Whether you’ve suffered through 18 months of virtual dates—or spent every hour of that time (and every meal) with a partner—you could probably use some dinner date ideas.
The first thing to consider when you’re dreaming up plans is what the two of you need—and then your comfort level with getting back out there: “How do you want to feel before, during, and after the date,” asks sexologist Mickie Woods. “Are you aiming to feel more connected and take things to the next level, or simply spend quality, uninterrupted time together?” Set your intentions, then get out of your takeout-and-phone-scrolling rut with one of these romantic dinner date ideas:
DIY wine & design
Open Instagram at any given moment and you’ll see that winery day trips are back in full force. If you’d rather not brave the crowds, it’s easy to host a wine-tasting for two in your living room. “Due to the pandemic, winemakers across the world have adopted creative ways to offer people the enjoyment of a vineyard from their home,” says Woods. “You can find kits for creating wine and tasting new wines.”
If you’re doing the long-distance thing, a virtual wine-tasting can be a nice break from your nightly video calls. (Sipping the same Pinot Noir vintage or mixing the same cocktail while you chat is somehow more intimate than staring at each other while you rehash work drama.)
To keep the date going—whether it’s IRL or virtual—have secondary activity queued up. Pick a low-key, low-skill-level craft project (think: paint-by-numbers) that will be entertaining without demanding all of your attention. At the end of the date, you can swap art; mail it to each other, if you’re long-distance!
Netflix & grill
Take a break from the true crime or the teen dramas—or whatever genre you’ve been watching repeat—and let the country’s best grill-masters inspire your dinner date. (Here are 13 shows and movies about barbecue to inspire you.) Once your mouths are watering, you and your date can fire up the grill and work your own smoked or sauced magic.
To ensure your date doesn’t end when dinner does, plan to follow up your ribs with an outdoor movie. (Barbecue-inspired, or otherwise.) “I highly recommend investing in a good projector,” says Woods. “It makes the experience that much more novel and fun.”
Picnic & play
Thanks to the pandemic, the past year and half has been one long picnic season with varying amounts of outerwear. But don’t hang up your picnic blanket just yet: “I aim to spend time outside every single day, as there are so many positive health benefits to doing so,” says Woods. “One of my favorite dates of all time is a picnic at a beautiful beach or a peaceful park.” Plus-up your backyard picnic by stocking your basket with a post-meal activity, such as a travel-size board or card game.
Breakfast for dinner
Instead of ordering the same-old, same-old takeout, spend the 30 minutes it takes to get delivery cooking a low-key meal together. Prepping breakfast for dinner is easy—even after a long day. “I love steak and eggs as a breakfast for dinner idea. It’s savory and hearty,” says Chungah Rhee, creator of Damn Delicious. To satisfy a sweet tooth, try her strawberries and cream buttermilk waffles recipe. They’re easy but feel special and decadent—and so pretty, they’re almost too special to serve for breakfast.
Take any dish that travels well and head outdoors—even if it’s just your balcony, rooftop terrace, or backyard. “I think simple but flavorful food is a must with a date like this,” says Rhee. “You don’t want to deal with too much prep or with a bunch of different plates.” Her dinner pick: Instant Pot Bolognese. “Add a nice glass of wine and you’re good to go.”
If you can’t bear to cook even a simple meal, go ahead and order that takeout—but take it to an outdoor location: a park, the beach, or even your front steps.
If you’d like to see how your date holds up under pressure, dig out some classic board games. For uninterrupted play, make sure you have adequate sustenance on hand.
“Nachos are a must for board game night. I love how easy they are. My Carne Asada Nachos are a true win” says Rhee. Another favorite: “I have this great Ham and Swiss Sliders recipe, which comes together so quickly.”