67 Great Dates
Are you trying to make a great first impression? Rekindling the flame with your betrothed? Help has arrived, as Matt Amis has done the work for you.
By Matt Amis
t’s easy to get sucked into a holding pattern when it comes to date destinations. Dinner, movie, drinks, wash, rinse, repeat. But around the region are countless creative ways to spend time with a new interest or your sweetheart. Attend a live jazz show. Take a spin around a go-kart track. Sneak away for a quiet bite to eat. Whether you want to blow her away on the first date or surprise your husband with a wine tour, there are plenty of options.
Can I Buy You a Drink?
So, you’ve never met before. A casual drink is often a fail-safe start. But where? At Domaine Hudson (1314 N. Washington St., Wilmington, 655-9463), there are two types of people: wine lovers, and those who will soon become wine lovers. The wine bar’s nightly 3-3-3 special from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.—three 3-ounce pours for $3 apiece—is fun and inviting for oenophiles and oenophiles-to-be. A collection of succulent small plates are ideal for grazing. Prefer some suds? Domaine’s global beer list is unmatched.
Wilmington After Work (wilmingtonafterwork.com) combines the powers of Mikimotos, Washington Street Ale House, Presto!, Orillas, Deep Blue and Café Mezzanotte for a weekly social hour. Every Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., the super six offer drink and food specials, live music, and each bartenders’ unique interpretation of a Wilmingtini. What’s a Wilmingtini? Try a few and find out.
The count currently stands at more than 100 bottles of craft tequila at Agave Mexican Grill (137 Second St., Lewes, 645-1232), and though the restaurant makes a mean margarita and assembles outstanding tasting flights, there’s no getting past its atmosphere—intimate and fun, like an exclusive party. (Cinco de Mayo is off the chain at Agave.)
When the common martini has lost some of its luster, imbibe a few creative cocktails at über-romantic Espuma (28 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-4199). Drinks made with ginger beer, crème de cassis and blood oranges are the norm at Jay Caputo’s comfy, intimate, Mediterranean-flavored oasis.
Can we let the cat out of the bag? The hottest secret spot in Wilmington is Catherine Rooney’s Hummingbird to Mars (468-6832), the posh, speakeasy-style bar where curiously dressed barkeeps mix cocktails with panache amid chandeliers, jazz music and an antique bathtub filled with champagne bottles. You’ll forget you’re in Trolley Square. Depending on your date, you may forget that there are others in the room.
Look no further for conversation starters than the racy cocktails at Kooma (400 Justison St., Wilmington, 543-6732). Trade suggestive glances while sipping a French Whore or Sexual Chocolate—or maybe just wait for the sushi.
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Wine of the Times
A tour and a tasting at Pizzadili Vineyard and Winery (1671 Peach Basket Road, Felton, 284-9463) makes for an ideal day. Simply pay $5 for a wine glass and sample a half-dozen of Pizzadili’s prized wines. Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet, Merlot and a variety of fruit wines are all made on the premises. A tour of the picturesque grounds is a must.
Nassau Valley Vineyards (32165 Winery Way, Lewes, 645-9463) offers self-guided tours and wine tastings anytime during the season. Sip some homegrown Chardonnay while receiving a dose of wine history (Mesopotamians? Who knew?) and taking in the beautiful landscape and daily operations of a working winery.
But why settle for one winery when you can enjoy eight? The Brandywine Valley Wine Trail (610-444-3842, bvwinetrail.com) is a collaborative effort of eight nearby wineries (Black Walnut, Chaddsford, Kreutz Creek, Patone Cellars, Paradocx, Penns Woods, Stargazers and Twin Brook) that work in unison on famous events such as Barrels on the Brandywine. Individually, the wineries offer live music, tours, picnics and special events throughout the year.
Tastings and events occur so often at Veritas Wine and Spirits (321 Justison St., Wilmington, 543-6071), it’s almost hard to keep track. The store teams with local restaurants, local chefs and wine producers from around the country to present fun events on the regular. Check in or join the store’s mailing list to stay up with the latest.
