Joanna and Alex

What do you like to do on dates? Alex and I love going out to dinner, but it’s easy to fall into a rotation of the same three neighborhood spots, over and over and over. So! Along with the Capital One Savor card, here are a few ideas for mixing up dinner dates…

* Revisit your first-date spot. One million years ago, Alex and I saw a movie and went to dinner at Café Cluny, while I wondered the whole time if he liked me and if my jokes were landing and if he would kiss me at the end of the night. Cut to one wedding and two children later, we recently went back to the restaurant, and it was so romantic to share fries at the same corner table and remember how nervous we had once been!

* Travel within your city. New York has so many different neighborhoods to explore, with so many different cuisines — including dim sum in Chinatown, Greek food in Astoria, and the Italian bakeries in Carroll Gardens. On Sundays, Nom Wah Tea Parlor comes alive with crowds devouring the amazing soup dumplings and shrimp balls, and it’s such a fun, energetic date spot. (Side note: My sister once went on a date in college, where she and her date did a spontaneous carrot cake taste test by walking to different bakeries around town — wouldn’t this be fun to do with any type of food?)

* Flirt at the bar. What is it that’s so sexy about eating at the bar, even with someone you’ve known forever? Elbow to elbow, you can watch the line cooks flip burgers, chat with the bartender, and put a casual hand on the other person’s knee. Bonus: You don’t have to wait as long for seats! Two great spots for bar meals: The Mermaid Inn, Frankies 457 Spuntino.

* Challenge each other to a game. Seek out a spot with trivia night, darts, shuffleboard or arcade games. We love Insa, a delicious Korean restaurant in Gowanus, which has karaoke rooms — where I first discovered that Alex can sing.

* The wandering date. As a card-carrying Anxious Person, aimless walks are not my thing. But sometimes we’ll make a reservation somewhere that’s not too far and not too close, then leave an hour or two early and just wander. We’ll stop into shops, browse bookstores, pass seasonal decorations, crunch leaves in a park. It makes the date feel relaxed, versus like you’re rushing to another appointment. You can hold hands and chat as you go. Plus you never know what you might stumble across on the way!

* Don’t forget the day date. Alex and I don’t often do daytime dates, so it feels like such a thrill when we do. I love going on a bike ride or walk, followed by lunch at a food truck or a classic brunch spot like Barney Greengrass. Day dates are an especially good time to take in the scenery.

* The date switch-off. As a big planner, I’m usually happy figuring out where to go. But there is something romantic about taking turns planning dates. As much as I enjoy making a reservation for a new-to-us restaurant, it’s equally fun to be surprised by something Alex picks. With a date switch-off, you get to take turns figuring out special things and hoping to impress one another, just like you did in the beginning. And that is its own kind of magic.

For date nights and dinners out, the Capital One Savor card lets food-lovers earn 4% cash back on dining out and entertainment.

What do you like doing on dates? What are your favorite restaurants? Any recommendations? I’d love to hear…

P.S. How to keep the spark alive, and our very first date.

(Photo by Ana Gambuto for Cup of Jo. This post is sponsored by Capital One. Thanks for supporting the brands that keep Cup of Jo running.)