0601-man-and-woman-illustration_liThis is a tough category to win: you need atmosphere and affordability, since one person might feel obliged to foot two bills.

Merchant Tavern provides fine dining at reasonably affordable rates, and a stellar drink list to lubricate conversation. Despite its open concept, you’ll have the right amount of privacy. The open concept and chatter all around helps to fill in any awkward silences, and make them less uncomfortable.

As for conversation starters, the food is obviously worth talking about, and highly shareable too. In fact, they offer a tasting menu – they’ll bring you and your date 5 small courses, one after the other. Their seafood platters and charcuterie/cheese boards are also nice to share.

Other conversation pieces include interesting dessert options, like their vinegar pie or the sea buckthorn dish with milk crisps – a first rate palette cleanser to freshen you up, should a goodnight kiss be in order.

The ambiance is such that you can make yourself as casual or dressy as you like. The servers are as good as the food. They’ve got some great beer offerings worth trying, and a cocktail list worth tackling together. Don’t miss the boulevardier and Eastsider.