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If You Can't Charm Your Partner With These 7 Dallas Dates, the Problem Is One of You

Last week, we released our 2016 Best Of issue, naming all of the best places to shop, play, eat, drink, relax and more. That means plenty more date ideas for all you romantic hopefuls clueless as to what to do in between conversations about how many siblings you do or don't have, wondering if you have lipstick on your teeth, trying not to drink too much out of nervousness and assessing each other's butts. Choose one of these ace itineraries and it will all be a lot less awkward, we promise.

For couples curious about the suburbs
Pack a cooler for Sara's Market and Bakery (750 Sherman St., Richardson). It's the Best Middle Eastern Grocery in town, with a wide selection of ingredients you'll need to make your favorite Mediterranean dishes. Select a few pastries and candy bars to sample on the spot with your date, and then ingredients for hummus — you might need them later, and you can store them in the cooler.

After you've snacked, head to Nickelrama arcade (1238 Belt Line Road, Garland), just 15 minutes away. It's the Best Place to Play Pinball, which is a good first date activity because it's easy to learn, but still challenging for longtime players. There are 12 tables at Nickelrama, and it's only 20 cents a game.

If you're still having fun after 'ballin', go back to one of your abodes and "hummus and chill." 

For couples who are into fitness
A lot is new at the Dallas Farmers Market, including Mudhen Meat and Greens (900 S. Harwood St.), which won for Best Healthy Eatery. Stop in the farm-themed restaurant for a late bite around 8:30 or 9 p.m. on a Thursday (you'll understand why the day is important shortly). Order bison meatballs, a salad or grilled salmon and wash it down with a craft beer or a cocktail accented with fresh herbs.
You'll be happy you ate light because your second destination is Southern Skates (2939 E. Ledbetter Drive), which tied for Best Roller Rink this year. It's just a 10-minute drive from the restaurant, off I-45. On Thursdays from 9:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. they have adult skate, when the pros come out to dance on four wheels. Don't feel bad if you can't keep up, just enjoy the atmosphere and the mix of hip-hop, rap, R&B and disco. 

For couples who want to get zen
(5430 Gurley Ave.) is the Best Vegetarian/Vegan restaurant in Dallas, but it's also a restaurant meat-eaters are practically guaranteed to love. The Indian buffet tucked inside a Hare Krishna temple serves a rotating assortment of flavorful dishes that always includes soup, salad bar, freshly baked bread and a selection of hot entrées. The best seats are the booths in the courtyard, so snag one if it's nice. Dessert will be offered once you're finished eating, but skip it. There's something better in store later.

Your next stop is the Best Imitation Eden, the Dallas Arboretum (8525 Garland Road). Take a leisurely walk in the garden Architectural Digest featured as one of "15 Breathtaking Botanical Gardens to Visit This Season" and rest easy knowing  it's pretty much impossible to get into a petty argument in a setting so pretty. 

Once you've stretched your legs, you'll probably be wishing you said yes to dessert. Make a visit to Cow Tipping Creamery, just a few minutes away at 1146 Peavy Road. It's the Best Icy Treat Shop in town, specializing in soft serve ice cream that's layered with decadent toppings. First-timers should order the High Tea (vanilla soft serve, fresh lemon curd, crushed tea biscuits and honey dust in a cinnamon cone).

For couples who dig nature
Some think Dallas doesn't have much natural beauty, but you and your date will know that's wrong after you visit Dallas' Best Hiking Trails at the Oak Cliff Nature Preserve (2875 Pierce St.). Spend a Saturday afternoon exploring miles of trails on foot or bike, and see if you and your date have what it takes to go the distance.

Once you're good and tuckered out, refuel at the Best Taqueria in town, Tacos Mariachi (602 Singleton Blvd.), which is close by in West Dallas. The Tijuana-style taqueria sells three types of tacos: funky (octopus), classic (carnitas, barbacoa) and gourmet (smoked salmon).

It should be early evening by now, and time to wet your whistle at The Foundry Bar (2303 Pittman St.), Dallas' Best Place to Catch Free Live Music. If the date's not going so well, stand close to the stage when the free act goes on. Or if you're still talking each other's ears off, take advantage of the large space, which means you can always find a seat that's quiet enough for conversation, even once the music has started.

For couples with kinks
Unearth fun secrets by paying a visit to Leather Masters (3000 Main St.). It's the Best Place to Buy Weird, Kinky Stuff, and if you and your date haven't done the deed yet, it might give you an idea of what to expect. Is he into S&M or is he a strictly missionary kind of guy? These are the things you will learn as you peruse Leather Masters' selection of fetish supplies and watch the craftsmen who work there stitch bondage gear.

Of course, if you learn something you wish you hadn't, you can always change the subject with food. The Best New Restaurant, On the Lamb (2614 Elm St.), is right around the corner. Lamb pastrami, lamb belly and lamb bourguignon are stand-out dishes, but there's an excellent cheeseburger too, if you're not too keen on the namesake meat. 

For couples with a competitive streak
Your first stop is lunch at The Slow Bone (2234 Irving Blvd.). The barbecue joint has been praised for its ribs and other fine barbecued meats in the past, but this year we recognized it for having the Best Fried Chicken. Pit master Jeffery Hobbs used to work at Sissy's Southern Kitchen, so he knows his way around a drumstick, and it shows in the crunchy, smoky and not-at-all-greasy fried chicken at Slow Bone.  

Next, pretend you've stepped inside The Big Lebowski and knock down a few pins at Bowlounge (167 Turtle Creek Blvd., No. 103), which won for Best Bowling Lanes. An old warehouse has been outfitted with 12 authentic wood bowling lanes, vintage ball returns, coin-operated pool tables and arcade games — everything you need to complete the fantasy.

The loser buys a round of beer at the Meddlesome Moth, just up the street on at 1621 Oak Lawn Ave. It has the Best Beer Selection in town, with 40 draft beers and more than 80 bottles of craft beer on hand, and the knowledgeable staff are always happy to steer you in a direction you will enjoy. 

For couples who bond over music
Spend some time admiring the guitars and rock 'n' roll memorabilia at Shake Rag Music (4112 Live Oak St.), Dallas' Best Guitar Shop, and then cull through their extensive collection of vinyl.

Once you've shopped and dropped, it's time for a repast at Blind Butcher (1919 Greenville Ave.), where you should diverge from the typical orders of sausage, brisket and pastrami and take a chance on the Best Chicken That's Not Fried. Their chicken dish is smoked, basted with the juices of other meats and topped with a garlic-butter sauce.
To round out the evening, have an after-dinner drink at the newly reopened Ship's Lounge (1613 Greenville Ave.) right down the street, where you can play a game of pool and select tunes from the Best Jukebox around. You and your date each pick two dollars' worth of songs and quietly size up each other's taste in music.
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Caroline Pritchard studied English at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, and in 2012 returned to her hometown of Dallas, where she spends her free time seeking out new places to roller skate and play pinball.
Contact: Caroline North