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Staff Picks: Best Restaurant For A First Date

The State College area has a number of unique restaurants, making the decision on where to have your first date a difficult choice. The nerves that accompany a first date are bad enough, and trying to pick the perfect restaurant on top of them can be overwhelming. But fear not, because our writers can help solve your quandary. We asked our writers what is the perfect restaurant in Happy Valley for a first date. Here are their picks:

Katie Klodowski

First Date Restaurant: The Tavern

If you’re really looking to impress and charm your date, then the best place in State College to take them is definitely The Tavern Restaurant. While the menu is definitely more upscale, the prices are still fair and won’t crush your wallet. Not only does the Tavern offer good food that you wouldn’t be able to get in the commons or at one of State College’s many diners, it also offers the best decor and atmosphere to cultivate some privacy and intimacy.

During the warmer months, The Tavern features some outdoor seating on the side of the restaurant, rather than in front on College Avenue. This outdoor area allows you to be shielded from the throngs people walking down the street, while still allowing you to peer around the bend to do a little people watching if the conversation gets dry. But if your first date is during the colder months, it’s even better. The inside of The Tavern is complete with fireplaces and old-fashioned decorations, which create quite the romantic atmosphere. Rather than having one big room full of tables, the restaurant features a group of individual rooms. The intimate venue gives you more privacy to sneak a kiss from your date. So if you’re looking to woo that special someone, make your reservation with The Tavern.

Jack Lukow

First Date Restaurant: Tadashi

If there’s one thing that needs to be a certain on a first date, it’s the intimacy of the event. You two need to really connect and share an experience. Look no further than Tadashi, the sushi joint downtown.

Located next to Dunkin’ Donuts, it’s a perfect location. The restaurant is small and calm, which is necessary for a first date in case you need to make a quick getaway. The food is arguably the best sushi in State College, and hands down the best downtown. But these are all really just icing on the real point: really well priced meals for two.

At Tadashi, you and your date can walk in and receive a beautifully made sushi platter to share. Sushi is also the perfect conversation starter; you can ask your date how certain rolls of sushi taste, or previous sushi experiences, or about their recently deceased cat that you saw on their newsfeed while stalking them. Actually, sushi probably isn’t the right food for that last one. Regardless, Tadashi is cheap, intimate, well-located, and delicious. What else do you need for a first date?

David Abbruzzese

First Date Restaurant: Allen Street Grille

There’s only one place to take a girl on a date in State College — that is, if you want to make it perfect. The Allen Street Grill on the corner of Allen and College features everything you’d want for a night out with your lady: a relaxed environment, fantastic menu, and reasonable prices.

However, the consummate date spot is a table for two nestled in the back corner of the restaurant. This is the place I took Sara Civian — my co-staffer and current girlfriend — for our first date, and it couldn’t have been more enjoyable. The table, who’s ambiance is set by a small flickering candle placed in its center, overlooks a bustling College Avenue, making it feel as though you’re suspended in midair.

The table feels separated from the rest of the establishment, presenting a secluded environment that allows you to engage your significant other in conversation without being drowned out by noise from other patrons. It felt as though Sara and I were in a separate room as we talked the night away, with drivers and pedestrians going about their respective evenings below us.
Sara and I enjoyed an incredible evening as we took in the breathtaking sights of State College. I couldn’t recommend this restaurant, and specifically this spot, more. Any time of year is great at the Allen Street Grille. But if you really want to surprise your date, reserve that when the snow starts falling.

Sara Civian

First Date Restaurant: Allen Street Grille

I had my doubts, and unfortunately for Dave, I incessantly voiced them all. I’ve known him since I joined staff last year, but up until a few months ago, our interactions were strictly him telling me how much he hates Boston, me feeling bad for him because he’s from Buffalo, and Kanye West rap battles.

Somehow we found ourselves hanging out almost daily and I was forced to face an existential question: “Jesus. Am I starting to like a Bills fan? How do I tell my parents? ” The last thing I wanted was a boyfriend, but he’s objectively irresistible.

He told me he had a surprise. Less than 45 minutes later (in true David fashion), he told me the surprise. He made a reservation for the corner table at the Allen Street Grille.

When we walked in there, everything became real. It felt like a Penn State fairytale. The view is amazing, the food is amazing, and I felt lucky . If you’re in company as good as mine any location works, but the charm of the Allen Street Grille is undeniable.

It was a power move, and taking a stranger to the Allen Street Grille is pretty aggressive. But if you’ve known someone for a while, it’s perfect. We’re officially dating now, by the way. So that counts for something, right?

Patrick Koerbler

First Date Restaurant: The Deli

If you’re serious about a person, the only true option for your first date is The Deli. Not only does it have a terrific atmosphere, but The Deli offers an array of delicious food options. Even the pickiest of eaters will find something suitable for their palate. When you also consider the assortment of beer and wine choices, The Deli proves to be the perfect place to take a girl (or guy) that you — as the kids are saying — “caught the feels for.”

Keep in mind, not every first date should be spent at The Deli due to the cardinal rule of first dates: they are not all created equal. Sometimes you go on a date because mutual friends set you up; sometimes you go on a date because you just had a nasty breakup you want to get over. Then there are those times you go on a date for the right reasons: that’s when you go to The Deli. Keep The Deli reserved for that special occasion, and your crush could turn into something more.

