May 21, 2015
Bright lights, heels hitting the pavement, car horns in the distance; no matter who you are there’s something intoxicating about hitting the town on a night out. Especially when you’re on the arm of a new guy or gal. Visit the Short North Arts District for a great date, and make yours a summer to remember.
When it comes to date night, the Short North Arts District is a neighborhood with lots of options. So many so that at times the abundance can be tricky to navigate. The difference between a first date drink at Pint House to a fourth date dinner at Haiku (both good options) is much bigger than the 100 or so feet that separate the two. Therefore, to help out the novices who need a hand, or the experts who need new territory, here is a fresh collection of places to grab an apéritif and activities to enjoy with a date. When you stroll down High Street, make sure to Start with Art, no matter what you do for dinner.
It should be said that first dates aren’t places for intimate dinners, with candlelight and string music. A first date is about picking up vibes and learning about your potential new squeeze. For a great first date, you need a place with good drinks that won’t break the bank, enough music and atmosphere you’ve gotta get cozy to listen to each other, and something unexpected doesn’t hurt either.
For this kind of date, one of the best options in town is Local Bar on Monday nights. Why Mondays? Two reasons. One: Fridays and Saturdays are too much of a production for your first night out together. Monday nights are laid back, you won’t have to parallel park (and let your date see you suck at it), and it’s a surprising shake up for the calender. Two: Hermit crab racing. Yes, CRAB racing. Every Monday at Local, the center of the floor is taken up by a huge table, with a healthy heap of Hermit Crabs in the middle. You pick out a crab, name it (puns are encouraged), grab another drink before kickoff, and start shell heckling!
The race is paired with a full lineup of derby-inspired sound effects, referee commentary, and a popcorn machine off the bar. Winners get a gift card (definitely enough to cover a tab for two) and the sublime, athletic glory of picking the winning crustacean. Even if you don’t win, it’s a fun, funky way to spend an evening, that surprisingly few people know about. Either way, a night out crab racing is a sure way to stick in someone’s memory for a while. After the race is over, hit the jukebox and the pool table for a little R&R, or stroll down the street for a quick bite.
After your first few nervous nights out and you’re feeling a little more comfortable with each other, Kingmakers is a good place for a casual date. Calmer and more relaxed than a typical bar scene (though still packing a great draft list) Kingmakers is your friendly, neighborhood board game bar. Cozy and quaint inside, Kingmakers could pass for a comfortably fashionable coffee-house, were it not for the floor-to-ceiling shelves of board games on display. Standards like Monopoly and Scrabble of course make their appearances, alongside more underground
treats like Yam-Slam, Nuns on the Run, and WASABI! (instructions included). Folding in a chill game night with ‘night on the town’ makes Kingmakers a unique addition to the District and a PERFECT place to introduce him or her to the friends, or even mom and dad (if you’ve gotten that far).
When you’re ready to take that next step and hold your sweetie in your arms, it’s obviously dance class time. Danceville U.S.A, relatively new to the District, has definitely made a splash in their short time here. Known for big theme party nights and their group choreography classes, Danceville is the perfect place for an excuse to flirt with your date. If you’re a new student, just $20 will get you two 30-minute dance lessons for you and a partner. Learn some steps, get a little closer, and have some fun! It’s a classy, out of the box(step) move that he or she will love.
For wine lovers in love, Camelot Cellars is a great idea. Camelot offers a pretty rare experience. While crafting your own signature brew has caught on with the city’s pint-slinging beer aficionados (see: North High Brewing), bottling your own wine is a decidedly different endeavor (#ChardKnockLife). Camelot Cellars has two options for wine buffs, with the first being much more involved (hint: keep your new paramour around for the results). You sample options on the menu, learn about the grapes they’re made with, mix blends, and pick a winner. After about 2 1/2 months of resting, the wine is bottled, corked, and labeled with your own, personally designed logo (Falling in MerLove, anyone?). Though the initial investment is significant (bottling starts at $200, roughly), the process yields between 15 and 30 bottles of drinkable or gift-able wine, and so it definitely pays off.
For a quicker route to wine, there’s the expedited option two. Camelot lets visitors ‘adopt’ bottles from their well stocked collection. There’s still sampling and mixing, but the handcrafting process is skipped over and moves straight to bottling, corking, and labeling. Unconventional but still fun, Camelot is definitely a good idea for you and your S.O.’s need for a bit of vino.
THE CANDLE LAB & A NICE DINNER
If it’s going well and been a little since date one, and it’s finally the time for the champagne, white tablecloths, and violin music. But first, take the all-too-important element of surprise and stop by The Candle Lab with your S.O. to create a custom candle. With over 100 scents, there’s no lack of space for creativity. However, remember that scent is the sense most connected to memory, so don’t be too cavalier. The wax is soy-based, which helps candles last for up to 72 hours. The actual candle-making takes about a half hour, but it’ll be another 2 hours or so until they’re done setting and you can take them home.
This gives you the perfect amount of time for a stroll down High Street to dinner. Surrounding The Candle Lab are some of the District’s best spots for a charming dinner: Haiku for sushi; Basi Italia for traditional, northern Italian; Hubbard Grille for modern American; Rigsby’s Kitchen for modern Italian; and L’Antibes for classic French. Get drinks, dinner, and dessert to go. Your candles will be ready to pick up by the end of dinner, and cake by candlelight is as romantic as it gets.
For visitors unfamiliar with the area, the Short North Arts District is concentrated along High Street between King Avenue to the north and Nationwide Boulevard to the south. For more information on transit and parking, look here. For more information in general about the Short North Arts District, look here. Cover photo: Nikole Prete.
– Tyler Wilson