A Different Kind of Movie
Skip the mulitplex. Impress your date with indie acumen at Theatre N at Nemours (1007 N. Orange St., Wilmington, 571-4699), where all the best in acclaimed shorts, documentaries and foreign language films get their due. Even better: You can enjoy theater snacks like popcorn and candy without the ridiculous markup (plus beer and wine).
You don’t have to be a retro buff to fall in love at Clayton Theatre (900 Main St., Dagsboro, 732-3744), the 60-plus-year-old single-screen theater on Dagsboro’s Main Street. Catch contemporary films in a delightfully old-fashioned place.
Haven’t caught the latest from Pedro Almodóvar? The Schwartz Center for the Arts (226 S. State St., Dover, 678-5152) might be your answer. On Sunday and Wednesday nights, the former opera house shows the best and latest the indie film universe has to offer.
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Faves old and new are staples at the stately Milton Theater (110 Union St., Milton, 684-3400). The old movie house teams with local and national arts organizations, so the programs are always fun and diverse—murder mysteries one month, amateur film fest the next—but its regular screenings of digital format movies are always popular.
Who could ignore the most classic of no-fuss-no-muss dates: a cup of coffee? Any one of New Castle County’s 10 hip, loungy Brew Ha Ha! locations would fit the bill nicely, though we’re especially fond of the fireplace seats at the store on Newark’s Main Street. The decor of eco-conscious Notting Hill Coffee Roastery (124 Second St., Lewes, 645-0733), is ridiculously romantic, a quaint and cozy space where you might split a panini over some hot cups of Peruvian bird-friendly java. Or maybe go dutch on a cup of Mocha Frost at the contemporary Presto! (1206 N. Washington St., Wilmington, 777-3786), where you and your date can duel at chess or Connect Four while sharing delicious chocolate confections and baked treats. Flavored coffees are a specialty at The Perfect Cup Café (7460 Lancaster Pike, Hockessin, 239-9118), where breakfast creations and fresh-baked bâtards are perfecto.
Lovingly restored to its Colonial glory, warm, candlelit Dilworthtown Inn (1390 Old Wilmington Pike, West Chester, Pa., 610-399-1390) is the epitome of romantic dining in the region. French-inspired New American cuisine such as Châteaubriand steak for two carved tableside and sauced with béarnaise awaits romance seekers. Bentwood chairs, stone fireplaces, soft colors—romantic times 10.
The award-winning wine program and beautifully plated American cuisine only begin to explain the enchanting aura of Eden (23 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3330), a paradise of curtained private booths, mood lighting and brilliant food. If you really want to hide away, this is your place.
Nothing says caring like sharing, or something like that. That’s why Orillas Tapas Bar and Restaurant (413 N. Market St., Wilmington, 427-9700) is one of Wilmington’s hottest date places, together comfy and trendy with food and drinks that match the atmosphere. A low ceiling, brick walls and soft lighting set the mood. A few miles southwest is equally shareable Olé Tapas Lounge (1126 Capitol Trail, Newark, 224-9378), which is filled with freshly shaved jamón Serrano, grilled calamari and more.
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Romance in Dewey Beach needn’t involve watered-down beer and sweaty dancing. Ponos Hawaiian Fine Dining (1306 Coastal Hwy., Dewey Beach, 227-3119) offers high-end island cuisine (such as the signature seared opakapaka) and unmatched ambience, which re-creates the starry sky of a Hawaiian rainforest.
What is more romantic than Pre-Raphaelite art (and the saucy stories behind it)? Spend a day lost inside the Delaware Art Museum (2301 Kentmere Pky., Wilmington, 571-9590), where escaping into the past or a Howard Pyle adventure scene can transport you both to a different world. Once back to reality, shop for prints and gifts at the museum store, one of the best of its kind in the area.
