In the spring, the snow begins to melt, and South Bend residents slowly borough out of their social hibernation and once again engage in communal activities outside of the cozy confines of their couch.
This is also the time of year when more and more two-person reservations are made, where an unsuspecting duo will be watched from different ends of the restaurant or bar as people try to deduce if the duo at the other table are on their on their first date or 23rd? Did they meet on Tinder or are they just friends? Are they checking their phones too much or are they just a stodgy married couple that has run out of new and interesting topics to discuss?
When spring is in the air, there is no telling who will fall in love, and luckily for South Benders, there are more options than ever for a first date or a romantic Valentine’s Day without the kids or distractions.
Wine and dine
South Bend has never had a shortage of places to eat and drink — from fancy restaurants to cost-effective chains, so finding a balance is important.
“As a young couple who is obviously not making tons and tons of money yet, you want ideas that aren’t going to break your bank,” said WNDU’s Lindsay Stone, who moved to the South Bend area with her husband over the summer. “I think we’ve found some really good places to just go out and enjoy our time together.”
Some of their personal favorites include LaSalle Kitchen Tavern, the South Bend Chocolate Factory, Brother’s and O’Rourke’s.
She and her husband, Nathan Wadley, have attended more expensive restaurants like Tippecanoe. Others include Carriage House, Parisi’s, Cafe Navarre and LaSalle Grill.
A classy night out
Gone are the nights out in South Bend where the most common answer to “what are you having” are Bud Light, Miller Light or Jack and Coke.
During the past few years, South Bend has seen an up-tick in cocktail bars. Now, young love can blossom over two slowly-sipped old-fashions or martins. New and old spots include The Hideaway and The Whisky Exchange.
“A favorite date spot of mine is Hammer & Quill,” says Michael Biele, a bartender at the Hideaway. “We’ll have a couple of drinks there and then kind of feel out the night and see how it’s going after that.”
After drinks, Michael likes to go to dinner, especially at the recently-opened Livery, and then end up at his own bar for a night cap.
There’s also plenty of options for wine, including Tapestrie, Ironhand Wine Bar and Render Kitchen and Bar. When it comes to breweries, one can’t go wrong with Crooked Ewe, South Bend Brew Werks and the newly opened Studebaker Brewing Co.
Take a stroll
Even in the often frigid spring, walking in downtown South Bend can be a romantic experience, particularly at night, when the vibrant and multi-colored river lights are illuminating the flowing water and sky. Even better, this can be the perfect start to an impromptu date.
“I feel like we go on lots of walks down along the river,” said Josh Flynt, who lives in downtown South Bend with his wife, Mary. “Sometimes that’ll lead to going and getting a drink somewhere downtown.”
The date could just be walk, where the couple goes from the river to the Morris Performing Arts Center, through the park and heads back home. If it’s a cold night, maybe there’s a quick stop by the Chocolate Cafe or Chicory for a warm beverage before heading back home.
Walks are also great in the mornings or early afternoons. On Saturdays, the South Bend Farmer’s Market is open early, and is full of vendors. Or, you can just stick with the river walk.
“Walking on the river walk is always great,” says Mary Flynt. “I don’t know whether it’s because it’s a de-stresser first thing in the morning, but it’s really nice to be able to have that option. So I would say walk the river walk, even if it’s not with a destination in mind.”
There are more options for live music in South Bend than one might think. Sure, there’s the occasional Garth Brooks concert, but there are many local groups performing every weekend as well.
Vegetable Buddies has jazz and reggae artists, LaSalle Kitchen Tavern and the Aloft Hotel have quiet acoustic shows and Fiddler’s Hearth has Irish bands playing Celtic songs.
In fact, it’s the combination of good conversation, live music and tasty food that can make for a good date, especially if you’re in a group.
“Fiddlers is the place where somebody new comes into town and we’ll bring them along,” says Mary Flynt. “It’s not just somewhere to eat. Having music adds to the evening.”
At the end of the day, a good date is about much more than food, music or alcohol. It’s about spending time with someone you’re genuinely interested in because if you weren’t, then there really wouldn’t be any reason to leave the couch until summer.