Editor’s note: TravelQ, a series that documents travel through the eyes of stylish queers, returns this week with a new feature by Caroline and Erin, web designers, freelance photographers and writers for the travel blog Local Adventurer.
This list is the result of the last six months that we spent traveling around exploring new cities and re-discovering familiar ones. We are pleased to report that the food scene in America is alive and well, thriving even. It was tough to name just one place for each city. Nevertheless, the following restaurants are our picks for the 7 Hottest Foodie Spots to Take a Date, hopefully in a city near you. Don’t live anywhere near one of these places? Keep the information in your back pocket and put it on your list of places to explore when you’ve got a long weekend or vacation coming your way!
Want to impress your date? Take them here. The atmosphere is intimate and the food (what Ambra describes as “non-traditional and rule-bending” Italian) is on point. The sommelier makes the wine/food pairing a fun experience rather than a snobby snooze fest. We recommend relinquishing control and letting the team at Ambra surprise you (and delight you) with what they send out. We did and we didn’t regret it for a second. Note: be prepared to take an Uber home for one or both of you because the wine is seemingly bottomless.
705 S. 4th Street, Philadelphia (267) 858-9232 | www.ambraphilly.com
2. Saltie Girl
You like oysters. Your date likes oysters. (They do, right?) Let’s hope so because if you’re in the Northeast, this is our top place to feed two healthy, hearty seafood appetites and do it all guilt-free. (They focus on globally-sustainable catches.) Sit back, order a drink and get to know your date’s preferences: Raw? Crudo? Fried? Don’t take it personally if they don’t want to share a few small plates but rather prefers dishes all to themselves. It just shows they have a healthy appetite and you know what that means.
281 Dartmouth Street, Boston (617) 267-0691 | www.saltiegirl.com
This restaurant describes itself as a modern Afghan bistro but it’s more than that. The space is inviting and the perfect place for leaning in close and telling your date how you really feel. But first, warm them up with the buraneebanjan, a baked eggplant with sautéed tomatoes, topped with homemade garlic yogurt and dry mix and allow the complex flavors in the dish help you do better than just fumble and mumble: “I want to be exclusive”.
847 Columbia Rd NW, Washington, DC (202) 299-9630 | www.lapisdc.com
4. Willa Jean
Okay, we admit, we’re a little biased. Chef Kelly Fields is a long-time friend of Caroline’s and we received the royal treatment when we visited. Kelly has earned a lot of local and national praise from none other than the likes of Bon Appetit, Saveur and National Geographic but it hasn’t gone to her head. As a result, her place has a down-to-earth, feel good vibe that’s perfect for hurdling the awkwardness of a first date. Just met your date on Tinder but not sure you’re ready to do drinks and dinner? Head on over to Willa Jean, do brunch (get the avocado toast!) and sit at a window table where you can get a great view of the room (and people watch if your date ends up being more boring than bad-ass).
611 O’Keefe Ave, New Orleans (504) 509-7334 | www.willajean.com
5. Barley Swine
Got a cute hipster on your radar that you FINALLY made plans with? Take them to Barley Swine. Same for the hottie-next-door and the bombshell you met at Zilker Park a few days ago. This place is a multi-purpose kinda place where you can order up deliciously boozy, creative drinks AND sop up the alcohol with food that even GQ, Zagat and Details are swooning about.
6555 Burnet Rd #400, Austin | 512-394-8150
6. Leon’s Fine Poultry & Oyster Shop
Your date’s cute. You’ve had coffee and you felt a spark but you’re still not sure if you want to spend several hours with them over dinner. Our answer? Lunch at Leon’s. Everything is good there but we recommend the fried chicken. If your date doesn’t bat an eye when you dive in head first, barely come up for air and lick your fingers clean, then they’re a keeper. Perhaps THIS will be the place you reminisce about when you’re still going strong five years later.
698 King St., Charleston 843 531 6500 | www.leonsoystershop.com
7. Gan Shan Station
Asheville is hot right now as far as tourism goes. Seems like every week another magazine is writing about it. And for good reason. It’s hard for us to choose just one place to go on a date since we live here but we do have frequent cravings for Gan Shan Station. The turn the car around-do not pass Go-do not collect $200-we are going there now-kind of cravings. Bring your new friend here and see if they don’t roll their eyes skyward and lick their lips at the flavors coming out of Patrick’s kitchen. Could be a prelude to the start of something beautiful.
143 Charlotte St., Asheville 828-774-5280 | www.ganshanstation.com
About the authors: Caroline and Erin are freelance web designers, photographers and writers for the travel blog Local Adventurer. In 2017 they have traveled on assignment to Beijing, Charleston, Austin, New Orleans, Denver, New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Portland (ME) and Washington, DC (to name a few.) When they’re not on the road, they hang their hats in Asheville, North Carolina.