There’s something sacred about going out to eat on a date night. Dressing up, leaving the kids with a pizza and a babysitter, and heading out to dine in peace with the one you love is a worthy way to spend your time together as a couple. The Triangle has countless restaurant options for a romantic night out with your lover, so I’m here to narrow the list down for you. Read on for my Triangle date night restaurant recommendations!
Centro (106 S. Wilmington Street)
Mexican/Latin American – $$
Centro is one of my very favorite restaurants in the Triangle. I found out about it from an article I read years ago. Someone was quoted as saying that they would eat at Centro every day of their life if they could. That was enough for me to want to check it out! Centro’s setting is dark and cozy with festive décor, and the food is outstanding. I could eat the homemade salsa with a spoon. Bonus points to the owners for using as many local, organic ingredients as possible.
Poole’s Diner (426 S. McDowell Street)
American Comfort – $$$
I’m an unapologetic Ashley Christensen restaurant fangirl, so Poole’s is one of two of her many eateries that I’m including on the list. Like Centro, I love the vibe of Poole’s. Originally, the building housed Poole’s Pie Shop which opened in 1945, and eventually evolved into a luncheonette that served the savory along with the sweet. Fast forward to today…Ashley Christensen retained many of the diner’s original features, such as the bar and the banquettes, giving the ambience a delicious retro charm. The food is the star at Poole’s. Locally-sourced ingredients, seasonal menus, and the best mac and cheese you’ll ever have in your life.
Death & Taxes (105 W. Hargett Street)
Wood-Fired – $$$$
This uniquely-named restaurant is the other Ashley Christensen spot on the list. I always say atmosphere is 50% of the dining experience, and Death & Taxes doesn’t disappoint. The gorgeous building that it occupies was once a funeral home, as well as a bank, hence its unusual moniker. The food is delicious, and like Poole’s, the portions are huge, making a visit there worth the price tag. Dress up and show up to this hip and swanky spot, and order the dry-aged steak if you know what’s good for you.
Bida Manda (222 S. Blount Street)
Laotian – $$
The brother/sister duo who opened Bida Manda named it “Father Mother” in Sanskrit to honor their parents in Laos. This wildly popular restaurant serves food that’s a fusion of Thai, Vietnamese, and Chinese cuisine. The fresh, locally-sourced ingredients are served in a beautiful presentation, and the ambience is friendly and inviting. The crispy pork belly soup is a fan favorite. Keep your eyes peeled for the new brewery the siblings plan to open in the old Tir Na nOg space next door.
Five Star (511 W. Hargett Street)
Asian – $$
My favorite thing about Five Star is the setting. Housed in a historic building, Five Star is a hip and amped-up alternative to your corner Chinese food restaurant. Asian cuisine is my favorite, and Five Star doesn’t disappoint. The food is well-seasoned, and the service is friendly and efficient. And, if you’d prefer a romantic evening in, Five Star does offer take-out.
Angus Barn (9401 Glenwood Avenue)
Steakhouse – $$
Everyone knows about the Angus Barn in the Triangle. It’s one of the go-to special occasion restaurants in the area. Steak is one of my “desert island” foods, and they do it up right at the Barn. The warm and welcoming aura of this decades-old establishment only adds to the impeccably-prepared food that’s created by an Iron Chef winner. Give this legendary location a try the next time you’re out with your love.
bu•ku (110 E. Davie Street)
Global Street Food – $$
What I love about bu•ku is the variety of cuisines available on the menu. Whatever you happen to be in the mood for, they’ll have something to please your palette. The vibe is festive, yet cozy, and the outdoor seating area is one of the best in the city. It’s both a fun, and romantic, spot for a date night. As an added bonus, in early 2017, bu•ku’s owners plan to open a new restaurant in Cameron Village.
Hayes Barton Café and Dessertery (2000 Fairview Road)
Retro Café – $$
Talk about ambience…Hayes Barton’s décor, music, and dining experience harken back to the bygone era of the 1940s. If you’re the type who feels like they were born in the wrong era, much like I do, you’ll love it at HB. Their food can best be described as the comfort variety, and they sell pieces of cake that are bigger than your head. This is a warm, cozy choice for a cooler weather date night. Read my full review of Hayes Barton here.
Mandolin (2419 Fairview Road)
Southern-Inspired American – $$$
Like Hayes Barton, Mandolin is located in the delightful and historic area of Five Points. Owned by a Raleigh native, Mandolin is diligent in supporting the local economy by sourcing ingredients from North Carolina’s farmers, artisans, and ranchers whenever possible. Online reviewers often use the word “perfect” to describe their experience at Mandolin. Find out for yourself!
