BY ANDREW COPPOLINO
What makes a good “date night” restaurant? It’s hard to say: every relationship, either budding or long-established, is different; each date with a significant other, whether first, second, or many months in progress, might require a special emphasis and considered attention. Here are some ideas for planning your next date night in Waterloo Region.
Food, music, décor
A simple first question is: does he or she like food? That matter settled, you can then select a venue that has the right ambiance for the evening. Are you looking for a casual and comfortable spot with a bit of energy and some decibels to it; or, a setting that is a little more sedate and formal and where you might show off a little fashion-splendour rather than the business casual (or blue jeans) you displayed on the previous date?
As for what to eat, is the choice simple, rustic food that will be in the background of the evening (trying to twirl cacio e pepe bucatini around your fork with the finesse of a Roman may not be the best idea for displaying grace at table on a first date)? Or, will you want to gaze deeply and dreamily into your dishes (as well as each other’s eyes) looking for gustatory and relationship chemistry?
Perhaps what’s needed is a spot conducive for conversation and discovery through dialogue, or a venue with a little more activity and distraction. Perhaps live music is a top priority?
Some of those issues addressed, here are a few date-night restaurant suggestions in Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo Region
A walkable date
Depending on the weather, you can keep things moving along: do a little “progressive” dinner-date crawl.
In Waterloo, start with cocktails at the White Rabbit, move along to an appetizer and perhaps a beer at Abe Erb, and finish up with an entrée at the popular and cozily quaint Red House Uptown. Perhaps some good tequila and a sampling of tacos is your idea of a dynamic way to finish up the short date and dining tour?
In downtown Kitchener, that travelling date could start at Grand Trunk Saloon for a Negroni [see our companion piece on this classic cocktail] before turning the corner for a short jaunt and an appetizer at The Rich Uncle Tavern – where the menu changes several times a week. Then, it is a couple blocks’ trek to 271 West or Gilt Restaurant in the west end. There, the night can finish (or at least the restaurant portion of it) with a main course, a sweet, or an after-dinner drink.
Sharing plates …and passion?
An increasingly popular style of sharing a meal is shareable plates. Spend an evening sampling many different and smaller plates with your date. Gilt Restaurant, B @ THEMUSEUM and TWH Social are all possible venues that will bring you closer together over food.
Look for the charcuterie boards and sampler dishes at restaurants like Red House and The Bauer Kitchen (TBK) in the Bauer Buildings near the heart of Uptown Waterloo. The foods at TBK change regularly, but they always offer the chance to chat and nibble in the energized, Soho-inspired atmosphere and décor.
Cocktails may be the desire for your desired. (But, please, don’t drink and drive! Walk, take a bus, cab, or rideshare on your date night!).
Proof Kitchen and Lounge has the right formula for a special beverage or two that can be sipped over conversation in a cool vibe. Perhaps a charcuterie board can accompany?
Wine bars both, Sole in Waterloo and Blackshop! in Cambridge have an elegant but not-too-formal ambiance along with a strong selection of wines and cocktails for a relaxing evening to get to know your date better.
The new Abe Erb in the Tannery provides a dynamic and energized setting in which to eat upscale casual and pub fare, sample unique and tasty locally-made brew, watch people and be part of the craft beer scene in Waterloo Region – if that is your pint of Kolsch. The venue has recently opened in the heart of the buzz of Kitchener’s Innovation District.
A caffeinated date?
Waterloo Region has some wonderful coffee shops that have the atmosphere for an afternoon or evening date.
Simple and comforting – and a unique “slice” but one which everyone can relate to – perhaps coffee and toast is a fun selection at the hip Settlement Co. in downtown Waterloo? Also in Waterloo is DVLB where you might enjoy a whiskey and old-school vinyl records playing in the evening? Check out DVLB’s lovely new sister-shop, Smile Tiger Coffee Roasters, on Ahrens Street at Victoria Street, Kitchener.
Courting in the country
Outside of the municipalities are a few quiet restaurants in which to spend a date: Jake & Humphreys’ Bistro in New Hamburg prepares well-conceived and bistro-priced cooking that is the passion of the owners of the restaurant. Across the street, Puddicombe House serves amidst 12-foot high ceilings, intricate Italianate architectural detail in a home built in 1868.
The Easy Pour Wine Bar in Cambridge, Ontario (the tiny hamlet of Blair) is another cozy choice in the setting of an 1856 heritage building. The wine list is well-curated and you can share small plates with live music in the background.
Going the extra mile
In downtown Galt, Cambridge, you will find a hypnotizing view of the rushing Grand River at the historic and elegant yet relaxed (and lovingly restored) 19th-century Cambridge Mill.
Of course, the very finest restaurant food and service is available at Langdon Hall in Cambridge. The glorious dining room of the historic country house hotel and spa – a top hotel destination, according to respected travel magazine Conde Nast – is elegant yet relaxed; or, there is the quiet charm and warm aroma of a wood fire that can be found in the quaint Wilk’s Bar at Langdon.