bar les freres in clayton photo by jonathan gayman

5 St. Louis date-night spots perfect for every occasion

Editor's note: Since publication in 2016, Orbit Pinball Lounge and The Libertine have closed.

1. Proposal Date // Bar Les Freres

Engagements inspire people to patronize stuffy establishments where waiters place napkins in laps and walls are lined with gilded paper. But unless this is how you roll on a typical Saturday night, a proposal in that atmosphere can seem a bit chilly, not to mention painfully obvious. 

Bar Les Freres manages to exude romance without feeling formal or stiff. The intimate, relaxed restaurant is furnished with overstuffed antique settees and marble-topped tables. The menu starts with an outstanding wine and cocktail selection and is full of classic French dishes like a sublime duck confit with celeriac and Brussels sprouts and an ethereal Gruyere souffle. Popping the question will seem like the natural thing to do.

2. Anniversary Date // Stone Soup Cottage 

After years together, you have a good idea of what your partner will order. Celebrate with the guarantee of a superior meal and the opportunity to share a unique experience, without going to the same old special-occasion-only restaurants. 

This year, take a leisurely drive out to Cottleville and enjoy the exceptional six-course tasting menu with wine pairings at Stone Soup Cottage. With it’s bucolic scenery and intimate, 40-person dining room, it delivers a unique fine-dining experience. Be sure to plan well in advance, as reservations can fill up months ahead.

the bar at small batch // photo by jonathan gayman

3. Tinder Date // Small Batch

A candlelit whiskey bar is just the place for a Tinder date. Small Batch’s sleek, long bar won’t leave you awkwardly searching for a seat, and with a menu including more than 100 whiskeys, ryes and bourbons from every corner of the globe, anyone can find the right fire water to help loosen up. There is also a dynamic, vegetarian menu on offer – but dinner may not be your goal tonight.  

Read the entertaining free association whiskey descriptions to get the conversation going with your date, and choose a flight to try. The romantic lighting and expansive space are suited to escaping with – or, if necessary, away from – a Tinder match.

owner ted kilgore tending bar in the bullock room at planter's house // photo by jonathan gayman

4. First Date // Planter's House

Embodying both sophistication and a lack of pretension, Planter’s House hits the right note for a first date. With the support of a little libation, you’ll be ready for anything – and it’s a place where you can steer your evening in any direction. Order a single gin-based Going Dutch cocktail and part with an awkward hug, or direct your date to the intimate Bullock Room and share an order of bacon-filled gougères to go with a couple boozy Winner Winner Whiskey Dinner cocktails. Feed your date the toasted marshmallow-topped creme brulee, and all you’ll need is an Uber to end the evening.

5. Breakup Date // Strange Donuts

Breaking up with someone can be messy: accusations, tears, yelling – even walkouts. If you must break up, choose a place with a quick exit strategy that’s still tasty and not too mean-spirited. At Strange Donuts, buy your soon-to-be ex a gooey butter cake doughnut or sweet and salty maple bacon doughnut and, after leaving the counter-service shop, drop the news softened by a sugar high. You may have broken a heart, but at least you didn’t leave a bad taste in his mouth.

6. Double Date //  Orbit Pinball Lounge 

Orbit Pinball Lounge offers a bustling weekend crowd and casual bar along with a dozen or so pinball games and Skee-Ball lanes. The front room has candlelit, cozy booths where you can actually hear each other speak over the din of ringing game bumpers and bells. Order off the bartenders’ chalkboard menu of creative nightly cocktail specials and share a pizza or two. Conversation getting too political? Change out bills for quarters and spend some time working your hips against a pinball game or competing in a Skee-Ball throwdown with your date. 

7. Coworker Date // The Libertine 

“Let’s get dinner sometime” can be either a benign or loaded offer, especially when coming from a co-worker. At The Libertine, you can easily keep the mood friendly and professional or move towards romantic and flirty. With a lively, busy atmosphere and a gracious waitstaff, whichever way you direct the evening will seem natural. Warm up with an intoxicating cocktail, then decide whether you want to lean in towards your office mate over that cozy shared polenta or just order the poutine, unconcerned about spilling a little foie gras gravy on your shirt, and call it a night.

Holly Fann is a contributor to Sauce Magazine.