Choosing a restaurant for the first date can be a difficult task. There are so many questions to consider: how formal? What type of food? Price range? The list goes on. Luckily, (or maybe not so luckily), I’ve been on my fair share of first dates while living in Atlanta. Using this experience, I’ve crafted a guide to help you navigate the best date night (or day) spots in the Atlanta area.  

No. 246

246 is the spot for Italian food. This is actually the first restaurant I went to after moving to Atlanta, and needless to say, I’ve been back on numerous occasions. Everything on the menu is great— from salads to pizzas to pastas to my personal favorite: the wood-roasted chicken. (My roommate and friends swear by the Cacio E Pepe but I have yet to try). The atmosphere is cute and trendy without screaming trying too hard. If the weather is nice, there’s a really cute back patio space that’s perfect for a cozy date night. Finish the night off by strolling along the streets of Decatur and stopping at Butter and Cream for arguably the best ice cream in Atlanta. 

MF Sushi

This may earn the title of my favorite restaurant in Atlanta. Located in Inman Park, MF Sushi is a small, upscale restaurant with debatably the best sushi in the area. The intimate interior, sleek sushi bar, and modern Japanese decor make MF’s atmosphere -- as described by my roommates-- “datey”. There’s a wide variety of appetizers, sashimi, nigiri, as well as both traditional and speciality rolls. If you do choose MF, I recommend you order the Baked Scallops and signature Sake or Hamachi Nigiri (you can thank me later). If you save room, I’d recommend checking out the neighboring gelato spot and the string light-lit courtyard.

Ponce City Market

Ponce City Market has something for everyone. That's why it’s been unofficially endorsed by pretty much all of Emory University. From Italian to Japanese to Middle Eastern, to traditional southern, Ponce, an old Sears turned trendy food hall, has nearly every type of cuisine you could imagine. The only issue with Ponce is that ordering food and locating a place to sit can be an awkward ordeal— especially when you’re ordering from different places. However, you could avoid this dilemma by taking your date to Bellina Alimentari, a sit down restaurant within the market serving delicious Italian fare. Also, it’s important to note that a post-dinner walk along the Beltline is the quintessential way to end the evening. 


This list would not be complete without the addition of Bartaco. With its cool coastal interior and unique flare on tacos, street-food style side dishes, and cocktails, Bartaco is a fan favorite for Emory students and non-Emory students alike. Despite its wide variety of delicious food options and great cocktail options, Bartaco is reasonably priced, with small tacos costing only around $3 each. Additionally, their COVID-19 policy allows you to pay as soon as you order, so if the date goes south, you can make a quick beeline for the door. The only downside is that at popular times, there can be fairly long waits. Luckily, its surroundings in Inman Park make for the perfect pre-meal stroll.

The Optimist 

If you really want to impress your date, take him or her to The Optimist. The Optimist is definitely a little pricey - especially on a college student budget. However, if you’re willing to splurge and are a fan of seafood, it’s a no-brainer. Known for its coastal interior and insanely fresh seafood menu, the Optimist has earned praise as one of the best restaurants in Atlanta. My recommendation is to start off the meal with some of their oysters (they’re all equally delicious, in my opinion). Other recommendations include the octopus appetizer, mussels, and lobster roll. However, I don't think you could go wrong with any menu item.

With so many amazing restaurants, Atlanta's food scene can be difficult to navigate - especially under high pressure. So, when choosing a spot for the first date, refer to this guide for a little well-informed advice. While none of these restaurants can guarantee a second date, I firmly believe they can help you in the process.