I may have mentioned in previous pieces that I have four children, and most of my dining these days involves bringing the whole family. Having the kids with us in public is always a hoot (shoutout to every Mexican food establishment in Marietta), but sometimes I just want to let loose with my wife, Lauren, for a night on the town — adults only.
When we lived in Atlanta and only had two young kiddos, it was easier to convince a set of grandparents to keep them for an overnight visit while we embarked on marathon date nights, usually hitting up four or five spots in an evening. We’d almost always start off at Biltong Bar, one of our favorite cocktail spots located inside Ponce City Market. After that, we’d venture to other fan-favorites, like 8ARM (which sadly no longer exists), Tiny Lou’s inside the Clermont Hotel, Little Trouble (total Blade Runner vibes; set in a concrete bunker with tons of neon lights), and maybe round out the evening with some late-night snacks upstairs at Ford Fry’s turn of the century French steakhouse Marcel, just in time for the midnight start of an all-vinyl DJ set.
A few months ago, I planned my first Marietta-based “epic date night.” I’d been curious about a few local spots for a while, and wanted to take my wife to places neither of us had ever been. If you want some inspiration for your next meetup, or are just trying to break out of a restaurant-rut, then take this itinerary out for a spin. All these spots are on the Square, just a block or two from each other.
Stop No. 1: Bubbles and Oysters at Mac’s Raw Bar
Around the time of our date, Mac’s Raw Bar had just opened. There was a ton of buzz and intrigue surrounding this establishment, so we had to try it! My wife, being the classy lady she is, most likely started off with a glass of champagne and I ordered a bottle of sake, all of this pairing perfectly with the dozen oysters we asked our server to select for us. Pro tip: If you’re visiting a place for the first time, let the staff order for you (they know what’s best on the menu).
Stop No. 2: Cocktails and Dinner at Hamp & Harry’s
Hamp & Harry’s (owned by the brother of the owner of Mac’s) was also very new when we visited it. While Mac’s Raw Bar has an elevated “white linen” sort of vibe, Hamp & Harry’s offers a more youthful, urban ambience. I only say this because the mood there that night reminded me more of my favorite Atlanta spots than any other place I’d been to on the Square. The drinks are very booze-forward with diverse ingredients. I’m 100% a cocktail connoisseur, and my rule of thumb when ordering a mixed drink is to find the menu item with the most unfamiliar ingredients. It may not always be a win, but it’s fun to be curious. It’s also worth mentioning that this place has a cocktail printer, which is some sort of machine that can actually print an image on the top of your drink. If you don’t believe me, look them up on Instagram and you’ll see a purple cocktail with Van Gogh’s Starry Night on top. It’s unbelievable, totally drinkable and doesn’t alter the taste whatsoever.
Stop No. 3: Unsolicited Karaoke at Lumiere Lounge
This charming little piano bar is located in the upstairs of The Strand Theatre. There’s a classic Hollywood feel, which makes sense with it being located in an old theater. I went to the bar and ordered a couple of Negroni’s, a classic Italian gin-based cocktail with Campari and sweet vermouth; a perfectly balanced drink that’s equally sweet and bitter. I was rather spirited by this point in the evening and made my way to the piano, where an unusually hospitable pianist slid over on his bench, handed me his microphone and asked, “What song are we doing?” Full of liquid confidence, I was able to sing through “My Funny Valentine,” while making eyes at my wife. For me, this was the perfect ending to a wonderful night … though I’m not sure how the rest of the room felt.