I attended more than a dozen weddings last year. When each couple was inevitably asked how they met, the answer, 50 percent of the time, was Tinder. And that was said sheepishly zero percent of the time. Six years after the dating app’s launch, it’s safe to say that Tinder has abandoned its nefarious past as “the hookup app.” So, if you’re looking for love this Valentine’s Day, you might just find it there—or at least you can find a hot person to drink with.
Once you find a match, where should you meet? I may have been to a lot of weddings, but I’ve been on even more first dates. Let me help.
A general note to start: Opt for low lighting. Everyone wants to look his or her best on first dates, and that’s especially true for ones arranged through Tinder. Think about it: Your match has only ever seen highly self-curated stills of your best angles (which I’m sure are truly stunning), but this is the first time you and your date will see each other in motion. So, ease into it. Grab two seats at Donetto’s L-shaped bar, where there’s a patchwork of lighting: first, pendant lights encased in copper-tinted glass; then, back bar shelving with concealed LED uplighting (Instagram filters can’t help you now); and finally, two wall sconces near the espresso machine (sit there). The Tuscan Italian restaurant, which opened in the Westside’s Stockyards development in September, offers a pretty extensive list of amaros, which should prepare you to hear all about fascinating topics such as your date’s sibling birth order (yawn). If natural lighting does you best, reserve a table on Cooks & Soldiers’s covered 14th Street patio at twilight and split some Spanish pintxos. Don’t worry about the cold; heat lamps fire through the winter. (But maybe skip the pan con tomate, which is rubbed with raw garlic.)
If you’re more of a jeans and T-shirt person, Joystick Gamebar in Sweet Auburn is totally low-pressure. Just be ready for friendly competition: The bar’s walls are lined with vintage pinball machines, video games (Mortal Kombat! Ms. Pacman!), and a foosball table. Between all the metallic pings and smack talk, there’s really no room for awkward silences. Similarly casual is Monday Night Brewing’s new location on the BeltLine’s Westside Trail. It’s spacious, with picnic table seating and a hyperlocal beer list (hello, they brew on premises). Try a pint of the Blind Pirate, a hoppy IPA with a hint of blood orange, and if you find that you want to make the date an official “dinner thing,” you can order delivery from Bell Street Burritos. (It’s allowed. And delicious.)
Finally, Revelator Grant Park (formerly Octane) is a first-date classic. Why? Options: You can order coffee (including decaf), tea, beer, wine, or liquor, and there are two-seaters as well as long, communal tables, which are good if you get an immediate “this might actually be a networking opportunity” vibe. Basically, Octane allows for customization. If things are going especially well, take a walk around Southern Gothic Oakland Cemetery, which is right across Memorial Drive. Because what’s more romantic than a reminder that our time on this globe is finite? Dear reader, nothing.
This article originally appeared in our February 2018 issue.