Collin Flatt contributed to this article
There's nothing wrong with a white-tablecloth venue for your next night out on the town, but consider one of these seven spots for a low-key but just as alluring experience.
Snagging a reservation for the sushi counter in the back of this Queen Village hot spot usually requires a bit of advanced planning, and it’s worth it for stellar omakase from Zagat 30 Under 30 chef Jesse Ito. But the moodily lit izakaya in the front is an entirely different type of cool-date locale, where the boisterous vibe encourages close conversation and friendly servers guide you through an extensive sake list.
780 S. 2nd St., 267-909-9002
This lively corner bar is a reliable go-to for Queen Village families, wine lovers and Francophiles alike. But the charming atmosphere and cozy booths make it an excellent date night pick as well. On winter Sundays, chef Nich Bazik amps up the hygge factor with a shareable raclette board, a cast-iron pan filled with gooey cheese to scoop up along with Jambon de Bayonne, mustard and cornichons.
614 S. 7th St., 215-625-3700
Chef Joey Baldino’s revamp of his family’s South Philly social club was such a runaway success since it opened last winter that new memberships had to be put on hold (at least temporarily). The crowd-pleasing menu of Italian-American classics and expertly made cocktails attracts everyone from neighborhood diehards to the late-night industry crowd. But the authentically old-school environs and hush-hush vibe also make it an ideal spot to impress a date.
1408 S. 12th St., no phone
Monk's is known for its hefty Belgian beer list, which reads like an encyclopedia on the history of brewing styles. But once you push your way through the raucous front room of the bar, you'll come upon a lovely space tucked away from the action, complete with its own taps and bartenders. The back room gets noisy as the night wears on, but there's plenty of room for a bowl of mussels and a big bottle of Cantillon Gueuze between you and your sweetie before things get wild.
264 S. 16th St.; 215-545-7005
The Sansone brothers have quietly run one of the most romantic restaurants in Philly for the last two decades, and it remains a secret to many. The vibe is cozy, but not just because the space is small. David, the maître d', is second to none when it comes to hospitality, and always makes you feel like family, while Steven, the chef, sends out iconic Italian dishes like prosciutto di Parma and a delicate risotto to help set the mood. It's BYOB, of course, and the volume rises as the wine flows.
261 S. 21st St.; 215-546-4232
This might not be a first- or a third-date restaurant, but it's romantic even with its communal tables and loud foyer, because what's more intimate than sharing a plate of build-your-own duck rolls, the highlight of Sang Kee's Duck for Two? A delightfully delicate bowl of wonton soup is included, and that heaping pile of duck fried rice and snappy green beans complete the picture.
238 N. 9th St.; 215-925-7532
Stephen Starr's homage to the British pub is popular with locals, serving excellent food and very bitter beers. But it also has low-key nooks, overstuffed wingback chairs and a crackling fire. The chicken and duck parfait is luscious and earthy, making liver sexy again (or maybe for the first time). Finish it up with a bite of the decadent, delicious sticky toffee pudding.
124 S. 18th St.; 215-558-2500