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The orange-colored cocktail sits next to a glass candle holder on a wooden table in a dimly lit bar.
A cocktail from the Last Word.
Photo by Brittany Greeson for The Washington Post via Getty Images

11 Ideal Date Night Spots in Ann Arbor

From secluded cocktail lounges to special occasion restaurants with perfect plating

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A cocktail from the Last Word.
| Photo by Brittany Greeson for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Date nights can mean different things to different people, whether it’s a first date, an anniversary, or just a casual night out. And depending on the occasion, the destination could vary widely from a fine dining restaurant to a more casual bar with great drinks.

Finding a place that fits the mood shouldn’t be difficult, but somehow it always is. Fear not: there are a number of excellent spots offering the right vibes and lighting. From dimly-lit cocktail bars with live jazz to a dessert bar with a cigar lounge to upscale special occasion eateries, here’s where to take a date in Ann Arbor.

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission.

What’s your favorite spot for a special night out? Drop a note in the comments or reach out to Eater Detroit at the tipline.

Next Read: 18 Memorable Date Night Destinations in Metro Detroit

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Of Rice & Men

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Of Rice & Men’s beautiful lower level space is a world away from busy Main Street just outside. The modern Asian menu features refined, artful takes on sushi, dumplings, and other pan-Asian mainstays. Their Peking Duck is one of their signature dishes and requires ordering a day ahead, but the symphony of flavors and textures makes it worth the wait. 

Blue LLama Jazz Club

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Live music and elegant food is a perfect date night combination and both shine at Blue Llama. Diners can listen to internationally-known artists while partaking in their sophisticated jazz-themed menu. One can’t-miss item is Billie’s Delight, a combination of foie gras, marcona almonds, and strawberry, that draws inspiration from Billie Holiday’s love of peanut butter and jelly.

The round fried balls of crispy foie gras PB&J sit in a bowl topped with a purple flower. The Blue Llama [Courtesy photo]

Aventura

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A romantic evening in Spain is on many a bucket list, but a visit to this downtown spot is considerably easier.  Aventura’s authentic pintxos, tapas, and paella are served by an attentive staff in a gorgeous, historic space. Innovative cocktails and an all-Spanish wine list complete the experience. 

Aventura [Courtesy Photo]

The Last Word

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Speakeasies check all the boxes for a romantic night out: They’re hidden away and dimly lit with plenty of easy drinking cocktails. The Last Word’s underground locale embodies all of these. Bartenders here serve original and classic cocktails from a book-themed menu with live jazz or DJs for some added ambiance.

Café Zola

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Cafe Zola is a popular brunch and breakfast spot, but the dinner rooted in French and Mediterranean cuisine musn’t be missed. Even as its busiest, the cozy dining room creates an intimate atmosphere.

The Earle

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The dark and moody underground dining room at the Earle has made it a favorite date-night location for decades. Live music and a huge wine list make for a complete romantic dining experience.

Pacific Rim By Kana

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French techniques, quality ingredients, cocktails, and a quiet, romantic atmosphere make Pacific Rim a go-to destination for date nights. The wine list is a worthy complement to the pan-Asian cuisine.

Alley Bar

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An evening out doesn’t always have to be about dinner in a fancy, fine dining establishment. Alley Bar’s unpretentious, come-as-you-are atmosphere and strong cocktails can make for a casual, no-nonsense night of conversation. 

Taste Kitchen

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From the outside, Taste Kitchen’s small, downtown space might seem unassuming, but the French and Asian-influenced menu features dishes with intricate presentations. The focus on sophistication and elegance proves that romantic dinners don’t always require candlelight.

Meat on the bone with an egg yolk perched on top. Taste Kitchen [Official photo]

Black Pearl Ann Arbor

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Test the waters at the Black Pearl over a plate of oysters on the half shell, brought in fresh daily. An extensive cocktail list and mood lighting will also help set the tone for a night out.

La Dolce Vita Ann Arbor

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The sumptious space filled with couches and comfy chairs at La Dolce Vita makes it the perfect spot to indulge in decadent desserts during an evening out. For even more seclusion, head downstairs to the restaurant’s cigar lounge.

Of Rice & Men

Of Rice & Men’s beautiful lower level space is a world away from busy Main Street just outside. The modern Asian menu features refined, artful takes on sushi, dumplings, and other pan-Asian mainstays. Their Peking Duck is one of their signature dishes and requires ordering a day ahead, but the symphony of flavors and textures makes it worth the wait. 

Blue LLama Jazz Club

Live music and elegant food is a perfect date night combination and both shine at Blue Llama. Diners can listen to internationally-known artists while partaking in their sophisticated jazz-themed menu. One can’t-miss item is Billie’s Delight, a combination of foie gras, marcona almonds, and strawberry, that draws inspiration from Billie Holiday’s love of peanut butter and jelly.

The round fried balls of crispy foie gras PB&J sit in a bowl topped with a purple flower. The Blue Llama [Courtesy photo]

Aventura

A romantic evening in Spain is on many a bucket list, but a visit to this downtown spot is considerably easier.  Aventura’s authentic pintxos, tapas, and paella are served by an attentive staff in a gorgeous, historic space. Innovative cocktails and an all-Spanish wine list complete the experience. 

Aventura [Courtesy Photo]

The Last Word

Speakeasies check all the boxes for a romantic night out: They’re hidden away and dimly lit with plenty of easy drinking cocktails. The Last Word’s underground locale embodies all of these. Bartenders here serve original and classic cocktails from a book-themed menu with live jazz or DJs for some added ambiance.

Café Zola

Cafe Zola is a popular brunch and breakfast spot, but the dinner rooted in French and Mediterranean cuisine musn’t be missed. Even as its busiest, the cozy dining room creates an intimate atmosphere.

The Earle

The dark and moody underground dining room at the Earle has made it a favorite date-night location for decades. Live music and a huge wine list make for a complete romantic dining experience.

Pacific Rim By Kana

French techniques, quality ingredients, cocktails, and a quiet, romantic atmosphere make Pacific Rim a go-to destination for date nights. The wine list is a worthy complement to the pan-Asian cuisine.

Alley Bar

An evening out doesn’t always have to be about dinner in a fancy, fine dining establishment. Alley Bar’s unpretentious, come-as-you-are atmosphere and strong cocktails can make for a casual, no-nonsense night of conversation. 

Taste Kitchen

From the outside, Taste Kitchen’s small, downtown space might seem unassuming, but the French and Asian-influenced menu features dishes with intricate presentations. The focus on sophistication and elegance proves that romantic dinners don’t always require candlelight.

Meat on the bone with an egg yolk perched on top. Taste Kitchen [Official photo]

Black Pearl Ann Arbor

Test the waters at the Black Pearl over a plate of oysters on the half shell, brought in fresh daily. An extensive cocktail list and mood lighting will also help set the tone for a night out.

La Dolce Vita Ann Arbor

The sumptious space filled with couches and comfy chairs at La Dolce Vita makes it the perfect spot to indulge in decadent desserts during an evening out. For even more seclusion, head downstairs to the restaurant’s cigar lounge.

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