Mura (4121 Main Street, North Hills)
Sushi/Japanese Fusion – $$
I could eat sushi for every meal, and Mura’s is delicious. If you’re not a fish fan, there are plenty of other choices to tempt your taste buds, namely bento boxes, Kobe steak, and hibachi dishes. The décor is modern and exciting, yet the lighting is dark and soothing. As an added bonus, it’s nestled within North Hills, so you can take your sweetie shopping after your meal.
Coquette Brasserie (4351 The Circle at North Hills)
French – $$$
Located just walking distance from Mura, is Coquette Brasserie. French dining at its finest. Coquette’s food is on the richer side, so we go approximately once a year, but it’s always a wonderful experience. The décor is light and airy, yet romantic at the same time. Be sure to make room for dessert!
Second Empire Restaurant and Tavern (330 Hillsborough Street)
Elegant American – $$$
Named after the architectural style of the building, Second Empire is one of the finest buildings inside the beltline. The last time I was there, I actually asked my server if I could roam freely and explore. This historic landmark is otherwise known as the Dodd-Hinsdale House, and you can feel the history when you’re there. If you’re in the mood for a more fun and casual dining experience, you can eat in the tavern on the lower floor. The upper floors are swankier and more romantic, so plan accordingly.
Taverna Agora (326 Hillsborough Street)
Greek – $$
Located a hop, skip, and a jump from Second Empire, is Taverna Agora. Though this restaurant was established over a decade ago, it relocated to this location relatively recently. Fresh Greek food is so flavorful, and always leaves me feeling so healthy and happy, and Taverna Agora is masterful in their execution of this cuisine. Just reading their menu can make your mouth water!
The Fiction Kitchen (428 S. Dawson Street)
Vegan/Vegetarian/Gluten-Free – $$
For those who prefer a meatless date night, The Fiction Kitchen, located in the historic warehouse district, is the place to be. Vibrant and alive, the atmosphere mirrors the characteristics of the food. Their ingredients, many of which are organic, are locally and thoughtfully sourced. Even if you’re a meat-eater, you and your honey should give this unique location a try.
Irregardless Café (901 W. Morgan Street)
New American – $$
This restaurant was born the same year I was! What started out as a vegetarian restaurant, Irregardless Café gradually began to add meat to the menu to be more inclusive to their carnivorous guests. For over four decades, their philosophy of sustainability, eco-friendly practices, giving back to the community, and patronizing local farms has made Irregardless a respected Raleigh establishment. Go for the food, fun, live music, and the historical significance of this Triangle mainstay.
18 Seaboard (18 Seaboard Avenue #100)
Southern-Inspired American – $$
Located in the ever-charming Seaboard Station is a restaurant that shares the same name as its address. For a decade, they’ve been serving food made from ingredients largely sourced from North Carolina’s farms, dairies, ranches, and fishmongers. Their outdoor seating offers a stunning view of Raleigh’s skyline, and that area of the city is always calm and relaxing in my opinion. Plenty of shops to stroll to after you’ve eaten as well.
Nana’s (2414 University Drive, #104)
New American – $$$
Named after the owner’s grandmother, Nana’s opened almost twenty-five years ago. The owner wanted to replicate the soul-warming effect of his grandmother’s cooking, and set out to establish an eatery in which he could do so. Nana’s is one of the most popular restaurants in the Triangle, and diners rave about the unique, thoughtful dishes, as well as the memorable experience of eating there. Perfect date night scenario!
Mateo (109 W. Chapel Hill Street)
Southern-Style Tapas – $$
This relatively new restaurant has been the talk of the town since it opened in 2012. Their small plates make for a perfect date night since you can share and sample a large variety of their mouthwatering fare together. The feel of the renovated historic Book Exchange building is cool and electric, yet intimate and comfortable. So much so, that it’s hard to drag yourself away from the food and the fun once you’re done.
Guglhupf (2706 Durham-Chapel Hill Boulevard)
German – $$
I’m hereby naming myself the unofficial ambassador of Guglhupf (which means “bundt cake”). I adore this place. I take anyone who visits me from out of town there, and I tell anyone who’s looking for a “new place” to try it. I don’t know what it is, but Guglhupf is my place, with my people. The restaurant has a peaceful tree house sort of feeling to it, and the food is indulgent and satisfying. I’m always begging my husband to go. We go without the kids and it’s very romantic. Read my full review of Guglhupf here.