Swoon over Schoonover at the Biggs Museum of American Art (406 Federal St., Dover, 674-2111). The museum, in the heart of Legislative Mall, has intimate galleries that afford a closeness to the displays that you can’t get anywhere else. Same goes for the museum’s prized collections of Delaware Valley furniture and silver.
Forward-thinking, community-minded Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts (200 S. Madison St., Wilmington, 656-6466) has exhibits that challenge the mind and inspire the heart. Look for works by an exciting cross-section of artists at DCCA’s Members’ Juried Exhibition this summer.
Take part in the 22-year tradition known as Art on the Town (576-2100), the free, self-guided tour of art galleries, studios, museums and alternative art houses around Wilmington. More than 30 destinations, ranging from jewelry studios to interactive exhibits, make up the expansive loop. Hit up five venues and get a free drink at the after-party. This month’s loop—always held on the first Friday of the month—is scheduled for May 7.
Consider art as a destination with Mosaic (www.mosaicrehoboth.com), a collective of diverse Rehoboth Beach galleries that together host receptions on the second Saturday of every month. Revered galleries like Heidi Lowe Jewelry Studio and the Philip Morton Gallery are tied into the loop.
Blue Ball Barn (1914 W. Park Dr., Wilmington, 577-1164) is a vibrant yet historic former dairy barn that’s been transformed into a showcase for outstanding Delaware folk art, from sculpture to tapestry to outsider art. When you’ve had your fill, stroll among wildflowers on the Northern Delaware Greenway paths that dip into beautiful Alapocas Woods, where you can sneak a kiss in seclusion.
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Drink and a Bite?
Catherine Rooney’s (1616 Delaware Ave., Wilmington, 654-9700), trimmed in dark wooden wainscoting and leather booths, is a relaxing spot for dinner or a pint. One of Wilmington’s most dynamic nightspots is Washington Street Ale House (1206 Washington St., Wilmington, 658-2537), where the city’s young professionals congregate in a comfy environment for cold glasses of Victory and Chimay. Request a seat by the fireplace or along the wall of votives that lights the main dining room.
A date night dinner doesn’t have to mean black ties and doilies. Instead, cozy up to upscale-casual BBC Tavern and Grill (4019 Kennett Pike, Greenville, 655-3785) for some Magic Hat and spicy ribs. The Greenville hotspot is immensely popular in prime time, so you’ll likely run into a few friends along the way.
The Green Room Bar (11th and Market streets, Wilmington, 594-3154) might just be the area’s most elegant place in which to sip a cool glass of Chardonnay with your Niçoise salad. For an even more relaxing Saturday or Sunday afternoon, attend afternoon tea at the Lobby Lounge for proper tea, scones with clotted cream, petit fours and adorable, crustless tea sandwiches.
Cozy cocktails, desserts and lite bites go down nicely at Victoria’s Plaza Pub (2 Olive Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-0615), the charming oceanfront lounge attached to the Boardwalk Plaza Hotel. Nibble on charcuterie from the comfort of leather chairs and a window onto the boardwalk.
All three Irish Eyes (213 Anglers Road, Lewes, 645-6888; 105 Union St., Milton, 684-8889; 52 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-5758) are tailor-made for romance, thanks to comfortable surroundings, great food and, at Lewes, an awesome water view.
Ignite your passions with the Delaware Symphony Orchestra (818 N. Market St., Wilmington, 656-7442). This month is all about Russian Fire, part of the symphony’s classical series. The performance stars Sphinx Competition winner and Philadelphia native Elena Urioste on violin. Maestro David Amado will lead the way from The Grand Opera House main stage.
Legendary local jazz singer Alfie Moss and guitarist Dexter Koonce have been making beautiful music together since 1979, and there doesn’t seem to be any slowing them down. Find them at Blue Parrot Bar and Grille (1934 W. Sixth St., Wilmington, 655-8990) or Paradise Palms Restaurant (901 King St., Wilmington, 377-2528).
