You’ve just snagged a prime seat at the movie theater for this summer’s biggest blockbuster, but your excitement quickly turns to nausea. You’ve already had one too many handfuls of greasy popcorn—it’s coated with so much fake butter you can literally feel your arteries clogging as you chew. Not exactly the ideal date night. Thankfully, Atlanta’s top culinary talent has taken notice of this dilemma and a slew of talented gourmands are upping the date night ante and opening one-of-a-kind, chef-driven venues where the eats (think locally-sourced, seasonal dishes that wouldn’t be out of place at a James Beard winning restaurant) are equally as noteworthy as the entertainment. Tonight, make a beeline to one of these surprisingly scrumptious venues.
Photo Credit: The Painted Pin
Dinner and Bowling at The Painted Pin
Out: greasy, gristly chicken wings and stale beer. In: wood-fired pepperoni pizza laced with truffle oil, hand-cut fries loaded with cheddar, chiles, bacon, scallions and crema and uber-crispy fried chicken sliders with spicy mayo and housemade pickles. You’d never guess you were eating at a bowling alley, but Justin Amick, you may recognize him as the former sommelier at The Spence, has knocked down all 10 pins with his latest venture, The Painted Pin. The 23,000-square-foot gaming mecca is home to 20 vintage bowling lanes equipped with upscale service (personalized staff deliver balls and shoes laneside), incredible small plates—don’t miss the In-and-Out-inspired burger (we think theirs blows the original out of the water!)—craft cocktails and a wine list rivaling those in the city’s top restaurants. Be forewarned, there’s often a wait for bowling, but a indoor gaming courtyard chockfull of complimentary games (bocce courts, 10-foot Pop-a-Shots, shuffleboard, ping pong, Skee-Ball and Northamptonshire hood skittles) and live music will console you while you wait.
Photo Credit: TopGolf Alpharetta
Dinner and Golf at TopGolf
A day at the driving range hasn’t always been an activity to please the masses… until TopGolf opened in Alpharetta. Of course, TopGolf isn’t your average driving range. Not only does the 65,000-square-foot, three-story, dog-friendly facility boast more than 100 hitting bays (each with their own state-of-the-art digital scorecard and game center with HDTVs, not to mention covered seating with plush couches, fans and a dedicated server), but there’s something for every personality type—video games, pool tables, indoor lounges, rooftop fire pits and live music, to name a few. As if that weren’t enough reason to go, the food is so good you’ll quickly start reconsidering your country club membership. We recommend starting with an order of the wings—insanely crispy skin surrounds juicy, tender meat bathed in fun sauces like Asian Sesame—before moving onto their elevated plays on comfort food classics, like fried chicken and waffle sliders with spicy jalapeno gravy, a pulled pork sandwich a la Vietnamese banh mi’s, and a dangerously delicious burger topped with green chili mac ‘n cheese, all washed down with local beer from Jekyll Brewery, of course. For a sweet finish, go with the cinnamon-sugar-dusted donut holes, which are injected tableside with fillings like chocolate, raspberry jelly or Bavarian cream. And, coming soon: TopGolf Midtown!
Photo Credit: Stationside
Dinner and a Concert at Stationside
Atlantans have been flocking to Terminal West for killer live music since 2012, but the addition of Stationside, the adjoining restaurant serving up sandwiches and snacks (think chicken enchiladas with salsa verde and chipotle-lime aioli, mac-and-cheese made with aged white cheddar and pimento béchamel breadcrumbs and Korean fried chicken with Simply Seoul kimchi), in 2013 pushed the King Plow Arts Center venue over the top. Chef Dan Brown’s, who hails from the legendary Porter Beer Bar, counter-service spot is a modern take on the traditional soup and sandwich joint offering up food so unheard of at a music venue (don’t miss the adobo roasted pork Cubans, chickpea burgers and San Marzano tomato soup), you’ll be hard-pressed to leave your trendy red oak table and make your way to the stage—though, you won’t have to miss a beat as TVs screen the live show next door while you nosh.
Photo Credit: CinéBistro
Dinner and a Movie at Cinebistro
Forget about the aforementioned movie nightmare. No longer are you resigned to stale nachos with fake cheese and cheap candy, thanks to CinéBistro at Town Brookhaven, where each ultra plush, high back leather rocking chair is equipped with a dedicated server so you can nosh on uber crispy buttermilk fried chicken with loaded mashed potatoes, bacon and cheddar waffles and honeyed Tabasco while you watch. (Did we mention there’s complimentary popcorn and a full beer, wine and cocktail list, too?). Discuss the plot over a Peachtree Street cocktail (Maker’s Mark, peach purée and fresh lemon juice) afterward in the swanky lounge.
Photo Credit: Jeju Sauna
Dinner and a Spa Visit at Jeju Sauna
It’s not often a relaxing visit to the spa comes hand in hand with exotic ethnic eats, but thanks to Duluth’s Jeju Sauna, one of the largest, most authentic Korean spas in the country, spagoers can finish their detox with refreshing fruit smoothies and juices, mandu (Korean dumplings), ddukbokgi (rice cakes stir-fried with sliced fish cake in a chile sauce) and traditional soups, like kimchi jjigae. Even better? You get to eat barefoot on the floor in an ensemble so comfy you may just want to curl up in one of the saunas afterward for a nap. In fact, Jeju provides each guest with this t-shirt and shorts outfit to wear as they journey through seven dry mineral saunas, each of which offers unique mind-body benefits. There’s also a junior Olympic size salt water pool, separate wet rooms for men and women (note: these are nude) complete with whirlpools, steam rooms and saunas, and it’s all just $25 per person, though add-on treatments (think foot detox, traditional body scrub or acupressure) are available for an additional fee.
Kate is Georgia’s official Culinary Explorer and a freelance food and travel writer for more than 100 publications. Click here to read more culinary content from Kate.