Guys, I understand your pain. Picking a restaurant for a date is hard. You want to impress her (or him), but you don’t want to blow your bank account. You want to go somewhere cool and trendy, but you don’t want the rest of the Penn community dining alongside you, and you definitely don’t want an adventurous menu in case she’s a vegan, has thirty-seven food allergies or is simply picky. It’s a loaded decision, but don’t worry, I’m here to help. First pick on my list, Garces Trading Co.
The Vibes: Garces Trading Co. is decorated in a modern, rustic style. You’ll definitely see other couples, but you won’t feel the pressure of a super-romantic, dimly lit ambiance filled with people cooing, “oh honey blossom boo, I love you so so soooo much.” Ew. Far more unassuming, Garces is perfect for a first date, second date or a let’s do something nice for no reason date.
The Food: It’s Garces, so you know it’s going to be great and so does your date. Pick out some wine, beer or a fruity cocktail and get comfortable. The tasting menu ($40) is pretty stellar, but you can still have an incredible meal without it. Start off by ordering some cheese. It’s classy, and your waiter can help you guys decide which ones to pick, or you can just stick with the pre-selected plate ($15).
The rest of the menu provides options for every palette. If you guys are into ‘shrooms, try the funghi flatbread ($10), which is laden with black truffles. Did you know truffles are supposed to be aphrodisiacs? That makes this the perfect date food! Does your date have the taste of an eleven year old? No problem – the rigatoni and meatballs ($15) is a fancy phrase for “kid friendly,” and its simple flavors cannot disappoint. If you’re a little more adventurous, try the lyonnaise duck salad ($12). The assortment of ingredients (duck, bacon, and hard-boiled egg) may scare you at first, but the flavors compliment each other phenomenally, and the duck literally melts in your mouth. Plus, it gives off the impression that you’re always willing to “try new things” – score. You could easily construct a great meal out of a series of the smaller plates, but if you’re taking the traditional route, I’d go for the braised short ribs ($24) or branzino ($26) for a main course.
The Result: Calm your nerves. If you take your date to Garces, you already know the food and ambiance will be perfect, so all you have to do is think of some talking points (“what’s your favorite cheese?” is a personal favorite of mine) and prepare to impress his/her pants off (figuratively, of course).
Address: 1111 Locust Street
Hours: Daily 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m, 5:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.