Each summer, Chaddsford Winery (632 Baltimore Pike, Chadds Ford, Pa., 610-388-6221) kicks its concert series into high gear. Things launch on Memorial Day weekend with the Brandywine River Blues Festival, an all-weekend blowout. In June, the winery begins its Summer Concert Series. Every Friday through August, pack a picnic and—what else?—a bottle of vino.
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Birds and Bees
Whether it’s birds, bees, Italian fountains or native azaleas, there’s no shortage of romantic imagery among the 1,000-plus acres of beauty at Longwood Gardens (1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square, Pa., 610-388-1000). Tour the majestic East Conservancy this month for Lilytopia, a celebration of lilies and their latest hybrids. From Azalea Woods to Magnolia Bend, the many gardens and meadows at Winterthur Museum & Country Estate (U.S. 52, Winterthur, 888-4600) provide an array of natural splendor. Tap into your inner child while frolicking through the fairy tale-esque Enchanted Woods, or take a guided walk through Winterthur’s quarry garden.
Learn the rumba, straighten your steps for your wedding day or attend regular open dance parties at Blue BallRoom (1601 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 984-2583), Wilmo’s hottest dance studio. The staff of instructors is comprised of seasoned dance pros that stress fun above all else.
Starliters is a dance studio led by former disco king Brian Wells, who conducts dance classes at various locations throughout Wilmington on Tuesday and Thursday nights year round. Wells says many of the singles who attend class have found love in their dance partner. His monthly dances are usually held at Talleyville Memorial Hall (3919 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 478-9911).
Get your groove on at Fire and Ice lounge in Dover Downs Hotel and Casino (1131 N. Dupont Hwy., Dover, 800-711-5882), where cold beers from ice-encrusted taps set the stage for DJ sets and a series of themed dance parties every night of the week.
So your intended thought the silver medal performance of Olympic ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White looked hot. You need to lace up. Choose either of two University of Delaware ice arenas (831-2868). Nurse your sore ankles with hot chocolate and a soft pretzel from the café. Nearby is The Pond, former training grounds of Olympian Johnny Weir. Get moving and hold each other tight at Skating Club of Wilmington (1301 Carruthers Lane, Wilmington, 656-5005). The 60-plus-year old club holds public skating Saturday and Sunday afternoons this month for just $10.
Why not enrich your date’s cultural side with one of the state’s flagship arts groups: the Delaware Theatre Company (200 Water St., Wilmington, 594-1100). This month, be sure to catch “The Foocy,” a whimsical fairy tale from a troupe of Philly artists. After the show, take your ticket to one of several area restaurants for a discount (check DTC’s Website for an updated list).
Few can match the fun of the Wilmington Drama League, (10 W. Lea Blvd., Wilmington, 764-1172), the group that consistently breathes life into a wide array of crowd-pleasers, from “RENT” to “The Producers” to “Death of a Salesman.” This month watch the group relive the Bard’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
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Any progressive theater-goer worth his weight in playbills can’t miss City Theater Company, Delaware’s choice for fun and racy off-Broadway performances. The company performs at OperaDelaware Studios (4 S. Poplar St., Wilmington, 220-8285). This month it will present William Finn’s Tony Award-winning comedy “Falsettos.”
Rehoboth’s vibrant arts district comes to a crescendo at the Rehoboth Beach Theatre of the Arts (20 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-9310), which houses the Gallery C showcase of art, plus choral performances, murder mysteries and Cinema Cabaret. On the first Friday of every month the theater and in-house Ovations Restaurant combine to bring you a three-course dinner and a movie.
Get your dinner and a show all in one place at The New Candlelight Theatre (2208 Millers Road, Ardentown, 475-2313), where you and your date can sip on red Zin and nosh on dessert from Cakes by Kim while unleashing your inner-Elvis. This summer’s production of “All Shook Up” is likely to get a few hips gyrating.
