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Easygoing First Date Places?

...enough with The Happy Gnome and Nina's. Honest to goodness, I cannot go on another first date to either of those places...

Looking for a quality short list of places--coffee, pastries, drinks/nosh, even light/not particularly spendy meal--to save myself from fortysomething-dude-suggested-place-ubiquity.

Bonus points for: parking lots, good people watching, fun or interesting atmosphere, a feeling of accessibility (i.e. food is not too sophisticated or challenging), Saint Paul or Minneapolis North Loop...also, maybe you have had a good first date experience somewhere.

I was married (but no longer) to a fan of chains, so don't have recon for a lot of suitable date places under my belt yet. Thanks in advance!

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  1. Toast Wine bar in the north loop is a good first date place. Typically easy to find metered street parking very close by.

    1 Reply
    1. re: St3ve

      second Toast as a great option. Much prefer outside to inside, especially during the day.

    2. How about Kopplin's for coffee and then you could walk over to Izzy's if you want to extend? (HA! My husband rejects this. Sorry.)


        1. Saint Paul: Groundswell (Hamline and Thomas) for coffee, beer, or wine (I think they have wine). They also have snacks. Also, Grand Central (On Grand, west of Snelling a little bit). Good coffee and snack place. And, Cheeky Monkey (Selby, between Western and Dale) for drinks/nosh. Only Cheeky has a lot for parking, though.

          Edited to add two places: Forepaugh's. They have a free lot across the street. And it's on the less pricey side if you meet your date there for happy hour. Three seating options: bar, lounge across from bar, and outdoors (the outdoor seating is sort of a best kept secret).

          Black Dog Cafe (Lowertown). There is a lot somewhat nearby. Coffee, beer, wine, small plates, etc.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Brad Ballinger

            I feel like Forepaugh's is a bit much for a casual first date - even if it's just happy hour, the whole Victorian mansion thing is pretty intense.

          2. Ngon on University, great bar for drinks and affordable food. Has a small lot on the east side of building.
            Agree with Groundswell coffee.
            Senor Wong's downtown St. Paul, fun happy hour, great food, pool table, parking lot
            Pizza Nea in NE Mpls
            The new Red Cow on Selby
            Eli's East on Hennepin
            Sonora Grill on Lake Street, great patio, parking lot, super cheap great food

            1. First date, to me, means having options built into the location that can make the time fly even if there is no connection. People watching and being outside is good because there are lots of stimuli that can spark conversation when you two aren't making a connection right away. The atmosphere is way more important than the food IMO.

              I would say any of the outdoor venues would be ideal such as Sea Salt (Minnehaha Falls), Sandcastle (Nokomis), Tin Fish (Calhoun), or Bread & Pickle (Harriet). You can walk around or explore the lakes, talk about the outdoors, etc.

              A bonus to the outdoor venues is that either of you can break away quickly if the date is going downhill. You don't have to stare at your watch while hoping that the waiter/waitress comes around with the bill.

              My true opinion that a meal on the first date is cliche and overrated. My wife and I went to the Mill City Museum on our first date right after it opened. Other ideas might be to meet and one of the many festivals going on every weekend throughout the summer. First date at the State Fair! Rent a paddleboat on one of the lakes. Bicycle somewhere to get ice cream. Those kind of first dates create conversations on their own, versus having to ask all of the boring standard questions sitting across from each other at a restaurant.

              3 Replies
              1. re: GutGrease

                Well put. Along those lines, I add:
                Wildes Roast Café, and two great museum restaurants which lend themselves to a walk around the museum: Fika and Gather.

                1. re: KyleThomas

                  Sadly, Gather is only open on Thursday evenings now.

                2. re: GutGrease

                  I love places like Sea Salt, but I definitely wouldn't plan getting food there on a first date because the lines can get insanely long during their busy hours. If you're just thinking ice cream and/or beer/wine which does not have the long lines then those venues would be much more appealing.

                3. Chatterbox Pub in Highland is awesome for a first date. They have tons of board games and old school Nintendo games to pass the time with while still getting to know your date. Plus they have a variety of meat/vegetarian/gluten-free foods to accommodate many dietary preferences. They also have multiple locations.

                  Wong is ok in LoTo but MN Saloon, Sakura, or Burger Bar are also fine choices. (Sakura has a great happy hour.


                  Muddy Pig on Selby-Dale is also a fine choice - boardgames plus ability to have private booth or patio socializing are side benefits to a fantabulous beer selection.