, live entertainment, and a menu of Mediterranean-inspired eats, fine wine, and craft cocktails.
Dining at the restaurant: A jazz band elevates the Wednesday evening experience as patrons dine on grilled octopus and lamb ribs as part of a prix-fixe menu paired with wine. Happy hour, brunch, and seasonal events also make it a night to remember.
Takeout: Call or order online for a meal and wine takeout.
Canje (East Austin)
Guyana, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico not only have the recipes to tantalize taste buds but equally to transport diners a world away to island life and leave those inhibitions behind. This recent East Austin addition serves big sharing plates of jerk chicken, pork lechon, and coconut tilefish. Y’all can’t do it without roti and fried sweet plantains to side.
Dining at the restaurant: The venue is a lively affair of patterned tiles and dangling plants, with a fruity cocktail selection to neck under them. Try the curry-infused gin and banana-infused rum cocktails if you want to spice things up.
Takeout: Call for takeout options.
Aviary Wine and Kitchen (South Lamar)
Long-time wine institution Aviary Wine and Kitchen is gaining acclaim for its culinary creations as well as its wine. Local dish favorites include the ramen egg, dumplings with poached shrimp, and pork belly with fermented turnips. Portions are on the lighter side, as the spotlight here is very much on the wine; the extensive list includes bottles from natural producers and lesser-known wine regions. Knowledgeable staff are on hand to guide you and your date.
Dining at the restaurant: Once a décor shop, you’ll nibble and sip among unique treasures and furniture pieces from around the world.
Takeout: Call for takeout or join the wine subscription club.
Jjim BBQ (South Lamar)
Low and slow meat braises require lots of love and attention, and sharing one with your date is an inspiring way to show your love. Jjim BBQ serves its namesake dish, the Korean method of braising meats slowly until tender, so much so that the meat falls off the bone beautifully and the taste is rich and layered. If it’s your first time, come share a cast-iron jjim with beef, pork, or chicken, plus your choice of glass noodles, cheese, or kimchi. The Korean pancakes and spicy seafood soup are also stellar choices.
Dining at the restaurant: Jjim BBQ has a family restaurant vibe with a bit of edge that deems it worthy of a special occasion. Stick around for complimentary ice cream at the end of your meal.
Takeout: Order K-fried chicken wings, jjim, bibimbap, and more for takeout online.
If sushi hits the spot on date night, then make a reservation at TenTen, where you and your SO can go on a dining journey together. Sample the freshest fish with the chef’s 10- or 18-piece sashimi on ice, then experiment with creations such as the quail egg nigiri with truffle aioli and rice pearl, and the king crab with red yuzu and kosho butter.
Dining at the restaurant: Though in the heart of downtown, this tranquil, minimalist space is a respite from the hustle and bustle of Sixth Street. Be sure to dig into the extensive sake list, which arranges options under “fruity,” “bold,” and “refreshing.” Happy hour runs weekdays on food and drink.
Takeout: Selected items are available for takeout via the website, including wine and beer.
Simi Estiatorio (Downtown)
Modern Greek restaurant Simi Estiatorio brings Mykonos glitz to Austin, serving bright Mediterranean dishes, fresh seafood (displayed proudly at the raw bar), hearty steaks, and a liquor cabinet to boot. If you’re looking to dress up and escape the desert heat, Simi is where it’s at.
Dining at the restaurant: Upon arrival, wander the raw bar and see what the team has flown into town. Whether it’s white snapper, octopus, lobster, or jumbo shrimp, opt to have your catch on an Acropolis platter or served as an entree. Other options include lamb chops with Greek fries or a range of salads starring fresh vegetables themed to the coasts, feta cheese, and generous helpings of olive oil.
Takeout: To bring Mykonos home, call for takeout options.
Geraldine’s is Austin’s hippest hangout that has remained down-to-earth over the years despite the accolades and celebrity visits. Treat your beau to an evening of modern Southern fare presented in a shareable fashion. Standouts include the Brussels sprouts with caramel fish sauce and the grilled coconut quail. The half-roasted chicken is one of the bigger plates at the bottom of the menu that comes with incredibly crisp potatoes — the kind that a Texan grandma would make, but better.
Dining at the restaurant: Geraldine’s hosts live music nightly from some of the city’s most talented artists, making for a fun and lively night out with a partner. The venue is also perched next to Hotel Van Zandt’s rooftop pool, inviting patrons to enjoy starry nights with post-dinner cocktails.
Takeout: Takeout is not currently offered, but guests of Hotel Van Zandt may order Geraldine’s plates directly to their room.
Experiences: Check out the special experiences available at this restaurant: Birds Bubbles & Blues. Book the Experience here.
The Peacock Mediterranean Grill (Downtown)
Romance doesn’t only happen at sunset, and The Peacock is proof of it. This breezy ground-floor restaurant at Austin’s Proper Hotel is an all-day oasis for friends and lovers who gather to dine on colorful, wholesome mezze, tajine, salads, and kebabs. Don’t forget the juice-based cocktails (spiked or not).
Dining at the restaurant: Breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner dates are covered anywhere around the large lounge areas which includes the outside patio, too. Head inside to the bar for your pops of bubbles, wine, and beer, and if you’re both ready for the after-party, head upstairs to rooftop pool bar La Piscina.
Takeout: Call ahead for all-day takeout from morning coffee and croissants to evening roast chicken tajine and a bottle of wine.
Experiences: Check out the special experiences available at this restaurant: 4-course Prix fixe menu. Book the Experience here.