Steffen Blanco

First Date Restaurant: Big Bowl Noodle House

When people look at potential date spots, there are a few things you have to consider: food selection, atmosphere, and most importantly affordability. Well it just so happens that Big Bowl Noodle House happens to have all three qualities (and then some), making it the perfect first date location.

Big Bowl is a top tier first date location food-wise because of familiarity. At one point during everyone’s Penn State career, you’ve no doubt had Asian food. It’s simple, but people can strongly bond over their love of Asian food, possibly even debate over what Asian restaurant reigns supreme. With over 50 different food selections & dessert options, even the pickiest of dates can’t resist the goodness contained in Big Bowl’s menu options.

Located in a prime time spot downtown, Big Bowl offers an appealing atmosphere for those nerve racking first dates. If I could sum up Big Bowl’s atmosphere in one word, it would be casual. It’s relaxed enough to where you’ll feel at ease as you try and get to know the person sitting across the table from you, while also not intimidating and intimate as the booths are in the Corner Room. Relax, take a seat, and show your date a good time over some casual conversation and great asian food.

Finally, Big Bowl has a price range that doesn’t break the bank for college students. A dinner for two can easily be less than $20 (You even have some wiggle room for dessert if you budget it enough!). The low prices are incredibly important, considering it’s a first date spot. It’s cheap enough to where you don’t mind paying for the food if the date goes sour, while also pricey enough to where you don’t feel like your date thinks you’re a cheapskate. It’s a win-win situation for you!

So there you have it! If you’ve read some of the recent staff picks, you’ll know that I STRONGLY believe that Big Bowl is not only the best Asian restaurant, but also State College’s secret hangover cure. Well, it just so happens to also be the BEST first date spot!

Gabriela Stevenson

First Date Restaurant: Gigi’s

If you’re looking for a somewhere a little more high-end for your first hot date in State College, gather up $3.00 for the bus to Cato Park – you’re going to Gigi’s. Gigi’s Restaurant on Cato Avenue isn’t well known among Penn State students, so you can impress your date even more by taking them to a romantic little spot that’s off the radar. Gigi’s serves simple, fresh, southern-inspired food that makes your taste buds sing. With tons of delectable options like lobster mac & cheese, chipotle deviled eggs, and quail with roasted butternut squash, you might find yourself spending a little more than you intended. The décor, which can only be described as “rustic-chic” will make you feel like you’re in the fanciest, most adorable farm ever. Do I sound pompous? Yes. Will you drop a good amount of cash? Yes. But will you get a second date? Absolutely.

Kaitlyn Dividock

First Date Restaurant: Picnic at the Arboretum

I want to start off my excerpt with the fact that I’m the biggest and most hopeless romantic on the face of the earth. There have been many times I found myself nauseous over how far out of my way I go to make someone feel special. So when you ask Penn State students where they’d take their date for the first time, a lot of them will say fancy-ish restaurants like The Corner Room or for coffee at some hipster café. And that’s great for them, but my first date local is far less boring. The recent beautiful weather has fueled my bias toward picking the Arboretum as my ideal first date spot. It’s out of the way, almost always quiet, and an easy place to really engage another person without a bunch of distractions. It was a no-brainer for me. If you’re looking to impress that lucky lady or guy, grab a huge blanket, a speaker, and some snacks. Pro tip: tell your date that they are even more beautiful than the Arboretum.

Drew Klingenberg

First Date Restaurant: Cozy Thai

After you finally muster up the courage and ask that cute girl out in your English 015 class out, there is no room for error. Rest assured, you will experience no first date problems if you know where to take her to dinner. The restaurant I’m talking about Cozy Thai, my friends. Located on Allen Street, Cozy Thai is definitely the best place to swoon your potential love interest over a nice meal and even better atmosphere. The restaurant itself is different and is aesthetically very pleasing. The chandeliers, assorted candles, and striking architecture are excellent conversation starters. Plus, the menu offers so many different and delicious options. I’ve tried many different items on the menu, and there is never a bad choice. Choosing Cozy Thai as your first date location says that you are a mysterious, interesting, and well-cultured person. The best part about the place is its prices. Cozy Thai looks like an expensive restaurant, but it is not. The food is reasonably priced, and you won’t break your bank by paying for dinner for two.

Ethan Kasales

First Date Restaurant: Kelly’s Steak and Seafood

It was certainly tough to come up with my go-to dinner spot in town, but after some thought I settled on Kelly’s in Boalsburg. The enormous cow on top of the restaurant speaks for itself. What other restaurant has a piece of art like that? Plus, the shellfish chowder is a definite staple of my meal anytime I go. It can be a little pricey depending on what you and your date order, but the extra dough is well worth it in my opinion. You’re trying to make a good first impression aren’t you?

The menu is full of fine-dining cuisine, so there’s sure to be a dish you two will each enjoy. The upscale, yet never snobbish environment lends itself to a cozy, relaxed evening. The only drawback is the fact that it’s a bit of hike from campus (4.6 miles to be exact), so those without a car would need to ask kindly for a friend’s keys or dial up their favorite Uber driver. Regardless, Kelly’s is lit, and you should definitely check it out when brainstorming your next date night.


Do you agree with our picks? What restaurant would you spend your first date at? Let us know!

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