Rue Cler (401 E. Chapel Hill Street)
French – $$
A decade ago, Rue Cler’s owners opened this eatery and named it after the district in Paris where they once lived. Their mission was to bring fine dining back to Durham, and recreate their experience with the French food scene. All these years later, they’ve become a foodie favorite and Durham hot spot. After all, what could be more romantic than French food? The beignets, in particular, seem to set pulses racing.
Bin 54 (1201-M Raleigh Road)
Steakhouse – $$$$
Bin 54 is another one of my favorite restaurants in the Triangle. I celebrated my 40th birthday there, and the food made me cry tears of joy. Bin 54 is in an unassuming location – a strip mall to be exact! Not what one would expect for such a high-end, and excellent, restaurant. Nevertheless, it exceeded all my expectations. My steak was buttery soft and the sides that came with it were all cooked to perfection. The atmosphere of Bin 54 is dark and cave-like, but not in a bad way. However, that’s not the star of the show. Go for the experience of eating one of the best meals you’ll ever have in your life.
Crossroads Chapel Hill (211 Pittsboro Street)
American – $$$
This restaurant is located within the historic and gorgeous Carolina Inn, a place where I would live if I could! The 1920s-era hotel is breathtakingly beautiful, and ridiculously charming. We live forty minutes from The Carolina Inn and actually stayed there for a night because it’s that special. As for Crossroads, they emphasize sourcing local, organic ingredients from nearby North Carolina farmers and artisans, and the quality and flavor of the food is a testament to the freshness of its components.
Lantern (423 W. Franklin Street)
Asian – $$$
Nestled in a small, cozy spot on Franklin Street is Lantern. Another farm-to-table eatery, Lantern serves Asian-inspired food made with local ingredients from area farms and food producers. Their menu is seasonal and offers a great variety of flavors to satisfy a wide variety of tastes. The intimate setting and soul-warming cuisine makes for a perfect date night spot!
Talullas (456 W. Franklin Street)
Turkish/Middle Eastern – $$
Directly across the street from Lantern, is Talullas. Enter the doors and step inside another world. The vibe of Talullas is a huge part of their draw and immediately sets the tone for an evening of romance. The quality of food matches the intensity of the mood and diners rave about the freshness and flavor of Talullas fare. A meal at Talullas is a total experience.
Kipos Greek Taverna (431 W. Franklin Street)
Greek – $$
My husband and I went to Kipos on a whim one night, and we were glad we did. Their AC was on the fritz, making the already authentic atmosphere even more so. The live Greek music made me smile from my first bite to my last, and the food was fresh and delicious. The diners and staff alike all seemed to be in a happy and festive mood. Great experience all around. And, Kipos gets bonus points for offering many gluten-free options.
Provence (203 W. Weaver Street)
Southern French – $$
Situated in a colorful and welcoming little old house, Provence serves up mouth-watering French cuisine from its seasonal menu. With offerings such as onion soup gratinée, confit de canard, and profiteroles, Provence is a charming choice for treating your sweetie to luxury and romance. Stroll down to Weaver Street Market after your meal and enjoy a glass of wine on the front lawn.
Other Triangle Locations
The Fearrington House Restaurant (2000 Fearrington Village Center, Pittsboro)
New American – $$$$
This restaurant is located within an inn that’s situated on a historic farm. Though it’s only open for a very limited amount of hours during the week, The Fearrington House Restaurant simply can not be overlooked as one of the premiere date night spots in greater Triangle area. The surrounding village offers a wonderful opportunity to stroll leisurely after you’ve dined. Stay at the inn, and indulge in the spa for the complete adventure.
Herons (100 Woodland Pond Drive, Cary)
New American – $$$$
Another restaurant that’s located within a hotel, and in this case, the luxurious Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary. This upscale locale is typified by beautiful views in an elegant setting. Herons has received numerous accolades, and the proof is in the pudding as they say. Besides the exquisite food, people rave about the impeccable service, and all-around indulgent experience of dining at Herons. Book a room, and visit the spa while you’re at it!
Farm Table (960 Gateway Commons Circle, Wake Forest)
New American – $$
If you haven’t already noticed a theme, I like to promote and patronize restaurants that support local farms and farmers. To me, farmers who use sustainable and organic practices to grow their food are practically rock stars. Farm Table is as fresh and local as you can get, so much so that they grow their own herb garden on site! Their décor is rustic, yet elegant, and sets the mood for a cozy evening. As a bonus, many vegetarian and gluten-free options are available.