Something a Little Different, Part I
How do you look in a crash helmet? Mid-Atlantic Grand Prix (4060 N. Dupont Hwy., New Castle, 656-5278) makes for an exhilarating date inside 6.5-horsepower go-karts maneuvering hairpin turns and speedy straightaways. A $20 arrive-and-drive option is best for drop-ins.
Cool off and have fun at Jungle Jim’s (8 Country Club Road, Rehoboth Beach, 227-8444). Splash in the water park, race in go-karts, putt at the mini-golf or swing at the batting cages, and more. Or drop off the kids in the lazy river, then spend the day basking in the sun—just the two of you.
Funland (6 Delaware Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-1921) has for generations entertained folks of all ages with spinning daisies, swaying Viking ships and galloping plastic horses. There’s never a shortage of things to do or play or eat on the boardwalk.
Going to the next level? Working out your trust issues? Belay your way to the Delaware Rock Gym (520 Carson Drive, Bear, 838-5850), the state’s only indoor rock gym. Whether you’re looking for a climbing partner or a life partner, you’re likely to find something interesting among the 11,300-square-feet of climbing surface.
Get down with some glow bowling on Friday nights at Bowlerama (3031 New Castle Ave., New Castle, 654-0263). If the freakadelic display of black lights, laser shows and glow-in-the-dark bowling balls is too much for you, there are nightly specials on regular bowling, too. Afterward, head to attached Keglers Pub and Sports Bar for a drink, or the Spare Rib Xpress for a bite.
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You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy Vince’s Sports Center (14 Gender Road, Newark, 738-4859), simply because par-3 golf, batting cages and mini-golf, all part of a huge 18-acre family owned property, help everyone feel young at heart.
There are few better ways to spend a sweltering summer night than relaxing under the lights at Frawley Stadium with the Wilmington Blue Rocks (801 Shipyard Drive, Wilmington, 888-2015). Kick back with craft beer, hilarious promotions and solid entertainment.
If Dan Butler, Kevin Reading and Patrick D’Amico are your idea of celebrities, you and your date might be destined for Celebrity Kitchens (1601 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 427-2665), an interactive cooking class dining experience that draws some of the best chefs from around the region to prepare a gourmet meal before your eyes. A night of cooking together is sure to heat things up. Feel like maki love? Head to Mikimotos (1212 Washington St., Wilmington, 656-8638) for Sushi 101, a hands-on class with the experts that’ll have you slicing seaweed and mastering masago in no time.
Something a Little Different, Part II
Spend a lazy weekend afternoon on a tube instead of watching the tube. Tubing at Brandywine Creek State Park (41 Adams Dam Road, Wilmington, 577-3534) is a fun, refreshing and inexpensive way to enjoy a warm day. Set it up through Wilderness Canoe Trips (2111 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 654-2227). The company rents kayaks and canoes, too.
Rent a rad Sea-Doo or a wacky inflatable aqua trampoline from Bay Sports (Dickinson St., Dewey Beach, 227-7590) to make your summer date gain a whole new appreciation for the Rehoboth Bay.
Sightseeing isn’t limited to the land. Spot wildlife (lots of bottlenose dolphins, and the occasional humpback whale) with a charter out of Fisherman’s Wharf (107 Anglers Road, Lewes, 645-8862). During the summer months the company charters boats for dolphin and whale watching, as well as romantic sunset cruises. You might remind your intended that our cetacean cousins mate for life.
If thrash metal is the way to your heart, Mojo 13 (1706 Philadelphia Pike, Wilmington, 798-5798) is your kind of place. Mix and mingle with alternative-minded music and comedy. The place often books national touring acts traveling to or from Philly. Check its MySpace page to keep up on the latest. Big names in music always seem to find their way to the legendary Bottle & Cork, (1807 Highway One, Dewey Beach, 227-7272) each summer for a rockin’, sweaty, unforgettable good time. Keep your date close. The crowd can get very tight.